Are the kids going?

In a few weeks we’ll be traveling to Nicaragua and almost everyone I’ve told has asked me if the kids are going. YES! The kids are coming we rarely travel without them.

Nicaragua is a place my husband and I have traveled before when we drove our Westfalia from Canada to Chile (if you look back I’ve posted some stories about the trip). He didn’t immediately fall in love with the place as I did and that’s another story (I’ll be sure to post soon) but it fit the criteria we were looking for in this family trip. We wanted to take the kids somewhere they speak Spanish and somewhere warm, check & check!

This time however we also wanted to add a bit of connection to the local people the kids really haven’t had before. So we’ve contacted a school in Granada and we will be taking some donations from my oldest son’s class to deliver when we visit. Things like arts and craft supplies mostly.

We chose this because we thought it would be something our kids could understand; at age 3 & 6 we can only expect so much but school is something they can both relate to. We’re hoping to show them how differently people around the world live. How much less people have and how happily they live their lives. We hope they’ll see the difference but the similarities as well. How a boy in Nicaragua likes to laugh and play just as they do. How he has to listen to his teacher and learn to read and write just as they do.

It feels poignant right now. Up here in Canada we have recently elected our Prime Minister who fills us with hope. Hope for bringing out the good in people. Hope for the future. But just below us, in America, watching the tidbits online it fills me with despair, true despair, to hear the politicians encourage racism, violence and hatred. I know we live in a bubble here on Vancouver Island, it’s why we live here, surrounded by lush green nature and welcoming supportive people it’s truly a paradise but I’m worried for my friends in America and how their lives will change if Trump is elected. Will their lives change? Will they survive President Trump? How will it affect us here in Canada? I’m afraid to find out the answer to these questions.

I want my children to know no matter where someone lives, no matter what they look like, how they dress, what religion they practice, how they feed their family we can always connect respectfully with one another. We can choose to point out the differences but we can also choose to celebrate the similarities because we are all human. We share this one planet. We breathe the same air. We all want to be loved, treated respectfully and with dignity. And every now and then we ALL need a hug to get through the day.

So this trip won’t be just all sand and surf it will also be about connecting and building relationships. It will be about celebrating similarities and diversity. It just feels right, right now.

Imagine Gratitude

Well folks Life is Beautiful is undeniably living up to expectations, so glad. Yesterday was filled up with performances from New Politics, Royal Blood, Big Data, Lique, Metric, Soja, Chance the Rapper, Duran Duran, Snoop Dogg and capped with a extraordinary Imagine Dragons set. Phewf, writing it all down it seems overwhelming, but it wasn’t, it was just right.

The connection Imagine Dragons had with the audience was unexpected for me. The lead singer, Dan, is a third generation Las Vegan (I might have made that word up, Vegasite seemed wrong) and the band was formed here, had their up and coming in the Vegas Casinos. I didn’t know their history but it certainly directed a good vibe from the band and the crowd.

One thing I loved was his sincere humbleness on stage. He thanked many early supporters and of course his mom and dad who were in the audience. This got me to thinking about my own kids and how unconditional love and support can be so magical but also nerve wracking as a parent. I want to keep them safe, I want to minimize the rejection they may experience but I also want them to find something they love, even if I don’t love them doing it. I stood in the audience wondering about how hard it must have been for his parents to support his passion for music through, I’m sure, so many ups and down, the self doubt, the verge of collapse moments. He recanted a story of making his Father listen to his recordings in the living room and saying to him “keep doing this son.” I wondered if he knew his son was something special or if he was just responding to the excited gleam in his son’s eyes.

I guess what it boils down to is love, doesn’t it always.

He also told us about being criticized early in his career by a critic for “thanking too many people on stage.” Come on, really?

Well in response, my gratitude extends to you Imagine Dragons. Thank you for sticking to it and making great music. Thank you for putting yourself out there so I can turn up the music in the kitchen when your songs come on and have a dance party with my family. Thank you for allowing me to fist pump and head bang to Radioactive with my sons in the car on the ride home from school. Thank you for using your voice to inspire me to move my body and let everything go in that moment. Thank you for being unabashedly grateful.

Vegas?

If you have been within earshot of me over the last few days you would know I’m heading to Vegas for a 3 day music festival called Life is Beautiful.

