Sunday Snapshot: Above the Clouds

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There’s no feeling like that of an airplane taking off into the setting sun. Today’s sunday snapshot is a photo that I took today on my flight home from a weekend with an old friend. Views like this are just one of the reasons why I love the window seat!

Exploring Grotto Canyon

With the crisp winter chill in the air and impending snow on the horizon, I’ve been reminiscing about warm summer days and breezy autumn afternoons – an afternoon hike in particular. Like any well organized individual, I had a summer bucket list. Hiking was the last remaining and after my recent hike in the mountains I was finally able to cross that off the list as well (even if it is technically not summer anymore).

I tagged along with my roommate on a recent Saturday morning and after throwing on our hiking clothes and grabbing bottles of water, we took off down the highway to a spot surrounded by the mountains. Taking us just about an hour and a half to complete, this was a pretty easy hike that is also suitable for families wanting to take their children along. Parking is available at the start of the trail at Grotto Pond; washrooms available as well (after just over an hour’s drive and a lot of tea drinking on the way, this was a glorious discovery. No squatting in the bush for us that day!)

After navigating through the trees and up a few inclines, we reached the canyon. From there on out it involved a combination of hopping over the streams, going from boulder to boulder, and most of the walking is on loose stones.

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Grotto Pond

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The canyon walls tower above as you make your way through. If you’re a rock or ice-climbing enthusiast, this is a popular place to do both of these depending on the season. Another unique part of this particular hike is the Indigenous pictographs that can still be seen on one of the canyon walls. Pictographs of people and animals can be clearly seen if you know where to look (a mother-daughter team pointed them out to us) and are said to be between 500-1000 years old. You can make out the images in red below, what looks like a canoe in the top photo and 3-4 people in the bottom photo.

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The end of the hike is marked by a little waterfall running down from the top of the canyon walls. You can choose to climb up the rocks near the top of the waterfall or you can just admire it from the base before turning around and making your way back the way you came. The waterfall is also a good place to take a rest and have a little picnic! However, if you want to keep going the canyon does continue on to the left. We chose to end it at the waterfall but I would definitely go back and continue on my way.

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Grotto Canyon proved to be a fun little outing on a warm autumn day and we thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and feeling so at ease after clearing our minds and connecting with nature. I would say that the only off-putting thing about this hike is that the start is located right next to the Baymag plant, which processes magnesium-carbonate. It’s not really a sight you want to be seeing when you want to be surrounded by nature and in the fresh air. All in all, this is an easy 4km hike to do, doesn’t take too much time, and has some nice views. If you plan on taking the trails during the winter months, please be aware that the canyon will be covered in a thick layer of ice and snow and it is highly recommended that you wear adequate footwear to prevent slipping.

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When Your Love of the World is Stronger than Your Desire to Love a Person

“I don’t know where I am going,
but I am on my way.”
-Carl Sagan

Every time I check my news feed I am bombarded with couples madly in love with each other. There are engagement announcements, girls showing off the new diamonds on their ring finger, wedding dates, pregnancy announcements and baby photos. I realize that the age I am now is a perfectly acceptable age to get married and have kids… but that is the farthest thing from my mind. Hell, I can’t even commit to a relationship without my brain piping in and asking “what’s the point?” Having my brain dictate this part of my life is unusual for me. I’m an overly emotional person, I react and make choices based on my feelings about things and what my heart tells me, not my brain. In a way I am following my heart in this area of my life as well, it’s just that my heart always takes me away from possible relationships and further into the parts of the world I have yet to experience.

