Live Each Day Like It's Your Last
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
While I have yet to find a way to walk through walls, turn invisible or have the strength to lift a Panzer VIII Maus, I have uncovered a way to fly like a bird above the Costa Rican rain forest for only 45 US dollars!
Straddling the Continental Divide at 1440 meters (4662 ft), the Monteverde Cloud Forest area offers one of the most interesting place to visit in Costa Rica. The forest is boosting with over 2,500 species of plants (including 450 kinds of orchids), 450 species of birds and innumerable reptiles and mammals, including: jaguars, tapirs, coatis, toucans, sloths, agoutis, howler monkeys, tarantulas, poison dart frogs and the famous resplendent quetzal. Within the immense flora, and fauna and situated high up in the tree tops, lies an exciting offering where you can fly above the forest and through the clouds on Costa Rica's premiere canopy experience.
The adventure begins with the canopy guides harnessing you with the all the appropriate equipment and going over all of the safety procedures. Then you're off to the first of 13 cables and 16 platforms assembled up to 150 feet above the forest floor - sufferers of Acrophobia beware! As if that isn't enough, there is a surprise at the end of this adventure; but more about that later.
Climbing up to the first platform is an overwhelming experience. The first emotion you may encounter is fear as the platform tends to make relatively loud creaking noises that intensify the higher up you get. The smell from endless vegetation lingers in the air. The restricted air movement combined with the high altitude is enough to make your body work harder than usual to get oxygen deep into the lungs. But, the view from the top of the platform is enough make you want to sell all your positions back home and relocate to this newfound utopia.
You can choose to fly solo or opt for "taxi service," meaning one of the guide will go along with you for the ride. As soon as you are strapped to the cable, the guide will tell you hold on to the line with your stronger arm for balance and speed control. Your other arm is used to balance your weight by holding on to the center strap that connects you to the cable. After you're strapped in, you have approximately three seconds to reconsider before you are forced to take the plunge. Stepping off the platform is the hardest part because after that, there is no turning back. You quickly pick up speed as you fly over tree tops and into the clouds. As the wind brushes across your face and forest floor comes and goes, you feel liberated. As you soar through the sky, your depiction of freedom takes on a whole new meaning.
Twelve cables and fifteen platforms later, you come face to face with the last and most exciting cable of all. Stretching one kilometer, it is the longest in the country and has you flying at 50 kilometers an hour. You are required to partner up for this one, as the weight of two people is necessary to get from one side of the cable to the other. Having someone else with you makes the journey that much more special because no mater how many times you try to explain this experience, there really are no words.
Oh, and the surprise at the end...a tarazan swing of course! Check it out:
Thursday, May 6, 2010
In 1986, commerical whaling was banned worldwide. It was thought to be one of the most monumental and iconic conservation victories of the twentith century. Since the moratorium passed, however, Japan, Iceland and Norway have still killed roughly 30,000 whales. They hide the illegality of these killings under the guise of "scientific research." The killings are brutal and unnecessary.
And now, on the 22nd of April, the International Whaling Commission has announced a draft proposal that would legalize commerical whaling for the first time in two decades. The proposal will be voted upon in June. What is even more frightening is that the U.S has voiced support for the dangerous new proposal, claiming that it has potential to rein in the annual killings currently defying the international law. Sounds likely doesn't it? May as well build a fortress out of toothpicks and masking tape. Before the illegalization of whaling, roughly 38,000 whales were killed every year, driving the species near to extinction. This bill, should it pass, would do nothing more to save the whales than to breath the life into an otherwise dying industry.
Doesn't it seem archaic? The whole thing? Doesn't it seem strange that whaling hasn't been stopped completely by now? What with the new discovery of this specie's intelligence?
