21 Nov

Monday Moment: German Beer

Paulaner Beer in Germany

I loved Germany. Most of all I loved the beer in Germany. I took a picture of every new beer we tried…it’s an exhaustive gallery to be sure. This one is one of my favorites; Paulaner Weissbier. Light and refreshing with hints of citrus, spice and clove. Enjoyed in my favorite place in Germany…Frank and Heike’s backyard. Prost!

17 Nov

30 Days Of Indie Travel: A Quote To Live By

This month BootsnAll is hosting a project encouraging bloggers to look back on a year of travel and share stories of travel and fun. Sometimes we forget about the great places we go or the fabulous experiences we have; or perhaps there is some travel that we don’t at first consider to be ‘travel’. This is a great way to re-envision what travel means to us and realize that we all travel more than we think!

Todays Topic: Quote

Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.

I loved The Shawshank Redemption. In fact, I’m still not over the fact that Forrest Gump won best picture that year. I mean, seriously? A movie about some chump bumbling through life wins out over a story of honor and integrity, redemption and love? I have never forgiven Mr. Oscar and it may indeed be the only grudge I will ever hold.

As much as I love the movie it is the tagline, and a quote from the character Red, that has stayed with me all these years.

 

Fear can hold you prisoner.

Oh, how true is this? Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being unknown. Fear of not knowing. Fear of what people think. Fear of not reaching. Fear of what I might find. Fear of what will happen when I grow old. Fear of not doing it. Fear of making the wrong decision. Fear of regret. Fear of…

 

Hope can set you free.

A little hope. A little believing. Just give it a little light. Let it grow. Open the door. See what’s out there. Right there. Take a step. It’s not that far. I know.

What about you? Are you being held prisoner?

16 Nov

30 Days Of Indie Travel: Home Is Where Ever We Are

This month BootsnAll is hosting a project encouraging bloggers to look back on a year of travel and share stories of travel and fun. Sometimes we forget about the great places we go or the fabulous experiences we have; or perhaps there is some travel that we don’t at first consider to be ‘travel’. This is a great way to re-envision what travel means to us and realize that we all travel more than we think!

Todays Topic: Home

When packing up all your worldy belongings into a storage locker, selling your house and car, and saying sayanora to your job and good-bye to family and friends, the concept of ‘home’ starts to take on a whole other meaning.

We consciously thought about it as we wrapped each dish, took down each picture, and boxed up each piece of ourselves. How would we define ‘home’ when we had no home to return to?

Many people define home as the place where they grew up; where their parents and family reside; where they went to school and perhaps ‘found’ themselves. I never have.  On purpose.

I never wanted to be pulled back, held back, looking back. Once I finally left my home-town I was all forward facing; looking to the future; facing the possibilities. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate where I came from, or who is there supporting me. It just means that I am not defined by where I come from but, hopefully, by who I am on each day.

Home has, since then, been where ever I am living at the time. Be it a small dorm room on campus, a dingy bachelor apartment, a small basement suite, a swanky-ish condo or, currently, a fourth floor walk up apartment.

As we contemplated long term travel we knew that we would have to define home in a new way. How do you define home when you have no apartment, no car, no job; just what is on your back?

Exactly.

We chose to define home as the space that held our packs at any given time. Our bed for the night was referred to as ‘home’, the sleeper car of the train was a temporary ‘home’, the space between us on the bus was ‘home’, wherever we were right now was ‘home’.

Home implies a sense of belonging, of comfort, and ease. We wanted that to be with us wherever we were and so took it with us everywhere we went.

My hometown will always hold a special place in my heart but my home will always be where I am at the moment.

How do you define home?

PS…have you visited the OneGiantStep Facebook page? Come on over, give us a ‘Like’ and join the conversation!

 

 

15 Nov

30 Days Of Indie Travel: A Meal To Remember

This month BootsnAll is hosting a project encouraging bloggers to look back on a year of travel and share stories of travel and fun. Sometimes we forget about the great places we go or the fabulous experiences we have; or perhaps there is some travel that we don’t at first consider to be ‘travel’. This is a great way to re-envision what travel means to us and realize that we all travel more than we think!

