07 Apr

6 Steps to Shipping a Bike

After spending the winter getting all our cycle gear together we had to figure out a way to get the bikes to our starting point in London, England.

There are basically two methods of shipping a bike; breaking it down and boxing it up, or sliding it into a bag. After researching both methods, and weighing the pros and the cons of each, we decided to go with the bagging method. Not only does it require less taking apart of the bike but there is a theory that if baggage handlers can see that it’s a bike then they will be more careful with it – plus they can’t be stacked like when they are in a box.

You can use any heavy duty plastic bag – it’s finding one that’s big enough that is the tough part. We found these at Wiggle.com and had them sent to us. They are quite a thick polyurethane and stand up well to baggage handling.

Packing them up turned out to be pretty easy.

Shipping a bikeProtect the derailleur. This isn’t a necessary step but we know from experience that derailleur hangers are easily bent and a bent derailleur can quickly derail a good day. :) It’s held on with just one bolt so comes off really easily. We then just wrapped it in bubble wrap and taped it to the frame for safe keeping.

shipping a bikeTurn the handlebars. Simply loosen the headset and turn the handlebars for a narrower profile. We also turned them under to protect them just a little more.

Shipping a bike.Reduce the tire pressure. This is an airline requirement. They don’t have to be flat – just take out enough air to allow for expansion in different air pressure environments.

Shipping a bike.Secure the front wheel. We taped the front tire to the frame just to stop it from wiggling about too much and make it a little easier to handle.

Shipping a bike.Remove the pedals. Use a pedal wrench to remove the pedals so they don’t stick out through the plastic bag.

Shipping a bike.Bag it up. The bag is just that – a massive plastic bag open at one end. Simply push the bike into the bag, fold over the end, and tape it all up. We used a LOT of tape – we didn’t want any flappy bits and wanted it to be as secure as possible. Once it was all wrapped we realized that one handle bar end looked a little exposed so we cut down a juice bottle and taped it to the end. For the second bike we placed the juice bottle protection inside the plastic wrap. Don’t forget to add some identification! We printed up labels with our name, destination address, and phone number so that they would be reunited with us if they got lost along the way. (Use a transparent report keeper to protect the paper label.)

Shipping a bike.

The bikes have taken one flight since being packed up and they survived quite well. All we need to do for our upcoming flight to London (tomorrow!!) is check on the taping and switch out the address label to our London destination.

31 Mar

Finding Home, Once And For All

It’s an awkward exchange.

Sometimes in the grocery store; no thank you, I don’t need a Thrifty’s reward card – I don’t live here. Sometimes at the doctors office; well no, I don’t have a family doctor – can you write a prescription for me? Sometimes while meeting friends of friends; these are our friends Gillian and Jason, they’re from…well…they’re from nowhere. 

Where do you live? The question comes innocently and, often, I’m left fumbling to answer.

We, of course, live nowhere. We have no home. No apartment. No car. No furniture. No things. No stuff. We are, by definition, homeless.

It feels weird to say and, depending on the audience, the reaction is mixed. Fellow travellers seem to get it. Even if they don’t travel as much as we do it’s likely they have moved around quite a bit; they are usually interested in our story and how we manage to do it. More stationary folk tend to cock their heads and look at us with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.

Honestly, I usually tailor my answer depending on how much time I have to explain. The grocery store clerk learns that we’re from Calgary (our last permanent home). I tell the doctor a truncated version and rely on the fact that he’s my mum’s doctor to smooth the story over. And new friends get the closest version of the truth; where we’ve been most recently and that we live in the world. 

I’ve thought a lot about where I call home, about where I’m from, about where I might return to one day.

There are plenty of places in the world where I feel comfortable and welcome. Where the food is delicious, the climate is warm, and the culture is easy; but there is only one place where I truly feel at home.

Returning to the west coast of Canada this month after 3 years away has me realizing that it is this corner of the world that holds my heart.

It’s the salty scent of the air; a mixture of ocean spray and the iodine undertones of seaweed on the beach (for me, the stronger the better).

Seagulls swoop along the shoreline – sometimes dark against a bright summer sky; other times themselves brightly illuminated ahead of dark storm clouds.

The landscape is almost always green. It may rain a lot but it is this constant west-coast companion that cleans the air and creates the lushness that is a west coast rainforest.

It’s the familiar sound of seaplanes droning overhead. Reaching for remote communities, these flying workhorses bridge between sea and sky, connecting fishing resorts, logging camps, and those out of reach with the rest of the world.

The constant marine traffic reminds me that the water is for more than just gazing at. Tugs,log booms, cargo ships, fishing boats, and ferries share tidal space with sailboats, kayaks, outriggers, and mega yachts. It’s a fine balance ruled by ancient mariner laws and right of ways that determine where each vessel should be.

It’s more than that though; it leans to the intangible.

know the place. I know the people – not just my friends, but everyone – I know who they are, how they were raised, and where they come from. I know where to get a good breakfast or beer. I know the good places to live or stay. I know the weather patterns and the tide charts. I know the best running routes and the secret mountain bike trails. I know it all like the back of my hand.

