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Why We All Need to Watch This Movie About Cambodia

Netflix

First They Killed My Father deepens understanding and helps bring compassion to the connected world in which we live.

**Trigger warning: This talks honestly about what we came to learn and witnessed in Cambodia. There are some heartbreaking and ugly facts but ones you should know more about. 

Mom Says

Do me a favour.

Open your hand up and run your fingers over your palm.

What do you feel?

Are they soft and smooth? Are your nail beds clean and well groomed? Manicured even?

Or are they rough? Do they feel worn and full of callouses? Have they been working  all day & showing signs of it?

If they are smooth, and if you were living a regular life in Cambodia in the seventies, there was a high probability you would have been killed.

It’s hard to believe that Pol Pot and the Killing Fields happened in our lifetime. The Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh in April of 1975 after an on-going civil war between them and the Nol government. The U.S. (on the support side of Nol & involved in the Vietnam War) were carpet bombing villages throughout Cambodia trying to eliminate Vietnamese bases and the Khmer Rouge. Civilians (confused by the reasoning behind the bombings) joined & accepted the Khmer Rouge radical beliefs because they were so angry with the Americans. When the Nol government and the US evacuated, the capital was immediately overtaken with Khmer Rouge guerillas & Pol Pot’s regime. They forced you to leave your house, your money and all your possessions without question.

How quickly life changed in an instant for those in Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Netflix

Pol Pot wanted to create a communist society in Cambodia in which money was gone, personal possessions were a sin and the hierarchy of society was destroyed.

If you were educated and a professional, you were either killed instantly, tortured or sent out into the fields to work under threats of violence, machine guns and rebel forces everywhere.

Did you know that a population the same size as Toronto (2 Million people) were killed during his regime? 2 Million people.

Blunt force was promoted over bullets in order to save money. Children were beaten against trees, their skulls smashed. People were thrown (still alive) into pits to suffocate from the weight of dead bodies that followed.

It was a horror of horrors.

The dark shadow that remains

As we travelled around the world this past year, we gave a word to every country we visited. A word that described (to us) the pulse, or the feeling we got when we immersed ourselves in that country’s culture and energy.

Cambodia’s word was hard to define as we could only describe it as a Shadow.

I couldn’t pick out initially what felt odd about Phnom Penh but I could feel it.

And then you started realizing what was wrong. As you look around, there is nobody old. Hardly anyone over the age of fifty. A generation almost entirely lost.

Many buddhist monks were killed in the genocide.

A heaviness comes with such a violent act of genocide that brings with it an unhealthy aftermath. Orphans or child soldiers who were taught to fight, and kill at young ages now had to move on to living out life in Cambodia or as refugees, from a place where the value of human life had been reduced to nothing. There wasn’t any PTSD counselling in the years following. There is a scar there that remains, raw and red. Human trafficking is still a huge issue and we saw more than we wanted to of incidents of dirty old men taking advantage of sex tourism with young Cambodian girls & boys. It felt disgusting and still a reality there.

Why it is important to watch First They Killed My Father

In the world of over-saturated information, we have become de-sensitized to the atrocities that play out elsewhere.

This film (originally a book by Loung Ung & now available on Netflix) is worth watching because it gives you greater insight into how something so horrific could happen so quickly. It helps you see the way in which the Khmer used confusion, starvation, and fear to gain authority in the country. It shows how people living normal everyday lives suddenly lost everything for no reason except geography.

It also sheds light on the trauma that the Cambodian people must deal with as they move on with their lives. The people we met were so kind but carry with them heartbreak that we can’t even comprehend.

Compassion needs to lead the way

You never know anyone else’s story, especially in the case of refugees coming from war torn countries. We truly have NO idea what they witnessed or experienced in their home country.

Too often commentary is on refugees and what they are taking. What about what they have lost?

The next time you hear someone referring to refugees in a negative light, say something. Let compassion lead the way over judgement. Nobody wants to leave their home. Take a moment to imagine what life was like before they lost everything.

What if this was you?

Humanity needs a shift & we are the ones to be part of that. Will you be one to help point it in the right direction?

