“KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. LISTEN. FOLLOW YOUR CURIOSITY. IDEAS ARE CONSTANTLY TRYING TO GET YOUR ATTENTION. LET THEM KNOW YOUR ARE AVAILABLE”
Here we are the last day of April. My final poem for Poetry Month. Kind of crazy just how quickly the month went, but really, time is such a warped way to measure reality. When I started this blog I never thought I would be writing a poem everyday for a month. I have astonished myself. I truly enjoyed the experience. Being creative in this way actually changed how I perceive the world. I have always been fairly aware, but I am now tuned in to another frequency and I love it.
A poem ♥ are thoughts spoken and unspoken
What is Life ♥ but poetry in motion
When I began this journey of blogging I was worried about what others thought. I have succeeded in pushing my boundaries around vulnerability. Now I just don’t care. This is my journey, my imagination and it is inspiring me to keep evolving. Another favourite quote from “BIG MAGIC”
“IF PEOPLE DON’T LIKE WHAT YOU’RE CREATING, JUST SMILE AT THEM SWEETLY AND TELL THEM TO GO MAKE THEIR OWN FUCKING ART” Elizabeth Gilbert
I will most likely not be posting everyday from here on, but I will continue to carry pen and paper with me. When the creative adventure flows, my mind will take note. I encourage all to listen deeply to the world around them. There is so much inspiration that otherwise goes unnoticed.
The memories remain vivid and the learning continues. Travelling taught me many things. The biggest lesson was to slow down. For there is so much to be embraced.
My wise and wonderful friend Leila describes time as an accordion. Moments can be long and stretched seeming like they will never end or squashed with far too little of it. There is music in both if we are willing to listen. So my goal on my return was to remain mindful and listen to the music. Be it a slow waltz or a fast polka.
To take extra care and fall less off the teeter totter of life. I promised myself that I would do my best to not get consumed in the ever increasing demands of life. Instead of the mantra, “there is not enough” time or whatever else it may be; I comment on giving thanks for what I do have. To not loose focus on what is precious and true. To see the beauty and inspiration in the micro of life. To embrace the moment. To be patient with myself and others. To meditate and listen to the whispers of my heart more often.
Well, its been a month now and I am once again a hamster on the wheel of life. Wowsers, can that wheel ever pick up speed if I let it. The difference now is that I am aware of its speed. That most days the wheel is not spinning so crazy out of control. That most days I can keep the wheels speed in check and can even change directions if I wish to. Better yet, I am able to completely jump off the wheel and let it come to a complete stop. Even if only for a moment.
Breathing in the forests’ fragrance.
The sound of a song bird.
The full moon rising and the stars shimmering.
The gentle caress of the wind on my face.
The joy as a pod of dolphins jump, swim and play.
Street dancing with my son under the stars last sparkles before the sun wakes for the day.
Digging in the garden.
A friend’s laughter.
My children’s HUGS and I LOVE YOUs.
The crunchy crispness of alpine snow.
Walks with friends.
Walks in solitude.
My sons’ contagious joy of unicycles.
Dancing on hill tops.
Springs first blooms.
Dancing with patients.
The wonder of clouds.
Waking to a quiet house with a coffee and my journal.
Silence shared with someone who is dying.
A cup of tea and some poetry.
A deep awakening breath.
The difference is my awareness. I am not getting lost in the demands and chaos of everyday life as often. Life can be all consuming, or all embracing.
I choose to embrace life in all its variety and brilliance. In its harshness and its beauty.
I choose to stay mindful more often. To be true to myself and those around me.
Yes, it is a difficult balance. Yet the balance is easier to maintain if I just take that extra moment to breath and give thanks. The more I breath it all in, the more of the moment I embrace, the more brilliant and colourful the world around me is.
Everyday I wake with gratitude to the sleep and silence I did have during the night. I dream of what the day will bring. Then I go to bed every night and believe that
Our time in Vietnam started off on a wonderfully surreal note with meeting our great friends Mike and Kathleen in Ho Chi Minh. HUGE THANK YOU for making the trip to the other side of the world to come play with us. We would travel anywhere anytime with you two. It was a joy to experience Vietnam with you and looking forward to our next trip to explore the places we didn’t get to this this time around.
I quickly and easily fell in love with Vietnam. For the incredibly friendly people and the stunning geography. The cuisine was my absolute favorite this trip as well. Which plays a large role in the love of a country when you are eating out for every meal. They also make the best coffee. Even better when you add condensed milk or coconut ice cream.
Below are only a few of the wonderful people we met while in Vietnam. All truly wanted to make our experience memorable. The Vietnamese are full of kindness with gracious hearts.