I really never planned to go to Vegas, it’s never been on my radar. I wasn’t really interested in the over glamourized, over illuminated, over intoxicated little patch of desert to the south. When I heard about the Life is Beautiful festival though I was pretty sure it was right for me. In the past I’ve dreamt about Coachella or Burning Man but something deep down stopped me. Maybe it was the line up that year or the disappointing reviews on the commercialization of Burning Man, etc but Life is Beautiful has drawn me in.

What I expect may not be what I get, we’ll see and I’ll let you know, but if I sum up my expectations of Life is Beautiful I’m looking at 3 days filled with incredible music, inspiring art, unique culinary experiences and a bit of mind blowing words from some truly exceptional people. I hope to be reminded that humanity is not in a downward spiral of war and destruction and that somehow, love will conquer all. Big expectations, I know, but it’s Vegas and bigger is better there, right?

On the flip side I’m also really looking for to some me time. It’s been a busy summer. Not physically but emotionally and just well weirdly. I’ve had a lot of job offers and new clients to juggle which always take up a lot of space in my head. I think I’ve done of good job of keeping focused and picking what I can handle with people I like working with but timelines change, get sped up, then sped up again and although I’m blessed for the amazing support I get from my family it wears me down.

So, time for a recharge. Pool side Vegas sounds good to me, why not? Just me, some books to read, a glass (well probably more like a pitcher) of some cool tasty drink and 2 of my most fabulous girlfriends. I’m ready. Wait I’m not ready I still have to pack, write some articles and get my kids off to school and daycare…….sigh.

AA Pub Crawl: SLC

Last month we traveled to Salt Lake City, during the day while my husband spent hours inside a windowless conference room in a large franchise hotel while I lounged by the window of a sunny cafe and planned our adventures for the evenings. During one of these episodes I decided to design our very own SLC pub crawl.

I had booked us a condo via Air BnB called the Adventurist’s Urban Retreat. It was great, a very hip loft in a very hipster part of town. I likened it to what Gastown was about 20 years ago when it was just starting to get the attention of condo developers and restauranteurs. Our hosts, as the owners are called on Air BnB had complied a list of places near and far with brief descriptions on what to expect. From this list I formulated our pub crawl.

So one hot, hot afternoon we met at the BeerHive it was just around the corner from where my husband was attending his conference, perfect location to get our feet wet. BeerHive was everything I hoped for in our pub crawl. A long wooden bar backed by a wall of assorted bottled liquor and more taps than I could count. The dark interior environment illuminated mostly from the large front window was laden with wood features, formerly a barrister’s office, and accented with brick walls.

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The service was not too intrusive and just the right amount of help with the long, long list of beers to choose from. These bartenders knew how to bartend. We were handed our glistening pints of beer topped with the perfect amount of frothy foam onto the 3 inch strip of ice built into the middle of the bar and before you think otherwise this is a brilliant idea. My last gulp of beer was as cold and welcoming as my first.

From BeerHive we moved onto Bodega a few blocks down the road. Needing to fill our bellies with a bit of food we signed up for a few $2 soft tacos and $3 Tecates. Tecate is not exactly the best beer but at $3 a can, why not? Bodega has a tiny front room and apparently a back room as well although we found a spot in the front window to munch our tacos, sip our Tecates and watch the world of SLC walk by. Bodega is nestled into a former stock brokers office with minimalistic vintage Mexican decor and excellent cheap fish tacos it’s worth a stop.

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With a bit a food and a few more beer under our belt we merrily sauntered a few more blocks to Gracie’s.

Gracie’s was only a few blocks from our loft and may have been a bit disappointing after BeerHive and Bodegas. A large bar with an up and down stairs sports bar feel we initially opted to sit on the covered patio until I found the continuous spray of mist above our heads a bit too offensive, even in the heat it was weird being wet while sitting in a pub. The section of beer was adequate but we opted to stay for only one pint here.

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We would have moved onto Salt Lake Brewing Co, right next to Gracie’s but we were a bit too teetery and decided to pack it in for the night back at our loft. We did check out the graffiti art and peeked inside the brewery located in a beautifully restored old brick building.

