Dare to Dream

It’s approaching 2am and I’m awake.
My heart is beating faster than normal, I can’t calm my thoughts and they are bouncing around like pin ball in my brain.

No, I haven’t had a horrible nightmare!

Instead, I’ve come up with this crazy amazing dream for the next year of my life and I’m so excited about the potential it has that I can’t sleep. After an hour of trying, I decided that writing would be a better use of my time then laying in bed wide awake.

When I started this whole un-plan journey over a year ago, it was just that, unplanned. I didn’t know where it was going to take me, how I was going to get there or how long it would last. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or not, but I knew it would be the wrong thing not to try.

I’ve always said I’m more of a doer than a dreamer. Some people day dream their days away and never take action. Me, I get an idea in my head and I make it happen. Often though, I don’t really consider my ideas to be dreams. They are just the next step in my journey.

Tonight, I must admit, I feel differently.
The last time I remember having this strong, anxious-happy feeling was when I met Nora Gross and Brenda McAloney who inspired me to do my social awareness project – Young & Fearless – Inspiration of Cancer Survivors. The project started small and grew into two art shows and a published book. It gained a tonne of local media attention over the two years that I worked on the project, along with solidifying a strong connection with the Photosensitive project which gained me national exposure and publication in several other books. Now I feel like the time is right to follow this gut feeling again.

I’ve visited 11 countries in the last eight months. I’ve been on the road or in the skies more than I’ve been home. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities and experiences that many of them have never been told because I don’t have time to write about them all.

I feel like I have truly lived life in the last eight months. I’ve met amazing people. I’ve seen our beautiful world from boats, planes, trains, automobiles, bicycles, motoconchos and a hot air balloon. I’ve challenged myself and I’m sure I’ve challenged others (for better or worse!). I learned to surf. I can hold my own in Spanish. I’ve built life-long relationships with people I’ve met all around the world.

It’s not all roses though folks. I’ve been sick. I’ve dealt with the loss of important people in my life. I thought I found potential for love, but found out I was wrong (the hard way). All of this while being away from family and friends back home. Through all of the ups and downs though, I’ve learned an amazing amount and I have lived with my heart open.

After a short rough patch where I was feeling a little confined, sad and suffocated by the people and events surrounding me, I’ve emerged again. As I read about the devastation caused by the April 25th earthquake in Nepal, I was drawn to the images, the news, the search for survivors, the pain and the suffering of locals and volunteers who are living this horrible nightmare right now. I pondered if I could drop what I am doing in Argentina and head to Nepal to help out. However, two factors slowed me down. 1. I don’t do so well at altitude. 2. Nepal needs money not extra people at the moment. The thoughts of going to help these broken communities have been nagging at me, but I knew Nepal was not the best option.

I now feel like I’ve broken free from the confinement I had been experiencing and my brain has room to breathe. My mind went on overdrive in the opposite, but positive direction. After reading several articles about the Nepal earthquake, I found myself looking at volunteer options with a Canadian based organization Volunteer Abroad / Basecamp. I’ve worked with them before by sending travellers through their programs to work, including one girl to Nepal two years ago. I started meandering through the website and looking at placement opportunities.

There were two incredible volunteer opportunities (out of close to 100) that screamed for my help, my skill set and my attention.

The first one to catch my eye was the one that made the hair on my arms stand up and thoughts start jumping with excitement. It is a placement in Ghana, Africa to help educate women, children, and the community about the importance of education, to help stop the process of child and human trafficking and to discuss sexual health issues.

For quite some time women’s issues in Africa have caught my attention (from the missing girls in Nigeria to genital mutilation). I’ve often looked into various organizations or contacted people that I might be able to work with. Sadly, nothing has ever worked out, but maybe it just wasn’t the right time.

The second opportunity is in Tanzania, working with an orphanage to build a website / social media, including photography and writing. Then moving on to teaching local staff how to maintain it. This opportunity would give me hands on time with the local volunteers / teachers, as well as getting to know the children and their stories. Telling stories of people through photographs (and through blogging) is one of great passions. Here’s a chance!