It’s the deep comfort of feeling in place. As much as I enjoy the unknown challenges of travel, it is innately relaxing to know where you are, to be able to find what you need, and to trust that you’ve got it covered.

We don’t plan on quitting our travel life any time soon but it has become crystal clear where we’ll probably return to if, and when, we’re ever done.

Where do you call home?

24 Mar

4 Reasons Why You SHOULDN’T Practice Before a Cycle Tour

Cycle Tour PracticeI have read a TON of cycle touring blogs in the last few months. I have read gear lists, and packing lists, and itineraries, and food plans, and camping tales (enough of these to make me secretly glad that Jason doesn’t camp – it doesn’t sound like a ton of fun!), as well as a lot of practice schedules.

Practice schedules. All the advice says, and most people do, head out on their bikes at least once before hitting the road for their cycle tour. A chance to shake out the cobwebs, make sure all the equipment is working right, and to gain the strength in their legs (and their lungs) to power them through the ride.

We haven’t done any of that.

I know, it sounds crazy…but we have some very good reasons:

1. Why get a sore bum early?

There is no doubt that your a$$ is going to hurt like a son-of-a-b*tch once you start riding for hours on end. I can’t imagine that there is anything to be done now that will make that not happen – unless, of course, you replace your office chair with a bicycle seat until you leave. So why subject yourself to such torture before you absolutely have to?

I’m not. There is only one way to work through the bicycle seat pain and that’s to just keep on going so I’ve resigned myself to the fact it’s going to hurt for a while and I’ll deal with it then. Starting now only increases the pain period and, really, who needs that?

2. It’s winter.

We have spent the last nine months in southern Ontario here in Canada through what is reported to be the worst winter in 20 years. Temperatures averaged -10C (14F) and dipped as low as -25C (-13F); I haven’t seen so much snow since I was a little girl. Great weather for building snow forts, ice skating on the local pond, or snowmobiling through the fields but not so great for trying out the new bikes.

There are a couple of ways you could practice even through an icy winter like this one:

    • Join spin classes. Almost every gym these days offer spin classes; a great way to get cardio training in while strengthening those all-important let muscles.
    • Get an indoor trainer. This is a great option because you can hook your own bike up to it and train on the actual bike that you’ll be riding all those kilometers later on.

We, of course, did neither of these things. We have been working out like crazy and doing loads of stair sets but, although we’re in good shape, I know that running up and down stairs is not the same thing as riding a bike. So, I say, what’s the point? Is that time on the trainer, or those spin classes, really going to make a difference once you get on the bike?

3. What if you don’t like it?

This is probably my biggest fear. What if I start practicing here and discover that I don’t like it? What if I think it’s too hard or it hurts too much? Getting on a bike and practice riding around familiar neighbourhoods and up the dreaded hills you know are  coming is quite different than jumping into it in a foreign country where everything is new and exciting. If I know that I have to push through to the end of the day, I just will because I have to. I don’t want to jump on a bike here and start to doubt whether I can do it or not – I’ll just dive in head first and assume that I’m going to love it!

4. Can you really be prepared to ride a bike for up to 8 hours a day?

Is there any amount of on-the-bike training or practicing that would really prepare me for riding 6, 7, or 8 hours a day day-after-day? I think not. Unless I was prepared to ride for 6, 7, or 8 hours a day day-after-day leading up to our actual cycle tour of Europe. Reason #2 takes care of that possibility, and thank goodness because although I’m really looking forward to riding through Europe, stopping at cafés and pubs along the way, the appeal (for me) of riding that much in Canada, past cow fields and through long stretches of desolate highway, just isn’t the same.

I don’t think we’re as unprepared as it must sound. We rode mountain bikes for years and years when we lived on the west coast of Canada; we are very familiar with being on bikes in all kinds of terrain and weather. We’ve ridden for hours on end and done multi-day trips so we know the level of physical activity we’re getting into. We work out regularly and so are in fairly good shape – both cardio and strength – and we are well aware that being ‘in shape’ doesn’t mean it won’t hurt and that we won’t find muscles we had no idea we had!

I guess only time will tell. I’ll let you know if our ‘no practice’ routine was a good idea or not!

10 Mar

Where Will We Stay While Cycle Touring Europe?

Cycle Touring Accommodation

You’ll notice that there was no camping gear in the equipment list that I published last week. You see, Jason doesn’t camp. Well apart from that time that I convinced him to hike the Tetons with me a couple of years ago and, of course, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu but, generally, the thought of pitching a tent and climbing into a sleeping bag has him saying no to my great ideas well before I can even get them out.

So we needed a compromise for cycle touring Europe this summer. We can’t afford to stay in hotels the whole way, and besides, our plan has us cycling through a whole lot of countryside where traditional hotels and hostels might not be available.

