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Cloud Nine – How Airlines Across The World Have Treated Our Special Needs Son

Kid in front of Virgin Airlines

If you were to meet our son anywhere on our world trip, the first thing you would likely hear is “Hi, my name is Spencer. I really love airplanes. Can I tell you about them?”

It’s a script we have worked on to explain his deep passion with planes while helping him practice the social cues of conversation.

You see, Spencer has Autism. While Autism carries a breadth of different behaviours, a common trait is fixating on a particular subject matter that can often nears obsession. Currently, his fascination is everything to do with airplanes. He wants to become a pilot, practices Google flight simulator daily, watches everything he can on YouTube from aircraft investigations to test flights for Airbus and Boeing airplanes.

Flight crews (and especially pilots) are like gods to Spence. The generosity and kindness they have shown him throughout our adventure make them rock stars in my books. More than once their gestures have caused me to tear up simply because people just don’t do that anymore.

Thai Airlines pilots were so very generous with their time. They are definitely near the top of our list.

It is common for Spencer to enter a plane and turn left while the rest of us turn right. Don’t worry. He always asks permission and surprisingly often he is allowed to say a quick hello to the pilots before we head to our seats.

One West Jet flight, he checked in with the pilots to see if they had done their pre-flight checklist. “Jeff and Jeff” were incredibly gracious to him, walking through their flight plans and the controls. As he left the cockpit, he made the entire plane giggle as he said “if you need me, I’m in row 16!”.  The beauty of the West Jet brand is that it wasn’t just the pilots. The crew were equally kind, providing us a care package as a send off on our world trip and an experience that Spencer still remembers (& talks about to this day).

When we flew Avianca back from the Galapagos Islands on a near empty airplane, he could hardly believe his good fortune to be able to wander the plane and look out the window from a myriad of locations. We couldn’t believe the patience the flight crew had to let him.

LATAM was by far one of his favourites because they use fancy (see glass) glasses and proper napkins. Spencer’s comment was that we might as well be in first class. A dream of his is to tour first class on an Emirates Airbus A380. If ever there was a brand advocate, he is theirs. Not because of Jennifer Aniston, but because of THIS guy. YouTube can be a very powerful influence. Let’s leave it at that.

Air New Zealand was so very special because we flew on a 787 Dreamliner, one of Spencer’s ultimate aircrafts. Their flight path was interactive, their in-flight entertainment system was the bomb, add in seat to seat texting and meeting the pilots, we will have a sweet spot for Air New Zealand forever and a day.

On Singapore Airlines, the pilot actually came out at the end of the flight and shook Spencer’s hand. I tried not to cringe as he commented and scored them a 7 out of 10 on their landing, suggesting that next time they try to “lightly kiss the ground” when they touch down. Thank god for their sense of humour and openness to hearing this from a 10 year old.

Singapore Airlines pilots were some of the nicest we have ever met

The wild thing is that its not just the general stuff.  He knows fuel ratios, flap extension degrees, and all sorts of stuff that is way outside his weight class. When we were standing in line for customs at Brisbane airport, an Emirates flight crew walked up along side us. Spencer vibrated as he met the flight crew who very kindly offered to introduce him to the pilots. You would have thought me were meeting the Queen, as Spence drew in a big breath and approached the pilots with a hand out and his “Hi I’m Spencer” intro. The pilots smiled and listened as Spencer recounted the entire features and benefits list of an Emirates airplane. One pilot in particular (a Canadian) suggested he apply for a job when he is older. An ambition that is now solidly in Spencer’s line of sight.

On Thai Airlines, the flight crew provided an official passport for him to track his flights and for the pilot to sign. At the end of the flight, he went in to see the cockpit and was able to sit in the pilot’s seat. A chance opportunity he will remember for a lifetime.

Spencer perusing the cockpit of the Thai Airlines A330 flight we were on.

Every time we get to an airport, he goes plane-spotting, an opportunity to point out all the incoming planes and what they are. The awesomeness of an airport is determined by how many A380’s we have seen or how many 747, 777 and 787’s were at the terminal.  He will tell anyone close how exciting this is and to be honest, his excitement is often infectious.

You see, the irony is that we were told with his Autism, Spencer might never be social. He might never hug us and he might never say I love you.

