Sunday, 29 May 2011

A travel destination where I love the food

30 Day Travel Challenge
Day 6 - A travel destination where I love the food

It's really hard to choose just one. I've honestly enjoyed the cuisine in every city I've ever visited. I even started to enjoy kimchi towards the end of my Korean adventure.

I love eating food in Asia, though. For the most part, menus are designed with portion sizes meant to be shared among people. I like that about Asian culture. Eating food is a chance for people to share a meal and share stories together. I remember ordering these awesome lunch sets with my friends B and C after shopping trips in Seoul. We would go to Insadong, to this quaint little traditional Korean restaurant and order this great seafood spread for about $30, split three ways. Such an awesome memory.

Check out Sorry, Donald! for a snippet of my food adventure in the ROK.

Image courtesy of Google Images

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A travel destination that reminds me of someone

30 Day Travel Challenge
Day 5 - A travel destination that reminds me of someone

Yikes! How can a place remind you of just one person? Well, unless you associate that place with an experience you shared together. Hmm... Nope. I'm not going to go there. Not now. Not ever. Instead, I'll tell you about a destination that reminds me of a number of people.

My mother comes from a beautiful village in Goa called Loutolim. I spent the first year of my life in this village, until we moved to the big city. However, almost every weekend we would go back to visit and spend quality time catching up with relatives. I have such fond memories from those times.

This village has become a tourist destination in Goa in recent years, but back when I was growing up, it was quaint, and oh so quiet! It was my oasis. My haven and security blanket from all the problems in the world outside it.

Thinking about this destination will always remind me of my family. Loved ones have come and gone through it over the years, but when I think about this space, I'm always comforted.

The big, old house with the heavy wooden doors and 16 steps leading up to the porch will always be etched in my memory. The image of this village (as it was), with its lush, green fields and acres of coconut trees will always bring a smile to my face.

To read a detailed account from my memory of this space, check out A speck in silence.

Saviour of the World church, built in the 16th century. Loutolim village -- Goa, India

Image courtesy of Google Images

A travel destination that makes me sad

30 Day Travel Challenge
Day 4 - A travel destination that makes me sad

One of my first trips outside Canada was to Cuba in 2007. I did an all inclusive vacation with a few friends after graduating from university, and was quite looking forward to seven days of sun, sand and cerveza.

However, the novelty of a resort-style vacation wore off on me after a day or so, and I got antsy to travel outside Varadero. I told a couple of friends about a day-trip to Havana, and together we agreed to visit the city. So off we went with our tour guide to visit the post-colonial heart of Cuba. And boy, was I in for a big surprise.

I should start off by saying Cuba is one of the most culturally rich and warm countries I've ever had the fortune of visiting. I felt as though a samba/reggaeton soundtrack followed me wherever I went. It can't be helped -- that's just how it goes down in Cuba!

My trip to Havana was an eyeopener, however. What got to me was the every day reality of people who lived and worked in this country. One of my first stops in Havana was at this old church. I remember walking in and falling in love with the beautiful architecture and ambiance right away. But when I stepped on the porch to get a view of the outside, I came face to face with a group of young women -- each about 5-8 months pregnant, and each holding an ultrasound of their unborn child against their bellies, while begging for money. I was shocked. It was the first time I had come close to such blatant poverty (outside of India), and I wasn't sure how to react.

As I talked to some of the workers back on the resort, I quickly found out that ideal and fulfilling jobs didn't include that of doctors, engineers and lawyers (as it seems to in most developed/developing countries). Instead, people yearn for jobs in tourism -- working on resorts as servers, cleaners and receptionists. Everyone else just kind of... is.

Apparently the reason for this is because people who work in tourism make more money than those who work locally, doing the everyday jobs. The hospitality and tourism industry in Cuba allows the workers exposure to life outside the island. Tourists bring in dollars, which are handed out as tips, and other luxury items that most people aren't privy to... (you know, because of the 'everything is equal' (not really!) communist climate).

Anyway, needless to say this broke my heart and made me quite sad. Yes, healthcare and education is cheap (if not free) throughout the country, but it's so sad that people can only rise to a certain level, regardless of how hard they work.

A friend who spoke to a cab driver in Varadero provided some insight. He told her that if he thinks about it, it makes him upset. But the reality is that most people on the island don't know of life and the luxuries outside their borders. So they're content, and that's that.

I suppose I understand it, but it still makes me sad when I think about it. I'll never forget those women outside the church, and I can only hope that they and their children are doing alright.

Inside the old church in the heart of Havana, Cuba -- May, 2007

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A travel destination that makes me happy

30 Day Travel Challenge
Day 3 - A travel destination that makes me happy

Without a doubt, the one place where I've been happiest so far is in Goa, India. I grew up there as a child, and visited it again in 2008. Goa agrees with me and I feel in harmony with it -- the pulse, the culture, the lifestyle and the pace. I know it's changed a lot since I was a child in terms of politics and the economy. However, everything from the vast coastlines to the acres of palm trees and tropical breezes just soothes my soul.

