30 Jan

Monday Moment: Japan

Lonely Planet Japan

This week isn’t about looking back but about looking forward.

OneGiantStep is going to Japan!!

Japan was to be the final country in our RTW trip but, as we headed into South East Asia, we knew that our budget was just not going to stretch far enough for us to really do it justice. Japan is expensive; there is no way around it and we wanted to be able to enjoy it and not worry too much about what it was costing. We decided to drop it but agreed that Japan would be the first place we visit post RTW.

It’s time! Besides saving money for our Responsibly Irresponsible plan, we have also been saving for a Japan trip. In fact, it’s mostly ‘found’ money; coins we collect from our pockets every evening, some mileage expense money we get from our jobs, birthday money, a little bit from OneGiantStep…any ‘extra’ money that comes our way has been curried away into the OneGiantStep Goes To Japan fund. Yes, it’s actually named that at the bank.

I am beyond excited. I’ve been poring over guidebooks, staying up late reading blog posts, and bookmarking and ‘pinning‘ everything I can find. The plan is for September; so there’s some time but just the thought of traveling again makes me dizzy!

Have you been to Japan? I’m looking for recommendations…what did you do that worked? What didn’t work? Any must-sees? Or don’t-bothers? I’m all ears!!

26 Jan

Local Travel: Banff, Alberta

We are lucky enough to live within a couple of hours drive of Banff, in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It’s hard to believe that this international destination is actually in our backyard!

We took some time to visit this weekend.

Our first stop was, not surprising for us, the Banff Avenue Brewing Company.

Where they have a selection of house brewed beers that, I can assure you, are worth the trip. My favorites? The Head Smashed IPA and the Lower Bankhead Black Pilsner.

Adequately refreshed, we took the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain.




The next day we headed to Lake Louise for some skating.

Next time, we’ll try the sleigh.

Believe me when I tell you that my pictures don’t do it justice. It is breath-catchingly beautiful in every season and always worth the trip!


23 Jan

Monday Moment: Kathmandu, Nepal

Prayer Wheels, Kathmandu, NepalOur first days in Kathmandu showed it to be a noisy, messy, chaotic city that jangled all of our senses all at once.

I had expected the religious observance here to be a calm, quiet, and peaceful adherence as I understood Buddhism to be, but instead found that Nepalese practice a mix of Hinduism and Buddhism that involves bells ringing, drums beating and the sound of prayer wheels whirring.

The calm arises from the ritualistic repetition of actions and prayer. These prayer wheels are a good example; although they are literally in the middle of and intersection in the city they are, at the same time, accessible to all who wish to turn the wheels and find some peace in their busy day.

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19 Jan

Wanna-be Expat

Proud Canadian Badge

Photo Credit: chrisinplymouth

I wanna-be an expat. I want to live outside of my home and native land*. I want to experience another culture on a more long term basis than when we breezed through country after country on our round-the-world trip. But I am having a devil of a time defining it beyond that.

There’s all kinds of questions that need answering. Big questions that should be addressed before the finer details can be worked out.

Like where do we want to go? How will we make a living? How long would we go for? What about when we’re old? How would we manage health care? What about our families? What would we do with all our stuff? What about when we come back? Will we come back? How much money should we have saved? Should we just do it? Or do we need to plan/save/think about it more?

It all just keeps going round and round in my head and I end up nowhere, feeling like I haven’t moved an inch toward the goal.

That’s not true of course. Every lap a question takes through my over-active imagination the more brain cells it comes into contact with and the closer an answer is. I think my head acts like a Plinko** game. I stuff it full of questions and information that I have no idea what to do with and slowly it Plinko’s its way into the correct slot in my brain.

That’s what I’ve been doing – stuffing, and stuffing, and stuffing. There are 1,497,652 ways to become an expat and they are all stuffed into my head.

Look out…because before long all those bells and whistles, flashing lights and blinking bulbs are gonna start up and Bob Barker is going to declare me a winner!! I will be the Plinko champion and, with any luck, an expat to boot.

How about you? Are you an expat? How did you do it?