What we have discovered is that when we shifted our perspective just a little, we stopped focusing on the Autism. Sure. There are and always will be moments along this journey that our son has special needs, but it is far from what defines or drives us. Traveling the world, Spencer has no routine (his preference to his life before travel). Our days are filled with spontaneity and loudness and life. He has learned to deal with so much along the way and he is learning every day how to meet and connect with people from all over the world.

We, along with dozens of flight crews have been witness to an extraordinary little man who’s light and enthusiasm lights up a smile in anyone he meets.

We watch while he turns the coldest hearts into giggling people. Even when he’s talking all things aviation.

Except crashes.

We only have one rule: We don’t talk about plane crashes while we are on a plane.

That one is one even mom can’t handle.

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Travel

Number One Rule To Travel : Don’t Be a Dick

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When what you do represents so much more than you.

It’s a strange view from here.

We sit in the middle of two worlds. A no man’s land of sorts. Learning and experiencing travel on the road while still being able to stay in touch with the goings on at home.

Most of the time it’s great. But sometimes, not so much.

Checking in on social media feels like we are watching home from behind a plexiglass window at the zoo. We are detached. We have the benefit of not being barraged with bad news all the time except when the only thing on Facebook is bad news.

When we go on, it’s hard not to get depressed by the time you finish scrolling.  We have somehow normalized vent posts, frustration updates, anger, spewing hurtful comments, judging people you have never met before or better yet telling each other what to do.

Does this kind of malaise come naturally now? When did everyone become such dicks?

Or do you think anyone ever stops to think that every time they post something shitty on Facebook they have the potential of bringing other people down due to the collective dicklike activity already happening there?

Don’t worry though. It’s not just Facebook.

They are plenty out there in real life. But there are also plenty of amazing as well.

We connected with Thomas through a Trip advisor mention and google search. He is one of THE sweetest guys you will meet driving from Hue to Hoi An

Respecting the culture locally and of tourism

One of the best ways we have learned about hidden bits of awesome is simply by chatting with other long-haul travellers. We connect when cooking in hostel communal kitchens. We screenshot recommendations via social media. We discuss must-go places and did-you-knows as we hang out together on tours.

As we have chatted about best experiences, we were surprised how often we would be presented with “don’t go to X, it’s become too touristy”.

Too touristy?

What exactly does that mean?

Well, as far as we can gather it means too busy, too common or too western. No longer that different or unique travel experience people want to take home with them.

Ok.

So a place starts getting a buzz and suddenly a massive amount of tourist economy floods into a developing or under-developed country. Travellers arriving daily, spreading money around like its going out of style and presenting locals opportunities for more. Perhaps build a business or more importanly get out of struggling to cloth and feed their family or send their kids to school. To allow dreams to take shape and to see farther than they ever thought before. That kind of opportunity lends itself to a hustle state of mind. You do what you gotta do to make it work.

Yet tourists, who were part of creating this culture in the first place, don’t like the ickiness of the hustle.

So don’t be a dick.

This is Angkor Wat at Sunrise
This is also Angkor Wat at sunrise

Tourists having cake and eating it too

You opted to go to this country. The internet is FULL of information of what its like to travel there. You can’t say you didn’t know. Not nowadays.

Sadly, we have been witness often to someone from a developed country complaining about the people, communication boundaries, conditions of their stay, the washroom, the food, and cultural behaviours WHILE they are in said country.

It’s baffling. The demand of the tourist is to have an experience that feels authentic but in the end, the question becomes, do they really? Authentic means immersing and connecting with everything the destination is providing. Yet, in doing so, it takes tourists out of their comfort zone and forces them to look (& possibly realize) that living conditions in other parts of the world are extraordinarily different and can at times be heartbreakingly poor.

It seems tourists want to view the local surroundings from a bubble.  It can give them clarity into the daily life and struggles, history and future of a culture, without the necessity to getting their hands dirty or suffering from slow Dial-Up internet.  They want 20 minutes of ‘life as a local’, followed by some hand sanitizer and tsk-tsking, certainly not 2 days actually working in the mud trying to coax rice to grow in an overworked field.

Machu Picchu in the afternoon
Machu Picchu in the morning

What Can You Do

Book local

Planning itineraries in advance is ideal but with it comes with added mark-ups at every distribution point. A big tour company typically sub-contracts to a regional or local tour company, they in turn hire the guides. The guides make very little of the actual fees charged, so the closer you can get, the more you are supporting the local community. Book and support local wherever you can. A great option to source is via Facebook search. We have connected with many local guides and drivers by simply geo searching to find them through social media.