Tonight as I chatted with a couple of friends on Facebook, my mind decided to dream …

What if I actually did decide to go to Africa and volunteer? What would that look like?
I’ll be in Nova Scotia this summer to get my yellow fever vaccine. I was already looking at the potential of staying away for a full year, just no solidified plans. And, I’ll already be in Europe for my Turkey Photo Tour come September / October which is a lot closer to Africa than I am right now!

Is this the year that I’ll see Africa and I’ll spend time making a real difference in people’s lives through a volunteer placement? Volunteering and travel together have been very important to me for quite some time, but somehow I haven’t made time recently to make it a priority. I’ve said for a long time that I should change this. Tonight the thought scurried out of the depths of my brain and had a little dance party.

 

NOTE: Initially this post was written at the end of April 2015 and I’ve revised it as of the beginning of June 2015 as I never got around to posting it. Shame on me!

Quick update: I have been in contact with Volunteer Abroad and am looking into several options for working with them later this year. I also have several new ideas that I am currently working on for potential projects with other Not for profit / Non-Government agencies.

Update coming very soon on my revised unplan for the next year of my life.

If you’ve been considering voluntourism, maybe this is your year too! Feel free to drop me a note to chat about your plans, or I’m happy to assist you in finding the right NGO/NPO to work with. Don’t be afraid to take the first step and get in touch.

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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 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.

The Unplan – Life Changing Decisions – Part 10

For the last couple of years I’ve certainly had wanderlust. Since I first got back on a plane after surviving a plane crash in December 1997, I’ve gotten stronger and stronger and have wanted to explore further and further.

First, a trip to Bermuda to see if I would lose it completely on a plane. (2008)
I didn’t.

Then a trip to New York to celebrate turning 30 and that I didn’t lose it on a plane! (2008)

Then on to Costa Rica and Nicaragua – a whole new continent for me. Also the first time that I started thinking about studying Spanish.(2009)

Next thing I knew I was traveling to photograph destination weddings. (2010)

And then another new continent as I flew to Germany and Poland to photograph Coalition for Kids International, granting wishes to terminally ill children in Poland. (2011)

My little wings that had been weakened by 11 years of non-use, were getting stronger.

Why not take it further and create Photo Tours in far away places like Peru and Vietnam? (2012 – 2014)

With all of those great destinations under my belt, a lot of take offs and landings and no further plane crashes … I decided it was time to really take a leap and off to Southeast Asia I went with my longest flight being 12 hours and 50 minutes from Narita, Japan to Chicago, USA.

Looking back, it’s incredible to see that all of this (and much much more) has happened in the past seven years.

So, it really shouldn’t be any big surprise to anyone what I’m about to tell you …

I’m sure if you’ve been reading my series of Life Changing Decisions, you are starting to put it together.

1. Decision to get debt free.
2. Work at a job that can be done anywhere in the world (or confirm that your current job can)
3. Do renovations & put condo on the market
4. Dream of travel

What do you get when those things all come together?

You get the UNPLAN! (and a really happy Shari)

In my head, and to my close friends and family, my plan since the beginning of this was not really to have a plan at all, hence the UNPLAN.

What exactly does the UNPLAN look like?

Like a leaf in the wind (or a paper airplane), I can go wherever the wind takes me. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Well, it’s a semi-calculated type of crazy if that makes it any better!

I am setting my life up to be debt free and with fewer commitments. This will allow me to travel when and where I want and discover our amazing world. I don’t want to live my life waiting 12 months for my next vacation. I don’t want to be on vacation all the time, but I do want to live my life to the fullest and for me, a big part of that is seeing this amazing, vast, beautiful world we live in.

The UNPLAN has always been somewhat calculated. I’m not jumping off a cliff without checking for a soft landing. From the beginning, although extremely hard for other people to understand, I have made very few decisions about where / when / how long I would travel for. I would tell people I’m getting debt free so I can travel and they would of course ask ‘Where are you going to go?’ Although I had narrowed it down to a starting point of Central and South America, that’s as much as I was willing to commit to. When they asked me ‘How long are you going for?’ My answer has always been ‘I’m not sure. An undetermined amount of time. I’m not debt free yet.’

