02 Sep

Cowapolooza!!

Cowapalooza

One of the good things about staying in a smallish town seemingly-in-the-middle-of-nowhere are the ways that people come up with to entertain themselves.

Here in Woodstock, Ontario…the Dairy Capital of Canada…it’s Cowapolooza, baby!!

Cowapalooza

There were fake cows. And, of course, real cows.

Cowapalooza

Balloon blowing clowns.

Cowapalooza

A milking competition!! This was, for me, the most exciting part. Unfortunately I didn’t compete (because, really! Milking a cow! How fun would that be!) but it was a lot of fun watching those who did struggle to get a drop of milk from Lucy.

Cowapalooza

Kids and baby goats. You really can’t beat that.

Cowapalooza

A good, old fashioned, strong man (and woman) competition. It was brutal.

Cowapalooza

And there was, of course, a beer garden. Which we had no trouble finding.

Cowapalooza

Consider the afternoon entertained.

12 Aug

No Regrets

I consciously live my life from the end looking back. I don’t look forward to worry about the outcomes. Instead I look back to ensure there are no regrets. I am the old lady sitting on the porch, watching the light fade, feeling the air cool, and musing about all that I have done.

It is she who decides my fate. She’s the one who decided I should leave my hometown and go back to school. She’s the one who decided we should travel around the world. She’s the one who decided we should quit our jobs and keep traveling around the world. She’s the one who knows that life is incredibly short. She’s the one who knows that it all works out. She’s the one who has no regrets.

I can’t do everything I want though. It’s impossible. Life is finite and there just simply isn’t enough time. So, when the inevitable question comes of ‘if you had to do it all again, would you do it the same?’ my answer is always, unwaveringly, NO!

I’ve done all these things, had all these experiences, and have so many more to come. Why would I repeat any of it? I would do it all completely differently. I would live all the ways I haven’t managed to live in this life, do all the things I didn’t get to, harness all the talent and passion in completely different ways.

I would live on a farm. Far off the grid where we would collect our own water, generate our own electricity, and grow our own food. I dream of crisp fall days in the farmhouse kitchen ‘putting up vegetables’, making pies, and cooking great, wholesome meals. We would tend our small flock of chickens, milk our one cow, and play with the goats in the field. At night we would cozy up under a great down duvet, tired from the work yet full of all that we accomplished.

I would go to school forever. There is so much to learn! Furthering my studies in biology, chemistry and physics would help understand how the physical world works. I would study psychology, sociology, and anthropology as I am fascinated by how we all interact with each other. I would delve into religious studies to learn more about how the worlds’ faith is interconnected, and explore linguistic anthropology to discover where our communication roots are derived from. I remember long, rambling, conversations while I was in school; debates and explorations that expanded my world and challenged my thinking. It’s a magical place and a lifetime of living it would be heaven.

I would be a mother. With at least three, maybe four, kids. I have chosen not to have children in this life but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I’m missing. The complete joy, eternal frustration, great pride, fierce love, and softest of kisses. Oh, I know. We would live together as our own little tribe, taking on the world, helping one another grow and learn, before they finally set off on their own adventures letting me live another life through their eyes.

Creative. I would be creative. I would push my analytical mind well out of its comfort zone and express myself in ways that seem unreachable to me in this life.  I would be a painter, or a singer, or a dancer, or a musician. A writer of great novels, a composer of moving concertos, an architect of great buildings.

It’s endless, really, the ways that I would not do it the same. I will sit on that porch and not regret a single thing but that, by no means, means that there aren’t a myriad of ways that I could have been done differently.

 

 

29 Jul

Dream. Save. Do.

When Jason and I were first looking to step out of our comfort zone in 2008 there was little information out there about leaving a ‘regular’ life behind to travel. Sure there were people who were doing what we wanted to do but blogging was in its infancy and we just couldn’t find them. We didn’t need much encouragement though; we found as many travel blogs as we could and devoured their archives as quickly as possible.

Turns out that Betsy and Warren were on the same path at just about the same time; figuring it out, working through their fears, and stepping into uncomfortable.  They are still out living in the world and have written an ‘action plan’ that will help anyone who wants to make a big change but feels completely overwhelmed by the thought of it.

