Friday, 28 June 2013

To the West Coast I Go Baby!

I never imagined Kansas too look as it does, rich greens and blues stretching out to the horizon. The Wizard of Oz definitely did not prepare me for how beautiful this landscape is. I do suppose the parts of the movie filmed in Kansas were black and white... anyway. :) Here I am, very far from home, and only a few days into this cross-continent trip. 3,400 kms and counting!

Long, beautiful interstate.

In previous posts, I have mentioned that 2013 is the year of my bucket-list. I have been adding to it for several years and checked things off here and there. I had never actually made a conscience decision to complete certain numbers on the list, it more so naturally just, happened.

I like to think of my bucket-list as pages of affirmations. The fact that they are physically written down, circumstances and opportunities in my life have lead me to events such as standing on the Cliff's of Moher (#56), skydiving (#32), seeing Fleetwood Mac in concert (#21), and smoking a Cuban cigar in Havana (#112), among many others. How else would all this awesome stuff happen? By my own choices and free will? No way! Haha Kidding...I believe that free will and circumstance play equal roles in the moments of my life.

I am not suggesting that writing a goal down on a piece of paper will enable us to sit back and watch our dreams unfold. However,  I do truly believe that by externally expressing your hopes and dreams, the universe will do it's best to give what is needed to actualize these dreams. After this first step, it is up to us to use what has been presented, or ignore its existence.The choice is ours.

Being passive and unwilling to take your life into your own hands will not get you out of bed in the morning, nonetheless standing on The Great Wall of China. I have no basis on this statement other than what I learned from my first year physics professor as he excitedly explained the law of attraction, and by actually seeing this phenomenon in action myself.

Recently, I have been practicing the art of wholeheartedly believing in my dreams and have been visualizing what I want out of life. Needless to say, my proof is in everything that I have been blessed with in the last couple of years. Simply put: I refused to shed even a touch of doubt on my dreams, and I have been able to accomplish so many of them.

Driving through Kansas, just having left Tim and Deb at their Bed and Breakfast in the small town of Chapman, Kansas, I am left thinking about how amazing it is that we are actually here. Driving down the I70, my little Mazda 3 stuffed with every possession we own, heading to brand new territory, and knowing there is so much waiting for us. My mom, Lynne and I said goodbye to Tim and Deb in the Beijing International Airport just over a year ago, having not known them before our China trip, we never figured we would see them afterwards. Yet, just last night I arrived at their place in rural Kansas. I hugged these two amazing people hello, just as I had hugged them goodbye 13 months ago. These moments remind me of how small the world is, but also, just how precious some connections are, and how anything is possible if you are willing to take a leap and realize your dreams.

The lovely Deb and Tim.

"Have an epic road trip across the US and Canada" is on my bucket list, and at number 17, was something that I had wanted for a long time. Nearly 7 years later,  here I am, crammed into "the little Mazda that could", driving through places I only imagined I would be, experiencing things I only hoped I would. It makes me feel so grateful that I am actually doing this, and a bit overwhelmed as well.

After all, living in moments that you have visualized for so long and built up to be these "I would give anything to" moments is a very emotional experience.

Being so overwhelmed by this moment, my emotions are definitely reflecting in this post. My writing is a bit all over the place, I apologize. I promise, I do have a point, just bare with me and I will get you there.

Originally, I wanted this post to articulate the beauty I am seeing and the feelings I am having in this moment. However, my writing has lead me into a completely new direction, as it usually does. See people, writing is very therapeutic :)

So, here is the point, the direction or theme if you will: How to live in the moment, how to stop life from pass by to quickly.

The main reason why people do not follow through with their dreams is because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of a bit of hard work or planning, and also, fear of what to do when you get to that place you have wanted for so long. You find yourself asking: What if I am disappointed? What if it is not as good as I imagined? What if I cannot fully appreciate it? As crazy as all this sounds, they are real fears, and I have had every single one of them. To get out of this negative thought process, I think about the one question that scares me the most: "What if I don't try and miss my opportunity?"

