She found herself – alone, in Vietnam…

halong bay

I am leaving for Vietnam in 23 days. I’ll be travelling solo into an entirely new and different landscape, soundscape, smellscape.  I am excited and nervous and eager and anxious all at once. I want to strike a comfortable balance between seeing and experiencing as much as I can AND… relaxing, enjoying and taking in experiences as they present themselves to me.

I’m trying not to plan this trip. I know roughly what I’d really love to see and do but I am not booking or planning anything beyond my first two nights’ accommodations. I’m not sure if that is wise or pure folly but it feels right to me somehow. When I arrive in Hanoi, I’ll check into my gorgeous hotel and delight in the fact that my daughter was there last spring… I’ll love having that shared experience. I’m going to love knowing that my youngest daughter and I are in the same time zone, as she is travelling SE Asia on her own with her friend. We won’t meet up, but I’ll feel close… close-ish?

Travelling solo is something I had never really planned. I mean I’ve done solo trips to attend conferences and so on but not… travelling, alone. I’ll be carrying a backpack… like a kid. Me, my degenerative discs and a backpack full of Advil… ! I’m an absolute novice at this. I did travel through Mexico a few times as a young’un with the same kind of planning scheme; knowing where I’d stay the first and last nights, winging it the rest of the time, but that was (ahem) some time ago.

I’m kind of proud of myself…either that or I’m certain I’m foolhardy . My own sweetie states categorically that he wouldn’t do what I’m doing. I asked if he meant going to Vietnam or travelling alone… he said Yes.

But hey… it’s easy to be proud of myself ahead of the fact; booking a plane ticket takes no bionic cohones, after all. It’s the actual follow through that will be the test. It’s going to be me, a hotel reservation and a guidebook downloaded to my kindle app. I’ve got a few blog posts saved and the names of a few tour companies, cruise operators and trekking guides. I know of a few interesting places to visit in the middle part of the country… beaches & mud baths. I am sure I want to trek through the northern rice terraces and spend time on Catba island, spelunk a few caves and kayak up to a lady selling cold beer from a raft in a floating village beside the karsts in Halong Bay. But who knows. Worst case scenario? I get freaked out and hunker down in Hanoi or I get myself to a beach and stay there for 2 weeks. Not so bad…

Oy. What have I done?! I wish I could approach this with only exhilarated anticipation but there is an element of fear. Maybe that’s good. I made a list for myself of the things I wanted for 2016. It’s a list of challenges…more than any resolutions I’ve ever made, I want to keep these:

2016     Travel… OFTEN! Big trips, small trips, overnight escapes or camping  Do it. Just GO.   Purge… excess! Go through cupboards and closets and get rid of it. GET RID OF IT.  Minimize… expenses. Spend less to TRAVEL MORE!   Explore… my own limits. Try things I’ve never tried, go where I’ve never gone. Dare.  Laugh… A LOT! Relax and let go of how I think things should be and enjoy the comical, farcical nature of life as it is. Spend time with people who laugh…they lift me.  Nurture… FRIENDSHIPS, myself, those I care for. Take time to be with friends, make time for easy and challenging relationships. Make that time important.  Have Courage… FIND IT! Do what scares me. Be alone, travel alone, push my own boundaries, go places, say what I feel, own my shit.  

Life is short. Life is stupidly, terrifyingly short. Don’t waste it! GO!!

And so I’ve had my immunizations, I’ve borrowed a backpack and I’m getting myself ready in so many ways. In October I went rappelling… canyoneering in Zion National Park. I’d never done that before. I guess I should have been scared but somehow, it was what I’d been waiting for. I’m ready now, for this new adventure. Kind of. I’m kind of ready for this adventure.

I chose Vietnam, this trip, because it is so many miles outside my comfort zone you can’t even SEE my comfort zone. I’ll be out of my depth. I won’t have any familiar points of reference, anyone to lean on or anyone to blame. All. Me. Make or break, it’s going to be on me.

Here goes…!