I had a chance recently to ask Warren and Betsy some questions about their decisions, the outcomes, and their book.

1. Dream Save Do is very much a retrospective book in that you talk of what you did, how others can now learn from that and hopefully move forward without making the same mistakes you did. Did you have such a plan when you were dreaming, and saving, and doing? Or did you just stumble through it blindly, hoping for the best?

One of our best traits is enthusiasm. We’re both quick to jump in and try something new even if we don’t know how it will turn out or all the steps to make it happen. That being said, we’re both oldest children and high achievers, so we do match our actions with a bit of planning. It doesn’t always go the way we want it to, but when you make it a habit of continually moving forward you can easily recover from any wrong moves. You don’t have to be a type-A go-getter or a fearless wonder to do big things as the best indicator of success is simply the willingness to keep moving forward and figuring it out along the way. This is what we learned as we took action on this dream of ours.

2. What are the most common ‘excuses’ people give as to why they can’t achieve their dream?

Time is the biggest excuse of all. People say they don’t have enough time to devote to their dream, but the truth is that we all have the same amount of hours in a day. It’s how we choose to use them that is the differentiator. And that comes from putting yourself on your to-do list and making your dreams a priority in your life. People often use the caveat “some day” or “I’ll do that later”, but there is no guarantee of some day or later. Time is not a renewable resource. You can’t save it or make more of it. And once you realize how precious the commodity is, you’ll find it impossible not to start taking action to create the life you crave.

The second big excuse is money. People blame their lack of money for not following their dreams while spending that precious resource on things that have nothing to do with their dreams. We meet wannabe business owners who buy a new car every 2 years, or out-of-shape people who say they can’t afford a gym membership when it is absolutely free to take a walk outside every day. Money is typically an excuse, not a reason. We travel on $25,000 per year, using long-term rentals, slow travel, and house sitting as a way to make it affordable. We found an unconventional way to make our dreams of seeing the world come true. Many money concerns can be lifted by simply looking for a cheaper way to do it. You don’t have to spend what someone else did or do it the way they did. Your dream is fully customizable, you know!

Third, we’ve seen again and again people using others as an excuse. “My kids need me.” “What will he do if I go off and do that?” It’s a way to make us feel valuable to other people and take a martyr role, but it’s a false vanity. What better gift to give your kids than showing them that dreams are important? What better way to be a good partner than to satisfy your biggest dreams? We often use other people as an excuse when we’re scared to move forward — it’s easy to put it off on others.

3. I think sometimes people are scared to dream. They see you, or me, doing something adventurous and state how they ‘wish I could travel like you but I have kids/a mortgage/job’. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction to my dream rather than a studied response to what they might want to do themselves. What is your reaction to this inevitable response?

You’ve hit the nail on the head. One of the best lessons we’ve learned is that a person’s reaction to our news or decisions is more revealing of them than it is about us. It helped us let those negative reactions just roll off. But before we had time to get all high and mighty about it, we took the flip side and realized that OUR reactions to other people had more to do with our own fears and beliefs than it did them. It was a head-spinning moment when we finally learned to analyze our own reactions. Why did some people’s decisions make us uncomfortable? What was scaring us…really? Once we began analyzing our fears this way we got to the core of our fears and began to work through them. It’s never about what you think it’s about on the surface, and getting to the bottom of it will greatly help you in whatever you do in life.

4. One piece that resonated with me was the idea that you should stop seeing your dream as a full blown idea; that it’s really an infant that will grow and evolve over time. When we were first thinking about moving overseas we had in our mind that we had to take this life and recreate it there; great jobs, fabulous apartment, close friends etc. It became overwhelming and too big to manage. Somehow we made the leap and realized that we just need a job, a home, etc and that the rest would fall into place. Small steps, just open the door and put a foot in, that’s what we needed. It was an epiphany. Do you think this is a common barrier to taking the first steps to realizing a dream? How can someone over come this and make the mind shift?