I have flitted back and forth between ideas such as a year-long around the world trip, a SWAP working holiday in New Zealand, settling in for a couple (or several) months somewhere in Central or South America, or simply living in Nova Scotia and traveling whenever I possibly can. These are big, amazing options. Don’t you dare say I’m ‘lucky’ to have these choices. This has nothing to do with luck folks, I am making these choices, they aren’t just magically happening.

You see, there are doers and dreamers in this world. I’m a doer. Yes, I have big dreams but I don’t sit and daydream unless I’m actually going to make something happen. So, being realistic about it all, I absolutely, flat out refuse to make any travel decisions until I become debt free. (with one exception – see below)

Although I still dream of where I want to visit, where I might like to stay for a little while and what great adventures are out there waiting for me, until I achieve my first, and most important goal of being debt free, I can’t move forward with achieving this undetermined amount of travel. This is a calculated UNPLAN!

I’m designing my own life. I’m making choices for me, based on my passions, what’s important in my life and how I can find happiness. Isn’t the true meaning of life to live it to it’s fullest?

So, let me give you the big announcement(s) …

1. Knock on wood, my condo has sold. Barring any complications with the condo financials, it is a done deal with a mid-June closing date. It was on the market for less than one month. I got reasonably close to asking price. I got slightly more than I needed in order to get completely debt free, set aside my down payment for my next home purchase and set aside a bit of money for travel. I think the universe is encouraging me to continue with the UNPLAN!

2. I confirmed a long time ago that I would be able to continue to be a travel agent, but work from anywhere in the world with my current employer, The Adventure Travel Company. Today, May 15th is my last day working in the office and as of tomorrow I will be working remotely. I’ll post a blog about this transition in a couple of days, but for now, all you need to know is that I am still a full service travel agent, specializing in adventure travel. I am affiliated with the amazing Adventure Travel Company and I hope you’ll support me by trusting me to help you plan YOUR next adventure. You can email me at stucker@atcadventure.com

3. I have been accepted on a travel agent familiarization tour with Intrepid Travel for one week in Chile and Argentina in November. This is the one concrete travel plan that I allowed myself to make before all of my other plans came together. I knew that once the condo sold, I would likely head to Central or South America, so this was a natural fit and gave me dates to work with when I would already be in that part of the world. This trip is free (except airfare) and gives me the opportunity to experience these two countries with a great supplier. I knew that even if my condo did not sell, that I would be able to either find the money for the flights or I have enough Aeroplan points to get me there. There were too many benefits for me to pass up. I had originally applied but it was full. A couple of months later, someone had to cancel and one little spot opened up. It had my name all over it! I applied within minutes of finding out a spot had opened up.

4. Having confirmed that I would be heading to South America in November, I shortly thereafter made the decision to launch a new Peru: Through the Lens Photo Tour. I’ve just released details to my photo email list and full details will go public next week. On my first day to announce the new tour, I already have the first person signed up! Tour dates are Oct 18 – 28, 2014. If you’d like more information, please contact me, or sign up for my photo tour newsletter.

There it is folks …

My condo has sold.
I start work as a home-based travel agent on May 16th, but remain under the umbrella of The Adventure Travel Company.
I have a tour booked to Chile and Argentina in November, so if nothing else, I know where I’m headed in late fall.
I am about to go full force promoting my next Peru: Through the Lens photo tour for October 2014.

My UNPLAN is starting to shape up.

Now, of course, in the spirit of an UNPLAN, I have not decided how long I am going for or what other countries I will visit. And, as with everything else, those decisions all depend on many variables. My condo sale still needs to finalize and all of my debts must be completely cleared. I need to find a place to live for the summer and early fall. I must find at least eight people to travel with me on the Peru: Through the Lens photo tour. And, let’s not forget that nice man who walked into my life back in February (see Part 8 of this series). I can’t leave him behind for a year while I go gallivanting around. And no, sadly he can’t come gallivant around with me for a year due to commitments here! It’s still new and early, but it wouldn’t be fair to him or me ignore him in all of this!