My poor parents are desperate for me to fall in love, settle down, and find someone to share my life with. Sure, that sounds nice but it also sounds terrifying to be trapped in a life with one single person, to have to consider that they might miss you if you want to get up and go to another country for months at a time, that your love for the world might trump your love for them. People constantly ask “why are you still single?” “haven’t you met someone yet?” “aren’t you lonely?” or suggest that my standards are too high. It’s not that I haven’t had the chance for love to happen, it’s not that I haven’t had the opportunity to get into a relationship with someone, it’s that there is always a reason not to and that reason, almost every time, is travel. And no, I’m not lonely thank-you-very-much.  As an introverted person to begin with, I rarely get lonely. I can spend days by myself and enjoy every second of it and I’m thankful for that. It makes these decisions a lot easier than it might be for someone else.

I have met men that make me stop and re-evaluate things. I think that maybe I should give it a chance, maybe they would make the perfect partner, maybe something great could come out of this. But then I remember I’m leaving again in a few months time and that I’ll be leaving again and again until one day I’m gone for years at a time on my quest to see the world. The pull to travel is what fuels me in every aspect of my life and I don’t think that they fully grasp what that means. I am constantly coming and going and that is simply not fair to any man that loves me. Until I feel so strongly that I need to be with someone, I will always put travel first. Some may call that selfish but that’s just the way it is and how it will continue to be until one day, I’ve felt that I’ve seen and done all that I wanted to see and do.

There will come a time for settling, for committing to a relationship that’s longer than a couple of months, for nesting and children, a nostalgia-inducing spot in your city that is “your place”. But for now, I like being independent and free to go wherever I please, whenever I please. I enjoy being able to watch my friend’s kids and then -hallelujah- give them back! I like the possibility of living in another city six months down the road. I like waking up to the different sounds that make up a beach town, or a village, an elephant sanctuary or a bustling city. I like falling in love over and over again with sunsets in different parts of the world. I like the connections, freedom, and spontaneous moments that traveling brings. That is the life for me right now and that is the life that I love. That is where my heart truly lies. I am certain that there are more young women who feel the same way and that is okay. We shouldn’t have to apologize for it or explain it to those who don’t understand. I for one refuse to apologize for where my heart is taking me when it feels so right.

Beautiful Images from a Not So Beautiful Place

“Break the rules and you go to prison,
break the prison rules and you go to
Alcatraz,”
- Author Unknown

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We’ve all heard of Alcatraz. A prison located on a very small island off the San Francisco Bay, where there was no chance of escape and if you did, then you had the sea to battle next.  A prison that housed the likes of Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Mickey Cohen. Walking through, the cells are tiny and dismal and the entire prison has a harsh feeling to it compared to modern day prisons.

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The best room of the place was easily the kitchen, where it’s said that prisoners were served the best food in the entire United States prison system. Not only that, but they had a small glimpse of the freedom that was just beyond those walls.

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Another hazy view of a distant San Francisco skyline that could be seen from peering out of one of the small windows, now gritty with dirt.

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Alcatraz has a history that began with Native Americans who used the island to collect bird eggs from the many birds that called the island home. From there, it became the defense location to protect San Francisco during the Civil War, was used as a military prison and finally became the Alcatraz prison that it is most famous for today. Despite it’s largely war and criminal related history, the location of this prison is unlike any other. From outside of the prison walls there is a beautiful view in each direction that you turn.

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The remnants of what used to be the warden’s house and the lighthouse.

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Spray River Horseback Ride

“This is Brew,” is your only introduction to the animal being handed to you and you quickly begin to become acquainted to the gelding you’re about to spend an hour with and trust to take you safely through the muddy trails. One foot snugly in the stirrup, it’s a familiar feeling to swing your other leg up and over until you’re seated up on the horse’s back.

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Last weekend I took a day trip to Banff with a friend and the highlight of the whole thing was easily the horseback riding. Banff Adventures offer a number of different rides, from one hour up to an entire six days back country ride! With just a day to do as much as we could, we opted for the one hour rides. With a brief speech on what to do for those who had never been on a horse, we were off.