To some degree we all have this faulty way of looking at the future. The college graduate imagines sitting in the corner office or driving the luxury car, not the years of working in a cubicle and driving a beater while renting a room in a house with 3 other people. The wannabe traveler focuses on the grand experience he or she will have, not the prep to get there or the inevitable days of travel that aren’t glamorous, like doing laundry or battling diarrhea on a long bus ride. We focus on the end result and gloss over the process to get there. So when we can’t immediately get to corner office or step into a perfectly organized traveling lifestyle, we think it’s impossible. We leave out all the middle steps from start to finish. Once you realize this and anticipate those middle steps, you’ll be a lot closer to getting to the finish line and enjoy the process along the way. (Let’s face it; for most of us the dream morphs as you do it, so having your eye on a “perfect finale” is a sure way to miss the great opportunities and diversions along the way).

5. I think the ‘saving’ part can be the most overwhelming. As you note it can be difficult to imagine this $10 or $20 making a dent in the $50,000 that needs to be saved. What’s the one piece of advice you would give that would have the biggest impact on someone feeling overwhelmed in this way?

Our favorite saving strategy was the Phrase to Save. We stopped thinking about our overall number because it was just too mind-numbing. Instead, we broke it down to a smaller goal. In our case, it was $100/day. This was the budget we projected for our travels, and instead of thinking about tens of thousands of dollars needed to leave, we simply focused on how to make or save $100 at a time. Every $100 saved was a day on the road. Every time we spent $100 we were giving up a day on the road. It made our goal immediate and relatable every single day, and it kept us from feeling like we were giving things up because we could immediately imagine what that $100 would give us. Anyone can do this by the day like we did or by components of their dream (for example, square footage/meters for a house you want to build/buy).

6. I remember, when I was younger, looking up to women who seemed to be living their dream (whether it be travel or something else). I admired and respected them but didn’t seem to know how to be like them. My life has evolved since then and I remember, quite recently actually, driving down the highway and suddenly realizing that I now am just like those women I looked up to. It was an amazing revelation and left me with a massive swelling of pride. Is this the case for you also? Do you think you now live the life of those that you used to look up to?

For us it has always been about freedom. Not necessarily freedom to see the world, but freedom to be who we wanted to be, to hang out with the people we liked, and to spend our days doing the things we wanted. That seemed like the ultimate dream, and today we’re living it. We still pinch ourselves a bit when we realize how perfectly this life suits us and how many of our dreams we get to experience because of it. It’s the small things every day (rising with the sun instead of an alarm clock) and the big things achieved over time that remind us we’ve “made it” in terms of personal goals. We haven’t done everything we want to do in this world – not by a long shot – but we have that confidence and experience to know that there is not much out of our reach. Achieving your dreams gives you that mindset and guarantees you’ll keep dreaming and achieving til the day you die. And we can’t think of a better way to live than that.

At its heart, Dream Save Do is about not letting roadblocks get in the way of realizing your dream. Instead it’s about planning your way through them, being realistic, and taking small steps toward that dream every single day. The steps and advice outlined in this book mirror our own experiences very closely; if they, and we, can do it then you can do it too!

Dream Save DoAuthors Warren and Betsy Talbot help people turn their life dreams into reality. After 20 years of playing by the rules, they charted their own path to achieve their dream of traveling the world. Their books include Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers. Visit www.marriedwithluggage.com for more information.

15 Jul

It’s Time For A Road Trip!!

Road Trip

Like all things, road trips evolve as we grow older. What starts as a handful of college buddies stuffed into an old Honda Civic after a late night, Bud Light infused, dance party turns into a ‘we can still do this’ marathon driving session to a friends cottage in between work assignments, followed by the inevitable family-in-a-can journey where pee breaks are secondary to gas fill ups and every Dad gets to utter the infamous phrase: Don’t make me pull this car over!

I love the ritual of road trips.

Poring over maps marking the best route possible. Our goal? No major highways, plenty of small towns, cheesy roadside attractions, and out-of-the-way must sees. A sampling of the country beyond 4 lanes and truck stops; a chance to see the heart of a place and gather out-of-the-ordinary stories.