Like I said … it is still an UNPLAN with many choices and decisions yet to be made and too many variables still lurking around. Don’t worry, I’ll be blogging about it all along the way!

Now that the big news is out there … let the questions begin! Feel free to post questions and comments below on this post … share with your friends … send it to other people you know who are currently on extended travels or those who dream of doing so …

I’ll be posting updates about my struggles, preparations, decisions and triumphs until departure day (whenever that may be). After that, I’ll transition into sharing my travel adventures of whatever fantastic countries I visit. Some will be exciting, inspirational and likely funny. Others will be boring and simply there for me to keep track of my thought process. I invite you to sign up for my blog updates (top right of my blog) and follow along as often (or not) as you wish.

The first five months of 2014 have certainly been filled with amazing challenges, laughter, tears and some of the biggest decisions of my life so far … but wait … at least all of those things are my choice … so really, how bad can it be?

Just like a leaf in the wind … I’m about to go on a crazy ride.

I hope its a warm, southern wind not a Nor easter!

Another Life Changing Decision – Part 8

They say stop looking and you will find it …
March 10, 2014

Although I’m not going to go in to a lot of detail on my blog, it is true … a few weeks ago I met a lovely man, right when I least expected it. Only a couple of weeks after having decided to make my life into total renovation chaos, a caring, handsome man walked right in to my life, kind of like he belonged there.

After a couple of dates, I was still trying to figure it all out. I could barely get my mind around paint colours, let alone trying to imagine bringing someone else into the chaos that is my life at the moment.

Shortly after our second date, before our third, we were talking on the phone and I spilled it all … poured my heart out as fast as the water tumbling over Niagara Falls. I told him that I wasn’t supposed to meet anyone right now because my life was too chaotic and I was thinking about leaving the country in the fall and I wasn’t really looking to date because I didn’t think I had time and who knew what kind of state I would be in each day coming home to a disaster of a house and I didn’t know how long I was going to be gone for because I was kind of thinking about living abroad, but I was trying to keep my plans ‘unplanned’ until all of the other pieces fell in place and I’d already started renovations but much more on the way and I’d be leaving soon for three weeks in South East Asia … and, and, and … Likely all in one run-on sentence just like that.

Although my first goal was to become debt free, my second goal was to use my new found freedom to travel even more than I had before. What did I have to lose? No husband. No kids. No commitments. I certainly wasn’t looking for a man to come into my life and change all of that (nor was I opposed to it … just wasn’t looking for it). So, I figured I should be honest from the start and it all just came rushing out.

Hmmmm well … that should be a sure-fire way to send a good guy running shouldn’t it? I clearly don’t sound sane or stable in that last paragraph blurting out all of my crazy random ideas to someone who doesn’t know me at all …

His response?

‘That’s ok. We’ll figure it out. No need to worry about all of that right now, let’s just see where it goes.’

He’s been adamant since the day I told him my plans that he did not want to influence my decisions to travel in the fall. Although I appreciate that, let’s be honest … when someone great walks into your life, as much as you try to keep your plans on track, there’s always a little wiggle room, right?

All I know is that a few weeks after meeting, he’s managed to help keep me sane through work and renovation stress, balance me and de-stress me … he didn’t even ask if I was hiding something crazy at my house when I wouldn’t invite him over for weeks (due to the chaos in my home) … He’s made me laugh and he has put up with my obsessive hugging. If you’ve never seen my posts on Facebook or heard me talk about how much I LOVE hugs, you just simply cannot understand.

10 Reasons why we need at least 8 hugs a day.

Just because a nice man has come into my life doesn’t mean I’m going to give up my dream. On the flip side, just because I have a dream doesn’t mean I’m going to give up a good man. And besides people … it’s a little too early to tell what’s going to happen with either the man or my renovation / dream travel unplan.

So friends, stop asking me what I’m going to do! ha ha ha
I don’t know, and I’m not really worrying about it at this point. I figure everything happens for a reason and eventually the reason will become clear.