I cannot imagine how I would be able to deal with having missed out on something I really wanted to. All of the other above-mentioned fears I can deal with. If I am disappointed, well I move onto the next adventure with higher hopes. However, I do not know if I would be able to move past knowing that I missed something truly amazing. Call it "fear of missing out" or "third world problems", but it's personal and it's how I want to live my life.  I want to experience as much "awesomeness" in the limited time I have in this world.

Perhaps, the solution to accomplishing your dreams is to realize that there will be no bigger regret than the one that comes with not trying. So what you spend all your money or take time away from your busy life and it doesn't workout? You can always go back to making more money and dive into a steady routine life again.The typical North American routine way of life will always be an option, will seeing your favorite band play their last tour?

So what, if there are expectations for you to "settle down"? Who cares? Did you set those expectations for yourself or did society? Will buying a house make you happy or will spending two months at a yoga retreat in India make you happy? Do what makes you happy and do it will all your love and efforts. At the end of the day, we make our own happiness, and no one else can tell that will be. Bills, mortgages and jobs will always be there, but will your knees to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
or your heart to free-fall from 30,000 feet?

One year ago, free falling 11,000 feet above New Brunswick.

Life is meant to be lived, so live it! Do not feel guilty or irresponsible for even one second if you are happy. On the other hand, if having a house and staying in one spot makes you happy and you are doing it, then you are living life. If living out of a backpack and seeking the next adventure makes you happy and you are doing it, then you are living life. Whatever makes you vibe, whatever makes your heart smile, do it, and don't feel bad, do not ignore it, follow your heart, follow your happiness, and live the life you are creating for yourself.

Charming town of Chapman, Kansas.
That is it for now. I will post more travel focused writing next time. Kansas gave me a lot more inspiration that I ever imagined it would.Funny what life gives you sometimes, just do not be afraid to run with it.

Enjoy your day and be happy :)


Windmill Bed and Breakfast, Chapman, Kansas.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Nice moment, did this really happen?

Have you ever had experiences in your life that when you look back on them, months or years later, they don't seem real? In the moment, everything is so perfect and amazing, and as much as you try to take it all in and preserve the memory, you know that it will pass by all too quickly. You cling onto the sights, smells and feelings so tight because you feel like it might be the happiest you will ever be and don't want to let it pass.

Walking into Vieux-Nice, back in time.

I am having a serious case of travelers' withdraw. I haven't been on an airplane in over 3 months! My legs are starting to become restless as I feel the need to venture to some unfamiliar destination.Moments like these call for endless Google mapping, travel documentaries, photo reminiscing and reading old travel journals.

As I try to find my "writer's voice" I bounce between vegan recipes, photography, travel, fitness and an array of other material. I feel like I am slowly zeroing in on just "travel" as all other points can fit quite nicely as sub-topics.

This post for instance, a travel post, also includes fitness, some photography and definitely some life lesson banter :)

Gorgeous streets of Vieux-Nice.

This is the excerpt from my journal that I love reading. Every time I do, it brings me right back to the day it happened. Regardless of how I may be feeling, as soon as I read the passage a sudden calmness takes over my body. I am taken right back to the sea, how I felt in that moment, and left with a craving to do it all over again.

Couldn't you soak in that water forever?

"As soon as I saw the water I immediately wanted to jump in. When we got to Nice we poked around in the streets and shops and did a mini-photo shoot in the beautiful cobblestone streets. We meanders through the maze of Vieux-Nice until finally arrive at, the beach! Everything about this coastline was pure bliss, from the perfect view of the stunning turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, to the old beautiful building built right into the coast line. The Chateau towered over the city in the distance, and a waterfall up on the mountains was in perfect view. It was far away, but I swear I could hear the water rushing down. I never wanted to leave that sight.
I went swimming  for hours that day. The water was beautiful! I swam far, far out into the sea, sometimes trying to swim as far as I could before getting tired, or a bit weary of how far out I was. When I was satisfied with my location I would just let my body go and float. I embraced each wave as it rocked me back and forth and sent me on my way. My ears filled with water, so all I could hear was the sea beneath me, all I could see was the sky up above, and all I could feel was the hot sun shining on me and the cool salty water embracing my body. I have never felt more happy, more blissful, more perfectly content in that exact moment. My bliss.