Su was our amazing guide through Sa Pa. We connected via Facebook.

Support businesses that might not otherwise be able to market to the masses

Tripadvisor is still by far the most trusted resource in terms of local recommendations. Yet there are new networks coming on the scene. Collaborative companies like Backstreet academy in Asia helps bring awareness of local, expert businesses that can give you a genuine, off-the-beaten path kind of experience. Be sure to help local friends by reviewing their services via Trip Advisor, Google or Facebook. Search is how you found them. Reviews help search.

Be respectful

It was hard to watch as we saw women with bandeau bathing suit tops arguing to go up the steps of a Buddhist monastery this past week. We as travellers have been given a gift in being able to be in this country. We are owed nothing but we do owe something. Respecting local culture traditions like removing footwear, being covered in sacred spaces or handing over money with two hands are easy things to learn. As is the word THANK YOU.  An easy one to learn in every language.

Be kind

My daughter once schooled me when negotiating with a man in Bolivia. I was getting frustrated over the added charges (when I look back it was ultimately between $5) and she reminded me of something I had told her. “Everyone is part of a family”. So when you are in the process of negotiating or speaking with someone local on your trip, don’t just think of that moment. Think of them as a father or mother or daughter or son or sister or brother. Learn something about their family. It’s amazing how much less of a dick you end up being, when you create human connection.

Sacred valley chinchero
These beautiful weaver business women in Sacred Valley of Peru are all most importantly mothers. Makes negotiations change big time.

Make a choice

You aren’t just representing yourself. You are representing your country. You are ambassadors.

You can get upset about the too touristy piece or you can accept that everyone is as excited as you are to be there and in that moment.

Choose when you go to a major destination spot. Go in off hours or off season if you hate the tourist part so much.

Make a choice to not only think of yourself but who you are representing. And what that means in the worldwide stage of travel.

So what’s our number one rule?

Don’t Be a Dick.

 

 

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Real LifeTravel

Sex On The Beach: 50 Ways to Be a Lover

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How to Keep Intimacy Alive When Travelling as a Family

Back in the day when  you were just a couple, your sex life was hot. SMOKING HOT.

Damn right it was. You had time. You had energy. Glasses of wine and late night dinners were THE perfect set up for a little fun between the sheets.

It was, in fact, a priority in your life.

Then kids came along and BAM! that priority gets taken over by about a dozen others. You try to remember the last time you guys had a real sex session, and you got nothing. Suddenly you are a very sad panda.

But wait! There is still one hope. One promise on the horizon that makes you think maybe, just maybe, the spark could be lit again, the flame fuelled to make that fire burn back into your relationship.

Vacation.

Ah vacation. Traveling to an exotic place, getting away from everyday life, time away. Sand, drinks, Heat. Even the sound of that sounds sexy.

Yet, travel can also pose the biggest challenge if you are on a trip with your kids. Hotel rooms often don’t have a lot of space, opportunities are not as readily available for parents to connect privately and Shit! the kids are around.

We are currently on a global adventure with our kids. Travelling the world for months on end. For us as a family? Awesome. For us as a couple? Between staying tiny camper vans, bunk beds, boats, hostels, hotel rooms and Air Bnb’s, we totally get it.

We got curious how couples manage intimacy in the face of travel.

And so we put out an informal survey to a number of different Facebook groups we are part of. Worldschoolers, Family travelers, and our general group of our friends all sent us back their most genius nooky knowledge.

How and where do you get your freak on in the light of kids being close?

The challenge was daunting, the creativity inspiring and here are the results:

Here is our Number #1 answer along with more than 50 adventures you can add to your travel itinerary the next time you head away.

Wet n Wild

  • The Bathroom: In the shower, on the ledge of the tub, on the counter, on the toilet seat (Really? OK but please tell me the lid is down), against the wall (Seriously? How DO you DO that? You know, without accidentally taking down the shower rod or something??) and even on the floor. The floor of the bathroom? Man, intense times call for intense measures (Ew)

Shhhhh.

  • In the Bed Beside Your Kids: Your “quiet” capabilities better be on their best behaviour if you’re going to try this. Consensus was that sideways, playing under the covers, missionary, or girl on top are all acceptable. Doggie style is an absolute no. If your kids somehow wake up, no amount of therapy will ever allow them to get that out of their heads. NO amount.