In 2006, a study conducted by the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (long name) in investigating the brains of these mysterious creatures, found the presence of a spindle cell. Spindle cells, until recently, were thought to only live in humans and great apes, making it possible to experience love, attachment, self-reflection, grief. Furthermore, the cells were found in the same area of the brain (anterior cinfulate cortex and frontoinsular cortex) that regulates functions such as social organisation, empathy, speech, self-reflection. And not only that, whales may have up to three times as many of these cells as humans and have been developing them for 30 million years, nearly twice as long as humans.
It quickly becomes apparent, when you kill a whale it feels it on a physical, mental, social and emotional level. And likewise, its offspring and friends feel the loss.
This bill should not pass. It is a step in the wrong direction. I urge you to tell your friends so as to bring more awareness to this issue. Click on the link below and encourage Prez Obama to vote no on the legalization of commerical banning. Put an End to Commerical Whaling
And if you haven't heard about the Sea Shepherd Conservation, you should check them out. They sail somewhere between activism and piratism.
Friday, April 16, 2010
I have a very cool new layout that I am excited to present to you all. The new site will be live hopefully in the upcoming month. In the meantime, I will continue to post here.
The new blog will include videos of my travels including the documentary that my boyfriend Siya and I filmed in Peru a few summers ago. It will also feature travel articles from myself and other travelers alike. I am starting to focus more on the people I have met from my travels who have inspired me in some way. I will also be focusing more unique experience that tie in with culture and adventure. Lastly, I will write about the most amazing accomidations I have had the chance to stay at during my travels.
If anyone has any ideas of the types of stories they would like to hear about, don't hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to know interests and inspires YOU!
(The above photo was taking while I was zip lining in Paraguay, South America)
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Peru is an exceptionally stunning country with outstanding landscape and beautiful people. I had some pretty wild experiences during the thirty days that I spent traveling throughout the country. I hiked the Lares Trek to Machu Pichu, visited the islands of Lake Titicaca, spent the night with a Quechua tribe, ate guinea pig, spotted pink dolphins in the Amazon river and suffered from gastroenteritis - twice! Yet, these experiences do not compare to the couple of days that my partner Siya and I spent with a very special Peruvian family.
Siya and I, had asked a friend if he could introduce us to a Peruvian family that has a story to tell. Our friend told us about a family of eight made up of a mother, father and six children under the age of eighteen. Little did we know that this family would make us evaluate the definition of happiness and what it takes to achieve such a state of mind. During the drive through the family's neighborhood, Siya and I made a mutual prediction that this was going to be a experience like no other. We were surrounded by houses made of metal scraps, leaves and dried lava. Children with protruding belly's were running barefoot though the streets selling pieces of gum for whatever change they could get.
When we arrived at the house of the family, we were welcomed by the mother, her two youngest daughters and youngest son. They all had smiles on their face and sparkles in their eyes. With little hesitation, they hugged us and gave the traditional kiss on the cheek. We were led by the mother into into what would classify as a backyard. The backyard consisted of a dirt floor covered with toys belonging to the children. However, these were not the same toys that children in Canada beg their parents for. There toy collection was made up of old batteries, broken barbie dolls heads, pieces of plastic, wood and rocks. The toilet was located in the backyard. It was broken, rusted and barely hidden behind a piece of wood. There was no privacy and only a shallow hole in the ground for the feces to go. As Siya and I observed our surroundings, the mother called out to her husband to come and greet us. At first there was no response, but with a little perseverance from the mother, a very nervous and petite man walked out to the backyard. After a nod of the head and very weary smile, he went into a small dark room just around the corner from where we were standing. Following behind her husband, the mother lead us into the room. The family had constructed the room themselves from metal scraps, mud, dry lava and dried leaves. This room was their main living space. The room consisted of two small beds made of wood and covered in raggedy clothing. This is where both parents and their three daughters slept as well as kept all of their personal items. To the left of the entrance was a large pile of old dirty clothing. To the right were two chairs and a small rectangular table. Everything in this room was all the family owned and had been collected over several years. Just outside the room was a small space where the mother cooked and another small room where her three sons slept. The kitchen consisted of an old pot, a place to create an open fire and a larger rock which she used to cut food when necessary.