Todays Topic: Feast

We loved the food in Asia. The noodles and rice, fresh vegetables, pork, chicken and duck made into soups and stir-fries, BBQ’d and skewered in endless combinations. Even after six months in the region we never tired of it; never wished for western food and carefully planned our last few weeks of meals so that we could enjoy all our favorites before leaving.

It’s not hard to pick one of the favorite meals from our travels. It’s one that we still talk about and have yet to find now that we’re back home.

Tucked into an alley not far from the Luang Prabang night market, the food stalls send out a welcome in the form of tantalizing smells that draw us in night after night. Past the barbecued duck and the skewered song-birds is the pork grill. We stop to grab a couple of skewers of grilled pork before moving on to the fish guy. Here whole fish are encased in a system of  bamboo sticks to allow them to be grilled to perfection. Our chosen fish is wrapped up in banana leaf and we head off to find a seat.

Pulling up a low stool at the soup counter we unwrap our pork and fish just as the soup lady comes over to greet us. It’s our third night here and, although she can’t speak English any better than we can speak Lao, she welcomes us with a wide smile and points to our ‘regular’ item on the menu board. We nod enthusiastically and watch as she puts the Kao Soi soup together.

She starts with some leafy greens and bean sprouts in the bottom of a bowl before covering them with long, tender rice noodles. After placing a chili along side the noodles (we begged off at one measly chili) she fills the bowl with steaming broth and tops it with the best part, a meat ragu of pork, vegetables and spices, before placing the bowls in front of us.

The rest is up to us. We choose from amongst the herbs on the accompanying plate; I can only identify Thai basil but I put some of each into my soup as they all have distinct taste that adds to the overall flavor; some are bitter, others sweet or sharp. Selecting what looks like thick soy or hoisin sauce from the tray, I squeeze some into the broth to finish it off and then give it all a stir with my chopsticks. A sqeeze of lime and it’s ready. Hot, a little spicy, and slightly sweet it is the perfect soup.

Sitting in the noisy alley cheek to jowl with other diners we enjoy the greasy pork and flaky fish in between slurps of noodles and broth. We would come again tomorrow night if we weren’t leaving town.

 

PS…have you ‘Liked’ our OneGiantStep Facebook page? Come on over and join the conversation!

 

14 Nov

Monday Moment: Junagarh Fort, Bikaner, India

These boys followed us around Junagarh Fort in Bikaner, India relentlessly asking questions.

‘Where are you from?’

‘How old are you?’

‘Are you married?’

‘Do you have children?’

‘Do you like our country?’

Their parents were clearly embarrassed and exasperated but the boys just had to know.

We finally agreed on a picture in exchange for some answers. Aren’t they adorable?

11 Nov

Local Remembrance

It’s impossible to miss them. Standing row upon row in the field in numbers that grow every year.

Each white cross representing an Albertan soldier killed on duty. 2700 so far, and that’s not all of them.

George Bittman, the man who curates the display, was there the day I stopped by. Placing the crosses is a labor of love born of respect for those who serve and who have served. Throughout the year he searches through the Veterans Affairs Canada website searching for names of soldiers from Albertan battalions. With the display in its third year now he also fields a number of calls from family members offering insight and information on their loved ones.

Sadly, the numbers grow each year not only as George discovers other soldiers in the archives but also as members are killed in current activity around the world.

It’s easy, living here, to place war and conflict out of our minds. We are not regularly faced with it; don’t have to live its reality; but it exists and is very real for those serving and for their families.

Walking along the rows I read the name, age, battalion and date of death on each cross. Many of them have the same surname, often with dates of death indicating subsequent wars. Were they from the same family? It’s entirely likely. Fathers and sons, nieces and grandfathers, cousins and brothers all proudly serving and sacrificing for us.