There also remains a strong element of community and keeping it local. Fields of produce were everywhere. Families knee deep in mud planting rice or harvesting other crops. Even some of the larger resorts have their own fields the size of a city block.
Communism certainly has its attributes. Now that Vietnam’s doors are open to foreign investment and travel, the marriage of communism and capitalism has created a pleasurable country to be in. I realize that this is only my perspective as an outsider and corruption remains a concern. One of our guides reported to me that she has a degree in education but would have to pay the school to teach. Hence, she is guiding. It is a means to an end for her as it is a great way to become fluent in English. Her dream is to teach high school English. She is determined to succeed.
Never the less, Vietnam appears to be doing a fairly good job from an outsiders look. Time will tell though, as the amount of effort and funds that is going into the infrastructure of roads, rail and buildings is truly mind blogging. Everywhere one looked there was a crane or cement factory smoke stack on the horizon. New highways and bridges and more to come. It is a booming country in many ways. Can they withstand the corruption that accompanies a capitalist society? If only they could maintain the best of both as they forge ahead?
Tourism is playing a large role in the boom, both with foreigners (especially Chinese), as well as the Vietnamese themselves. The large resorts that are being built in DeNang and Cat Ba are for those with money and not a lot of time. It is not the flash packers such as ourselves that will be sipping drinks beside the infinity pools. I just hope that they are considering sustainable tourism model? Doesn’t look as such as the beaches at Cat Ba have been blown to bits to make room for these massive resorts. Capitalism at its best.
The Vietnamese people are definitely résiliant and strong of will. They were colonized by the Chinese for over a thousand years. Then came the Portugese and the French. Lets not forget the Americans and their agent orange and napalm. Despite all the adversity they have had to over come, they maintain a sense of graciousness and unwavering strength.
Vietnam is full of colorful chaos that leaves you mesmerized intermingled with scenes of serenity to keep you calm. Most use “hondas”, the catch term for anything motorized on 2 wheels. The masses cannot afford a car and a pedal bike is too slow. In the cities walking was always an exercise in reflexes and wits, as they would drive those scooters even on sidewalks. I started saying a silent prayer every time we went out, on the advice of a guide. First say a prayer then walk slowly, never stopping and no sudden movements. It really does work. Kind of makes you feel like Moses parting the sea.
Then moments of beauty would bring stillness and calm.
We were travelling “tourists” in Vietnam.
Debate to yet occur over a few glasses of wine. Traveller or tourist? Is there a difference? If so, what makes one a traveller and the other a tourist?
So we triapsed around Vietnam as “travelling tourists” as time and weather was not on our side. There was so much to see, and the country is sooooo long. It was sooooo cold. So our trip consisted of boats, caves, trains, planes, beaches, jungles, mountains, hikes, hand line fishing and bicycles. With a lot of great food, wonderful company and a cucumber face mask thrown in.
Country of joy and curiosity
Smiles of genuine friendliness
Welcome hugs that speak of gratitude
Friendships that blossom, with adventure and laughter
Cuisines that are celebrations of taste
Fields to markets, keeping it local
Bicycles and scooters, balanced with silent prayers
Families knee deep in fields of mud, working together
A nation built on community and faith
Investing and building
Exploding with dreams of the future
It was a sad day saying goodbye to Mike and Kathleen. Not one of us were ready to say goodbye to one another or Vietnam. I do want to venture back to Vietnam in the near future. Before the charm and essense is lost to the incredible growth that is occurring there. I want to travel slower and embrace more of the beauty that encompasses Vietnam and her people.
For now I must say farewell to the life of travel as we are at the end of our trip. A last trip to Bangkok before travelling home. It all feels like a dream. A wonderful, exotic and beautiful dream.
DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING
Have Expectancy. Not Expectations.
Expectancy is the emotional knowingness that you have changed and therefore your physical reality will follow suit.
In 1992 Gene and I spent 2 months in India. We loved India and how her people opened our eyes and hearts to a side of humanity we did not know existed. We came away more whole in mind and spirit. We wanted our boys to see the diversity and energy of a world that is so very different from ours.
27 years is a long time. I knew India would not be the same. A society made up of a billion people, who have arguably the most diversity anywhere, could never be constant. When we were planning this trip we thought long and hard about including India in the itinerary. India is a world of incredible wonder, but it comes with many challenges. After much deliberation, we decided on 20 days in India. Delhi, Agra, Jaiselmer, Pushkar and Ranthambore. A triangle trip of tigers, camel treks, Wonders of the World and spiritual experiences.
The essense of India still remains. The color and charisma of India continues to stimulate and push personal boundaries. Watching the world of India is mystifying, intoxicating, stimulating, obnoxious and thrilling. With so many worlds colliding on the streets you leave exhausted and spell bound. However, I underestimated the phenomenonal change that India had gone through during this time.