*Bonus points for knowing this reference!

** Seriously? You’ve never heard of Plinko? It’s the game on The Price Is Right where a chip is released at the top of a peg board and Plinko’s its way down to a final resting place…hopefully the $50,000 resting place.


16 Jan

Monday Moment: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia, Istanbule, Turkey

I have never felt so close to religion as when in Turkey. The call to prayer wafts over the landscape on a strict schedule in tune with the sun; five times a day the melodic urging beckons the faithful to pray. There is a quiet adherence to centuries old tradition as markets and tea shops empty and people make their way to the local mosque to start their ablutions and prayer ritual.

The mosques are nothing short of stunning. Every single one of them. Built as testaments to faith they transform prayer into personal messages; an undeniable beauty accompanies the process and I was often, probably rudely, transfixed as I watched.

12 Jan

A Bumpy Ride Into 2012


One Minute Left

I’m entering into 2012 all discombobulated.

Like when the train doors suddenly open on the platform and the throng of people push relentlessly, puking you out into the station leaving you flapping your arms like an idiot trying to determine if all of you, and your stuff made it out in one piece.

There I am all blinky from the bright lights, my head swinging from left to right trying to figure out where the heck I am, searching for signs that indicate how to get out, and wondering what the f*ck getting out would look like.

It’s not usually like this. I usually look forward to the New Year. ‘Fresh Start’ and all that.

But this year just isn’t starting out on the right foot.

My dad died in December. My father-in-law passed away two weeks later. Yep, that sucks. Big time.

I’ve gained weight. Sure, in the big scheme of things, it is neither a lot of weight, nor is it a big deal, but it’s persistent and it’s pissing me off. I said to Jason today: “I haven’t weighed this much in all the time you’ve known me”. He says: “Yep, but you haven’t been this old either”. Helpful. No?

My work project is out of control. I feel completely overwhelmed and in over my head. Oh yeah, and I still have a day job. Not good for a girl whose goal is to quit her day job and move overseas.

And what about that Responsibly Irresponsible plan? What have we done to that end? Where is that going?

Happy. New. Year.

I’m not one to brood. For long. I believe that we can all change. Either our situation, or our attitude, so I need to take some of my own medicine and get-to-it.

Can’t change the dad thing; but I can take solace in that I am my dad’s daughter. I have his spunk, and attitude and outlook on life. All he ever asked me is ‘are you happy?’. He never asked ‘what the f*ck are you doing?’, ‘what makes you think that’s a good idea?’, ‘have you thought about…?’ Just ‘are you happy?’ He was proud of me; of who I am, of where I’ve been, of how I manage myself. I’m lucky to have had that. Grief will take it’s own sweet time.

I can lose weight. I can’t change how old I am (Jason!) but I am generally a healthy eater and working out is not only weight control for me but also stress relief so will help me on many fronts. So, better eating and more running are in my future.

Work. Well, it’s not time to quit…yet. So I need a better action plan. I once worked myself crazy on a project, and swore I would never do it again, so I’m marching into my bosses office this week and declaring myself done – we need to come up with a better plan. I think it’ll go well…I just need to swallow my pride and do it.

And so, what about that Responsibly Irresponsible plan? Actually, we did pretty okay this year. We moved from our home town to a new city, got new jobs, a new apartment and are learning about very. slow. travel. This year we need to focus on the future plan. What is that going to look like? Where will we go? What will we do there? When will it happen? What’s holding us back?

Whew! Well, thanks for the therapy session. I feel better. Now I feel like I can tackle 2012 and give it it’s due.

PS…sorry about the swearing.

09 Jan

Monday Moment: Petra, Jordan

The Treasury, Petra

Petra is one of the most unbelievable sights I have ever seen. What is left of it leaves me wondering how on earth it was created; having been carved right out of the mountainsides. It hints to what must have been here at one time; a bustling, vibrant city in an area of the world that was once the center of civilization.

We hiked around for hours and then found this trail that looped up and behind the site, popping us out above the famous Treasury building and the hustle and bustle below.