My plan hasn’t changed. I need to get debt free. And, I want to travel (lots). That’s as much of the plan as I was ever willing to commit to and that hasn’t changed.

Everything else is still just a dream …

Except for renovations … they are definitely a nightmare.

Another Life Changing Decision – Part 9

April 1, 2014

I’m sitting on a plane heading to Hong Kong and then on to Singapore. It is a very long 14 hours ahead of me, I figured I had time to catch up with my blogging seeing as I already slept through most of my first flight.

The last two weeks have been two of the craziest, most chaotic weeks of my life. I honestly have no idea how I’ve managed to get out of the house with (hopefully) everything I need for my Vietnam: Through the Lens Photo Tour and the house staged and ready for viewings.

Since my last renovation and Life Changing Decision post, the pressure has really been on.

About a week and a half before departure for Asia:

My kitchen is mostly back together and after about four times, the cupboards are done. They aren’t perfect, but I’ve given up that idea and replaced it with a goal of them being sufficient. My new backsplash in the kitchen is up and looks beautiful. It’s grouted, sealed and there’s no going back now. It sure does look pretty though! It feels good to have my kitchen close to working order. I was able to cook a few meals in the last couple of weeks before I left. That was after I cleaned all of the cutlery, pots and pans from the inch of dust that was over everything.

For a full three weeks, possibly longer, I had no suitable living space in my entire home. My living room was packed full of everything from everywhere in the house and all of the furniture was moved to the centre of the room in order for painting to take place. I literally had one chair set aside in the back corner of my living room that I could sit in to use my laptop. My desktop computer was unhooked and covered in plastic for several weeks. Getting from one side of the house to the other was a maze and there was never a clear path. Stepping over things, or dodging items that were losing their delicate balance and falling to the ground were definitely daily tasks.

My friend who had offered to do my flooring bailed on me, saying he just simply couldn’t finish it by the time I needed. He offered to leave his tools here in case I could get someone else to finish it. I was devastated. For the first time amongst all of the stress of renovations, I was about to lose my mind. And, I didn’t even have anywhere to sit! I called on a friend who was very capable of doing flooring, but hated it. He pulled me out of a jam and although I paid him, I probably still owe him for saving my sanity.

Another friend came to install all of the quarter round upstairs and replace all of my switches, plugs and thermostats. Definitely more work and more stress than he (or I) anticipated! Somehow it all got done though.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that they can’t be productive when their office is messy. Sometimes people have to clean up their surroundings in order to concentrate on work. Well, I felt this way every day for weeks on end about my life, but it was impossible to clean up. There was nowhere to move anything. My only escape was going to a friend’s house to relax, then coming home and crawling in bed.

Finally, the week before I’m leaving for Asia, everything starts to come together. All of the walls are painted, the floors are nearing completion, the kitchen is back in order and the living room is messy, but livable again. Nothing is covered in plastic at this point and cleaning of the entire place has begun.

It is amazing how long it takes to do the little things … re-hanging hand rails, changing hardware on cabinets, painting closet and bedroom doors. All of these things were done in the last one to two weeks of the whole process.

Now, you’d think I’d be starting to relax a bit seeing things come together, but sadly, there were still a few big ticket items to be finished. Take for example my stairs which were still bare ply wood. After several trips to Kent, I finally decided on a carpet for the stairs that would compliment the wall colour, but not clash with the flooring and, despite the large assortment of beige choices, I was able to find something in a blue / grey tone instead.

Just when I thought things were coming together, we got a snow storm that backed up the installers. Then we got hit with a Wednesday snow storm … and then all of a sudden it’s only a few days before I’m leaving and the carpet isn’t installed yet! Oh my nerves. Finally, the installers were able to come on my last weekend and get the carpet in place. I even managed to convince him to redo the laminate in my 1/2 bathroom at a decent rate.

Two nights before leaving for Asia, all of the big items in the house were complete. Now it was just small things, cleaning, staging and packing … oh yes, did I mention that I didn’t pack for my trip until 2 or 3 days before I left?