The difference is that now you are watching it through a haze of pollution and with the sounds of thousands of motorized vehicles and honking horns. It was a game of chance every time you stepped onto the streets of India.
In the past 25 years India has gone from a population of 888 million to 1.3 billion. With an incredibly fast growing middle class (it has essentially doubled in the past 8 years), there is more consumption, resulting in more pollution. The air is thick, litter is everywhere and the incessant honking of horns leaves you rattled. Cows, pigs and dogs that are seen feeding on the refuse and plastic that is constantly thrown on the streets.
There are still millions that remain trapped in poverty. It is not as overt as it was many years ago. However, there are still so many that do not have running water or the guarantee that they will eat each day. Too many still have limited opportunity just because of the caste they are born into. There is a shift for equality happening, but slowly. Read more here.
Garbage has had a 2000% increase in 5 years. From 400 tonnes in 2010 to 8700 tonnes per day in Delhi alone. New Delhi is the most polluted city on the planet and it is hard to imagine as I choked on the toxic air, that anything is being done to mitigate this. The day we flew out it was 934 on the Air Quality Index. Schools have closed and flights have been cancelled due to toxic levels and a haze as thick as pea soup. A few years back a “garbage slide” spilt through its walls killing 2 and injuring more. You can find more here and here.
The Indian government is making efforts but the infrastructure remains in its infancy. There is still few treatments for solid waste and proper garbage disposal. Instead of counting yellow trucks while on the train, we played count the number of people defecating in the fields and rail tracks. Sad, but true. But where else are these people to go when government’s efforts still have a long way to go to provide proper education or infrastructure?
India is a country made up of such diversity, thousands of years of social norms, and shifting demographics. Change is happening quickly. It would be extremely difficult for any government to keep up with the ever increasing demands on resources and infrastructure needs.
Those of us who live in developed nations cannot judge. We play a big role in the decay of our planet’s health. We are just fortunate that we do not have a population of over a billion, so it is easier for us to turn our backs to our own mess. We have the knowledge, yet rarely make choices to mitigate our impact on planet earth, as well as our own health.
We were met with beauty and wonder, But also a little too much adversity this trip. Sadly, India challenged us so much that we cut our trip by half. Watching my children become so sick that it actually hurt my heart. We had taken precautions, but everyone of us still fell violently ill. No one was having fun being stuck in a hotel for five days, fighting off dehydration.
Good health care remains an issue for the masses in India. I did not want to find out what our options were if my kids became so dehydrated that medical intervention was needed. My children’s health is first priority. Both my boys have no reserves. They are humans riding chicken legs. Being a nurse can sometimes make things worse. I know how bad things can get.
I love being in control…. I felt completely out of control and it was frightening. At times I felt trapped.
We had to keep postponing moving on to the next adventure because one of us was always too sick to travel. After too many days in an Agra hotel room, our fingers and arse holes were crossed that all were healthy enough to travel the 6 hours by train to get to Ranthambhore. But no it was not to be. It was my turn to fall ill.
We did eventually make it to Ranthambhore. After the tiger safari, we made the family decision to leave India 10 days early. Travelling even further away from an international airport became not an option. The boys were still pecking at food and I could barely keep anything down.
The air pollution played a considerable role in our decision to leave early as well. We had hoped that leaving Delhi to the smaller cities we would find the air more pleasant. Only mildly so. Even in the smaller populated cities, the burning of wood and cow dung left a constant haze that continued to tax our respiratory system.
It is also now much more difficult to get around. Trains are booked months in advance. We ended up cancelling two train trips due to being ill. We hired a car and driver on two occasions instead. First was a ride from hell. Car started smoking an hour into our trip and the driver was just plain nuts. Frightening when you are stuck with this lunatic in a smoking car for 6 hours. The second trip was slightly better. Car was well maintained and our driver had all his faculties. Just be sure to take their cell phone away first.
The roads do have designated lanes but no one pays attention to them. The only rule is to keep your eyes forward. That bus that is barrelling up 1 inch beside you is not your issue until he is within your frontal vision. Don’t worry about shoulder checking when verring into oncoming traffic. Not necessary, have faith that everyone will get out of your way. Except that bull lying in the middle of the road. He rules the road.
Strangely, it all seems to work. Driving in India should be designated as another Wonder of the World.
Even though India left us physically and mentally exhausted, she still provided us with opportunities for personal growth and discovery.
We visited the Taj Mahal and stood in awe of this Wonder of the World.
A visit to Ranthambore left us with smiling hearts to see so many creatures living in their natural habitat.
We met beautiful people who were genuinely concerned for us as we became too ill to leave a hotel for 5 days.