Corruption still exists in Cambodia, it is something we all witnessed as we paid additional fees to cross the border

Dad Says

There is an extraordinary aftermath of a generation obliterated. As a traveller, you hear that everyone gets sick in Cambodia.  Why?  Because there are no elders  teaching the next generation to value of washing their hands.  There is a vacuum where traditional music would be played, but nobody knows the songs anymore.  Mass gaps in learning because by removing a generation, you lose everything they could pass along; knowledge, stories, love, pastimes.

There are great films that tell this story, first and foremost was The Killing Fields, released in 1984.  A powerful piece that stands the test of time and was well deserving of the awards it won shining a light on these atrocities.  The Missing Picture and S-21 are documentaries that are powerful in their own way. And now First They Killed My Father. What Angelina Jolie does is First They Killed My Father is brings to life a story that needs to be told, forcing people to stare ugly in the face and realize that these acts of warfare are happening in the same world which we live in.  ln our lifetime, the killing fields happened.  Rwanda, Bosnia, the Kurds, and now the Rohingya in Myanmar.

We are proving that, as a species, we are capable of such great highs but we can also stoop so very low, more barbaric and savage than any who have come before.  We can stop it by realizing it, facing it, and fighting it.  We cannot pretend it isn’t happening there, or it could very well happen here. Talk about it with your children, and stop with the ‘poor souls wouldn’t understand’ garbage.  Bambi’s mom died and we made it through.

 

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Real Life

Out of Time.

Paint

When All Your Reasons Have Run Out.

I have no more excuses. None.

The summer treated us with divine gifts. A series of golden moments with family, friends, as a couple, and on our own.

We embraced new interests and reconnected with old passions.

We sat silently on the dock, and took time to find a deeper gratitude and appreciation for the country we live in. 

We even found a place to live and a place to work. Well, Chris did.

Now it’s my turn.

Big Girl Underpants

When we decided to come home, we made a conscious choice to give ourselves peace, time, and space in the summer. We talked a lot about what we wanted to be when we grow up and the parts I loved (and hated) about working in social media, marketing, and events.

It was important to us to figure out ways to continue on our path of living big. To live life fully and make it a priority to follow hearts and follow dreams.

My dream, simply put, is to create and be creative. To get my hands dirty and have tactile, tangible pieces developing in my hands. I have never had such a deep urge to design beautiful things, fun videos, and write words. Many of them.

And if I am truly living big, this is where my next adventure begins. 
I have said repeatedly that I want to write a book and write consistently on the blog. I really do. Yet I always seem to find ways to be too busy or overwhelmed by other “stuff” that needs to be done first. 

At least that is where I put the blame. 

Getting out of your own way

I love taking on challenges. I can and have done uncomfortable time and again. I have climbed mountains, ridden motorcycles, scuba dived, sky dived, zip-lined, and so many more adventurous, physical, and out-of-my comfort zone type of activities.

This challenge feels much different. It is far more getting-out-of-my-own-head kind of game instead of a physical one.

My success is no longer a concrete goal that I can simply accomplish by crossing the finish line. My success is determined now on my skill in telling a story.

I need to create an exciting enough experience for you, the audience, to keep coming along for the ride. And frankly, I’m not quite sure I have that capability. 

Putting it out there always makes (some part of it) come true

I have a book (or two) in my head along with a couple of screenplays and dozens and dozens of blog posts of the trip.

And I want to write them all.

I am saying this now on the internet so that it might come true. (While gagging in the process). 

Now my husband, friends and family are all holding me accountable. They are asking me how my writing is going and all I want to say is “Sod off, I’m not ready and Thank you”. My discipline and focus not yet refined enough to keep me in my seat. Social media still grabs hold of me too often.

I love them all dearly and can’t tell them enough how much I appreciate the nudge to start this ambition. 

So now I must write. I no longer have a reason or excuse not to do this. 

It’s time to start pursuing another dream with reckless abandon.

What do you dream of doing? Sometimes just putting it out into the world is the best way to get it started. Drop us a line and we can hold EACH OTHER to living as big as we can. 

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Real Life

Hitting Reset & The Trust Factor.

Ziplining in Banos Ecuador

We Started Again. In The Middle of Our Lives.

You just gotta believe it will all work out. 