There are a couple of options that are available:


WarmShowers.org is the CouchSurfing of the cycling set. People who are willing to host cyclists sign up and provide their contact information while cyclists looking for accommodation options sign up and fill out a profile. Hosts are flagged on a map and cyclists simply look at the map to find a host that may be nearby and then send them a message.

Hosts are typically cyclists themselves and are interested in meeting like-minded folk who enjoy both travel and cycling. Accommodation is free; it is the exchange of conversation and goodwill that fuels the exchange.

Vrienden op de Fiets

Loosely translated (very loosely as I don’t know any Dutch!) this is Friends of the Bike. It works very similarly to WarmShowers but with more of a bed and breakfast feel to it. In fact, that is exactly how it works. Owners register their property with the organization and are required to provide a few basic cycling necessities; there needs to be a private room, space to store the bikes, and a breakfast upon departure. Cyclists ‘donate’ to the organization and receive a registration card, a map with all the hosts mapped out, and a booklet listing all the possible places to stay; they simply connect up, show up, and enjoy a relaxing evening. There is a cost for this option though; 19 Euro per person, per night.

Vacation Rentals

Our plan is to intersperse some longer urban stays in amongst the long days of cycling. A chance to relax and get to know a city as well as get some work done. You know how much we love renting apartments and this is a perfect occasion; we’ll be able to relax with coffee and breakfast in the morning while catching up on work and then spend the afternoons and evenings exploring and enjoying our new neighbourhood.

It will be an interesting mix of places to stay. I’m a little nervous about staying with other people but, at the same time, it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to. It’s out of my comfort zone but I have long lamented that I don’t think we ‘get under the skin’ enough when we travel; this is an experiment in doing that. I guess I should really be worrying that I will be as good a guest as I’m hoping the hosts will be ;)

24 Feb

7 Essential Pieces of Cycle Touring Equipment

Essential Equipment for Cycle Touring

While we’re obviously not cycle touring experts….yet…even we know that there is just some cycle touring equipment that you can’t tour without.

There is a whole lot of geekdom surrounding bike gear and you can spend hours searching through the should’s and shouldn’ts of bike gear. We’ve taken a much more relaxed approach; I think that you don’t have to spend big money in order to get equipment that will do the job. Of course we’ll have to see how this all works out – I’ll report back once we get on the road and let you know how it’s all holding up.

Bikes for cycle touring Europe

Cecilia is on the left. Bartholomew on the right.

1. Bike. This is, by far, the most expensive piece of cycle touring equipment and it’s easy to go crazy, and spend a lot of money,  trying to find the perfect bike. I’m not saying that the expensive ‘touring bikes’ that are available aren’t worth it. I bet they are extremely durable and offer a smooth ride for many, many miles but we just don’t have the money to invest in high end bikes.

I have ridden Kona bikes exclusively for many, many years. I started mountain biking in 1998 and my very first bike was a Kona Cinder Cone. As my skills increased, and bike technology evolved, I replaced it with a Kona Stinky in 2002. I loved that bike; I named him Frank and we spent many good years together. I sold Frank in 2007 and picked up Gus; a beautiful green Kona Coil Air. With this bike I could do anything I wanted to do – we rode up countless hills together and ripped down them even faster. It was with a heavy heart that I put him up for sale in 2012 but it was the biggest sign of commitment to our new plan that I could muster. It was worth losing him but I can’t tell you how much I miss spending my Sunday mornings riding with the guys.

And so when looking for affordable cycle touring bikes the first place I looked was Kona. Kona has some great bikes specifically made for cycle touring but they were far out of our price range. They do, however, have a good commuter/hybrid option that looked like it would be perfect; durable enough to get through the tour, not too heavy even when fully loaded, and at under $700 we could manage the cost. The Kona Dew Plus should serve us well.

Meet Cecilia (my bike) and Bartholomew (Jason’s). Yep, we have matching bikes. It seemed silly to find two different bikes when we found the one that would work. And yes, I always name my bikes; the name just comes to me. This is the first girl bike I’ve had.

Fenders for cycle touring.

2. Fenders. I’ve never had fenders on a bike before. Getting muddy was always part of the fun in mountain biking. But, when riding for hours on end trying to make up miles, we are not going to want road spray mucking us up. I’m sure there are some high end, super duper, fenders out there but we went with this basic version from Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC; our Canadian version of REI). These from Amazon.com look just the same.

Cycle touring rack.

3. Racks. As we won’t be camping during this trip we really only need rear panniers so we only needed a rear rack to hold those panniers. We happened to order ours from Wiggle.com – they had the bicycle packing bags we were looking for and we needed to bolster our order so got our racks there too – again, these from Amazon.com look very similar. It’s worth noting that if your bike has disc brakes that you ensure that the rack can accommodate mounting around them.

Cycle touring panniers.