I tried to use that feeling and free my mind for a moment. But, knowing that was near impossible for me, I used my state to think as clearly as I possibly could.
It all seemed so plain out there. I had a lot of learning and work to do on a completely personal level. One thing stood out above all else, I needed to be alone... I need to work on me, and I absolutely needed to start being happy. I felt like life is too short to not live every moment feeling how I did out in that sea. "

Mediterranean Sea, my bliss.

Road to the Mediterranean Coast, Antibes. (Photo by: Frankie Mo)

"Once we got back to Antibes and our campsite, I put on my running gear and took off for the coast. I ran and ran until I couldn't anymore. It could have been 10k or 20k, the adrenaline from my surroundings made my run full of life and powerful. I  stopped, took off my sneakers, socks, shorts and tank top and ran into the sea again. This swim topped the whole day off. There I was, all alone besides a few couples cozy up on the beach. Over to the left, in the far distance, there was a castle nestled in the cliffs, to my other side, a view of Nice extending to the horizon . The sun was setting, the sky became bright pinks and purples and I was just floating there, taking it all in, with a serene smile across my face."

The beach I swam in during my run, looking back toward Nice. (Photo by: Frankie Mo)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Konnichiwa, Sushi Anyone?

#67 on my list: I've always wanted to...

This is a retrospective "check" from my bucket list, but extremely blog-worthy, nonetheless. This is where really putting my bucket-list into motion all started.

For the past, let's say, year, I have been really struggling with my happiness and truly being myself. Discovering one's true identity can perhaps be one of the hardest internal struggles. Some people go their whole lives being someone else, someone that society has made them, or someone their family, friends or significant others have molded them to be. To be able to let go of all external factors, look deep into yourself and see who you really are, and be that person in every instance of your being is life's greatest accomplishment, in my opinion.

As I previously said, I have been keeping a bucket-list for over 10 years. I have not been able to show anyone this list, because it contains things that the real me wants to do. As silly as it seems, showing this list to anyone would expose me for who I am really. Every weird, quirky, far-fetched, or big-dreamed goal is exactly what I want out of life, but not what I tell everyone I want. To avoid the, "ya, wouldn't that be nice?", or "how do you expect to do that?" or "haha and when does a 'real' job fit into there?"reactions, I usually only share my more conservative aspirations.

Now don't get me wrong, I have some amazing people in my life that I am proud to call my family and friends, and I do not know what I would do without them. I would gladly share this list with them, however, on the other side of things, there is a certain ownership that one must take once goals are shared. For example, people publicly set goals to hold themselves accountable. There was definitely part of me that did not want to share my list so that if I didn't accomplish something on it, I wouldn't necessarily be a "failure".

How silly is that!?

Why wouldn't I want to do, what I, "want to do". What is life if you're not doing what makes you happy or not seeking fulfillment from life? A pretty lousy one I must say. This thought process started creating a change in me...

As I said, I was internally struggling a lot this past year. I went through some ups and downs, I broke free of some bad habits and things that were no longer serving me or allowing me to grow. Bit by bit, I removed the negativity from my life. Want to know what happens when you free up the space that negativity holds? You allow for some AMAZINGLY positive things to come into your life. What a concept eh? I wish I could have done this a long time ago.

As the negative went out, the bad feelings left, the anxiety subsided, and some amazing things changed in my life. I made some new fantastic friends, traveled a bit, had photography opportunities, my creativity came back, my ambition and joy of life emerged.