Not being campers means looking for the elusive ‘Vacancy’ sign at the end of each day.  Finding the perfect, Mom and Pop run, motel with cute little balconies and flower pots is like hitting the jackpot. It doesn’t always work out, of course, and we have stayed in our share of dull rooms with orange bedcovers stinking to high heaven of cigarettes and god-only-knows what else.

Music can make or break a trip. In the past, I have spent hours and hours creating the ‘perfect’ mixed tape (you know, those things we had before we had playlists). During a long ago road trip to California all songs had to reference the Golden State in some way – California Dreaming, I Left My Heart In San Francisco – or be by bands from California – The Beach Boys, Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Bangles. Our rule is always that the driver gets to choose what’s playing…so choose your road trip mates carefully…

My absolute favourite part, though, is just sitting quietly and staring out the window watching the world go by. Crossing Canada a number of years ago, we witnessed the landscape slowly evolve from lush western rainforest, to sweeping river valleys, over mountains into prairies and through the rock-tree-lake-tree-lake-rock-tree-rock pattern of the Canadian Shield. It’s this slow reveal that I enjoy so much; seeing how one part of a country is connected to another.

This week we set out on another road trip that will almost complete our cross Canada route that we started over 10 years ago. On that trip we journeyed from Victoria, BC to Ottawa, Ontario. This time we’ll start in Toronto, Ontario and reach the eastern shore in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia; not quite all the way across yet but pretty darn close!

Our goal? A wedding. An energetic east coast wedding filled with friends and family, love and laughter, music and dancing. A chance to welcome a new member into the fold and shine some light on a family that has had its share of struggles the past few years.

I’m looking forward to both our time on the road and the scent of the salty air at the end. I’m making the perfect playlist right now…

The Global Bookshelf[box border=”full”]Looking for some great road tripping inspiration? Check out The Global Bookshelf for great road trip books that will have you planning your own open road adventure in no time!

The Global Bookshelf….Connecting Travelers To a World Of Stories[/box]

01 Jul

The Pros, And Cons, Of Slow Travel

Good Morning Chiang Mai

Our favorite breakfast spot. You should go.

When we came up with our plan to live in the world at a very slow pace we were pretty sure that we were going to love being able to settle in a little more and really get under the skin of a place.

Our first stop, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, proved that we are, indeed, on the right track. We loved being able to live in an apartment in a regular neighborhood, find our favorite restaurants, and generally live a regular life in a non-regular place.

We definitely found that there were many pros to slow travel but, interestingly, we also found that there are some downsides.

PROS Of Slow Travel

One of the main benefits of slow travel is that accommodation gets cheaper as you amortize it over months rather than days. Finding short term, furnished, apartments was super easy in Chiang Mai and the longer the stay the cheaper the monthly rent was. I’m not sure if it will be that easy to find a place every where we go but I suspect that if there is an expat community there will be some kind of short term accommodation options available. I’ll let you know when we get to Mexico (yep, that’s a hint…not sure when yet but Mexico keeps coming up in conversation).

Having an apartment means that we can eat at home much more often. We didn’t have a full kitchen this time (although it’s definitely on the criteria list for next time) but we were still able to make coffee, have a light breakfast, bring in take out, and have a cocktail at home. This definitely makes life not only easier (I hate going out for breakfast every day…I’d prefer to lounge with my coffee and take my time) but also much less expensive. It also means we have to visit the markets regularly. I love markets and going every few days means that we get to find our favorite vendors and they get to know us also.

In fact getting to know the area is one of the biggest pros of slow travel. We weren’t always seeking a place to have lunch, or dinner, or coffee, or a beer because we got to know the area and regularly visited our favorites. We would still experiment and try new places but returning to a place meant that the staff would get to know us and we could feel more comfortable. It can get tiring to always be looking for somewhere to eat and to guess what’s good on the menu. This way we knew where to go if we wanted khao soi or steamed buns or nam prik or just about anything (in fact, if you’re ever in Chiang Mai drop me a line and I’ll tell you about my favorites).

Staying in one place for a while meant that we had plenty of time to explore the area and yet still had lots of time to relax and work. We weren’t always racing to see a sight or do an activity; we could schedule out what we wanted to do or see over weeks at a time. This made for a very relaxing time and we were able to get lots of work done (I told you about The Global Bookshelf, right? Have you checked it out?)