I remember I had this moment during my last visit, where I was standing on the shores of Benaulim beach. My feet were sinking into the wet sand while I watched a jet ski take off into a sunset so vibrant, it looked like the skyline had been splattered in hues of gold, yellow and orange. And I remember this awesome smile creep up through my face so easily. In fact, just the memory of it brings an instant smile to my face.

So yes, Goa is definitely a travel destination that makes me happy.

Here are some posts from my trip in 2008:


One of those afternoons...

A monsoon dream

Watching the sunset on Benaulim Beach in Goa, India -- May, 2008

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A travel destination where I love the culture

30 Day Travel Challenge
Day 2 - A travel destination where I love the culture

I'd have to say I really enjoy the culture in Montréal, Canada. Does it count if the city is in the same country I currently live in? There's something about Montréal that offers such a wonderful feast for the senses. I've visited this city a handful of times -- both, in the dead of winter, and in the beautiful summer months -- and have enjoyed it in equal parts.

It's amazing because this city is literally a few hours away from Toronto and Ottawa, and yet it boasts a unique culture, and seems so much more vibrant. I find the people friendlier and there's a lot more to do there as well.

Montréal is a wonderful blend of old and new, along with traces of colonial ambiances that are still present throughout the city. The culture asks you to enjoy life in all its wonder, and celebrates with food, soothing jazz music, and an abundance of wine. Can't really go wrong here, huh?

Here's a post from my most recent Montréal adventure: A bite of Montréal Love

Walking through Old Montréal, Canada - February 2011

Monday, 23 May 2011

My favourite travel destination

30 Day Travel Challenge
Day 1 - My favourite travel destination

Out of the handful of places I've visited so far, I'd have to say Thailand is one of my favourite travel destinations. I was lucky enough to backpack through this beautiful country last year, and the memories I made there still remain fresh in my mind to this day.

Everything from the lights and pulse of Bangkok to the beautiful coastal ambiance of Krabi holds a special place in my heart. I felt most alive in Thailand, and I hope to go back there again someday.

One of the most special aspects of this country is the rich culture that lends itself to adventure travel and modern tourism. Whether you're someone who enjoys trekking through jungles, walking through historical landmarks, or simply lounging on the beach, Thailand offers all that and so much more. It definitely stole a piece of my heart.

Here are three entries from my memorable Thai adventure:

Vacating Thoughts

Alive in Ayutthaya

Finding my Smile in the Land of Smiles

Photo taken on Phi Phi Island, Thailand - February 2010

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sweet Silence

I've really been looking forward to this long weekend. For those of you not in Canada, we celebrate Victoria Day this weekend and have the Monday off. It's quite likely most Canadians wouldn't be able to tell you what this holiday entails (from a national perspective, anyway), but they will tell you that it's celebrated by trips to the cottage, catching up on sleep, and if we're lucky, three glorious days of patio weather.

The weekend has been quite busy for me -- until now. And this very moment is exactly what I've been looking forward to for quite some time. I'm alone with my thoughts, Adele is playing in the background, I have a cup of tea by my side, and the sun is still shinning outside. I'm quite content.

It seems as though moments like these are hard to come by now days. And I crave them with all my senses. I'd say life, for the most part, is not only chaotic -- it's noisy! From the buzzing of mobile devices, to the news on TV, to the constant whir of cars outside, to the random homeless person screaming on the corner of the street... sometimes I just wish I could put life on mute.

But then I wonder. Because I can't get enough of other sounds... waves kissing the shore, jazz music floating in from the distance, babies laughing, wind rustling through the trees... I could hear all of these things together and still smile.

The city has always been my home, regardless of which country I've lived in. Even when I applied for a job in Korea and asked to be located by the seaside, I was placed in Seoul -- a landlocked and dense city, where the word 'silence' does not exist. And yet I can never get used to these sounds. Sometimes they overwhelm me so much, I just want to crawl into my bed and hide under the blankets in an effort to drown them out.

Silence is important. We all have to embrace it and learn to love it. Silence helps us reset. It makes our mental chaos start to organize itself and makes otherwise large tasks seem doable. If we're overwhelmed, a few moments of silence can provide perspective. And these days I feel like I need a lot of that -- perspective.

When you keep going on and on for so long, it becomes easy to forget about yourself. And I think that's one of the worst things that can happen. I'm learning quickly that as we get older, life doesn't get easier, and it certainly doesn't get any less confusing. But the one thing that needs to remain consistent (no matter how difficult it can be) is our relationship with ourselves. Because if we lose focus of that... well that's when the real trouble begins.