We talk a lot about the universe in our world. About it aligning; putting energy into the right place; thinking positive and about trusting the flow of life.

Sure, to some it might seem all a bit Hippity Dippity (as my family/friends have been known to call it).

To me, I can absolutely 100% feel when I am fighting what should be moving along naturally in our life.

I seriously love pushing past my comfort zone. I like taking on challenges.

But trusting and letting go of what should be?

To stop worrying and let things flow to what will?

Mancora Peru beach
Letting things flow led us unexpectedly to one of the most beautiful beaches in South America. Mancora, Peru

Mancora was where we randomly saw humpback whales breaching just off the coast

Well, that’s probably one of the biggest challenges of my life.

Being totally open.

Letting things flow.

Goddamn, F#&%ing trust.

Take all of my life’s baggage, issues and protective barriers, bottle it up into one word and throw me the middle finger.

There you have it. That word is trust.

I hate and love it all at the same time.

Our kids flying high on the swing at the end of the world caused me to work on some trust issues. Banos, Ecuador
Super tight spaces are not our favorite but this was a great lesson in the kids leading our trust & flow as we ventured to Pailon Del Diablo for the day

We have been home for 2 months and I have these panic moments that our trip feels like it’s floating away like a dream.

Before we came home, I cried that we were coming back to Canada.

I wasn’t ready to finish with our travels. Our family was so deeply connected and enjoying every ounce of travelling together. It felt like a special space and one I didn’t want to let go.

Yet we could sense that it was the right time. We had used up the majority of our budget, we were all starting to get tired of laundry and moving every few days and we could all feel an ache to see family & friends. (When the Acropolis came in at #27 of cool things we had done on the trip, we knew we had hit travel weary).

The kids got a chance to reconnect with friends and finish out the school year. It helped with getting ready for the adjustment to a new school, all the requisite kiss-my-ass (did I write that out loud?) IPRC, IEP, transition school meetings were had and we got things tidied up for school plans for the fall.

We came home to living a life of transition. It has felt liberating and like walking a cliff’s edge all at the same time.

We are starting our life again. Finding jobs, a place to live, and creating a plan.

In the past 2 months, I have felt like a rudderless sail, creative inspired, slightly depressed, tearfully grateful, intensely curious, over-stimulated and quiet. The quiet has been good. Taking a step back from the digital space to be fully present with people and nature has been a really healthy choice.

This is, and always will be the place that keeps me grounded – Galla Lake

But we still have had those burning questions that have been asked an infinite amount of times since we got back.

“What are you going to do now?”

This is where that damn trust & flow has played a big role in staying the course. We believed, we focused on the positive and we breathed through those moments that in the past would have sent me straight into an anxiety attack.

A lo and behold.

I am happy to share some big news for our family.

Today, Chris is starting a really exciting venture with Union Foods as the Director of Construction & Design. He will be responsible for overseeing the development of the majority of Union Station’s new food ventures with a forward-thinking, innovative company. (This is also the group that owns the ridiculously delicious Union Chicken at Sherway Gardens). If you haven’t gone for brunch and tried their Chicken & Waffles you are missing out. Trust me.

For me, I am reigniting Hart & Galla with some small upcoming events and select social strategy design for companies that fit well with our personal ethos. I am also putting it here for accountability (Gulp!) that I am working on a book proposal about our trip and plan on putting energy into MomDadCuppaKids daily. I am intent on writing more actively on this blog of personal stories, travel tips, world schooling, simplifying your life, event ideas, and special needs dialogue. My hope is to inspire people with a “hey, if we can do it, you can do it” energy and totally open to any ideas you might have.

We still have no permanent fixed address but for now that is fine.

For now, we will just Trust…& Flow.

 

 

 

 

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Real Life

A Kid-Free Summer.

Round the world Family travel

What we wish we knew about sending our kids away.

We joke about being kid-free for the summer, letting loose, partying like it’s 1999.

Whooping it up, staying up late, sleeping in, reading, writing and relaxing sounds pretty much like heaven right?

We never expected it to feel like this.

Dad Says:

Well, here is something I don’t ever think I would have admitted in public before…

I really miss my family when they are not around.