The landscape in Banff is stunning; sitting up there surrounded by mountains in every direction makes you realize just how small you really are. Through muddy trails between the trees, we made our way past onlooking tourists and let the horses wind their way into the bush. As we rode, I remembered why I loved horseback riding in the first place. Although it’s hard to tell with just an hour on a strange horse, the connection you can make with a horse is beautiful and life changing. With nothing but trust and understanding between a horse and rider, it’s an unstoppable feeling.

It didn’t feel like long before our guide stopped us to tell us about the river that we would soon be crossing. As the horses stepped carefully through the crystal clear water, the sound of clip-clopping hooves filled the air and everyone’s faces were filled with big smiles and bright eyes.

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The view of Banff Falls enraptured us all as our horses came around the corner. The waterfall and the river below it sparkled in the day’s sunshine. (Sorry for the bad quality photos, all I had was my phone, one hand, and a horrified thought that I might drop it into the river to be stepped on by Brew.)

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Our ride took us through forest trails, across rivers, alongside a golf course, and next to a waterfall. The hour went by so quickly that I felt we had only just begun when we made our way back to the meeting point. This just means that next time, I’ll have to go for a few more hours ;) This ride is suitable for ages 6 and over and all levels of horseback riding experience. Although sadly you’re not allowed to go any faster than a walk. I was tempted to take Brew on a little gallop, but I didn’t think the guides would take too kindly to that!

So You’ve Got a Reaaallly Long Flight… Now What?!

“When you get into an airplane by yourself and take off,
you find yourself in this lovely, three-dimensional world
where you can go in any direction. There is no
feeling any more exciting than that,”
- Gene Roddenberry

The harsh reality of travel (for some) is that it can quite literally take days to arrive at your destination, even by plane. For those on a budget, this is even more of a reality in which you end up having to take a plane, bus, and donkey just to get from one city to another in order to save a couple dollars. Even without all of the transportation switch-ups, it can take a 24 hour flight to get from, say, Canada to Australia. So you’ve decided where you want to go and that no amount of distance can stop you. Congratulations! You won’t regret it, but there are a few things you can do to make the travel time a little better.

1. Stay hydrated!
It can be easy to forget to drink when you’re on a flight because you’re not particularly exerting yourself. Take advantage of those little cups of water that come around every so often, but also try to bring a larger amount of water for yourself. We should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day and it makes all the difference. Once you land, your skin won’t appear so dull and tired as it might feel.

Also, carry facial wipes to wipe your face on the flight. This will remove excess dirt and oil from the day and it’s just better for your skin to breath without makeup blocking up your pores.

2. Dress for comfort.
I’m always one to dress for comfort on planes. Leggings, a comfy top, a sweater in case it gets chilly (and it always does!). A scarf makes for an excellent accessory to use as a cushion for your head or blanket to keep warm.

Wear clothes that allow your body to sit comfortably, to fall asleep in without snagging, squeezing, or being generally annoying.

Pick shoes that are easy to slip on and off. If you’re on a long flight, slipping off your shoes is wonderful.

If you can dress for comfort and style at the same time, then do it! It will help you look and feel a little more put together after sitting around for 10+ hours, in and out of sleep.

3. Move around.

Try not to stay seated the entire time. This can lead to sore muscles, stiff joints, and a numb butt. Stand up, walk around, do a few simple stretched to get your limbs loose and your blood flowing.

4. Entertainment

There is nothing worse than being stuck on a 10 hour flight with no form of entertainment. Not all aircrafts come with TVs on the seats (you may want to check for this when booking a flight). Other forms of entertainment include books, ipads/tablets, games on your phone, music, pen and paper if you like to draw or write, and of course the tried and true… CARDS! Pull out a deck of cards and be friendly, chat with the person sitting next to you (as long as they’re not trying to sleep).

5. Make your meal requests beforehand.

If you have specific dietary concerns (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, allergies, etc.), its important to mention this before the flight. Usually you are able to do this during the booking process and thankfully most airlines are accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions or preferences.