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Besides these establishments we also hit up Red Rock Brewing on our first night in town, we had flown in late so our options were limited even on a Saturday night but it was a great introduction to SLC night life and we enjoyed great pizza along with a few brews.

As a side note In SLC you must have your photo identification with you at all times and are requested to present it everywhere you buy alcohol no matter how old you are. They even write down all your info.

Recharge your batteries with a 24hr staycation

A well planned 24 hour escape is sometimes all you need to to recharge your batteries.

When we travel it’s most often with the kids in tow and this can sometimes leave you needing a vacation from your vacation. I’ve been feeling like this since we stepped off the plane from Chile a few weeks ago and we’re about to embark on another family adventure soon. In the mean time taking care of this family, working and preparing for the next adventure had me feeling a little less than perky these past few days. Then my husband came home form work one day and I could just tell he was feeling the same, we needed a break.

On Tuesday I decided to book us a room in Victoria, 3.5hr drive away, arranged the grandparents to have our kids for a sleepover and informed my husband about our plans for Thursday night. But I knew it wasn’t just about being somewhere else we needed to relax, not just sleep in.

By the time we left Thursday after work I had the workings of a 24hr relaxation plan. We drove to Nanaimo and picked up dinner along the way. Speeding along the highway we talked about our week not even with the music on in the background just talked and got everything out. When we arrived our room had been upgraded to a harbour view and it would have been nice to just relax and let the exhaustion of the week take over but we bundled up and headed for a brisk walk around the inner harbour in the crisp night air. Victoria is brilliantly light up at night with perfectly spaced lighting around the Legislative buildings and reflections of the street lamps off the water it never feels really dark.

A post walk drink at our hotel bar sitting by the huge window over looking the boat slips below was the perfect night cap to the first few hours of our 24hr staycation.

Before we went to bed we decided on ordering room service breakfast which is really out of the norm for us. I LOVE brunch, but the goal was to relax and I didn’t want us to hurry off in the morning to beat the morning brunch crowd. The best part is it seems hotels have come around and the room service menu was in line with what you would pay at any restaurant these days. The food was good, not spectacular but honestly having it delivered hot to your room exactly when you want while you are still in your jammies was perfect.

Part of the plan I had concocted was going to a gentle yoga class at a studio nearby. We went to Hemma yoga studio and moved through a 75 minute class with an emphasis on guided mediation at the end. We left virtually silent, practically melting into our car seats. We really didn’t talk much on the drive home, we didn’t need to, but when we arrived to pick up the kids all felt right in the world again.

I never regret taking time for just the two of us our journey together is just as important as our journey as a family there’s no destination worth arriving at to simply let our foundation fall to pieces.

Travel, be prepared for the changes ahead.

7 weeks after arriving home from our adventures in Chile we’re getting ready to pack up our bags for sand, sea and surf once again.

We’re not rich, we don’t have the luxury of huge bank accounts and unlimited vacation days, but we choose to make travel an important part of our lives with our children.

When we visit our friend’s homes I envy their nice couches and fancy cars. Heck, I even dream about one day having clean matching fluffy bath towels and so does my husband but we choose to spend our hard-earned money on travel because that’s who we are.

It’s not about judgement. I don’t judge others for their choices I’m simply just stating mine so when you come to visit you don’t expect nice bath towels.

Lately I’ve ben trying to put a finger on what makes traveling so vital to my core being. It’s actually a hard question to answer because not every trip is relaxing and/or exciting.

What I know is traveling opens my eyes to the struggles of other people in this world some of which have been so shocking they’ve changed my entire perspective on survival, on life. You see, I have witnessed unwavering human strength. It’s quite a remarkable thing.

While volunteer nursing at Kanti Pediatric Hospital in Kathmandu Nepal some 10 years ago now I spent some time on the burn unit. Unfortunately this was the most overcrowded unit in the hospital because many families use open flame and oil for cooking. Children often came in with second or third degree burns. One child, a little boy around 5 years old, was brought in by helicopter from the remote Everest region just before my arrival.