My kids, fresh off an 8 month adventure around the world and often living in the same room for weeks at a time, were offered a chance to go visit their grandparents in Manitoba.  They jumped at the opportunity. Hell, it involves a swimming pool, salads that are made of jello and whipped cream, and cousins who love to play.  This planned adventure was to encompass 6 weeks, to work timing wise for an upcoming wedding in the Peg. We are now at week 3 and I miss them tonnes.  I miss my daughter, who is now into making weird faces and having contests over who looks strangest in FaceTime videos, and my son, who gives me virtual hugs and kisses all the time while telling me how to defeat the big boss in Sonic. Damn you Eggman!

Watching our daughter overcome her fears of deep water meant 5+ hrs of snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef
We learned our son was a hopeless romantic with his comments on the beauty of the sunset over the Atacama Desert

I miss my sister and her kin. We would get together every few weekends or so for a lunch or a night at the cottage, and just laugh about how stupid we were as children and truthfully as adults as well.  But she has a boy to kiss, and a job, and her family is all over the place, so I don’t get that chance lately and I miss it.  Don’t tell her please, I don’t think I could stand the rebuke.

I miss my wife, who just left me alone for 3 days after being with me constantly for the past 9 months.  She is smiley, dancey, and gets louder when given red wine, and she is all mine.  I love her, and surprisingly I miss her too.  I should be watching kung fu movies, eating food that makes me fart, and generally forgoing body conditioning and washing, not writing  a post pining for her.  Don’t tell her this either, or there will be no living with her now.

Our happy place

I miss my nieces and nephews, who I know think I am the funnest uncle ever, a F’uncle, if you will.  They love my puns and bad jokes and cooking and weird beer selection.  I know they do, I don’t even have to ask…

Watching Chris’ mom fulfill a life long dream of seeing elephants in Thailand was a memory that will hold so special for all of us.

Finally, I miss my mom, too.  She was away for a trip, now returned and heading up to join me for a few days of her sharing how, if I corrected just a few little things, would be just sprightly and perfect in every way.  And, truth be told, I am excited to hear of my minor shortcomings and lack of ability to call often enough to know if she had fallen and was unable to get up. God, don’t tell her that, I couldn’t even…

Now, missing is one thing, but letting that time go to waste is another.  So if you’ll excuse me, it’s spicy chilli time, Dance of the Green Dragon Style killer monks, and a really nice scotch to wash it down into the quiet night…

Mom Says

When we talked through the idea of having the kids spent most of the summer with my family, it sounded like a dream. We could get a ton of projects done at the cottage, we could sort out our life here, we could get SH*T done yo.

Great in theory. Not as good in practice.

On one hand, we are crossing our things off our GIANT To-Do list like its going out of style. We are having a ton of fun. The two of us kayaking, talking, going fishing and working together really is lovely. The weekends bringing deep, hilarious and special connections with dearest friends.

But here is the kicker.

After spending SO much time in as close a proximity as we can with each other (280+ days 24/7), I really learned to enjoy our kids. Yes, of course I have and always will love them.

But being together like that allowed us to get to know them. Intrinsically. We became a unit. We could feel each other’s energy before we even spoke. We found compassion to be one of the greatest values on the trip and pushed each other past our comfort zones on dozens of occasions.

Our kids to pushed us to get PADI Scuba certified. They got to try Scuba for the first time in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

I really really LIKE them.

Even if they weren’t our kids, I would still really enjoy hanging around with them.

And I miss the hell out of them.

For us, it is crucial that they build relationships with our family without us around. In order to develop and foster strong bonds between them, we knew we needed to let go to allow them to grow as people.

Our wedding invitation started with “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”.

Who knew we would be say the same years later when talking about our kids?

 

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Real LifeTravel

What It Feels Like To Be Home

Bolivian Salt Flats

Learning to let it flow after travelling the world

I am sitting at the dining room table in our friend’s house soaking in the silence.

Alone.

For the first time in 240 days.

It’s quiet. So quiet. Almost too quiet after months of being surrounded by family, crowing roosters, honking horns, feuding cats or yelling neighbours.

Trekking through the Sahara Desert was a surreal and serene experience
Getting up close and personal feeding and bathing elephants in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
Discovering paradise in the Maldives
Sunrise at Angor Wat, Cambodia

Oh. Canada.