But, by far, the best part of slow travel was meeting people and making friends. We met the most amazing group of people during our time in Chiang Mai. It is a motley crue, to be sure, with varied backgrounds, differing goals, various travel schedules, and lots of personality but we really got to spend some time, share plenty of laughs, help each other, and really become friends. I looked forward to our workouts so I could chat before and after, we would have work sessions in local coffee shops, and share potluck dinners almost weekly; it’s a real community that came together because people were committed to staying for more than just a couple of days.

CONS Of Slow Travel

One of the biggest downsides to slow travel? Meeting people and making friends. I know, I just said that that was the best part of slow travel but, once you make friends and connect with people, it’s that much harder to leave and say good-bye. Just like leaving friends back at home the first time was hard, leaving new friends is just as hard. Although our time together was relatively short I had really grown to feel like part of the community and relied on my new friends for advice, companionship, and some kick-ass dinner parties. I’m sure we’ll find a new community wherever we end up next but that doesn’t make leaving any easier.

Having so much time to explore a place often means that we don’t explore as much as we should because we get into a routine. Workout in the morning, have breakfast, do some work, have lunch, do some more work, have dinner, relax and maybe hang out with friends. Probably sounds a lot like your days, eh? We found ourselves in a bit of a routine and would have to make time to explore a little farther afield. This is when meeting new people was good; they would come into town, be interested in seeing something new, and we would tag along. But we really should have made more of an effort.

And I guess that’s one of the biggest cons in my book. The extra-ordinary starts to seem ordinary. It often felt just like home, which is good of course, but we would often have to pinch each other and remind ourselves that we live in Thailand. Monks walking down the street? Ordinary. Gassing up the scooter in the shadow of an ancient chedi? Regular. Frogs stacked in the market? Everyday. I think this is good though. It made me see people as people and not as ‘Thai people living such a different life than I could ever imagine’. And that’s why I love travel; to find the ordinary and compare it to my own.

We stayed four months in Chiang Mai and it went by in the blink of an eye. We’re looking at 6 months for our next destination and I wonder if that will be long enough. I like to see the seasons change, notice how a neighbourhood evolves, and this time I’d like to engage more in the community. It’s a grand experiment and I’m happy to be able to do it.

17 Jun

Want To Be Successful? Surround Yourself With Better People And Level Up

Photo Credit: The Thinking Doll

It’s been seven months since my last day of cubicle work. A lot has happened since then. We sold all our stuff, visited family and friends for a while, moved to Chiang Mai in Thailand, started The Global Bookshelf, and set ourselves on an entrepreneurial path with all the ups and downs that go along with that.

The best thing we did though? Surround ourselves with passionate, motivated, forward-thinking, successful people.

Chiang Mai is a hub for digital entrepreneurs. The laid back vibe of the city, coupled with a warm climate, cheap living, and fast internet means that there is a large community of people making an unconventional living.

It took a while, and it meant really stepping out into uncomfortable to make ourselves go to the meetups, but we wormed our way in and were left nothing short of super inspired.

I realized that we always underplay our successes. I met people that I already knew on-line; people I consider successful and ahead of me. My confidence soared as I found that I actually know more than I realize and am just as successful as these friends. I just need to start using what I know rather than hiding behind always thinking I need to learn more. More action and less preparation.

I found that even the most innocuous of conversations can be a learning event. I would learn about a new process or method while chatting to someone while at our workout sessions. I would find out about a new tool or website while sharing a beer at one of the fabulous dinners our friends would host. I just needed to step out and take the time to ask the questions. Almost every single conversation I had ended with me running home to research whatever I had unearthed.

I now know just how hard people are working to make their dream come true. Being surrounded by successful people means being surrounded by some of the hardest working people I have ever met. The hours people are putting in, the innovative ideas they are generating, and the dedication they have left me reeling. It’s the difference between knowing the kind of time people are putting in and realizing just how much time that really is. I was left impressed and quickly recognized that we need to step it up.