My boys learnt that grit, faith and a whole lot of love can get you through overwhelming adversity. India pushed all our boundaries in many ways. My children met every challenge with courage and curiosity. They remained strong in spirit through it all and I could not be more proud.
The lack of infrastructure left us even more grateful for home.
The constant stimulus found in the streets of India brought a greater appreciation for diversity and we learnt that having faith can turn a harrowing experience into a joy ride.
The pollution and litter left us all questioning our own footprint on this beautiful planet.
India was wondrous and frustrating. Challenging and beautiful. India also has me looking inward. It’s not always easy to be honest and true to your weaknesses.
I am much older and softer now. Travelling with my kids made me over protective perhaps. The idea of not being in control in an environment that is lacking quality health care produced too much fear for me to accept. I was finding myself becoming critical and ethnocentric. Something I never wanted to become. I could have and should have done more research. Our experience 27 years ago was clouded by a veil that both Gene and I chose not to lift. I am disappointed in myself for my lack of insight and judgement in taking my kids to the most polluted city in the world. Although it was our entry point into India, we very possibly might have had a different experience if we went to Goa instead.
Although I am sad that we did not have the trip we had hoped for, India has illuminated my strengths and weaknesses. I am still processing and reflecting on my experience there. Many mixed emotions clutter my thoughts. India left me raw and exposed. Sometimes it is these experiences that are necessary for further personal growth. Challenging my own expectations of what I wish to see in myself.
However, what I do know for certain, is that I am thankful we left India when we did. When we stepped off the plane in Bangkok, the intense tension I was holding onto just slipped away.
It took a week in Thailand for my oldest to completely recover. My boys are once again healthy. Laughing and free to play as children should.
My Hubby and I are about to take our two boys on an around the world journey. Europe, India and South East Asia. Lots of places to explore in only 4 months. But we are a family inspired by adventure and we are up for the challenge.
BK (Before Kids) we travelled fairly extensively. Then we embarked on our biggest, most challenging and most rewarding journey ever…. children. Many things changed, but we never lost our desire to travel. We have been dreaming of travelling with our boys for 5 years now.
So many thoughts could have got in our way. Can we afford it? What about work? What about the house? When would be the perfect ages? Is the world safe?
Those questions only motivated us to make it happen. To believe.
First I want to acknowledge just how privileged we are. We were born into privileged families, in privileged communities, in a privileged country. We are white and middle class. This dream did not mean we had to sacrifice. We had to make choices. Choices that so many do not have the pleasure to make just because they were born into not so fortunate circumstances. I want my boys to ground themselves in gratitude. To be aware to just how privileged they are, and to promote change so one day every one can make choices instead of sacrifices. To honor diversity and support those who are less fortunate.
Some may say I use and abuse my privilege because I choose to travel. Am I selfish? Yeah I am. I still have much learning to do, and I crave personal satisfaction. My desire to travel comes from a deep inner place. I love the adventure, the unknown.
Travelling made me the person I am today. My parents always took me on camping trips in the summer. I celebrated my 13th birthday in Mexico. Grade 12 was my first real adventure with a whirl wind trip to Europe. Then at age 19, against many peoples’ advice, I made a choice. I left university, and went travelling.
That 6 month trip, 27 years ago, changed my life drastically. No amount of schooling could have taught more about the world, the people who we share it with and how to navigate everyday life. More than anything though, travelling encouraged personal growth and discovery.
I am thankful I can give this gift to my children. Promote curiosity, independence, self discovery, belief in humanity and diversity.
Money? Saving aeroplan points for the last 5 years has covered all our flights. We make good incomes and made some choices of how to spend our earnings. We have enough to cover our costs. And if we fall short, we have jobs to came back to.
House? Find someone to move in. Easily done and we are grateful.
Work? Husband is seasonal so winter is his time off. I was willing to walk away from my position but my leave was granted. Again I am grateful.
Kids are the perfect ages. 10 and 13. Old enough to understand. Young enough to still think their parents are made from cool stuff.
But the world has so many dangers? So does driving in my car. I am not naive to what is happening in the world. But I choose to still live. I refuse to let media frighten me and let fear hold me back. To let the few who promote hate and pain dictate how I live. There are more people in the world who choose loving kindness. I hold faith in the beauty and compassion of the human race. I believe in the grace of humanity. I want my children to hold that grace as well.
I am a nurse and I walk alongside the dying and their loved ones often. They have taught me to embrace life. To live with a whole heart. To not put off what I can do today.
Life is a gift. It is fragile. Follow your dreams. Cherish those around you.
For one day, death will come and take us all.
“We do this thing. We open our hearts to the world around us. And the more we do that, the more we allow ourselves to love, the more we are bound to find ourselves one day.” Stuart McLean