Today I make the effort to really remember and to be thankful for all of the sacrifices that have been made. Thank you.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month’

09 Nov

30 Days Of Indie Travel: Kick Ass Day

This month BootsnAll is hosting a project encouraging bloggers to look back on a year of travel and share stories of travel and fun. Sometimes we forget about the great places we go or the fabulous experiences we have; or perhaps there is some travel that we don’t at first consider to be ‘travel’. This is a great way to re-envision what travel means to us and realize that we all travel more than we think!

‘I think that’s her over there’, I whisper to Jason.

I peer harder, not wanting to embarrass myself by approaching the wrong person but anxious to see if it is her.

I take another slug of my beer and head over.

‘Kim?’

I see her smile as she turns and envelopes me in the biggest hug. And so begins one of the most Kick Ass Days of this past year.

We’re in Portland to attend the first ever World Domination Summit and are lucky that Kim and Brian live there too. Not only does Kim write one of my favorite blogs with a passion and directness that is utterly compelling, but they also have a love of beer that, I think, might outweigh our own!

Excited to visit a city that has such a reverence for beer, I can honestly say that Portland did not disappoint and that Kim and Brian were the best tour guides we could have had. We sampled IPA’s, port-barrel-finished-ales, Pale Ales and some that I honestly can’t remember as they showed us around their beer-soaked city.

The night ended late, filled with laughter and stories, secret fears, a friendship formed and future plans to meet again.

It’s always about the people. That is what drives me to seek slower travel; to be able to meet more people and learn through, and from, them.

We met Dave that weekend too. Dave who, with his outspoken manner, passion for travel, and can-do attitude inspires me to continue on with my dream; showing me, again, how to step through fear and uncertainty to reach for what might be possible.

Thinking about that weekend reminds me of other travelers we met along the way.

Keith and Amy; who I think we have a serious couple-crush on. We finally met in Laos and had the best 5 days ever as we shared our love of scootering with them exploring the karsts of Vang Vieng. Our hearts skipped a beat when they showed up in Victoria toward the end of their world tour and we were able to show them around our part of the world. We are still hoping to visit Philly one day and see their corner too.

Jeremy and Eva; who have to be the coolest cats I’ve ever met. We followed each others stories as we traveled around the world and were thrilled when, they too, came to Victoria as part of their Home Is Where the Hops Are tour. We gave them the best winery, ginery, brewpub tour we possibly could and, now that they are settled in Seattle, we are hoping beyond hope that, one day, we can get there too.

Kick ass days? They are about the people…always.

08 Nov

30 Days Of Indie Travel: 3 Lessons Of Travel

This month BootsnAll is hosting a project encouraging bloggers to look back on a year of travel and share stories of travel and fun. Sometimes we forget about the great places we go or the fabulous experiences we have; or perhaps there is some travel that we don’t at first consider to be ‘travel’. This is a great way to re-envision what travel means to us and realize that we all travel more than we think!

Traveling (like parenting, I’m told) is one of the great teachers of life. You can read all you want about it, dream what it will be like, get advice from your friends, and picture yourself in it; but when it’s happening, when it’s really happening it will be nothing like you ever imagined.

It will be more; much more. It will be harder; much harder. It will be defining, filled with lessons, and so worthwhile.

Here are some of the lessons that travel has taught me:

I am lucky. I started lucky by being from Canada, a country that is well regarded in the rest of the world. I have great, supportive family and friends, and a partner who is as interested in living a travel filled life filled as I am. I don’t have a family and children to worry about (although that is absolutely no excuse not to travel). There are plenty of people all over the world, and in my own country, who cannot travel. Who cannot leave their own countries. Some because they couldn’t possibly afford it, some because their governments won’t allow it, and some because travel is not part of their culture. It doesn’t take long to realize that, relatively, we are all lucky.

People are kind. I’m often asked how we managed in all the places where English wasn’t spoken. It was never an issue. People everywhere want to help. We could not pull a map out without someone stopping to ask if we needed help – whether they spoke English or not. I left wondering how we would make out in the big, bad world and returned thinking that there are no inhospitable places because they are all essentially filled with people just like me.