It’s challenging to surround yourself with people who are better than you. It’s comfortable to stay in a familiar circle relying on what you know and feeling confident in your abilities. It’s more than worth it to step out and see what you can learn.

Two things I have learned:

  1. You know more than you think you know. Once I started talking to people I realized that my knowledge base is quite wide and deep and that often, even if I don’t know something, I can relate it to what I do know. Turns out that the chasm between what I want to know and what I do know isn’t that big.
  2. People want to help. They are willing to answer questions, tell you what they’re up to, and share their hard earned secrets. No, they’re not going to tutor you but if you listen closely, ask questions, and respect what it is they do, answers will result and then it’s up to you.

I had no idea of all the different things people were up to. Meeting so many digital entrepreneurs here has opened my eyes to the myriad of ways that people are out there making a living. Sure, it’s not all for me but I have learned something from every single person I have met. I can only hope that perhaps I have helped someone along the way also.

Success is definitely more than just what you know, it’s also about who you know and what you can learn from them. Agree?

 

03 Jun

What Happens If The Worst Happens?

What would you do if something happened to your family? That’s one of the first questions people ask when they learn that we travel long term.

Our answer has always been that we would return home should ever the need arise. That we live a life that affords us the opportunity to be anywhere and that includes where ever we may need to be.

We haven’t lived near our hometowns, or families, for quite some time even before we chose a life of travel. In fact, our new travel life has only improved our situation in this regard. We can pick up and leave at a moments notice; being where we need to be without worry of job security, time constraints, or, for the most part, funding considerations.

It means that, for us, the ‘what happens if the worst happens?’ question is better answered now than it ever was.

Which is fortunate because we now find ourselves in a position to have to answer the question directly.

We learned last week that a family member is ill and so we have left Chiang Mai and returned to Canada. Although we are terribly sad that our summer plans have changed so drastically, we are also relieved to be able to return to help out where needed.

It’s an interesting emotional journey to get here. I’ll be honest here because the ‘what happens if the worst happens’ question deserves it.

After the shock of learning that a loved one is ill enough to warrant our return we sat on it for a day or so. We had made flight arrangements, managed leaving our apartment early, canceled rental agreements we had made for the summer, and withdrew from job competitions; all the stuff that needed immediate attention. And then we just didn’t tell anyone.

Telling people would make it real and, somehow, I just wasn’t ready yet. We needed to grieve a bit; feel sorry for ourselves and let the sadness find its place. So we moped a bit, had a few drinks too many, and got ready to meet it all head on.

It’s not selfish to do so. It’s reality. Often there can be guilt around thinking of ourselves; I think that’s bullshit. I don’t want to, and won’t, wallow in it but there is a place for grieving for what would have been, for realizing what you’re losing, and for coming to terms with the situation. And then it’s time to pull on the big-girl panties.

We’re here now, in Canada, getting ready for what might come, grateful that we can continue with our projects where ever we are, and proud of ourselves for being in a position to be able to help.

It goes to show that the one question that is often a hurdle for people actually has an answer that should remove the hurdle.

 

04 Apr

It Might Be Time To Get Married

I was 21 when I got married. I’m still not sure why. I think it was because that’s just what you did in my smallish home town. You graduated school, maybe took some college courses, got a crappy-but-okay job, and either met someone to marry, or married your high school sweetheart.

Check, check, check, and check.

It didn’t last and five years later I left him, and marriage, behind.

When I met Jason I already knew that I didn’t want to get married again. It’s not that I don’t believe in marriage; because I do. The idea of commitment and longevity, for better or worse, richer or poorer, are the cornerstones of our almost 15 year relationship. 

I just don’t believe in second marriages.

I did that thing. Where you stand up before friends and family, church and state, and vow that you will stay with someone forever.

And then I didn’t.

What would I say this time? Look deep into Jason’s eyes, who I really do adore more than anyone on earth, and tell him “I really, really, mean it this time!”.

Our commitment is to each other, with each other, and will be told over the course of time.

We don’t, however, live in a bubble. In fact, we no longer live in our home country where our ‘common-law’ status affords the same rights and freedoms as conventionally married couples (including, I’m proud to say, gay couples). And therein lies our current dilemma.