This little fella was lucky to be alive his mother had been holding him when she was hit by lightning, dying instantly, his father carried him for 3 days until he reached help. Over half his body was covered in third degree burns from the lightning strike. When I met him it had been almost a week since his mother had died. During our first encounter he was lying beside his father on an ancient hospital bed; my heart sank a little. I knew his recovery would be a steep uphill battle, maybe insurmountable. Over the next week I watched his father care for him with trepidation he seemed to be floating through actions, holding his breath. There were 2 nurses on the unit and they did all the dressing changes, rationed the morphine, family members were to take care of the rest, feeding, bathing, comforting, etc. When this little fella needed blood I sat at his bedside while his father went to give his and read him a few stories. When the father returned I was right in the middle of pulling the sheet up over his son’s little body, my back turned to the door, all I heard was a small yelp and a thud. When I spun around I saw the father on his knees in the doorway. I instantly thought he was light-headed from having had his blood drawn and went to him. As I bent down to help him up his arms enveloped me and he squeezed so hard it almost took my breath away. I was motionless, frozen and barely able to breath. When the translator came over to assist me learned the father was profusely thanking me for being there with his son, shaking my hand, calling me an angel. The lump in my throat was overtaking my voice and I was struggling trying to tell him his son was only asleep. He thought I was pulling the sheet up over his son’s head. He thought his son had died while he was gone. He was devastated. The translator did not know the child was alive and he was wiping tears from his own eyes when I finally found my voice again, through heavy sobs, I got it out. Asleep. Alive. Not dead. We all crumbled into a flood of tears.

I can remember the hospital room this man and his son lived in for the rest of my time at Kanti down to the very detail when I close my eyes. It’s a thread sewn into heart and mind forever.

Sometimes when things are getting a little hectic around here well, I think you know what I’m going to say. It’s not just about counting our blessings though, every trip changes me a little, sometimes a lot, focusing my ideas, direction, the way I parent, be a friend, a co-worker, a wife. If you knew me 10 years ago you don’t know me now and I’m sure I’ll be different in 10 more years because our old dilapidated couches aren’t that comfortable so I’ll be out there in the world continuing to explore, the world and myself.

 

International Women’s Day 2015

There’s someone I’d like to introduce you to. Maybe you know her maybe you don’t. We’ve never met I simply follow her blog and comings and goings on Facebook. I don’t think I’ve ever even commented on her stories publicly. I find her inspiring, brave, courageous, honest, and certainly a woman blazing her own trail.

Shannon O’Donnell.

Creative traveller behind A Little Adrift: the world’s too big to tell just one story. Shannon focuses on volunteer travel with meaning not just the fluff voluntourism but the real, honest to god volunteering that makes a difference. She’s written a book ‘The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook’ which I have yet to read but when I’m ready to jump back into volunteering on my travels it’s a good bet I’ll be picking it up.

Admiringly, she supports her travel through consulting, writing and photography and her website remains ad free which makes her site more accessible for the reader and a much-needed break from distracting ads. Thank you.

Why am I writing about Shannon? Well, on this International Women’s Day of 2015 I felt moved to write about a woman of integrity who inspires me in my travels, someone who when I’m reading her words there never feels like a hidden agenda. I’ve always been a big believer of supporting woman in business and adventure. I’ve also traveled solo in this magnificently big uncertain world and I know the ups and downs, feeling a little out-of-place, feeling like a seasoned traveler and then doing something completely naive. Lessons learned again and again.

I also believe as women we need to lift each other up and celebrate our trailblazers, acknowledge the challenging paths they have walked, are walking and greet them with a hug along the way.

I encourage you to pop over to her website, read a few of her stories and be open to inspiration she’s doing what some of us have only dreamed about – how amazing is that!!!!

Happy International Women’s Day 2015 to you all much love from Araya Adventures.

My love affair with street food

I have no idea where it started but I have this love affair with eating food made on the street, from a cart, food truck, a small hot plate on the sidewalk, sold from the trunk of a car it always peaks my intrigue and then my appetite.

I’ve heard it a million times the “don’t eat that you’ll get sick” but I always throw caution to the wind and do it anyway and yes, I have been ill many, many times while traveling. I’m more skilled now though. It has to be hot, like scorch your mouth you have to wait 20 minutes for it to cool down enough to eat hot and I like to see it being made. I make exceptions though, rules are meant to be broken, right?