4. Panniers. Ortlieb panniers are the gold standard in cycle touring. They are tough, durable, waterproof, and expensive. We did not get Ortlieb panniers. In fact, for the price of one set of Ortlieb panniers we picked up two sets of MEC panniers (on sale). At 56L per set we will have more than enough room for all the gear we plan on carrying plus they have  plenty of pockets and straps to allow for organization which I like. They are not, however, waterproof. We have waterproof bags for our electronics and plan on finding a plastic liner to help keep the rest of our stuff dry-ish.

Cycle touring tools.

5. Tools.  We’re lucky. Although we’ll be cycling self-supported we are also cycling in one of the most bike friendly areas on earth. You can’t go far in Europe without hitting a town, and a bike shop. This means we don’t have to carry all the tools and parts necessary to completely rebuild a bike (like, say, if you were biking in Asia or South America). We do, however, need to be able to do basic repairs, tire changes, and do emergency McGiver repairs if need be.

We’ll have a basic tool kit with us:

  • A chain maintenance kit with chain lube, a brush, and rag.
  • A cycle specific multi-tool with various screw driver heads, allen keys, and a chain break.
  • A basic leatherman tool with pliers, knife, and screwdriver heads.
  • A regular multi-tool with scissors, small knife, and tweezers.
  • A couple of bike specific sized wrenches.
  • A folding knife.
  • A patch kit with patches and glue along with tire levers to get the tire off the rim.
  • A pedal wrench for removing the pedals if we decide to ship the bikes ahead at any time.
  • And a corkscrew; although I don’t think that’s bike specific ;)

6. Bike Computer. Probably not essential but how else are we going to know how far we went, how long it took, and how fast we were? We got just a very basic version but you can go all out and get elevation and GPS trackers too if you like.

Power Grips

7. Power Grips. What, you ask? Well, most long-haul cyclists ride ‘clipped in’. This means there are special clips on the bottom of their shoes that attach their feet to the pedals. Being ‘clipped in’ to the bike is a much more powerful way to ride as you can pull up with your rising pedal as you push down on the downward pedal. It’s like having little wings on your feet to help you get up the hills. However, this means that the shoes you cycle in can only be used to cycle in; the metal clip on the bottom makes using them useless as walking or hiking shoes and so you must carry ‘regular’ shoes also. This is added packing and also added expense – not only for the special shoes but also for the special pedals.

The other, much older, option are toe cages; metal cages that attach to the pedal and into which you can slip the toe of your shoe into. A little clunkier, and not as powerful as being clipped in, but better than nothing.

But then I stumbled on these Power Grips. They’re like the best of both worlds. They work with regular shoes like toe cages do but they strap your foot in much more strongly and so offer much better power than toe cages. I’ve never actually used them before but by all accounts they should really work. I’ll let you know how it goes. Note: we ordered the Power Grips kit and were surprised when it came complete with pedals. We should have ordered just the straps and attached them to our own pedals; that would have saved money.


Read all the other posts in our pre-trip Cycle Tour Europe series:

The Un-planning Guide to Cycle Touring Europe

10 Feb

The Un-Planning Guide to Cycle Touring Europe

Cycle Touring

My last post about trip planning for our upcoming cycle tour of Europe was all about the work we had to do in order to be ready to hit the road again. You might think that we have been feverishly poring over cycling resources, mapping out our route, and planning how the heck we’re going to get ourselves around Europe on our bikes.

Well, not exactly. This is turning out to be the most un-planned trip we have ever taken. And I am strangely ok with it.

We have done some work. Our bikes and equipment are sorted out and we have all the clothing gear we’ll need – more on this next week – but as far as exactly where we’ll go and exactly how we’ll get there, we just haven’t figured it out yet.

I think it comes down to how we want this trip to feel. It was when we went to Japan that we started to plan our trips based on what we wanted it to feel like, rather than listing off a bunch of must-see places. It’s too easy to get caught up in wanting to see everything and then we end up rushing around, frustrated because we’re always on the go and not enjoying what it is we are experiencing. Identifying what we want the trip to feel like helps us plan an itinerary and determine the schedule.

For this trip I want to feel FREE. 

I want to not have a plan at all. I want to just take each day as it comes and not know what the end of the day will look like. I want to be spontaneous and just figure it out as we go. I want to be able to just say YES to whatever comes our way.

It’s not that we don’t have a plan. We do; it’s just really, really rough. I think we’ve put together an itinerary partly to answer the inevitable question of ‘where are you going to go?’ and partly to ensure that we don’t just park ourselves in a London pub and never move. Not that there would be anything wrong with that.

So, here it is, like I said, roughly.  It’s a circular route threading through ten countries; England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, S.Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, N.Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and back to England.

Some 4700 km. I know. It’s a long way. I made a map.

I’m not sure we’ll make it the whole way in the 3 months that the Schengen Zone rules allow. My heart won’t be broken if we don’t though because it will mean that we found something more interesting along the way, that we decided to slow down, or go somewhere else, or maybe we’re still in that London pub.


16 Dec

Trip Planning: How Do You Do It?