Jason’s job search is going well but most of the inquiries, opportunities, and conversations with potential employers have come from the Middle East region. Dubai, Qatar, United Arab Emirates. Countries, and cultures, that place a very high value on being married. As in, as a woman, you cannot be seen with a man who is not your relation unless you are married.

And so it might be time to get married.

What?!

I know. But if we want to live in the world then we have to play by its rules. We’re here to observe, and watch, and experience, not to change the world and make it conform to our ideals. Well, not these ideals anyway.

I mean, really? I love that I can live my life equally and freely with Jason in Canada but there are far larger issues to tackle in the world than whether two people should be able to shack up in the Middle East. Really.

Slow down though; don’t be sending a wedding gift just yet. The old playground tune may say ‘first comes love, then comes marriage but in our case it’s ‘first comes the job, then comes the wedding’.

We’re not planning the wedding just yet but we’re excited about what our future may hold; including maybe, just maybe, being married.

 

07 Mar

How I Manage Travel With Chronic Illnesses

This is it. Everything we have with us.

RTW BaggageAnd this is the tower of medication that I have to bring with me. In one of those bags.

I have had psoriasis since I was 14 years old. It can be difficult to treat in Canada, where it’s cold and dry, but here in Thailand it clears up fairly quickly due to the sun and humidity. Even so, I carry a couple of tubes of ointment and cream as well as a (heavy) bottle of special shampoo in case I need it.

I developed Crohn’s Disease when I was 21. This is the biggy. I am extremely lucky to be in remission with medication but I MUST take the medication or relapse will occur. Relapse is always ugly but the big fear is that it will never resolve again and I would be faced with surgery or worse.

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure about 4 months before we left Canada. Not surprising given my family history but annoying and it means more medication to carry.

It’s definitely a love/hate relationship. I simultaneously hate that it all takes up so much space and yet I am grateful that my conditions are treatable by medication. I am basically healthy on a day-to-day basis so, for me, managing chronic illness on the road comes down to five simple steps:

1. Be Prepared. I went to my doctor early and discussed my travel plans. We agreed that she would provide me with a one year prescription for each of my medications (the most she was able to do by law). I visited the pharmacy early too as they don’t keep that much stock on hand and so had to order it in for me. As a side note I had to pay for 9 of the 12 months medications myself as my insurance only covered three months at a time; this is important for the budget!

2. Pack Properly. As tempting as it was to throw all similar pills into baggies for ease of packing I didn’t. All the medications are in their original, sealed, labelled containers. Luckily, other than needing to stay dry, they don’t need any other special care. I also have a copy of the original prescriptions with me; firstly in case I have any trouble at borders or immigration and, secondly, for when I need to have the prescriptions renewed. I only have a one year supply with me so I’ll need to visit a foreign doctor at some point and this will help.

3. Take The Medication. This isn’t specific to travel; it’s proven that those with chronic illness often stop taking their medication when they are feeling well. This is definitely something I struggle with. I feel well and normal most of the time so taking mouthfuls of pills seems redundant. Lets just say that I have ‘experimented’ enough with this over the years that I am now committed to taking the damned medication!

4. Listen To Your Body. As Crohn’s is my major problem I mostly listen to my gut.  I want to avoid a stomach bug as much as anyone but have the added worry of possibly triggering an attack. Luckily I don’t have to be any more careful than a normal person and, quite frankly, I’m probably less careful than most vegetarians or celiacs I know. I do tend to need a lot of sleep though so, although I would rather stay up later and get up earlier, I let my body sleep as much as it wants. And I nap often.

5. Don’t limit yourself. While it’s good to be honest about what you can and can’t do, don’t use your illness as an excuse for not doing anything. I’ll admit that once, after being really sick, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to do anything like this but once I broke it down and dealt with each issue separately I couldn’t come up with a reason not to. What if I get sick on the road? I’ll see a doctor. What if I feel crappy for days on end? I’ll slow down and rest. What if things get really bad? I’ll go home. What will I do when my medications run out? I’m not sure yet but I’ll figure it out. Future Gillian can really worry about all that; this Gillian just has to take care of the now. Don’t limit yourself for any reason. There is a way through it and, even if the end doesn’t look exactly as you planned, you will still be moving forward and that’s what matters.