I don’t quite know what to make of it to be honest. It feels a bit like a dream. I sit here a bit flummoxed as I try to process the fact that we are actually back in Canada after an amazing adventure around the world. It was incredible. One I look back at with zero regrets. We pushed ourselves, we explored, we had fun and we, as a family, connected deeper than I would ever possibly hope for.

We were warned that re-entry would be hard and I really did believe I was prepared for it.

Being coy in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
A dream come true. Trying the Airbus A380 Flight Simulator in Dubai.

What it feels like to be home.

In some ways, it feels really really good. We missed our friends and family. We missed Canada. Our appreciation for mother nature’s magic is far greater than before we left. Our gratitude in the freedom we have to live our lives here unsurmountable. Democracy, rights & freedoms, heath care, clean water, recycling, and our opportunity for choice in so many arenas has rendered us forever thankful for the country we live in.

Galapagos was like nothing else on the planet as marine iguanas, sea turtles and sea lions swam alongside you on any given day.
We pushed ourselves often to face our fears. Ziplining in Banos, Ecuador.

Does it feel strange?

Yes. Everything is the same, I am the same, and I am different. It feels a bit awkward. Like a 13 year old boy who’s not sure where to put his hands at a dance. I get upset at the wastefulness here. I get frustrated at anyone using #firstworldproblems. I look up often into the sky and gaze at the clouds. I am not sure where to go or what I want but I certainly know what I don’t.

I know I don’t want to go back to being the “busy” person, wearing exhaustion like a badge of honour. I know I don’t want to get sucked back into social media so much that I miss being present, as in really and truly present for my family. I know I don’t want to be caught in the need for stuff, we have zero requirement for anything, in fact I would like to get rid of more.

No. I have zero interest in buying a ticket for that train.

Releasing baby turtles back into the ocean- Anawanatuna, Sri Lanka
Learning to make chocolate in Lima, Peru was schooling for all of us
Watching a healthy glacier calving in El Calafate, Argentina was an extraordinary experience.
A special moment was participating in the Women’s March in New Zealand. It created a lot of dialogue around equity within our family.

Oh My Aching Heart

My heart hurt a lot on this trip but it also nearly burst dozens of times from sheer joy. My intention has always been towards fostering relationships but now more than ever it’s how I can provide value outwards and into the world. To help contribute to making it a better place in as little or as large of a way I can.

We are all connected. That connection point means that whatever you feed and water on a daily basis has a ripple affect on others in your sphere. My heart aches when I see so many people on social media constantly in a state of complaint, anger or disgust. When did it become the norm to be so negative?

You can choose every day which seeds you will water.  Water the negative seeds, and you will watch a plant wither and die. Water the positive seeds and you will see a plant flourish and grow. *

We all have a responsibility to be kinder. THAT is the kind of ripple effect we need to keep creating in ourselves and in our children.

Learning to Tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina made this dancer mom a happy gal
Visiting Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings) in New Zealand had us all geeked out
Swimming with 100+ wild dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand was pure magic
One of my biggest colour inspirations were the lanterns at the night market in Hoi An

Keep Calm, Let it Go and Flow

So now what? Good question.

The answer is we don’t know yet. In the past, this would have sent me into a massive anxiety attack. But the world showed us that even without any kind of definitive plan that everything will end up working out.

We don’t yet have a home, our village kindly sheltering us as we seek out a place to “settle” for the moment. The desire to put down some roots, (even temporary ones) has gotten hold and now its a matter of simply trust.  Spending energy on worrying about what might or might not happen does none of us any good.

So now we let go and let it flow.

And maybe just enjoy the silence.

*This philosophy stems from the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh. A philosopher and monk who does a beautiful job of teaching the importance of being present. 

Meeting wallabies in Australia convinced Lauren that she wants to care for animals
Worldschooling about Ancient Greece by being at the Olympic stadium and the Parthenon
Marrakech stole my heart.
A few domino moments led to making a decision that changed their family’s life. The loss of 2 dear friends and a keen awareness that their kids were falling down a path of first world privilege prompted the Powells to sell their house and head into the world to teach their children the importance of Global Citizenship. Their #Familygoals focused on teaching compassion, community and to always live big.
After 8 months, 6 continents, 21 countries, and travelling with a child with special needs, the Powell’s discovered so much more than simply how much they love to travel. They discovered gratitude in mother nature and joy in each other. Lessons they never realized (until now) were the lessons they needed the most.