Trip Planning

As the New Year bears down our upcoming cycle tour gets closer and closer. Yay for that!

Come January we are going to be hip deep in trip planning and figuring out all the things that we need to get done before getting on that plane on April 8th. There are itineraries to be figured out, gear to be decided on and found, and accommodation options to be researched. We’re definitely much looser in our trip planning than we used to be, but that doesn’t mean it can all be left to chance, or to the last minute; we have some work to do!!

It’s interesting trying to pull together an activity based trip; I don’t just want to know about travel in Luxembourg, I want to know specifically about cycling in Luxembourg. In fact I don’t just want to know about cycling in Luxembourg but also in its neighbouring countries of Belgium and France. It means searching for different sources of information and pulling it all together myself, or finding the Holy Grail in a source that discusses travel and cycling in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France (and Germany, and Poland, and…).

So I’m turning to:

  • Guide books such as Lonely Planet and Frommers
  • Big travel sites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, and Boots’n’all
  • Travel blogs – lots of searching for ‘cycle travel blog’, ‘cycle touring blog’, ‘cycle touring Europe blog’ and a bazillion other combinations
  • Magazines – okay, really this is probably just a ploy to read the celebrity gossip magazines while perusing the magazine stand :)
  • Friends and family – some of my friends have cycle toured, some have even blogged about it = great, personal resource!

How do you go about trip planning? What resources do you use?

29 Nov

Local Travel: #NaPhoPoMo – Day 29

It’s when we’re staying still that we forget that we’re still traveling. When we’re faced with the everyday we stop looking at the details that make every place unique.

To combat that I am taking part in #NaPhoPoMo (National Photo Posting Month) where I will take, and post, a photo every day in November. Every day! I’ve never done this before but I’m hoping to see some evolution, and probably some themes, in my photography. I’d be happy to hear what you think!

Oops, I skipped a day. Bummer.


18 Nov

Guess What We’re Gearing Up For?

Those were my exact words when Jason asked what I was thinking of for our next Giant Step. After leaving Thailand early and cooling our heels (quite literally now that the temperature has dropped and the snow is starting to fly!) in Canada for the winter I only know that I want to be challenged, and outside, for much of next year.

I want to stretch my muscles to their limit. To feel like I can go no further and then have to because we’re not there yet. To explore that complete exhaustion that only comes from pushing beyond where you thought you could.

I want to spend hours in my own head. It’s been a year now since we left our jobs in Calgary; am I where I want to be? Where I thought I’d be? Yes and no; I want to spend some time just thinking and figure out what it is that’s holding me back.

I want to do something big enough that I surprise myself in my ability to do it. I want to be proud when it’s finished and be able to look back with wonder and awe at what I accomplished.

We threw around some ideas.

We talked about rambling in the UK, walking the Camino, and hiking in Nepal, but none of it was really resonating. I’m not sure why.

Accommodation costs are one reason. Jason hates camping; a trait that we have worked with for the most part. I can talk him into it once in a while (in Peru on the Inca Trail trek, in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan, and last summer as we hiked the Grand Tetons) but it almost always reaffirms his dislike of sleeping in tents, eating everything out of a single bowl, and not being able to shower.

So, if we were to do a big hike we’d have to hoof it from bed to bed. There are certainly plenty of places where this is possible and all the treks we discussed have this option but the biggest hurdle is cost. There are some lovely B&B’s and cottages in the Scottish Highlands, across Spain,  and in Turkey but the cost adds up quickly and we will still be on a budget.

Nepal was the subject of much discussion. We’ve hiked there before and said then that we would like to return to go deeper into the mountains. The costs are good here; it’s very inexpensive to hike in the Himalayas. We wouldn’t use a guide and staying in guesthouses or teahouses is ridiculously cheap. Certainly the challenge criteria would be met with steep ups and downs, high altitude, and thin air but, for some reason, the idea just wouldn’t take hold and we kept looking for what would be that great challenge for 2014.

Like many of our great ideas, I’m not sure where our final decision came from. We’ve met people doing similar things and have followed others doing even greater versions so maybe that’s where the seed of the idea came from. In the end, it’s a plan that will challenge us physically, see us visiting a part of the world we were hoping to get to, and will allow us to sample some of the best beer in the world.

We’re going to cycle-tour mid-western Europe this spring!

We have been wanting to visit Europe for many years but cost has been such a limiting factor. Europe certainly hasn’t gotten any cheaper but our ability to manage it has gotten better…we hope. Using our own bodies for transportation drastically cuts down that part of the budget and, although we won’t be camping, there are some fabulous bicycle specific accommodation options that are much more affordable than traditional B&B’s and inns. It will still be expensive, no doubt, but we have lots of time to plan and save.

There is lots to do to prepare. Like get bikes, we don’t have any bikes. Or bike bags. Or bike clothing. Plus there are maps to procure, routes to be decided upon, and training to do. It’s great to have something to focus on; something to look forward to and help propel us through the cold winter ahead. We’re excited.

