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Look up. Unplug. Recharge

The beach

Everywhere I look.

All I see is a sea of people looking down.

At their phones.

They are oblivious to what is going on in the world around them.

They are oblivious to the conversations they could be having, people they could be meeting, experiences they could be sharing.

They are missing the point. They are missing the moment. They are missing basic human interaction.

Their phones far more their companion than the person next to them.

LOOK UP.

My business thrives on encouraging people to be more social and yet right now, it makes me so sad.

Partially because I realize how much I have been guilty of this myself. Partially because everyone looks…well…

ALONE.

Is this what we have become?

No one ever seems to LOOK UP anymore.

http://cocolocoresort.com/gallery/
My home for the next week

I was a bit of a dufus and did not read properly the requisite emails in terms of heading down to Dynamic Retreats El Coco Loco – a yoga & surf eco-retreat I am on my way to in Nicaragua. As I met up with my neighbours kids (who happened to have just come back from the exact retreat location I am going to) I discovered that there is NO wifi. Like None. Nada. Zip.

I’m sorry…What??

Cue panic.

At an epic level, I started wondering what I would do without being connected for the week. I anxiously started scanning the nearest possible location in which I might be able to connect. (For the record, there is none and seriously….what an asshole am I to be expecting there to be wifi in the middle of flippin Nicaragua on a nature retreat??)

And then I started looking around and noticed everyone looking down.

At their phones.

And all I could think was…I AM SO FORTUNATE.

I am fortunate that for a week, I can thrive on healthy exercise, creativity, soul searching and meditation. If I had access to wifi, I wouldn’t shut off. If I wasn’t aware that there was none, I wouldn’t have realized the importance of the human connection I want to focus on. The healing nature of what shutting off can do for your soul.

So I say Adios for now. Going dark and shutting down.

Oh…and I will be sure to LOOK UP.

 

 

 

 

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Travel

Embrace The Now

Chinatown Lantern image

Dad Says:

If not you, than who

If not now, then when.

Jenn was on me about posting a blog, we were behind and generally getting grief to get something out there. It struck me that instead of documenting it I was doing it, which is an often the forgotten element.

I was busy doing, man, and that was in the now. No selfies, no asking for likes. Just living, and it was awesome. I think that we, as a society, are on a dangerous path that leads to NHL players watching replays of themselves on the Jumbotron instead of being IN the game. Its happening, and it kills me. Go for the now, whatever you are doing. Everything will wait.

There is great enjoyment in writing for me, and I do mean that as I have often fallen to writing to right side life when it goes askew. There is some thing cathartic about it, a release and renewal that can slowly emerge with the words on the page. There is a ‘now’ about writing as well, as it is substantially more difficult to type cohesively whilst updating your status.

You can argue all you want, but you only have one go at this, so what are you waiting for? Get busy livin, or get busy dying? Thanks Shawshank, you are so right…

I have a mother who, for the majority of her life, has lived by the rules and mostly on the straight and narrow. She would certainly pay for parking if the attendant had gone on break, leaving the money on the till. She has, to my knowledge, never been late for anything. This is a woman who once stated ,”I love spontaneity, as long as I can plan for it well in advance…” You see the trend here.

And now, it seems like anything goes. Kind of. She has followed her whimsical side and headed out adventuring this winter. Embracing the now and pushing her limits as best she can, she has let the day take her where it may. We couldn’t be happier for her.

So take that people. Stop the slushy stuff that slows down the now. Embrace the now. Stop reading this, now.

 Mom Says:

My husband is a wise man (yes, I have written it here for prosperity sake.) He is always encouraging me to just stop. To take some time, to take care of myself. To enjoy the present. So today, after almost 2 months of pushing business forward so hard I felt I could barely breathe. I stopped. I stopped worrying about work for a moment and took the time to explore the beautiful city of San Francisco. Having arrived early for #Dad2Summit I hooked up with fellow attendee Dave Taylor and we proceeded to head out and go where the day took us. Our friends Jason & Gillian of One-Giant-Step.com always tell us to focus on doing nothing. When you do that, its amazing the somethings that occur. This day was definitely something.