We’re all the same. People around the world all want the same things out of life. A roof over our heads, enough food on the table, the love of family and friends, a good future for our children, a laugh now and again…to be happy. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money or a little, whether you are Canadian, or Indian, or Vietnamese, if you live in a hut or a mansion…it all boils down to basics.

What lessons has travel taught you?

07 Nov

Monday Moment: Bangkok Floating Market

Bangkok is suffering from some devestating flooding this season and many parts of the city probably look just like this.

This is from the Bangkok Floating Market just outside the city though. A place where life and commerce regularly exists on the water. Boats are used for transportation, to provide services and as store fronts.

I loved thinking of young boys getting their first boat instead of their first moto and of all the hiding places that kids must have. Such a different way of life from what I knew growing up.

03 Nov

30 Days Of Indie Travel: The Music Of Travel

Man Plays The Fiddle

This month BootsnAll is hosting a project encouraging bloggers to look back on a year of travel and share stories of travel and fun. Sometimes we forget about the great places we go or the fabulous experiences we have; or perhaps there is some travel that we don’t at first consider to be ‘travel’. This is a great way to re-envision what travel means to us and realize that we all travel more than we think!

Todays Topic: Music

Although we brought a fully loaded iPod on our trip, we actually did not listen to that much music while on the road.

I don’t like being disconnected from my surroundings. I like to listen to all the conversations around me – even if I can’t understand a word! I love hearing the sounds of different languages; their cadence, tone, and pronunciations are a form of music to me. Disconnected and retreated into my own world in not how I want to see the world. I want to be engaged and immersed…even on a 17 hour bus ride! I want to hear the music that is spilling into the street from the cafe. I want to hear children laugh as they play. I want to hear the multitude of cow bells in the meadow. I want to hear the call to prayer.

I often did not want to hear the North American music that seems to have invaded every corner of the world! Expecting local music I was often disappointed to find that, especially in tourist areas, it was the same old North American standards being played over and over and over again. Please! No more Tracy Chapman. No more Jack Johnson. No more Bob Marley. Give me more German drinking songs, more Chinese influenced Vietnamese music, more table-side Turkish tunes.

Music can define a time, or a place, and certainly that is true for us too but it is the sounds that come from that place rather than what we carried with us that took us on the trip. Many of them I will never hear again and others I will hear and they will take me back to that exact moment in time. What a powerful medium.

How do you manage music when you travel? Is it an escape? A way to get through the boring bits? Or a way to remember a place and time?

 

PS…have you visited the OneGiantStep Facebook page? Come on over and give us a ‘Like’ – join the conversation!

 

 

02 Nov

30 Days Of Indie Travel: Change As A Marker

Foggy Sea Scene

This month BootsnAll is hosting a project encouraging bloggers to look back on a year of travel and share stories of travel and fun. Sometimes we forget about the great places we go or the fabulous experiences we have; or perhaps there is some travel that we don’t at first consider to be ‘travel’. This is a great way to re-envision what travel means to us and realize that we all travel more than we think!

Todays Topic: Embracing Change

I’m not sure if I’ve always embraced change – I guess you’d have to ask my mother, but I would assume that I haven’t.

I do, however, clearly remember the day when I decided that fear would not stop me from doing whatever I wanted to do. I was in my mid-twenties and, more than the event itself, I remember a sense of calm coming over me and the decision was before me; now I will do all the things that I have been meaning to do…no more waiting.

Since that day I have embraced change and what it can bring. I love the renewal, the sense of wonder, the trust in not really knowing, and the discovery of what is possible.

It’s not always easy. I have, more than once, told myself ‘Well Gillian, this is what you wanted…what are you going to do now?’

I have faltered. I once planned on moving to a larger city and then backed out at the last minute because of fear. We stayed in Victoria much longer than our original plan because we got caught up in  buying a place because it was the ‘next step’. And I fear that our time now is spent ‘saving for the future’ because we’re actually scared of what the future will look like.

Overall, I think of change as a marker. Of what is possible. Of the risks that we’re willing to take. Of strength. And as a way to define that we’re moving forward and evolving.

How do you feel about change? Do you think it changes as we get older? Does it have to?