We have already done the one un-undoable step, the piece that makes it real and shows commitment. We purchased our plane tickets to London, England!! Our One Giant Pedal around Europe begins on April 8th!!! Yiiiippppeeee!

Have you ever cycle-toured? Have any advice for us? Or resources you can point us to?



21 Oct

Taking The First Step

A week ago I was lucky enough to be asked to do a presentation at the BlissDom Canada 2013 conference. Here 400+ women (and a handful of men) gathered to dive into the inner workings of social media, discuss their on-line legacy, and push each other to be the best we each can be. It turned out to be an extremely powerful weekend. I came away inspired, empowered, and affirmed.

Drew Dudley spoke of the power of ‘Lollipop Moments’; those times in our life, that we probably aren’t aware of, where we affect another person deeply often changing the course of their life. I have long believed that we take with us small pieces of those we admire. We emulate that which we aspire to and quietly watch those who inspire us, taking what we need in order to be the best person we can be.

Glen Canning made the most compelling argument for being a better person with his unbelievable grace in the face of great adversity. Six months ago his daughter Rehtaeh Parsons committed suicide. After suffering the unimaginable pain of being repeatedly raped she was the victim of cyber-bullying about the incident until she could take it no longer. Glen knows the names of those who did this to his daughter yet he will not publicly name them. Just being in the same room as him made me want to be a better person, to try harder to be the kindest I can be and to understand that we all have a story but that no-one knows another’s whole story.

Finally, in a weekend filled with big ideas and great messages it is this quote that stands out for me:

It is not a failure to be in the middle of your story. ~Schmutzie

Too often we compare ourselves to outside measuring sticks rather than looking at how far we have come. We need to stop thinking that we need to arrive somewhere. Where will that be? And how will we know we’ve gotten there? And then what will we do? We’re all in the middle of our story. How can that be failure?

I am grateful to have been able to give my presentation. Looking into the eyes of those listening to me tell my story reminded me of how far I’ve come. I may be in the middle of my story but I’ve travelled a long way from where I started. Hearing the tentative resonance in their voices as they shared their own dreams was rewarding. People are farther along their path than they think they are.

Here is the presentation I gave.

Taking The First Step

Hi, and welcome to Taking The First Step On The Path To Your Dream where I hope to help you navigate a little closer to the path that will see you live your dream.

It’s not easy but I can attest that it is more than worth it!

Who Am I?

My name is Gillian and I am a travel blogger, digital nomad, internet entrepreneur, and serial expat. I have been documenting my travel adventures, mis-steps, and personal journeys on my travel blog One-Giant-Step.com since 2008. More recently I launched TheGlobalBookshelf.coma place to find books and stories that will take you beyond the guidebook and connect you to your next destination.

Why can I help you get started on the path to your dream? Well, because I did it myself…

Our Story

In 2008 my partner, Jason, and I were probably not much different from you. We had good jobs, owned a fabulous condo in a renovated heritage house near downtown Victoria, drove a new car, enjoyed time with fabulous friends, rode our badass mountain bikes and generally enjoyed everything that we had worked so hard to achieve.

But there was this niggling. An itch in the back of my mind reminding me that I was going to do something different. I had always wanted to live somewhere else; experience a different culture, challenge myself, and explore the world and yet all the steps I was taking were moving me away from that.

And then the book that changed my life arrived on my doorstep.

I was ordering some books from Amazon.com. They have that fabulous marketing trick whereby you can get free shipping if you just increased your order a wee bit. On a whim I added Vagabonding by Rolf Potts to my shopping cart and went about my day.

I devoured the book when it arrived. In it I found people just like me only who weren’t just like me because they were living their dreams and travelling the world. They weren’t crazy, they weren’t wealthy, they were just like me. A paradigm shift occurred in me and I quickly realized that I had to stop pushing myself down the path of ordinary and really look at what I wanted.

I hatched a plan that had us selling our condo, our cars, our stuff and travelling the world for a year. Now I only had to tell Jason. This is where shit got real; coming up against the first possible sacrifice I might have to make in order to keep moving forward. Would he come with me or would we be negotiating what our relationship might look like through this huge change? We’re lucky. After much frank discussion we saw that we were on the same page. Yay!

Just over a year later, in June 2009, after taking leaves from our jobs, selling our condo and two cars, putting our furniture in storage, and saying goodbye to family and friends, we left for what would be an 11 month, 14 country, journey around the world.

We returned to Victoria and took up our old jobs but didn’t unpack our storage locker. We wanted to do something bigger and even better and were fearful of getting stuck in the groove of life again. We decided we would move elsewhere in Canada for a couple of three years to keep our momentum going while we saved money to leave again. This was our Responsibly Irresponsible plan.We sent resumés out across the country and landed jobs in Calgary where we promptly moved and practiced our snowman making skills.