Last night I was up until 1am finishing final touches and still not everything got done. In the end I decided that sleep was a necessity and anything else would just have to wait or be done by my real estate agent. I still had two closet doors not working properly and missing hardware, a couple of light bulbs that needed to be replaced and who knows what else!

I’ve never been so excited to get on a plane so I could sleep! I left for the airport in the middle of another miserable snow / sleet / hail / freezing rain storm by cab and it took a good 45 minutes to get there (normally less than 30). I thought for sure that flights would be delayed, but magically, somehow they were still running on time.

So, I’m up up and away on my way to Singapore for a few days to get over jet lag before continuing on to Vietnam for my Vietnam: Through the Lens photo tour. Here’s hoping I can catch up on at least some of the lost sleep in the next few days.

BIG THANK YOUS:

Thank you Emily for your love of painting things and willingness to help clean. Not to mention our girl talks which took the pain of renovating away a little … at least in the moment. I cooked a lovely brunch one day when Emily was here helping me and then we promptly sat on the floor to eat because there was no where else to sit. Classy right?

Thank you Anita for doing everything that could be done to help, until you needed to focus on your own renovations! Doing dishes, writing kijiji ads, cleaning windows, stomping floors back in place, laughing at me for multiple ridiculous efforts in renos, shopping for supplies, moving furniture over and over and generally keeping me moving forward … Oh yes and making decisions for me when I couldn’t get my brain to function.

Thank you Jennie for helping stage and decorate, measure things, hang art and shimmy face plates into place when I had all but given up hope that it could be done!

Thanks to the men in my life (David, Paul, Rick) who (with only a little begging) came to my rescue in flooring, tiling, electrical, installing lights, fixing doors, installing fan covers, drilling holes, texting me instructions on what materials to buy, watching me get zapped and then teaching me how not to do that again, teaching me how to do caulking … for the hugs and the support. I won’t likely ever be rich, but I will soon be debt-free and for that, I thank you.

Another Life Changing Decision – Part 7

Renovations may be the death of me.

Here we are in March and honestly, the renovations are only creeping along. I can’t believe I somehow thought they would be done by now. Who was I kidding?

Between the contractor’s schedule and lack of communication and my need to do things on budget (hence asking friends to help), it seems like it is all moving at a snail’s pace. Oh yes, let’s not forget the incredible stress I’ve had trying to decide on paint colours for throughout the house.

It’s really quite the disaster and I don’t know how I’m surviving. There is no livable space in my house. The kitchen has been torn apart for over a week with most of my dishes packed up and stored throughout the house. Drawers are filled with stuff and sitting on the living room floor, plates are covered with table cloths to keep the dust off. The wall paper has all been removed in the kitchen and the cabinet faces have been taken off site to paint. They’ve now been returned, the rest of the cabinets have been sanded and painted … Sadly, once the cabinet faces were put back up, they didn’t look right. After staring at them for days and having other friends look at them, I decided something was wrong. I talked to the contractor and it appears that he got two cans of white paint mixed up. He put the last coat on the cabinets with what he thought was semi gloss, but he ended up re-priming them. So, down they all come again to be repainted. Here goes at least another week without an operational kitchen. I haven’t cooked in a couple of weeks.

Feb 23

Feb 23

With everything from my kitchen now moved into my living room, it’s in quite the state as well. But, up until this point the living room has been untouched so there is still a couch to sit on, it’s just messy all around.

As for upstairs … the furniture has been moved around a couple of times and both bedrooms and the hallway are painted with two coats of silver dollar half grey by Benjamin Moore. The trim has been painted, but a few spots have been missed and need touch ups. Sadly, the hallway was done horribly with some areas not getting even one coat and other areas being spotty. I had to ask the contractor to redo it, which he did. Sadly, I think the main reason was because of poor lighting in the hallway and he simply couldn’t see well enough to do a good job. A couple of days after mentioning it, the hallway has been redone, it looks much better. Phew!