Thank you Chris for pushing me to embrace the NOW. I did & had a blast. XO

Lanterns in the heart of Chinatown
Lanterns in the heart of Chinatown

 

Second floor Dim Sum at Chinatown Restaurant with @DaveTaylor
Second floor Dim Sum at Chinatown Restaurant with @DaveTaylor

 

Watching Fortune Cookies get made @ the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
Watching Fortune Cookies get made @ the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

 

We checked out a good old fashioned arcade on the Pier. It says Lovable by the way.
We checked out a good old fashioned arcade on the Pier. It says Lovable by the way in terms of my LOVE factor
I friggin LOVE Pinball but this was definitely not my best game
I friggin LOVE Pinball but this was definitely not my best game
Sea Salt Caramel Sundae
Went to heaven & back trying a Sea Salt Caramel Sundae @ Ghirardelli Chocolate

 

Golden Gate Bridge
You can juuuust see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance

 

Palace of Fine Arts...Simply Stunning
Palace of Fine Arts…Simply Stunning

 

Adventures in San Francisco included:

Union Square – A fabulous place to head to people watch and check out local artists

ChinaTown & Dim Sum on the second floor balcony of Chinatown restaurant

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

Washington Square

Pier 45 and a view of Alcatraz

Musee Mecanique – Old Fashioned Penny Arcade on the Pier

Wandering the Waterfront

Ghiradelli Chocolate for probably the best sundae I have ever tasted IN MY LIFE…

Walking the harbour and watching the sailboats, catamarans, parks

Finishing with the Palace of Fine Arts…Breathtaking.

 

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Travel

Upgrades. My Airline Love List

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It became very important to us this year to be bold. To live life to the fullest making adventure, travel & family our top priorities.

It was those priorities that prompted us to take a multi-generational trip to Ireland and Scotland with my mom & dad in the Spring of this year; to travel on a#Road2Bliss to get to know bloggers and influencers across this awesome of country of ours and to head to Amsterdam, Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, then to Zanzibar to relax for our 10th anniversary.

Being avid travellers we’ve had our share of good and bad flights. This year, our stars have aligned and we have encountered some of the best experiences we have ever had with a level of customer service that seems to no longer be the norm.

And for that they deserve a little list of love.

Aer Lingus

Toronto-Dublin-Edinburgh-Dublin-Toronto

This was our first experience flying Aer Lingus and we loved it. Taking the kids back to the homeland meant a stopover in Dublin for a couple of days while the folks kept on to Scotland. We had booked separately but after 1 call (which by the way was picked up within 5 minutes (again not the norm), Aer Lingus helped us connect our tickets with my parents so that on the way over the 6 of us managed to travel together. So easy and SUCH a good deal.

On the way back, our flight had been delayed and we arrived just as they were about to close the doors. One of the kindest Aer Lingus agents ended up running to the other end of the terminal with us to help us make the flight complete with carrying my daughters backpack as we ran.

KLM

Toronto-Amsterdam-Kilimanjaro-Nairobi-Amsterdam-Toronto

We booked our trip to stop in Amsterdam for just shy of 24 hrs on our way to Africa. At the airport, we were offered to upgrade to Economy Comfort. The cost is not crazy and the extra room made life with my bulky shouldered man FAR more palatable on the way over. The experience feeling so luxe it almost felt like first or business class.

Now here’s the kicker. On the way back, I spent an awful 8 hr trip from Nairobi to Amsterdam with a screaming little girl kicking the back of my seat. I appealed to her mom to make it stop but the child was having troubles travelling and I always vowed to try to be understanding of parents and kids on flights. Hello Pot. This is Kettle. You’re Black.

Like it hasn’t at some point happened to you?

We approached the customer service desk of KLM in Amsterdam and appealed to the man to see if there was a possibility of upgrading again to Economy Comfort. They were sold out but DID have two World Business Class seats at a discounted price. I might have sold my first born for a more comfortable flight home so we used our 10th Anniversary as our excuse and did it.

Not only were we UPSTAIRS on the plane (so cool) , we each had our own pod allowing for a full sleep, exquisite dining, a first class kit that included face mask, socks and a toothbrush, champagne and so much more.

I am seriously in LOVE with KLM and now actively look for their flights as the option of choice for international travel.