6. Opt for food that is light and healthy prior to boarding.

You don’t want to be stuck in close proximity to a bunch of other passengers with your stomach feeling like it’s been loaded full of rocks.

7. Try to sleep.

If I will be arriving to my destination during the evening, then I usually do my best to stay awake for as much of the flight as I can. This helps me pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow at my accommodation.

If you’re arriving during the day, it’s important to try and sleep during your flight. Both of these suggestions help to reduce jet lag. To help get you to sleep, I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and some ear plugs. These are incredibly useful on the flight and if you are staying in shared accommodations like hostels.

What I wouldn’t suggest bringing is a blow up pillow that wraps around your neck. They really aren’t that great and it’s just an added thing to have to carry around with you afterwards.

Some travelers opt for sleeping pills to help them nod off. Melatonin is a more natural sleeping aide that has helped me in the past. I’ve also used Ambien on my flight home from Thailand, which was a little miracle. However, I probably wouldn’t take any type of sleeping aides on my first long-haul flight unless I knew how my body reacted to them already.

8. Handle Turbulence and Nausea.

Not only does turbulence make some folks jittery, it can also cause nausea. Again, refrain from eating fatty foods before the flight. Excess fat plus turbulence can lead to stomach troubles. Same goes for carbonated and alcoholic drinks.

Picking a seat in the middle of the plane, by the wing, will result in feeling less turbulence than sitting in the far back or front.

Ginger pills are a natural option for preventing nausea. Take them before take-off and landing.

Practicing some deep breathing exercises can also help clear your mind and calm your body.

9. Relax :)

You can’t change the circumstances of your flight. Accept this, sit back and relax. Don’t forget, there is bottle service for those who like to have an alcoholic beverage or two. Try not to drink too much though, as you can end up feeling even more exhausted after a flight thanks to the alcohol dehydrating your body. There is always a journey to be had before arriving to your destination so you might as well try and enjoy it.

Do you have any other helpful ways to make a long flight better?

Lazy Summer Afternoons

With being caught in between school years with not much cash to spare, it’s been a mission this summer to do a few things around my own city that I might not take the time to do otherwise. With a trusty best friend by my side, we decided to take a day or two to hit up some of the parks in our city.

First up was Whitemud Ravine, a place where you can go to get the feel of being surrounded by nature but still be in the middle of a city. The ravine has excellent walking and biking trails that are accessible any time of year.

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Park benches are scattered throughout the ravine where you can rest and take in a pretty view.

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And we happened to come across a friend in our wandering who was keen to eat grass from my hands.

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A blazing hot day brought about our next set of urban park adventures. Armed with all the necessities required for an afternoon of suntanning, we made our way to Hermitage Park. Located in the north of the city, Hermitage has paved paths that eventually connect to Rundle Park.

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Here, you can rent out a canoe and take a paddle on the large pond. If fishing is your thing, family fishing is allowed in the pond and you can have some fun trying to catch the rainbow trout that are kept in there. For those of us with dogs, there’s an off-leash dog area where your furry friend is free to run, jump and play to their hearts content. It’s also a great place to get a group of people together for a fire and a cook-up of food on one of the barbecues scattered around the park.

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As we had come fully prepared to do nothing more than take a walk around the park and scope out the best place to lay around for the day, we finally found ourselves with a meadow entirely for ourselves. Surrounded by trees, we had all the privacy we could hope for and a view of the pond ahead. Thoroughly pleased with our find, we spread out all that was needed for a lazy afternoon in the park and welcomed the sun with open arms.

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The Real Devonian Gardens

This might sound like a repeat post, like you’ve read the name Devonian Gardens somewhere around here before. And you did, right here. But there are two Devonian Gardens in Alberta, apparently. One nestled on the top floor of a shopping mall (which is a great escape from the winter blues) and one that is located just outside of Devon, AB that greatly exceeds the size of the one I’ve previously talked about. The Devonian Botanical Gardens have been around since 1959 and cover a whopping 240 acres. Whether you prefer flowers or plants, a space that is polished and manicured or one that is left a little more wild, you’ll have a chance to pass through it all in an afternoon here.