We lasted a year and a half. Last September we took a holiday to Japan. While there we discussed our goals, our plans, and our challenges and decided to move the timeline up to mid 2013; we were doing well and could afford to accelerate our plans a bit. Our new plan lasted 2 days…until we returned to work. I came home on the second day and asked Jason what we were waiting for. What would we gain with a few more short months of work? We resigned that week.

In January 2013 we sold the rest of our stuff and moved to Thailand to work on our new projects (this website, an ebook on the way, and some freelance writing), meet like-minded people, and see our dream of living in the world come true. Yay!

What's Your Dream?

But what’s your dream? Not everyone wants to chuck it all and travel the world. Are you harbouring a book you need to write? Do you have a business idea just waiting to come out? Want to learn the saxophone? Open a bakery?

Why Aren't You Doing It?

Why aren’t you doing it?

Are your excuses valid? Or are they just paper thin veneers that you throw up out of habit? Many people tell me they would love to do what I do but can’t because they have kids (I know of families that are travelling, let me put you in touch), or can’t afford it (but you can afford that new car, big ass TV, and boat in the driveway?), or their husbands wouldn’t agree (have you asked?).

I’m not saying that there aren’t valid reasons why you can’t do what you want. Heck, even I’m not doing what I want right now – we have returned to Canada to care for my mother-in-law through cancer treatment. She will be fine but I am faced with having a real reason as to why I can’t stay on the path…for now.

Often a reason for not doing it is fear. Fear of the worst happening. Failure.

What would the worst case scenario really look like? I always said it would look like me living on my brother’s driveway in a cardboard box when I’m an old lady. And then I thought that I could always pump gas (my first job), or work in a photography store (my second job), or be a lab technologist again (yep…third job), or work in Lab IT (4th…), or be a health care business analyst (FINAL job!). My point is our safety net comes with us. Yes, there might be some failure, maybe a step back, but you’re not going to tumble from the top of the cliff all the way to your brothers driveway. There are steps in between that would catch you AND you would be armed with all the knowledge, lessons, and experienced you gained as you ‘failed’. It’s cliché but there really is no such thing as failure.

What if you DID do it? What would that look like?

Will You Regret Not Doing It?

This is what really drove our RTW (round-the-world) trip. I try to live my life looking back on it to ensure that I won’t be the old lady on the porch wishing I had done stuff but was too fearful to try.

While planning that very big first step for us we came up against plenty of fear and sacrifice. Every time I felt it was too much, or wanted to quit, or wasn’t sure about the sacrifice I asked my self what I would tell myself when I was old. How would I explain why I quit there, why that was too much, why I let fear win? I don’t think we can live a life of no regrets but I think we can do a damn fine job of consciously ensuring that there aren’t too many.

Will you regret not doing it?

What If You Imagined Only Success?

What if you imagined only success?

This is what drives us on our current adventure. We haven’t saved enough for retirement and now we’re 45 and don’t have ‘jobs’. We’re betting on success. We’re smart, educated, experienced, funny, good-looking people. We didn’t leave that behind; it all comes with us! We can use what we know, what we’ve learned, how we learn, in our new projects. We will make money, we will be successful, and we will live the life we want to live.

See, success!

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

So, how do you do it? Your goal is big, and overwhelming, and unimaginable.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at at time. Don’t look at the whole picture all the time. Use it as an anchor and keep navigating toward it but, mostly, just keep your head down and keep moving forward.

Take small steps daily toward your goal. Research other bakeries, find a saxophone teacher in the Yellow Pages (ok, does anyone use the Yellow Pages anymore?), clean out your garage of junk (and sell it = money for the dream!). Just do something every day that keeps your dream in focus.

Do one un-undoable step. Do something that can’t be undone. Tell your friends and family. Get it out of your head ’cause it will drive you crazy in there! Make it public. Sign up, and pay for, those saxophone lessons. Sign a lease on the new bakery space. Buy the plane ticket. Tell your boss. Make yourself accountable by taking steps that can’t be taken back.

Surround yourself with people who support you, who are like you, who are like who you want to be.

You will have to listen to naysayers. It’s likely they are your family and friends. It’s their job to question you when you step out of their normal. They love you and want what’s best for you (in their eyes). It’s your job to answer them fully; to let them know you’ve thought this out, that you know what you’re doing, that they needn’t worry. And then it’s your job not to take any abuse from them. Don’t let them bring you down. Don’t let them talk you out of it. Don’t let them waver in your commitment. People treat you how you let them treat you; you are in control of how this works out.

Find people who are like you, or who are further along in their dream than you are. You’ll see that they’re not crazy. You’ll see that you’re not crazy. You can learn from them, and be bolstered by them, and become friends with them, and gain a whole support system that will help you over the hump. It is my association with other travellers, other expats, other digital nomads, and other people just like me that has given me the courage to see that I can do this.