A Room with A View

  • The Balcony is perfect so long as you have a curtain or something (again therapy people). Against the balcony, chair on the balcony (apparently nobody felt that any balcony table they have seen is strong enough to be that sturdy of a base), on the floor of the balcony, (with one responder even detailing how they stole a mattress from a poolside lounger – well played my friend, well played.

Sweet Suite

  • This is of course is the ideal. I swear Air Bnb needs to market this as a core benefit. That said, one responder (who is also an Air Bnb host) is now traumatized thinking that her bedroom is being used as a boudoir.

Naughty by Nature

  • Nature can be a fantastic venue. A blanket in the woods was our most popular answer but we also got under the stars, on a rock, in a cave (all I could think of was ..wait? Aren’t you worried about bats?), a loose flowing skirt and a picnic table, under a tree, against a tree, on a tree (can apparently often be the perfect height for  some fun oral conversation), and one rockstar responder shared they even did it IN a tree. Hats off!

Sex on the Beach

  • On the beach, in a beach cabana (exercise your rebel gene and sneak into one of these at night), in one of those massage huts, beach lounger (again, how daring you are depends sometimes how desperate but the option is there), beach bed, in the water (day OR night), poolside, dockside, beachside, any side, you get the picture.

Hide and Seek

  • Send the kids off for a game. You only have a count to 100 so better pre-play that as much as possible before you play your own game of Hide.

Public Indecency

  • Change Rooms, public washrooms, airport washrooms in particular can get the vacation party started right, family rooms, stair wells, roof tops. Do you think anyone would ever fault you if you are caught if you just explained the challenge of doing it with the kids around?

Playdate

  • According to our pollsters, this is one of the best places for adults to play at night. At a campground, resort, what have you. Apparently its been done. We got swing set, the slide, monkey bars (man that is serious upper body strength), the stairs to the jungle gym, under the jungle gym and yes, someone even suggested the teeter totter. Hmmm.

Dinner for Two

  • If you booked a villa, suite or Air Bnb then you have the added benefits of a kitchen inside your space. Perfect. Add the countertop, bar chairs, dining chairs and even the dining table to the mix. Who said dinner is the most delicious thing to be served on a table?

We joke about sex while traveling all the time. We might not be as adventurous as some who responded but man, we respect the hell out of their moxie to get it on when the mood is right.

Intimacy is something different for us these days. For sure we have the much needed, knockin’ boots, pent-up furiousness fix but we have also found other ways to keep connected. A surprise touch in the midst of the day. Gazing into each others eyes. Talking and laughing for hours. The bottom line is to have fun and to enjoy each other. We have found that THOSE moments are the most intimate of all.

 

Jenn, Chris, Spencer & Lauren are on a trip around the world. Their philosophy is to live big, love big and push out of their comfort zones. Their ethos is about supporting locally, learning more from nature and teaching their children the importance of global citizenship. 

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Travel

Top Tips to a Fun Winter Weekend Getaway in Quebec City

Circa 1884 slide near Chateau Frontenac

Good food, Great friends, Best destination

We love our kids. Honest. Now, that said, many moons ago we discovered that one of the best way to rejuvenate from the ongoing pull of parenthood is getting together with old friends or going on our own to explore a new city.

We know from heading often to Mount Ste. Anne that nothing quite matches Quebec City in wintertime.

Sure, going during Winter Carnival is an absolute blast. For parents wanting to get away, going outside of Winter Carnival alleviates the crowds and still allows you to experience Quebec City at its finest. It’s a beautiful mix of delicious eats, romantic airs, outdoor adventure and fun. Oh my god. So. Much. Fun.

We get that above everything else as parents, we don’t have time to research.

So to make it easy, here is a simple plan for a 3 day getaway to the heart of Quebec.

1) How To Get There

If you are heading out from Toronto, we LOVE Porter Airlines. We love them so much, I LRV them. Well, I do. Chris digs that they serve free beer and snacks.

For those visiting Canada, quick trips can be arranged to places like New York City, Montreal, Chicago, Mont Tremblant and Quebec City. Porter services them all for usually far cheaper than the big guys. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sign up for VIPorter and get notified of the killer promo codes that they launch throughout the year. It is not unusual for them to offer 40-50% off flights and when they do, it is pretty easy to score flights for $200-$300. Every single time we compare flights, Porter comes in the most economical and is by far one of our customer service favourites.