Advertisements

Dear Friends who live in Cities

IMG_2143Dear friends who live in cities, in urban centres with concrete and towers and suburbs… how do you do it? How do you live without berries underfoot and hills to climb and rivers to dip your toes in? How do you pass your days without escape?

How do you make your way from 8:30 am Monday to 5pm Friday without a climb, a walk, a deep spruce tip infused breath? How do you navigate a week without air too big to gulp and skies too large to see?

I love your cities. I love the fast and the bright and plentiful, the rich and delicious. I love the available and the nearby and the best… but I long for dirt. I long for air and odour, unexpected fungus erupting from moist ground and moss.

My too long week is eased, aided, tempered by yellow leaves and spongy ground. My bad days are righted by rain on lichen and the snap of dead branches underfoot. My therapy is a walk alone in the woods.

Dear friends who live in cities, where do you go to breathe? How do you live without a berry patch?

DSC_9143 DSC_9138 DSC_9181

So not cool

Image

I sometimes humour myself (yes, there is a U in humor in Canada) that I am cool… cooler than moms were when I was a teenager, that’s for sure. I dress in clothes my daughters borrow, they almost never shudder with shame when I approach them in public and their friends think I’m “awesome”, at least sometimes.

So today in preparation for our upcoming holiday I went to the drug store and bought myself a couple of new pairs of sunglasses. One pair is pretty, more for around town in a sundress; the other is more serious, for out on a boat in the Pacific, or hiking in the blazing sun. So I put on the “real” pair… both of them burst out laughing…doubled over laughing. Ouch.

I am soooo not cool.

I was a 13 year old dork. A nerd. A dweeb-y loser in the wrong clothes from a weird family and I was a dancer… weirder and weirder. If there’s one sensation I remember clearly it’s trying to keep my head up while walking past the cool girls sitting on the cool bench in the front foyer of my high school. They laughed, snickered, raised their eyebrows, giggled. No matter how hard I’d tried to patch together an outfit that looked sort of like theirs it was never right. I had hand me downs (even as the eldest of 6) and didn’t have a hair cut in a salon until I left home at 17.  My look always looked like what it was; leftover, home made, a bit desperate.

Now as an adult and as a mother, clothes matter to me. Having nice clothes is important, and it was always important to me to make sure my kids had what they needed to blend in. If they want to stand out and wear something different, go for it, but at least for them it’s a choice.

And teenage girls giggling at how I look, even my own teenage girls, well that’s a sharp kind of hurt that I thought I was over. Guess not. And my girls certainly didn’t mean any harm.

So, just to prove to my husband that the glasses aren’t stupid I put them on. And he laughed.

Seriously. Who says they have to come with me to Mexico anyway…it looks like I have 3 plane tickets available…

solarshield

The glasses I bought…. turns out they’re for over prescription lenses. I don’t actually wear glasses…

Countdown to Mexico!

ImageThree weeks from this very moment I will be in Mexico. In the very place you see pictured above. The house there on the left is where my husband and I will sleep, the teenagers in the house on the right. Ahhhhhh. I need to take a moment to let that really soak into my psyche. Three short weeks and my toes will be deep in warm sand, my fingers wrapped around a cold glass, my eyes squinting into the hot sun. Amen.

Doesn’t that just sound like poetry? Sand, sun, water, relaxation, no work, no phone, no emails, no chores. Just 4 teenagers. Wait. Right… 4 teenagers. Better make that TWO hands wrapped around nice cold glasses…!

I’ve reached that point in pre-holiday delirium where every thought is framed by the holiday… need to make sure I buy cat food “for the housesitter”; better call the doctor’s office to make sure I have antibiotics “in case someone gets sick in MEXICO”, gotta get that project finished before I take my HOLIDAY etc.

I’m glassed over. I’m checking the weather in Yelapa, talking the kids through what to do if someone gets stung by a scorpion (as if I have a freakin’ CLUE!). Anyway, we are adequately supplied with Immodium, Benadryl, hand sanitizer and electrolyte replacement packets. We’ll be golden.