KLM Upgrade
I could get so used to this.

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West Jet

God love them. West Jet has always been my preferred carrier of choice. They actively respond on social media, and when we tweeted at them to see if they could help us bring masks and gloves to the victims of the Calgary floods, they waived the charges and helped us deliver 3 big boxes from BC to Calgary.

I recently discovered and fell for West Jet Plus. When you look at the cost of the upgrade, especially on cross-Canada flights it becomes well worth it. From the extra leg room, the free drinks and food, the tablet and more, it just makes sense. So much sense to upgrade to Plus and so much love for WestJet.

And besides, did you see what they did this year for their Christmas miracle?

 

 

 

 

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Travel

Wild & Raunchy – How to see NYC

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If you are looking to celebrate a BFF Birthday or a Girls weekend down in New York City and your gal is all about the fun that nearly gets you arrested, this might be a good version of NYC for you to review.

We were celebrating a 40th birthday at the time and were looking for fun, wild, raunchy “Only in New York” style things that we could do for the short time we were there.

For this trip, we stayed at the Eventi Hotel in Chelsea, part of the Kimpton Hotel Chain. This hotel is beautifully Luxe feeling and close to Penn Station. The customer service was bar none, the decor funky, the rooms chic and a complimentary Happy Hour is served every day.

Photo Credit- Eventi Hotel
Photo Credit- Eventi Hotel

This is a great area of town that carries a great art/hip vibe, has Penn Station and Madison Square Garden close by, good shopping, (Macy’s and many other shops), and the Empire State Building is within easy walking distance.

La Burlesque Lesson

Because our birthday gal was a feisty, go for anything kind of gal (& we have teased relentlessly that she should have ben a stripper) we thought it would be a hilarious surprise to take her to a private lesson at the School of Burlesque. Burlesque is such an art and is so much about owning the power of seduction.  So for an hour, we learned the art of the peel (off your gloves that is), the “oops I dropped something and need to pick it up” bend over and then as we got loosened up, the art of the tassel. I have to tell you personally that trying to get your boobs to make tassels twirl leads you to nearly pee your pants but for a hoot and a besties birthday, it was something we’ll never forget.

Photo Credit- School of Burlesque
Photo Credit- School of Burlesque

Museum of Sex

The Museum of Sex is a total blast. Although warning:  It is not for the faint at heart. If you are open and comfortable with the people you are with, it is actually quite interesting in so many ways. When we went they actually had an exhibit on the history of Burlesque which went perfectly with our whole raunchy theme. It talks everything from porn to erotica to the how animals mate and all in all the exhibits (however strange they are) are curated to stimulate conversation.

Now playing- FUNLAND Museum of Sex
Now playing- FUNLAND Museum of Sex

Times Square

Just walk about two steps anywhere off of Times Square and you quickly run into a strip club or a sex shop. We of course bought our gal a lap dance cause why not? It was all in good fun and a part of the hilarity of the whole evening.

Dancing the Night Away

For one of the best dance bars with a killer view of the city, we ended up at Plunge Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking district. This was a place where we could just hang out and check out the city or get our dance on with a slightly more mature crowd.

*If you want to end the night off with a rude awakening, Hogs & Heifers (the basis for the movie Coyote Ugly) is close by. Prepared to be abused but if you are cool with that, this was and could be the perfect end to your raunchy girl’s birthday festivities as they collect bras which hang everywhere throughout the ceiling of the bar. Will your gal donate hers?

Late night Eats

If its about 3am and you are starving, there is absolutely NOTHING better than Cafeteria. This could very well be THE best Mac & Cheese in NYC and if you have been on a steady party celebration the whole night, food at this point is a really good idea.

The Next Day

Brunch at The Ace Hotel which is not far from Eventi has a wickedly awesome brunch. The Breslin Bar & Dining Room serves up mean morning Bloody Mary post too much fun the night before. It’s funky. Its ok if you are wearing sunglasses cause everybody might just as well be.

Photo Credit- Breslin Bar Ace Hotel
Photo Credit- Breslin Bar Ace Hotel

However you enjoy NYC, I’m sure it will go down in the record books.

But be sure to ask everyone to keep their phones away. None of this needs to get on the internet.