One of my favourite things to get in Chile is ceviche. Fresh, juicy, salted morsels of white fish “cooked” in an ungodly amount of lemon juice sprinkled with finely chopped onion and fragrant cilantro what’s not to love? With it’s long coast line Chile is a seafood lovers paradise. There are so many types of fish and seafood in two weeks of travel you will have barely scratched the surface. The best part, it’s cheap.

Ceviche can be found at vendors on the various beaches our favourite is Totoralillo (pronounced toe-toe-ra-lee-yo) just south of La Serena. There you can find multiple vendors barely arm’s length from where the fishing boats dock to unload their catches. We scooped up a couple of cups for $3 each.

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Maybe because it’s usually cheap or readily available or the food of the people I really don’t know but what I do know is my kids are already veterans of street food and I like it that way.

Ok, ok but what about the food in Chile

I’ve been writing a lot about traveling with kids, visiting in-laws, even doing yoga on vacation and a spontaneous winery stop but what about the food. Don’t think I’ve forgotten. I haven’t. I’m actually still dreaming about one place we stopped that stole my heart.

Pan Pan Vino Vino.

We stopped here on a recommendation from the fella at Estampa winery, which is just down the road and I couldn’t have been more overjoyed with the result. We hit the end of the lunch rush with the few remaining tables getting up to leave on our arrival, lunch is the main meal in Chile so you usually find full tables for most of the afternoon, and quickly nestled into a rustic outdoor table in the shade with just a slight breeze diminishing the hot humid day.

Since we were headed to my father in-laws for a BBQ that evening I choose to sample the appetizer cheese plate with four locally made cheeses, a few dates wrapped in bacon and complemented it with a Pisco Miel. Pisco Sour is the traditional drink in Chile at Pan Pan Vino Vino they substitute the sour for a slightly sweeter version with honey; a delightful result. With my Pisco Miel in hand I settled back into the chair to watch my boys finding their own shady comfort zone in the nearby hammocks. My husband ordered a fuller lunch opting for succulent stone oven roasted lamb and root vegetables cooked to perfection served with a side of mashed garlic cauliflower. Hearing him moan over the lamb, dripping hot savoury broth with every forkful, I admit to thieving a few bites for myself.

The food, the food, it was divine, but the atmosphere stole the show. Just off the bustling highway you enter into a completely different world. The quiet and understated front exterior opens into an open air courtyard dining experience where the owner has perfected old world rustic charm with touches of the modern perfectly placed as evidenced in the bathroom pictured below. Actually, I’ll just stop talking now and let you see what I’m talking about.

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DSC_0307DSC_0312DSC_0289DSC_0324 One thing I’ve learned while traveling it’s ALWAYS a great idea to get a locals recommendation, seek them out, most of the amazing places I have been directed to aren’t obvious but are always, always memorable.

Parent Pit Stop

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent looking for parks to play in, making sure all the sand toys were packed and searching for pools that are not too deep for a toddler to play in while traveling with my kids, it’s been many. Sometimes we’re so focus on making sure our kids are having a good experience we put our own needs aside. So lately I’ve become a big advocate for what I’ve termed the “Parent Pit Stop” when traveling with children.

A parent pit stop is anything you, the parent(s) want to do together, keeping in mind the kids will still be with you. Previously we’ve stopped at breweries but on our recent trip to Chile we were driving through wine country and spur of the moment decided to take a detour to a roadside winery. It went a little something like this:

Kids: “we’re hungry”

Me: “we should stop for ice cream”

Husband: “how about that winery back there?”

Me: “Ya sure they probably have food and we can do a tasting.”

Husband: “But I’m driving.”

Me: “that’s OK I’ll take one for the team” batting eyelashes, big smile, coquettish look.

U-turn to the winery.

We ended up at Estampa Winery one whose international export is limited and rarely available in Canada so naturally we walked out with a few treasured bottles. There was no food offerings or ice cream but it was a nice break to get out of the car into the fresh, warm air, use the clean toilets and sip a few glasses of delicious vino in a magnificent architectural setting. The kids got a chance to release some pent-up energy by running down the paths of the vineyard and trying to climb the big bottle in the middle. All in all it was a win-win.

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The parent pit stop doesn’t always have to be a brewery or winery but let’s be honest who doesn’t need a drink when you’re on vacation with you kids!

**As an obvious side note I do not condone drinking and driving only one of us does the tasting then we enjoy whatever we buy together at a later time**