So here's me embracing silence and being so grateful for the quiet moments in my life. I may have been left behind in this weekend's rapture, but it's moments like these that make me quite happy to be exactly where I am.

I hope you don't fight the quiet moments in your life. Do what you love at that time. Find your silence and make it count. Do things for yourself, and watch how quickly you'll find your happy. 


Image courtesy of Google Images

Friday, 6 May 2011

Mum's the word

"What character traits did you inherit from your mother?"

One of my dear friends over at asked this question on the magazine's Facebook page this morning, and it really got me thinking. So I decided to dedicate a post to the most important lady in my life.

I've always likened myself to my mother in many ways. As a kid, it was the ultimate compliment when someone would tell her, "She looks just like you."  It was enough for me to grin like the Cheshire cat.

Physically, I have her legs, her wide, deep set eyes, the same coloured hair, and her high cheekbones. But character-wise, I think different parts of my mother resonate through me depending on the circumstances.

For one thing, my mum is a tough cookie. A warrior in every sense. She's someone who didn't have it easy from the get-go. Born third into a family of seven children (five of them brothers), my mum has always had to work for everything she has obtained in life. Arguably, when you listen to her stories, and pay attention to all that surrounds her, you might think it's not a lot... but she's someone who isn't big on materialistic things.

On almost every milestone, she asks for three gifts: peace, basic security and simple happiness. And now, in her golden years, I'd say she has those things... although, sometimes, I'm not quite sure about the latter. 

Life has definitely dealt mum a handful of rough blows, but she's battled each one with a sense of grace and dignity that I'd never be able to muster even if I was in a ballgown and stilettos. She has smiled through the joyful moments, and waltzed through the unbearable hurdles that mask themselves as surprises in life. I often wondered how she did it, but as I'm getting older, a lot of things about her are starting to make sense.

When I was a child, I wanted to protect her from all the bad in the world. As a teenager, I was revealed a set of truths that came as a blow, and I was in a constant state of confusion about family matters. I was angry one minute, happy the next, a bucket of nerves after that, and then angry all over again.

In my early 20s I began to find peace, and started to look at my mum in a new light. I'd seen all she had been through, and watched in awe as she continued to coast through life with the grace of a flower pushed around in the wind. A part of me envied her ability to let go of the past and move on. And I remember wondering if I'd ever get to that point.

Change can change you

Moving away from her and across the planet just after my 24th birthday was a huge shift in our relationship. Suddenly our spheres were separated, and we started becoming friends. For a year we talked on the phone twice a week, and e-mailed almost every day. We had things to tell each other that didn't circle around family matters and overdone issues. I started to see sides to my mother that I'd never experienced before. And I continued to grow in awe.

Coming home soon after turning 25 also marked a change. I'd grown a lot in the year away, and I started to view the world differently. Suddenly I found myself listening... for the most part anyway. There was a sense of clarity that wasn't there before, and a lot of the decisions that confused me in the past began to seem like the perfect choices.

Those days that my mother talked about when she'd say, "One day you'll understand..." are finally here. And now I find myself saying, "You're right..." a lot more. Not all the time, but definitely a lot more.

So to bring it back around to the question at the top of this post, I should say I see a lot of her traits in me... her strength, her resilience, her ability to move forward. And I'd be lucky if I make it to her age with half the grace and composure she has.

Then, there's the downside as well... her stubbornness and her ability to give people the benefit of the doubt when she should really tell them to go... suck on a lemon... or something.

I also inherited my mother's need for a cup of tea in the morning before anyone dares to have a conversation with her (or me). Rinse and repeat in the evening.

All in all, I'm learning that as time goes by, I truly am my mother's daughter. And I'm so much richer for it.

I hope you all take a moment this weekend to tell your mums, grandmas and other motherly figures in your life about how much they've impacted you. And then, make a promise to yourself to try and do this as often as you can moving forward.

Happy Mother's Day, Ma! Love you as much as you love that pasta with the spicy peppers right now. I know it will never compare... but you get the idea!


Cartoon image courtesy of Google Images

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I'm feeling...

A bunch of random and rather big things have happened internationally since my last post:

- England's Prince William married Kate Middleton in a lavish ceremony on April 29th.

- Donald Trump got trampled on by President Obama at the White House Correspondent's Dinner on April 30th.

- Osama bin Laden was killed by American SEALS on May 1st.

- Canadians literally handed Prime Minister Stephen Harper his conservative majority government on May 2nd.

This is a lot to digest.

There's way too much going on in the world right now. And while I have many thoughts just floating through my mind, currently, I simply feel like this:

And I'm hoping to do a bit of this over the weekend, to get inspired again:

So please bear with me, and I promise I'll have some awesome nuggets for you in a few days!


Images courtesy of Tumblr
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