Here are some resources that might help. My focus is obviously travel but there are some great resources that transcend just travel also:

  • One-Giant-Step.com/no regrets –> I wrote this post not long ago. In it I tell my story from the point of view of myself as an old lady on the porch, looking back at my life. 
  • MarriedWithLuggage.com –> Warren and Betsy Talbot started this as a travel blog but it has evolved into a source of encouragement, practical advice, relationship management, and personal development that will help you no matter what your dream. Their book, Dream Save Do, is an excellent workbook on working through the processes of seeing any dream come true.
  • ChrisGuillebeau.com –> Chris writes his website, The Art Of NonConformity, for those looking to live an unconventional life. He is an entrepreneur, a world traveler, and a thoughtful introspective man. His community of followers are the same; a great place to look for people who may be farther down the path than you might be.
  • So-Many-Places.com –> Written by my friend Kim Dinan it transcends what a travel blog is traditionally. She writes less about the details of where she is and more about how travel, and the world, is changing her. She is, in my opinion, one of the best writers out there right now; her writing regularly brings me to my knees. She recently released a book – Life On Fire is all about finding a way to live your dream.
  • MeetPlanGo.com –> This is definitely a travel resource. Run by Sherry Ott and Michaela Potter, it is about meeting people who have travelled, planning your own travels, and then going!!
  • RTWExpenses.com–> Run by Warren and Betsy (from MarriedWithLuggage.com), they track every penny they spend and publish it all here. Often times we think travel is too expensive to take on. This site shows what it really costs to travel in an area as a mid 40’s couple who are beyond their ‘backpacking’ years. You’ll be surprised. Our one year round-the-world trip cost us $50,000 total – we couldn’t live in Canada for $50,000 a year!
  • TheGlobalBookshelf.com/genres/inspirational/ –>TheGlobalBookshelf  has a section for inspirational books. Sometimes you just need to keep yourself buoyed!! These should do the trick!

Are You On The Path?Tell me what you’re planning!

I would love to hear the dreams you’re harbouring, the challenges you’re facing in moving forward, and the successes as you figure it out.

I can provide feedback, encouragement, and maybe even point you in the direction of some resources.

You can email me (gillian.onegiantstep@gmail.com), or connect up on Twitter (@OneGiantStep), or on Facebook of course (http://facebook.com/OneGiantStep).

Remember, take one small step toward your dream every day.

Tell someone. Tell me.

Good luck and, most of all, have fun!!


23 Sep

On Saying Yes And Trying To Fit In

While circumstances dictate that we’re not travelling far right now, I’m trying to make the most of what is possible.

I’ve read a few articles on the power of saying yes. They intimate that we often don’t say yes for fear of the unknown; that the activity or concept is outside of our realm of knowledge or comfort zone so we say no automatically when, really, we might be richer for it if we could just say yes.

I definitely fall into that trap. Although I like to step into uncomfortable, and I encourage that you do to, the fact is that even in that there is a comfort zone. I may travel to far off places but there is a routine in the way I go about it; a regular pattern of preparing and executing, a normal template and schedule, so that even in the non-regular and not-normal there is some comfort. Funny, isn’t it?

And right now? Right now is all about normal and regular, routine and schedules. Right now it needs to be that way and is, in its own way, offering me some uncomfortable.

So, when my good friend invited me to a fancy, international film festival party in downtown Toronto I said yes without even thinking. I had no time to even consider what I had gotten myself into as I changed out of my pj’s, hurriedly packed the one dress that might be appropriate, booked a train ticket, and was out the door in under 20 minutes.

Heading into the city I did what I do best on trains…I stared aimlessly out the window and daydreamed about what the evening might be like.

I am an urbanite. I love the energy, diversity, and possibility that exists within cities. There is a sense of purpose; a reason for all those people to be doing whatever it is they are doing. A disconnect that connects. We are not all the same and yet we all occupy the same space and we each have a place within that space.

I feel comfortable in cities. I can be myself within the sidewalks, tall buildings, office workers, cafes, green spaces, hipsters, public art, street performers, pubs, shops, and patios. I can find my way around (well, metaphorically speaking anyway…I actually suck at navigation!) and gravitate toward those places where I fit in and feel most like myself; just like we all do.

I am apparently not comfortable at fancy, international film festival parties. This was not my tribe, these were not my people, and I felt as though I stuck out like a sore thumb as we stood in line awaiting the magic text that would transport us to the front of the line and whisk us inside like VIP’s.

I felt as though my dress was not fancy enough, my shoes not high enough, my jewelry not sparkly enough, and my makeup…well, I don’t even wear makeup so there was no comparison there. I had dressed up to try and fit in and I felt like I fit in less than if I had worn my regular, if-only-the-slightest-bit funky, going out on the town, outfit.

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, or that people weren’t anything other than super kind to me, because I did and they were. But I think I would have stood a little taller, felt a little more confident, and had an even better time if I’d just been strong enough to just be myself.

In the end the evening was a blast. I rubbed elbows with people that I wouldn’t normally rub elbows with, enjoyed post party drinks and conversation with a great friend, and got to spend some time in the city.

Lesson learned. Absolutely say yes to everything that comes my way but don’t forget to just be me.