The floors are bare with the carpets gone and staples all removed, but no matter how many times I sweep or vacuum they are still filthy. All of the furniture from my master bedroom (except the bed) has been moved to my small spare bedroom. There’s room to open the door, but I don’t really bother because not much can be done in there. At least the painting in that room is done, other than touch ups, so I can just avoid that room all together.

My bedroom on the other hand, I can not avoid.

My bed still sits relatively in the middle of the room. A friend is laying my new laminate floors for me (Molokai Driftwood). He started and with about 6 or so hours of work, has done a little more than half of my master bedroom. Good progress. Sadly, having a friend work on this means it is slow going. Not in the actual work, but more in the matter of he can’t come do it all at once because he has a full time job. So, it has to be between work and family commitments.

Mar 6

Mar 6

Every day from the beginning of the contractors painting up stairs I’ve had to keep my bed covered in plastic and then uncover it each night before I go to bed. This continued once we started the flooring. I had to empty out my closet, which meant that everything got dumped on my bed then covered in plastic. Each night I’d come home, uncover everything, put it back in the closet so I could sleep on my bed and start it all over the next day. This was because I never knew which days the contractor or my friend were going to be coming to work on the bedroom and I didn’t want paint or dust all over my clothes. Bad enough it is all over EVERYTHING else! Oh the frustration!

To add to the pressure? I only have a couple of weeks left before I leave for South East Asia and I definitely want my house on the market and able to be shown while I’m away. It’s useless for it to sit here empty while I’m gone. So, a hard deadline is in place. I leave early morning on April 1st.

I’m exhausted. I honestly can’t believe I haven’t just lost it all together …
Whose to say that I won’t before it’s all done …

Thanks to my friends who have been helping out and my sister who has helped with more than I can even say. From moving furniture to cleaning out cupboards, cooking me meals and just keeping me sane … Thanks everyone.

March 6th … signing off … still alive but not sure if I’m sane.

Another Life Changing Decision – Part 6

Ok ok … I’m cheating a little bit on this post. Below you will find links to several of the blogs I wrote in February about renovations which was the next big step in this big ‘get debt free’ process.

Good for me, they were already written and fit right in with this progression.
Good for you, if you missed them the first time, here they are again!
Good for you, catch up on a couple of weeks of my thought process all in one day. (for those of you who are anxious and trying to hurry things up!)

Renovations – Part 1
Renovations – Part 2
Renovations – Part 3

Another Life Changing Decision – Part 5

** Please note: Although I am posting this on May 9th, it was written back in January … it is the continuation of a series of how my thought process has worked to get me to the decisions that I am about to announce. Please keep in mind that none of the ‘ideas’ listed below are, or were ever carved in stone … simply thoughts and possibilities. Not decisions, just options.

The first big leap – February 1, 2014

I’m doing it. I’m going for it. What’s ‘it’ you ask? Well, you’re going to be both excited and disappointed …

You’ll know more than you did yesterday, but less than you want to! Still, all of your questions about my big plan will not be answered. Sorry, but I don’t have all of the answers at this point either.

IT:
I’ve spent weeks thinking about how to make IT happen and now I’m moving forward. I’ve done enough research to know that IT isn’t a mistake, just a new challenge, new opportunity and my next adventure.

The IT is that I’m going to work on getting completely debt free. At this point, after a couple of months of thinking, pondering and researching, I’ve decided to take the first big leap. I’ve decided to take actions that will get me debt free.

Yes, I have ideas and thoughts and dreams about what I’d like to do once I’m debt free, but I’m setting all of that aside … putting it on the back burner. Although dreams of travel, warm sunny days (instead of cold, wet, snowy winters) and salsa dancing, float around in my head regularly, I’m focused on one thing only at this time.

Must get debt free.

So, here we go! Bring on renovations!
That’s right … Obviously getting debt free starts with maxing out your line of credits and doing renovations … right? *sarcasm*

YAY!!!!

oh wait … ug 😦

Knowing that I want to get my house renovated and listed by beginning to middle of March is a big motivator to take action right away. Hoping that I can accomplish renovations on time (4 weeks) and on budget ($5000) … what are the chances of that happening?