Afternoon beverages on on a crisp winter day by the fire – Hotel Le Germain

2) Where To Stay

Hands down we have to say Hotel Le Germain has it all. Perfectly located, the vibe mixes luxe, modern, inviting and intimate all together for a fantastic boutique hotel experience. You are away from the kids. Treat yourself. The lounging areas on the main floor is the perfect spot for your pre-drinks meet-up before dinner or laughing into the wee hours of the morning. The outside is perfectly set to sit by an open fire, cover yourself up cozy in a blanket and drink a delicious glass of wine mid-afternoon.

Where to stay in Quebec City
Cozy, warm fireplace & bar in the lounge area of Hotel Le Germain
Modern and artistic, the beds are so seductive it would be EASY to stay in all day but there is just TOO MUCH to do!
Keep cozy fireside with warm wooly blankets and a delicious bevvie from the bar

3) What To Do

Late Morning

Sleep in! What are you thinking? You don’t have kids with you! The beds are so comfortable they will beg you to stay in. A delicious leisurely breakfast served down in the lobby is a perfect start to the day.

Spend late morning/early afternoon simply wandering through the old town of Quebec City.

Maybe head down to the river and see the ice flow change direction on the St.Lawrence as the tide changes or enjoy the ice carvings created for Carnival that blow your mind from the artistic mastery of it all.

Lunch

Down by the river, you can stop in for a glass of red and a beef or salmon tartar at Q de Sac. A cozy place, the food is simple and tasty. A perfect spot to get your holiday started.

Best Margherita pizza. Especially when its a bit chilly outside.

Shop or meander through the streets and then opt for the Funicular. A cheap, fun ride that gets you up to Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac when you don’t feel like hiking up the hills.

From there, stop by the old wood 1884 toboggan ride. Do it. I dare ya. Perfect for when you want to feel like a kid again.

Stop by for Charcuterie at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
I have never had a more delicious charcuterie plate in my life than the one at Chateau Frontena

If you’re like me and could sincerely live off olives, cured meats and cheese your next stop is 1608 Bar à vin & fromage at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac for a mid-afternoon charcuterie plate and a cocktail (or two).

From there head back to the hotel for a change from the day. Have a nap (among other things) because you are an away-from-your-children party animal, which means you just GOTTA stay up later than the usual.

Meet down in the lobby of Hotel Le Germain for pre-game by the fire then head out to one of the many amazing restaurants in the area. (We would highly recommend making reservations as it was quite full. The front desk was amazing at helping us out with this).

4) Where To Eat

You really could go anywhere in Old Town, Quebec City and enjoy the meal but one that we experienced that by far exceeded our expectations was Boulay.

Boulay : A Boreal Bistro

We loved Boulay for a number of reasons but most especially, because of the focus on responsible cooking and sourcing locally to create its seasonal menu. This means you will see selections like Arctic Char, Salmon and Venison in the winter season mixed with the likes of elderberry, marinated beets, or kohlrabi. There were a number of vegan options as well which made this our number 1 pick in terms of supporting local, beautiful ambience, incredible wine list and the experience as a whole.

A truly original taste experience that truly involves eating off the land.

Finish the night off with a drink and a bit of live music. Much like Europe, the fun starts late in Quebec City which means you will most definitely come across live music as you wander down the hill. The options are endless as we saw a fabulous singer-songwriter at Saint Alexandre Pub and a Punk-Celtic Band at St.Patrick Pub. Basically, look for the word pub anywhere and you will have good music to accompany your already good time.

5) Where to Go

We are not necessarily ones for going to the usual attractions but I have to say, the Ice Hotel was a great addition to our trip. Well worth the money to go explore, check out the rooms, have an ice shot, go snow tubing, and enjoy the crunch of frozen maple syrup on a stick that they do on the hotel grounds. It is fascinating how they create this piece of art and maintain throughout winter. A truly Canadian experience.