The one regret I have, of course, is that I’ll have to come home. When we were waiting in line in Mexico two years ago to come home, a lady in front of me stepped out of line, said “sorry, not ready to go home” to her friend and did NOT go home. How awesome is that? I have had dreams about that for the last two years. When I moved to the north (the REAL, top of the world Canadian north) 22 years ago, my actual intent was to move to Mexico for a year. Yep, I know… went the wrong way. Took a one year job, met a man, got married, had babies, etc. etc.

So each time I go to Mexico, a BIG part of me wants to just…stay. I walk around wondering what the hell happened… why is it that I don’t live there?

Yeah, yeah. I like my life, I like where I live (love it even), and can’t imagine what life I’d be living if I hadn’t taken the path I did but there’s that part of me that wants the parallel life… why can’t I have both? My real life, my Mexico life… I guess it’ll be a goal then. Sell the house here in the Yukon and find a way to live that dream of so long ago. Yes… that’s what I will dream of.

Dream of, work toward, plan for. Pronto.

Adios, amigos. Hasta Luego!

Friends, Wine, and Beautiful Daughters

ImageIt’s hard to know where to begin. The last week has been a whirlwind of laughing, drinking, talking, crying, travelling, shopping and a bit more drinking. Probably more drinking than I ought to ‘fess up to… so never mind. Forget you read that part.

My youngest was sick in hospital over the Christmas break, and we were off to see a specialist in the Big City. Our eldest daughter joined us on the trip, meaning it was three of us ladies away for the weekend.

There are lots of components to a medical trip for us. There is the medical, obviously…doctor visit, tests, plans, treatment, new meds, probably some pain and discomfort for wee girl and always worry for Mom, but we just get through that part as quickly as we can.

We visit and we eat…oh my, there’s all that fabulous food! Coming from a small center, the food options in a real city are dizzying! So much CHOICE!! And of course, there is the SHOPPING. I’m not talking about a prolonged trip to the mall. I’m not talking about a day in the shops. Nope. I am talking marathon, non-stop, strategic, day after all-day Olympic medal shopping. These girls are ridiculous. Because they are employed and because we live far from good shopping, they save their money…they plan….they plot.

They damn near killed me. I am glad to report the money spent was NOT MINE. That is, in and of itself, worthy of note. I absolutely LOVE that the money wasn’t mine, actually. So, I let them blow their money while I visited, hiked, and drank wine with friends.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on the value of drinking good wine (or even crap wine!) with friends. It’s the best kind of therapy. After what feels like months of anxiety, worry and stress, a good belly laugh in a friend’s kitchen over a glass of wine felt like medicine. I left home Thursday morning holding my shoulders tight, frowning slightly and filled with worry. The doctor’s appointment didn’t alleviate the worry, not a bit. The friends… the friends and the wine, the friends, the wine and the walking…? That did it. That eased me like nothing else really could.

So I’ll think about that as I go forward this month; I want to be that friend with wine. I want to be ready with my door open, arms open and (you better believe it), bottle open for my friends. ‘Cause we all know we don’t need our friends to give us answers…we just need them to keep our secrets, hold our hands and keep our glasses filled. Cheers, and thank you to my friends. I’ve got the corkscrew in hand… come on over!

On Being Grown-up, Real Life and Happy Endings

ImageI was having a drink tonight with a friend, a fairly new friend who is deep in the trench I was in 10 years or so ago. She’s got little ones… 3 and 6 years old. Her life is all about breakfast, school, pre-school, laundry, shopping, her work, play time, sibling rivalry, toys, and bedtime. Her focus has gone so far away from her own needs that she can hardly remember what they are.  And she works from home.

That’s such an intense time, when kids are small and needing you so desperately. Never a moment to do much for yourself.

What I didn’t expect was how long the intensity would last. Mine are B.I.G. and I still feel consumed by their needs so often.  I work in my office from 8:30 ’til 5 every day, then come home for the second shift; the shift of preparing dinner, cleaning up, taking people here and there, soccer practice, drop off at so and so’s house, shopping, laundry, etc.etc.  That’s not unique, I know… Moms everywhere do the same thing every single day. We know it’s part of the deal.