 

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Travel

New World Order – Planning Africa

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I used to be an avid Lonely Planet, and Let’s Go Guidebook lover when I travelled . My favourite moment would be picking up my travel books and start earmarking & highlighting the “off the beaten path” places I wanted to discover.

I loved the insider tips you would get from the likes of those books (like go to the second bookstore outside the bus station to get the scoop on best accommodations for that night). Our way of travelling was to book nothing. Relying solely on those books and walking the town.

Times have so changed.

The invention of Websites, Blogs, Twitter and Pinterest took over this trip. They became the best and worst thing about researching and getting ready for Africa.

 The BEST.

We can't wait to take you on the trip with us
We can’t wait to take you on the trip with us

Websites

Travel planning is done so easily now. When we finally sat down to get our trip organized, we reviewed various tour operators via recommended blog posts/Trip advisor and decided on Intrepid Travel. They are a travel company that provides experiences vs tours and we were instantly smitten with how easy it was to navigate their site. We then had an alert (via Trip advisor) set up for flights to Tanzania and got notified when special offers were posted. We used Booking.com to get us a place in Amsterdam and the hotel we needed the night we got into Kilimanjaro and utilized their shuttle offer featured on the site to get from the airport.

Blog Posts

Reading dozens of blogs helped us wrap our heads around what we were going to do and provided welcome information on what to expect. We researched the posts for travel vaccine suggestions, what to pack, hacks and multi-use ideas, the climb itself and what else to do when we were in Tanzania.

Twitter

We were going to climb Mt. Kilimajaro with the awesome tour group Intrepid Travel. Since Twitter is a space I love and am comfortable in, I started following them and discovered they were highly active during #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter). This Twitter Chat draws people globally and the only unfortunate part is that it tends to be at 5am in my time zone which meant getting up earlier than usual to connect.

Twitter chats are great for finding like-minded people and especially ones who can impart knowledge of a particular space. Jumping on #TTOT, I was able to find a variety of global travellers, and a number of resident African tweeps who could provide me with some on the ground insights I otherwise might not been able to find.

 Pinterest

There is nothing better than Pinterest to get your travel juices flowing. I was able to pin inspiring places that previously I would never have even heard about or seen with flags on possible accommodation choices, attractions to visit, animals to see and most importantly, Mt Kilimanjaro…Seeing photos from the top would get us giddy and beyond pumped to go. Feel free to check out our Pinterest Board in prep for Mt. Kilimanjaro

 THE DOWN

The downside to all this information at the tip of your fingers is that it was like being pregnant. There was just too much information and suddenly you are overwhelmed. We certainly were and look forward to providing as much comprehensive information in our Africa Series as we possibly can to help you have an easier time in planning your Africa trip.

 Jenn & Chris travelled to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro as a different way to celebrate their 10th Anniversary and Jenn’s 40th Birthday. Travel tour was designed by Intrepid Travel and in working with them, they are raising funds for VEPK – The Village Education Project Kilimanjaro. Donations are always accepted and The Intrepid Foundation not only matches but they also take on all admin fees which means ALL the money goes direct. 

AFRICA SERIES

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Travel

Being Still – Why a yoga retreat?

Allamanda Villa

I often look at my mom and say “How did you handle all of this when I was growing up?”

She just smiles back and says “It was different back then but it was still crazy”.

I come by the busy honestly. Growing up I was a flurry of activity kind of kid. Dancing, acting, gymnastics, Girl Guides, committees, volunteering, charity work…I liked being active and living life to the fullest.

But life IS very different nowadays.

Nowadays, we don’t shut off from staying connected. We stay linked in to the world in a talk-till-you-go-to-sleep and as-soon-as-you-get-up kind of space.

It’s a time where you have to make a conscious effort to put away your phone and being present. It’s a time where looking  across a sea of people, you see the tops of their heads because everyone is looking at their phones.

LOOK UP.

BREATHE.

BE MINDFUL OF THAT BREATH.

BE STILL.

Our yoga view
Our yoga view

Imagine taking time to press pause against the assault the digital and frenetic world has on your soul.

Just for a little while.