A total hoot as you walk through the ice hotel and see incredible creations along with it
Can you imagine getting married in a chapel made entirely of ice?
Would you be brave enough to sleep on a bed of ice for the night?
Cocktails at the ice bar come (of course) in cubes of ice. Go for the Mount Kilimanjaro or Broken down snowmobile

Total MUST Do

Every time we head to Quebec City, we stop for crepes at Au Petit Coin Breton. Boasting as the oldest creperie in Quebec, they have figured out the recipe for crepe perfection. Whether its on your way out of town or nursing a hangover from too many venues the night before, these COULD be the best crepes of your life.

And of course, you must have Poutine. You wouldn’t be in Quebec if you didn’t stop for poutine. The calories don’t even count when you are in such a beautiful and special part of Canada.

No matter what you do, Quebec City is an opportunity to enjoy a special part of our country. Go. You won’t regret it and honestly, when you take time for yourselves, you will be a better parent when you come home.

Dad Says:  Couldn’t agree more, actually.  I have always enjoyed Quebec, and Q-city in winter is magical.  The old city is amazing.  Cold enough to drive you into any number of small restaurants and pubs to warm with some true french onion soup and a local draught, and through the winding streets there is enough of a balance of kitchy knickknacks and art stores to fill your boots.

Hidden pleasure: the Funicular.  For like less than 3 bucks a head, you can go from bottom to top in style in a kind of fixed sled gondola.  Puts the fun in Funicular, and you can imagine the English soldiers trying to scale the walls to get to the French barricades back in the day…no thanks.  We’ll take the elevator.

The Ice Hotel is really a bunch of fun too.  I went in thinking hokey, and came out surprisingly satisfied.  We wandered around, had a bev, and did a best of 10 on the tube run.  Here’s to Marty and Dawn for taking the title, however suspect pushing and cheating is supposed but unproven.

 

Chris and Jenn are travelling around the world with their 2 children in an effort to teach them global citizenship. They are focused on world schooling their little ones to not only learn essentials like Geography and Science but to also learn the importance of compassion, values and understanding of all cultures from around the world. 

 

 

 

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Family MattersReal LifeTravel

How Will You Tell This Story?

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Our WHY Behind Travelling the World

Every story has a back story and it’s not always pretty.

I never really considered ourselves storytellers until this trip.

Sure, Chris and I like to talk in stories. It’s fun and entertaining and most importantly gets people laughing by the end. Something for us that is ultimately the end goal.

Now my grandmother. She’s a storyteller.

In fact, she was the best storyteller of us all.

My grandmother was most indeed the matriarch of our family. The older sister and the “second mom” to a large family growing up in the prairies. She was given the job early in life to care for her 6 younger siblings, becoming a provider for the family at a time when she should have been playing instead of working. She was sweet, stubborn and with an incredibly strong work ethic. Her get-it-done-and-do-it-well ethic was one she imprinted on our entire family. But she loved to have fun. Her laugh was so big and contagious, it either had you in tears or one of you saying “I’m going to pee my pants!” or both.

Her life was her family and the art of storytelling was something she shared with her siblings, her children and her grandchildren. Trust me, you end up at one of our family reunions and nobody ever just recounts a moment. Vast, broad strokes of details are painted along the way. The story weaving back far enough to set the stage: providing minutiae like smells, clothes or even weather to give you the background you needed to see the whole picture and to feel like you were there.

It was an important part of my grandmother’s stories.

But Why?

So you could understand her WHY to every story she told.

As a kid, I would get frustrated. I was impatient, too young to understand the time it took to create that background, instead feeling she was going on and on. Ugh! Grandma! Always feeling she went much farther than necessary for the story’s conclusion.

As I got older, and she came close to the end of her years, I wanted to sit for hours to listen to those stories. I understood the foundation she was laying. I wanted more time to gobble up every morsel of a story she was willing to give.  To hear them often, so I could remember them when she was gone. So she would stay close in my memory through all of her beautiful stories.

Our WHY

A few years ago, we adopted a mantra to Come Before Winter.  The concept simple. Do whatever it is you have been thinking or dreaming about now because you never know what tomorrow brings. At that point we had known too many people affected with disease and too many passing before they had a chance to live a full life.

It changed us as a couple and as a family.

We took trips. A lot of them.

We created memories. A lot of them.

Travel became a priority.

Taking our kids to Scotland to visit many relatives on my Uncle’s 92nd birthday was so special.