Managing chronic illnesses while travelling is a very individual pursuit. Obviously there are some conditions that are far more limiting than others. I definitely consider myself lucky but also wanted to show that it is possible.

Do you travel with a chronic condition? How do you manage it?

 

31 Jan

Back In The Land Of Smiles

Has it really been three years since we were here last? Memories of finishing our trip, returning home, and settling back into ‘normal’ stumble over one another and get lost as I am gently woken again by a bird whistling outside my window and the hum of the air conditioner.

Wait, where am I again? Birds whistling? Air conditioning? And I’m warm.

We’re here. Back in Thailand, the Land Of Smiles; the place my mind would most often wander back to when left unaccompanied by thoughts of work or other everyday mundane distractions. Life really is much simpler here, although this time it is not a vacation, not a time to completely relax and wile away the time.

We’re here to enact our plan and, with that, comes a certain amount of apprehension, anxiety, and a general sense of being overwhelmed. Did we pull the trigger too soon? Are we crazy even thinking this is a good idea?

It’s been an up and down week; excited to be on our way and back in a place that we love so much, sure that it’s just a matter of time before it all falls into place, and fearful that it won’t work out and that we’ll have to slink back with our tails between our legs.

I’ve said that there can be no failure in this. I have long dreamed of living outside of Canada and know that I would regret it if I never even tried. Even attempting is success in my mind. And so we push forward through the fear, work on resumes and connections, and keep our eye on the prize remembering that Giant Steps are really made of many, many, small ones in the right direction.

We’re also enjoying all that Thailand has to offer.

Temples.

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand

Great food.

Thai Curry, Bangkok, Thailand

And beach. Although the weather has yet to cooperate on this one!

Hua Hin, Thailand

We’ll head up to Chiang Mai this next week and get looking for an apartment. Wish us luck!

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10 Jan

How We Quickly And Easily Obtained A Double Entry 120 Day Thailand Visa

Thailand Visa

We know we’re heading to Thailand but, as you know, we don’t know anything after that. This makes it a little difficult to manage our time in a country that limits how long you can stay without a visa.

For most holidayers it’s quite easy;  most nationalities can arrive by air and enter the country for 30 days without a visa. Argentineans, Chileans, and Brazilians are able to stay 90 days without a visa. Some, though, can only stay 15 days and must apply for a visa when they arrive. The Thai Visa Wikipedia page outlines which countries fall into which category.

For us this means we could arrive and stay for 30 days before having to do a border run in order to stay longer.

But 30 days likely isn’t long enough and a border crossing entry only nets 14 more days. This would mean we’d have to head out of the country every two weeks in order to stay any length of time. Seeing as my plan is to settle in a bit and work on my new project (The Global Bookshelf) we were going to need to work on our plan.

A little research showed that we could get a double entry Thailand visa that would let us stay in the country for two 60 day periods.

I found all the rules and the application form for Thai Visas on the Canadian Thai Embassy website (American version here) and found that the closest consulate is in Vancouver. We could either attend the consulate in person with our applications or, alternately, mail them in to obtain a visa. As much as I would love to spend time in Vancouver the budget was the deciding factor so mailing it in was the solution.

As the instructions on the websites indicate, all we did is send in the completed application, a passport photo, flight information, a money order for the application fee ($80 each for us), and a postage paid return addressed envelope. Easy-peasy.

We sent the applications in right before Christmas and they were returned to us by New Years. Showing up at the consulate would have been even quicker. Can’t argue with that!

Remember, this was my experience. I recommend you read all the visa information on the websites to determine what type of visa you’ll need and how to apply. Thailand visa information has changed often with little notice in the last 5 years and continues to evolve. Always check with consulates and embassies rather than assume that other sources (including me!) are correct.

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I’m working on a new project! The Global Bookshelf will be a place for you to find books and stories that will connect you to the trip you’re already planning, or the one you are dreaming of. I would love it if you would sign up for updates; you can use the form right there in the sidebar. And thanks!

The Global Bookshelf. Connecting travellers to a world of stories.