I had the pleasure of that experience last year when I partook in a Dynamic Retreats Yoga Retreat last year at Allamanda villa in Jamaica

Dynamic Retreats is focused on activity, adventure and restoration. Coordinated by one of the most fun, spiritual and energetic people I have ever encountered, Melissa Jane Shaw. MJ is the heart of why this yoga retreat is completely different than any you might ever have been to before.

But first let’s talk about the scenery shall we?

When we arrived after being picked up by our driver Ray from Montego Bay airport, I felt like I was in an episode of Fantasy Island, the kind of place that felt so luxurious and peaceful, it was almost otherworldly. The view was awe-inspiring, the villa decorated out of the pages of Architectural Digest and the poolside rivalled any 5 star resort. Sheer heaven.

As we lay our bags in our rooms, I almost felt like someone was going to come and tell us we were in the wrong place. The villa was so luxe, so decadent it couldn’t possibly be the space we would be getting to zen out in for a week.

Oh but it was.

The Exercise

Throughout the week, we awoke early to beautiful shiny days and started our day off with morning yoga. Nothing helps centre your mind for the day more as we sat breathing, gazing out at a picturesque view of tropical palms and the ocean nearby.

We would then have choices of personal training assessments, chilling by the pool, heading to town or relaxing with a massage until the optional fitness class mid-morning. Every day was something different from Pilates to Booty Boot camp to Dance Dance Dance, this was a great break mid-day to get your sweat on and have some fun.

The sun setting over the sea would be met with an hour to an hour and a half of mediation and restorative yoga.

Our view- Allamanda Villa
Our view- Allamanda Villa

A chance to mellow into the evening focusing on quiet. This provided a chance for you to regroup and address all the adventure you put your body through for the day.

The Food

Prepared by Allamanda villa’s private chef, we feasted on healthy, delicious meals throughout the week. There is nothing more amazing than breaking bread with new friends as you discover everyone’s love for food. Dishes were innovative and the flavours brought in everything traditional in Jamaica with new twists in every dish. We had a choice of going Vegan, Vegetarian or Regular diet plan. We went as Vegetarian as possible and found my whole system responded so well to eating clean it became a focus when we arrived home.

The Excursions

Another fabulous element to Allamanda Villa was that we had a private driver, who we affectionately nicknamed Sugar Ray. This made venturing to the grocery store, out shopping and on our optional excursions amazingly easy.

We trekked to Ocho Rios one day to experience Dunns River Falls and the wildly well known Scotchies. Often considered the best Jerk Chicken spot on the island, it is not for the pomp & circumstance but 100% for the authentic Jerk experience.

A day adventure to Negril provided us with experiences like devouring local beef patties, shopping through the markets, the best sandy beach in the Caribbean, Rick’s Cafe and Jimmy Buffet’s Margartaville.

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The Expertise

MJ Shaw has the mastery of yoga, dance and fitness to support this week of healthy and exotic living. She provided a daily plan of fitness each night that has us pumped and ready for what the next day would bring. She also did a fitness assessment with each of us providing a personal training plan of fitness and health goals for the future.

The Benefits

  • I had to slow down. Something I can’t always do well at home but living on island time mixed with the serenity of taking care of your body all week had a tremendously positive effect on one’s psyche.
  • There is nothing to me more powerful then women coming together and this was no different. This retreat was in the company of 10 other women which created a space for laughter, heartfelt conversations and beautiful spirits. We were complete strangers at the start of the week and left as great friends.
  • I have never, ever felt healthier or more peaceful in my life. Full Stop.

MJ is hosting another upcoming Dynamic Retreat. This time in Nicaragua. I loved the first Dynamic Retreat so much I have decided I am packing up and heading to this one as well. I have managed to convince my friend and Around the world traveller, Gillian from One-Giant-Step to join me down there. Next, working on the hubs to come as well given that this retreat is Co-ed & I think he needs a little bit of quiet in his life too.

If you are finding the need to just Be Still, come join us.

YOGA & SURF RETREAT (Co-ed) in NICARAGUA: EL COCO LOCO RESORT

Want a taste of what it looks like? 

February 21-28th, 2015

** All the photos here were taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020. This is not a sponsored post. I just absolutely love the photo quality of this phone. 

 

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