Multi-generational trips to Disney World with Grandma. A trip to Scotland & Ireland with my parents. Seeing Carmen (an opera very special to my family) at Lincoln Center in New York, a 40th birthday in NYCClimbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Doing a Yoga Retreat with dear friends in Nicaragua. Meeting up with childhood pals in Quebec City.

Climbing Kilimanjaro to celebrate our 10th anniversary was a milestone we both loved achieving

We pushed far out of our comfort zone and it felt really really good.

The decision to do these was very intentional. We are blessed for the rest of our years with all the special moments we created with people we love.

Watching my Dad’s joy over showing his grandkids his home was an important part of our family story.

But these last few years have not been without struggle.

In 2014, on the day we were leaving for Mount Kilimanjaro, my Grandma passed.

When she left, I felt like I had lost one of my “persons”. Those people in your life who love you unconditionally. Your biggest cheerleaders. Ones where the connection to them feels deeper. The love pure.

But 2014 was full of life. We lived and loved big. We took on challenges and celebrated milestones. We conquered, we achieved, I turned 40 and we celebrated our 10 year anniversary. The time we spent with family and friends was time we will never regret.

When one of my best girls asked if I would meet her in NYC for her 40th, of course I said yes. How often do you celebrate a milestone like that?

Then 2015 made way to become a very difficult year. Like every other family we were running like mad chickens, over-committed, and busy. Just so busy.

I challenged myself in business. To build, to create more, do more, get bigger and in doing so, created an absolute wreck of a human being. I made decisions that went against my intuition and EVERY time got myself kicked in the ass. I took on some big financial risk during this growth and didn’t sleep for months.

Then in May of 2015, I lost another one of my persons. One of my dearest friends passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm. Always one of my biggest cheerleaders, she was a wise old owl who was able to look (& talk through) all sides of the story when considering options. Yet she pushed me to be fearless and bold. Forever answering “yes!” before I even finished with “Do you think we should..?”

I always felt lucky to have had her as a friend but I wish I had told her more how much I valued her friendship, love and encouragement. Her loss made a deep cut to many who loved her. To this day, there is still a huge gaping hole that sits open in so many of us.

Beautiful memories like this make me happy

The grief of losing her mixed with massive business ups and downs created a level of anxiety and depression that I didn’t even know I was going through until much later. Most days, I felt like I was suffocating. When I think of those times, I often picture the Sea Witch from the Little Mermaid darkening the waters, growing bigger and bigger until she took over the whole screen. An ominous black liquid cloaking over me to the point of being unable to breath.

Outwardly, I was functioning because I felt I had to. Because it was expected of me to just “get over it” and to “relax” over the money invested in the business. Privately, I was having severe anxiety attacks that would scare both myself and my husband. They would happen as the kids slept or were gone for the day because somehow one of my ill-placed measures of success was not breaking down, truly breaking down, in front of them. On the other side of an attack I would end up feeling so exhausted that even sleep (& the desperate need for it) became part of the vicious cycle.

In September of 2015, We (ok I, with reluctant family members joining in) decided to do the Kon Mari purge. It’s a process I can’t recommend enough. Not necessarily because of the “Sparking Joy” piece but because getting rid of stuff clears your mind. Downsizing and letting go of so much of our crap helped immensely in releasing associated feelings connected to the past and got us moving to the future.

To start your way through a Kon Mari purge, here’s our start.

But something was still not right.

The purge helped collectively reduce my claustrophobic feelings, the big business decisions were done for the year but we felt like we weren’t living big anymore. Just going through the routine. Just busy people.

We had always talked of a dream of traveling the world. There were HUGE signs being sent our way that kept saying Do It Now! Come Before Winter! but that notion, that idea of making the leap felt SO big.

Too Big.

Yes, it can be Scary as F*ck. It can also be the most invigorating, exhilarating decision of your life. It is hard to believe that a year ago (at the start of 2016) we made the concrete decision to travel the world with our kids.

I am telling you this story not for sympathy or empathy but for you to see you are not alone. Everyone has a back story.

It’s for you to see our WHY behind the decisions we made to get here.

We want to tell you stories through our travels so that you can come along with us. We want to paint the picture so that you might be inspired enough to head down a similar path or travel somewhere you had never even thought about.

We all create imaginary barriers about why we can’t go somewhere. For us, we thought The Galapagos was too expensive. We are here to tell you it is entirely possible and one of the places we would recommend you to consider.