One of the most popular areas of the garden is the very well kept Japanese Garden, with its rushing water, vast expanses of green lawn and still ponds. Walking through it makes me want to jump into a yoga sequence or sit on the edge of a rock and meditate.

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But don’t forget to take a stroll through the butterfly house on your way there. Kept hot and humid, stepping into the butterfly house feels like you’re walking into the tropics. Butterflies of all sizes and colors float through the air, flitting from one flower to the next and resting on giant leaves. This is definitely one of my favorite parts of the gardens, not only to imagine myself being in the tropics but also because if you have the patience to stand very still, very quiet, for a fair amount of time, you might just have a butterfly land on you!

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As we were with my great grandma, who can’t walk quite the distance she used to, we opted to try out the guided tour of the gardens. Led by a chipper girl who clearly loved her job, we hopped on board the train of golf carts and began a journey through the history of a place that is over half a century old. While I prefer walking through a place so I can get a little snap happy, the guided tour was extremely educational and quite a good idea if you like knowing what you’re looking at as opposed to simply admiring the beauty.

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Calla Water

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If you are taking a stroll through the property, there’s even an area that is built to satisfy more than human sight. Guests are encouraged to touch and even taste the herbs and plants that grow in these areas!

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The gardens make for a peaceful afternoon of wandering about, admiring pretty things, taking children frog catching. You can visit on a Thursday evening for a designated date night with a special someone or group of friends and can even use it for elaborate events such as large or small weddings.

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: Temple on the Hill.

If there is one temple everyone tells you to go to in Chiang Mai it is the one located on Doi Suthep, the mountain just on the edge of the city. After a winding, uphill ride to the base of the temple, you’re still not quite there yet. Pass the many stalls offering you an assortment of trinkets to purchase and make your way to the 309 stairs (or take the tram for a small fee).

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This temple attracts foreign tourists, local Thais, as well as monks and other Thai nationals from other cities. One of the pieces that you will see once you enter the pagoda is a statue of a white elephant. The albino elephant is rare and is historically held in high regard by Thai people. It is said that a monk once had a vision telling him to go to a certain spot to find a relic. What he found there was a bone. Some even say that this was the shoulder bone of Buddha.

The monk took the bone to a northern city in Thailand, where it apparently broke in two. One piece of this bone was put on the back of a white elephant by a king and the elephant was sent off. The story goes that this white elephant climbed up Doi Suthep where he let out three trumpets before dying. The king took this as a sign and thus, built what is now Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

 

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When I visited, there was a monk and a shaman who were sitting in a temple and blessing the string bracelets (Sai Sin bracelet) that many travelers to Thailand come to know. These string bracelets are blessed by monks in Thai ceremonies and those who wear them are brought good luck – in travels, in their endeavors, health, success, and even wealth when blessed over a pile of money. They tell you not to cut these bracelets and either untie them or allow them to fall off, for cutting them diminishes all the luck they are meant to bring.

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This is also the temple where I was taught by a visiting monk how to pray.

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As you walk around the temple, you will notice a few areas where you can sit, relax, and take in the beautiful views of Chiang Mai that can be seen from both sides of the pagoda. Whether you are in Chiang Mai for a day or a week, this temple is one of the most beautiful in the area.

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Sunday Snapshot: Alberta Prairies

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Today’s snapshot features a photo from home, taken on a country road just outside of Edmonton. The more I travel the more I find that I appreciate where I come from. Nothing beats the Alberta prairies, yellow fields as far as you can see and wide open blue sky. Driving down those back roads always calms the mind and gives you a beautiful view like this one. You might even find yourself slamming on the breaks to jump out of your car and lay down on the road to snap a photo (watch for cars!) ;)