 

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Real Life

Hang to Dry – Taking Time to Chill On the Line

ViewfromVilla

Downtime and Laundry Have Me in Heaven

We arrive at our latest place to stay and it feels like we have jumped into a movie set.

The view is insanely beautiful.

We keep waiting for someone to show up and tell us that we have the wrong house. That we should actually be staying in the garage, not the main villa overlooking the water in a small seaside town on the coast of Greece. It is everything you imagine a greek villa should look like, right down to the whitewashed walls and marble in every room.

We have fallen upon this place via a friend and his incredibly generous offer to use his family home. After many months of travel, through guesthouses, hostels, AirBnb’s or caravaning our way through the countryside, this feels like heaven because we are stopping for awhile.

We are chilling out. Taking it easy. No agenda. Nothing to see. Just to be.

Sunrises like these provide opportunity to reflect in gratitude

This feels like heaven because we can unpack.

Fully unpack for 10 days.

Not just our personal packs but the 1 big yellow backpack that encompasses our travel cubes, souvenirs, shoes, cosmetics and usually a big honkin’ bag of laundry.

It’s funny how perspectives shift on the road.

To us now, a chance to unpack could very well be one of the biggest luxuries we enjoy on this trip.

We typically don’t plan any more than a couple days ahead. We like travelling as the day takes us but lately its sped up a bit. I can’t quite tell if it’s because we now have a return date for our trip back to Canada or if we are in places we want to see so much of that we toggle back & forth between “tourist” and “traveller”?

When a travel days wipes out the whole crew

We seem to intuitively anticipate each other’s needs now. We can tell when one (or more of us) are travel weary and start making space and time for relaxing.

Reflection, quiet and sleep are our medicines required to get back on the horse (or camel or tuk tuk) and keep going.

We have all changed, I know that. My OCD on keeping things “neat & clean” has relaxed from a 9 to about a 2 on the peripheral stuff. Those things don’t matter so much anymore. What matters really is us, these experiences and being together.

As our priorities shift to focusing on being present, I can see a shift in everything we do.

For an absolutely incredible book on the practice of being present, I can’t recommend highly enough the book You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh. It has brought a calm and peacefulness to my world that I have never experienced before.

This book will change the way you look at life.

One of the most evident is in how we pack. What we thought we needed and what we really do is so completely different than when we started.

We have 3 distinct styles of packing. They all seem to be focus on eliminating extra time, energy and unnecessary opening of bags.

Here is a quick breakdown of how we roll:

The overnight/carry on travel pack

This includes 1 change of clothes, always a swim suit (thank you Drew Dudley and his tip that a swimsuit is “fun insurance” it has come in handy more than once), flip flops, a pr of PJ’s, toothbrush, and deodorant.

The 2-4 days city pack

1 extra pair of shorts, 2-3 shirts (depending on the mean temperature and how sweaty or smelly we might get as we travel), swim suit, flip flops, sarong (this can go a long way between beach, temple coverage and sun protection), small bag of deodorant, soap, conditioner, brush, and toothbrush.

The 4+ day in one stationary location

This gets me so excited you can’t imagine. Laundry, homemade meals, naps, even being domestic (like establishing some element of “home” for a few days) feels really really good.

Down days are some of my absolute favorites

For awhile, when we started talking about going home, I would picture Fred Flintstone putting his feet down in his car to put on the brakes. I wasn’t feeling ready yet. We still had so much to explore. What I realize now is that I had in my head that this was a singular defining moment for us. Yet life isn’t over after this trip. We can start planning the next one. We can relish in all the adventures we have had. We can cherish the beauty and the specialness of Canada for awhile. We can reconnect with family & friends. We can create & savour new memories back home.

Perhaps we can even welcome some of the amazing people we have met on our adventures to our home land and show them why we are so proud to be Canadian.

Come on over guys. The door is always open.

A little Canadian cottage inspiration

 

 

 

 

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