We want to tell you stories that are raw, real and honest. Ones that help you feel safe in taking that leap. Ones that makes you laugh. Taking chances to live the life you want. The one you deserve.

100%  it can be scary as shit. But it means you are LIVING it.

And that’s all that counts.

So tell us, what is your WHY?

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Healthy LivingReal LifeTravel

The Transformation – On Becoming a Butterfly

Learn how to enjoy every transformation

Reflecting on the journey to change is the most valuable part of the process.

Walk along the dirt road from Aguas Calientes towards the path up to Machu Picchu and you will discover a Butterfly Sanctuary hidden in the forest.

Head down a few stairs and you come across a soft-spoken gentleman behind the bar who offers to take you on a tour of the Mariposa. Follow him through a beaded curtain into a large mesh tent and you arrive into a magical little world of hundreds of butterflies & cocoons. All in different states of Chrysallis.

As the guide talks (in Spanish), you can tell he adores & respects these creatures. There is something quite extraordinary about him. For the first time in a long time, I see someone truly at peace. His job is to protect and nurture as many butterflies as he can and you can tell that this is his bliss, that he was doing what he loved.

It’s a special moment that will stick in my brain from this trip. The curious state of the kids seeing so many butterflies starting their journey into the world. The mass of cocoons nestled together. The ways in which each species used special defences to protect themselves. Whether curling up when touched, hiding under leaves or camouflaging themselves, every effort was made to ensure they wouldn’t get hurt in the process.

A butterfly just out of its cocoon. An incredible experience to witness.

It was a small tour and as we were about to leave, something called us to go into a room that was painted throughout with fun facts on butterflies. It was here I came across a mural depicting the transformation of a butterfly as the symbolism for human life.

The image on the left is the actual mural on the wall of the Butterfly Mariposa in Aquas Calientes. The right is the translation for your benefit.

As simply as it was laid out, the complex nature of humans was detailed in the exact same way a butterfly transforms from a caterpillar. We found it fascinating. Whether it’s reflecting on our life in its entirety, a goal, a resolution, a business idea, or whatever we decide to focus on, it all fits the same process.

First – The Larva

It starts with birth, an idea, the beginning of something fresh, something possible.

Next – The Caterpillar

It changes to movement, action, manifesting the idea, undertaking the necessary steps to make it happen. To make it to the goal.

Then – The Cocoon

Looking inward. Finding time for introspection and reflection. Seeking the space and the quiet to think about everything we have accomplished in this journey.

Finally – The Butterfly

The re-birth. The transformation. Release. Freedom. Strength. Courage.

The moment we recognize that we are different, that we have changed.

It’s such a beautiful metaphor for what we go through isn’t it? Especially when we get to our goal.

And then at the very bottom, the smallest part of the mural had the biggest impact on me.

Along the life we change. Learn how to enjoy each transformation. 

Let’s be honest.

We SUCK THE BIG ONE at the whole introspective, reflection piece that comes with accomplishment.

We have become a society of busy people, of doers, the concept of taking time to be be quiet no longer fits in our vocabulary. We have forgotten how to enjoy or embrace all the parts of the journey that leads to our transformations. How to be still for a moment and recognize the change.

This is where the universe comes in to play a role. “The universe” for me is that spiritual messenger that intervenes when you totally don’t think you need it but then realize after, you totally do. When you need to be quiet, it shuts you down. Its in the moments when you feel like you can hardly handle another thing and you get a cold. The moment when your body is physically required to be still in order to recoup. It CREATES moments of quiet for you when you need it most.

So hurried are we to get to our goal/destination that we forget its looking back at our path & how we got here that really is the best part.

It teaches us who we are. It shows our strength and determination. How far we’ve come. What we can achieve when we put our minds to it. The leaps of faith we have taken.

We have asked ourselves a few times on this trip, what we think we are going to change in to. We realize now its about embracing all the moments in between that will be the most important. Grateful for everything we are experiencing. THAT will truly be our change.

This year, don’t forget to take the time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you are.

You rock. You are making shit happen. Embrace all those moments, find the joy in your journey, the why’s, the how’s, the courage and strides you have taken.

Because THEN you will become the MOST BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY.

 

Chris, Jenn, Spencer and Lauren are a family from Canada on a trip around the world to live life to its fullest. Their goal is to push boundaries, connect with nature, meet people, learn of new places & teach their kids to become global citizens. 

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