What surprises me is how it surprises me, even after all this time. I’m still looking around for the grown up when life gets crazy or tough or scary…it’s still a shock when I realize it’s ME!

My friend and I were talking about all the things women friends talk about: kids, work, money, marriage, sex, life, health, time, stress, worry. Both of us have had lots of crazy things happen over the last few years; deaths, financial pressures, moves, transitions, illnesses, job changes, etc. etc.  Both of us have had what you could call a “difficult year”. The truth is, I don’t know anyone who HASN’T had a “difficult year”.  Every year has so much stuff in it, so much good we forget and bad that we remember, that we seem to mostly remember the bad (I am choosing to believe that so I don’t believe that the last few years have been solid bad stuff).

Suddenly it hit me that… crap… maybe it hasn’t just been a rough few years… maybe this is actually REAL LIFE! Maybe it’s just the way  it is…always.

I’m not saying every day is dreadful, only that every few months seems to bring another tremor of some kind, minor or right off the Richter scale. Sometimes there’s a chance to recover from one quake before the next hits, but sometimes the tremors just keep on coming ’til your knees are weak and your head’s spinning.

I think I’m going to stick with my first theory; it’s been a pretty rough few years. That way, I know there’s sure to be a bit of a break in the storm really soon. Maybe that’s my Hollywood movie upbringing….rainbows, silver linings and happy endings. Maybe it’s my innate optimism. Maybe it’s desperation…

But all this “stuff”… all these “challenges” that make me strong, make my family resilient & build my character?  They’re starting to piss me off.

So reality, take a hike…I’m going to Mexico. And you’re not invited.

Vacation Planning Intoxication Syndrome

I have developed a serious case of VPIS. This happens to me about this time of year every couple of years, and it has a significant impact on my ability to perform my normal day to day activities. I am often dizzy, heart racing, flushed, distracted and prone to long periods of time I fully cannot account for. 

VPIS, or Vacation Planning Intoxication Syndrome is pretty much my favourite malady. Around Christmas I begin considering options, tossing out destination ideas to my family and seeing what bounces back. This year I started with Istanbul…”Hey!!! Let’s go to TURKEY!!!!!” They looked at me like I was mad. I went on about the history, the friendliness of the people, the complete “other-ness” of the experience, etc. etc.  The girls wanted to know if they would be allowed to wear shorts or if they’d get arrested for doing so. Hmmmm. I’m feeling a bit dizzy now….

Okay, how about a week in Paris, go through the Chunnel for a week in London then fly to Rome for a week in Italy?! Awesome, said the girls…eyes glazing over like Mom’s as they anticipated gorgeous Italian boys on vespas and the romantic possibilities of such a holiday (VPIS is contagious) Husband looks baleful and comments on the weather in March… not hot. Son says something like “I don’t speak French. Let’s go to Mexico”. I reminded him he doesn’t speak Spanish either. He says “but if I don’t know what to say at least I can go to the beach”.  Valid point. So now I’m a bit woozy….

Image

The eastern most tip of Isla Mujeres, stunning, fierce and so beautiful.

So it’s Mexico. I adore Mexico, have travelled there 5 times and am happy to return. The selection of a country however does not a vacation make. So…. where? At last we’ve made our decisions, planning to fly to Puerto Vallarta, stay in Bucerias, Yelapa and Sayulita. Lots of beach time, lots of family time and lots of relaxation. Flushed, heart beating out of my chest… sweaty palms… we’re GOING TO MEXICO!!!!!

And every day, I’m online researching. Researching condos, activities, restaurants, modes of transport, possible day trips etc. etc. etc. I can talk of little else. My husband, who never complains, concedes I am driving him the tiniest bit mad.

Fair enough. I will wade through the dizzying options myself, relish the flutter in my chest that comes so regularly when I consider the possibilities, imagine myself in the VERY SPOT that stunning photo was taken from, and remember the feel of the gorgeous Mexican sun on my winter weary face. 

And the countdown begins in earnest… is it too soon to pack?!