While Siya and I took a look around the kitchen, the father came out behind us with his smallest daughter Precia and a smile on his face. Precia is the youngest child of the family and was born without the ability to walk. If given a simple operation, she would be given the chance to walk, but the family does not have the sufficient funds to pay for such a thing. The father explained to Siya and I that living in extreme poverty has been a reality for this family for generations. From the look on his face, I could tell he knew Siya and I are sincere people with a genuine interest in learning about his family and their story.
Siya and I both brought our video cameras along to document the experience, not really knowing what to expect. The kids were especially fascinated with our cameras and loved to see themselves on the display screen. One of the girls who developed an attachment to Siya and I from the very beginning told us that she dreams of being a film maker just like us when she grows up. Throughout the day, we had a chance to talk one-on-one with each member of the family. They each told us about their daily struggle to find food and water, take care of each other and hopes for a brighter future. The mother explained to us that in order to get clean drinking water, she had to walk two kilometers with Precia on her back; and this was only when the family had enough money to afford it. The water cost more money in this part of the city because it is "inconvenient" for the water trucks to the deliver the water to the tanks. With great enthusiasm and determination in her voice, the mother explained her hopes for her children to be able to live a different life then what she has known. She wants them to have the opportuinty to get a good education and become anything they wish to be. Although the family explained their struggles, they focused more on what they do have and their undenying love for each other and life. Siya and I felt overwhelmed with the family's determination, passion, motivation and love for life and each other that they all had. They had so little yet, they focused on expressing their content and appreciation for what they did have. They did not have many materialistic things, but they had love for one another and a desire to break out of the cycle of poverty that their family has always known. The family offered Siya and I the little food they had because they wanted us to feel welcome and happy. The whole afternoon and evening was spent laughing and playing.
This family is like none I have ever met. They have a zest for life that is inspiring. The family welcomed us into their home with open arms and in one day taught us the true meaning of happiness. Where many people believe that money is the leading factor to happiness, the family taught us that happiness is about family, friendship, nature and simplicity. We left the family at the end of the day feeling extremely overwhelmed. We had three more weeks ahead of us to explore Peru, but all we could think about was the family.
After seeing condors flying, monkey's playing, peaceful islands, floating villages, breathtaking landscapes and one of the wonders of the world, we were still very emotionally affected from the family we met. During the last few days of our journey, we decided to visit the family one more time before our return to Canada. During our drive back to their neighborhood, Siya and I put together a small photo album of the pictures we took of the family. Upon our arrival, we saw each member of the family digging a trench for a water pipeline along the road. They were very excited to see us! We surprised them with the photo album and they were extremely grateful as these were the first photos of themselves that they had ever seen. We learned that all eight of them had been digging the trench for twelve hours and would only earn a total of what is equivalent to three Canadian dollars. That is only half the amount of what it costs to buy a gallon of clean drinking water. We also learned that for years they had been saving up money to get a pipeline in their house, so they would no longer need to walk far to get clean water. After years of saving, they only has saved a quarter of what it would cost. With six growing children and an unsteady source of income, it would take many more years for the family to be able to afford a water pipeline in their home. In order to have the water pipe line connected to their house, it would cost the equivalent to 60 Canadian dollars.
Siya and I knew that we needed to help this family. We put together all of the money we had in our wallets and it equaled the exact balance of what it would cost the family for the pipeline. Siya and I took the mother aside and discretely handed her the money. We told her that we wanted her to have it so that her family would have access to what all living beings should have the right to - clean water. The moment we handed her the money, is one of the moments I will never forget. The mother covered her face and broke down crying. She was speechless for words but managed to get out "bless you and thank you." At that moment, I felt so grateful for having the chance to do something that seemed so little but would ultimately change their life.
A few months upon our return to Canada, I received an email from our local friend who had introduced Siya and I to the family. It was an email containing pictures of the mother of the family standing in front of her house with the largest smile on her face. She was bend over a well with a bucket filled with clean water. They now had access unlimited drinking water. This small act of kindness has changed the family's life and has definitely changed mine.
**Since we met this family, Siya and I have sent school supplies and toys down with friends to deliver to the family . Also, all proceeds we have raised in the past two years from every purchase of our documentary has gone towards this family. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please contact me at email@example.com**
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Started in 1995 by an English woman called Wendy and her Ghanaian partner Seto, Big Milly's a is beach resort that has a good mix of foreigners and locals. As soon as I arrived at Big Milly's, I was welcomed with good vibes and a peaceful atmosphere. The place is home to countless coconut trees among many other exotic plants, animal and bird species. Depending on your budget, or if space permits, there are several rooming options for you to choose from. There are a variety of unique huts and cottages that are each equipped with fans and thatched roofs to keep you cool. Most cottages are self contained while others share toilets and shower facilities. The shower water is used by the plants so should be used wisely. Those with a smaller budget and desire to try a different style of accommodation can stay in an outside dorm consisting of a few mattresses draped with mosquito nets, lined up on a wooden platform under the star filled sky. Not bad for $4 a night.
My time here stands out from any other experience I had in Ghana because Big Milly's has everything to offer a traveler interested in culture, beauty and relaxation. Equipped with a fabulous restaurant, variety of vendors, a happening 24 hour bar, drumming and dance lessons, fruit stands, book swap, massage center, wonderful people, a beautiful beach and live music, this place is what I classify as a traveler's wonderland. But what truly makes this place memorable is how everyone feels like family. The best way to experience this sense of community, is celebrating a Friday or Saturday night here. As the sun goes down, reggae and high life rhythms fill the air and attract town's people and travelers alike to Big Milly's Backyard. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh covers initiates crowd sing-a-long's and friendly dance offs. True Rastafaris smoking “ganja” slowly sway to the feelgood beats while local children run through the crowd to join in on the festivities. There is a garden gate that opens onto a long sandy beach that is clean and safe for swimming during the day and used as a dance floor at night. The beer is cheap and the entertainment goes until sunrise. Disco lights? No need! The immense amount of stars that pierce the sky add the finishing touch to a perfect setting.
After dancing until sunrise, I slept for a few hours before heading to the restaurant for a mouth-watering brunch. The elevated restaurant, which overlooks the sea, serves delicious food including traditional Ghanaian dishes at a very affordable cost. After consuming every last bit of my homemade yogurt topped with tropical fruit and banana pancakes, I walked down to the beach where I curiously watched the local fisherman haul a very long fishnet onto shore that was filled with various types of sea creatures. As the men pulled in the net, local women and children came to the beach to collect their share of fish. With fairly large bowls balanced on their heads, the women and children never fought over the fish, but shared the catch equally among themselves. This was more proof that this is a very close knit community that helps and supports one another. While helping a few children pull fish from the net, they warned me to stay away from the long snake like fish, as they were very poisonous. This kind warning was followed by the youngest child picking up a crab the size of his head and shoving it only a couple mileometers from my face. This sent a contagious laughter amongst the other children and eventually myself. This is when I looked around, took a deep breath and became overwhelmed with how lucky I was to be part of this moment. I was so far away from my family and friends in Canada, yet I felt so at home. This community and the people in it really captured my heart, and I knew then that it wouldn't be long before I returned back to this wonderful place.
Feel the love!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
“Why tell your grandkids you worked 9-5, five days a week for 40 years and quietly sat in traffic jams while people went to war, suffered disease and shot their own classmates? Tell them you refused to live in fear. Tell them you crossed the Amazon, saw the Lost Cities of Gold and met your soul mate in Casablanca. Travel to the ends of the earth. Go now and live adventures that will make your grandkids proud.”
(Courtesy of an inspirational postcard Travel Writer and Word Travels Host Julia Dimon found at a dingy backpacker bar in Byron Bay, Australia)
** You can check out Julia's website here: http://www.traveljunkiejulia.com **