One evening, Chad discovered my list, and upon asking if he could read it, I surprisingly let him. He read it, and besides getting excited for me and wanted to start one himself, he said, "I want to help you check some off, I know exactly where to start."

Alas, came sushi making night!!!

Making sushi, LIKE A BOSS!

There is a very wide range of goals on my bucket-list. Some are silly, and some are larger-than-life. From "die my hair" (which I have checked off) to "sky-dive over mount Everest"(which I have not). One that I have always wanted to do happened this night:  Make sushi!

It was so much fun! The best part I learned from the whole process is: sushi can be whatever you want it to be. I was so focused on making the perfect sushi rolls that I have had in restaurants, but realized I can make whatever I want. If I think certain ingredients would taste great together, then do it! And so I did! After a beautiful fall walk, we went to the grocery store and found various fresh, yummy ingredients:

-Portobellini mushrooms

Then, we got the nori paper, sticky rice, rice vinegar to cook the rice, Sriracha sauce (because it's delicious on anything), and rolling mat.

Let the sushi making begin!

Prepped all ingredients. Even learned to "segment" a lime :)

Smoosh the sticky rice onto about 2/3 of the nori paper. (Bowl of water to dip fingers in so rice doesn't stick to hands)

Lay chosen ingredients horizontally on the center of the rice bed.

Mmmm asparagus, cilantro, avocado and artichoke :)

Cucumber, avocado, and we sauteed the mushrooms and tofu to bring out the flavors.

All the combinations were delicious! I made sure all of mine had avocado in them :)

Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom!
Roll them up! This process might require video instruction. Basically, just fold over, away from you and make sure everything is very tight together.As you squish the roll together with one end of the mat, pull the other side of the mat away from you. This will ensure the roll is very tight. You will make a square shape of the roll. Continue until the far end of the nori paper is rolled.
Cut rolls into about 1.5 inch sections using a very sharp knife.
Now, the best part: eat them! Paired with a crisp Californian Fume Blanc, I was in culinary heaven.

All of the combination were amazing! We did a pretty good job I must say :)

January's bucket-list check, coming soon!


Friday, 4 January 2013

Welcome 2013, you're mine!

Happy New Years Everyone!!! 

I hope the holidays brought everyone lots of love, happiness and cheer :) And yummy food :)

I ended up double fracturing my foot a week before Christmas. As much as the timing was horrible with work, not be able to go out  present shopping and do Christmasy running around, it was definitely a blessing in disguise.  Ever have those moments where you know the world is testing you? That is exactly what this felt like. Someone, or something was telling me to slowwww downnnnn. My test: relax!

I had that nagging voice telling me to slow down a long time ago. I guess a broken foot was the only way I would listen. My biggest struggle in the last 2 weeks has been to be ok with relaxing and not "being productive". Previously, even on my days off from work, I would feel anxious with any free time and always needed to busy myself. I would run errands, work out, and literally do anything to fill my time. I went from working 12 hour shifts, running, yoga, working out, photographing and general flailing about, to nothing, absolutely nothing. I had no idea in the beginning how much I would struggle with this. The first few days were an absolute nightmare! I felt like I was in a jail cell! I could not leave my apartment or drive anywhere.  Even getting up to get a glass of water was an endeavor of hopping, balancing and dealing with shooting pains.How I was going to last 6 weeks, I had no idea!

As time went on, some days became easier. That is when I decided I was either going to drive myself crazy, or  take the opportunity to do all the things I have wanted to but could never give myself the time or permission to do so.
On top of the priorities: edit photos! I had so many backed up from various photo shoots that I had not even uploaded from my SD cards. The editing process takes a lot of time, but that is all I had, time.

Fitness photoshoot from November.

Didn't realize my favorites were mostly black and whites...

Then, I baked a lot of yummy vegan treats! Four batches of raw "Lara" balls, (mmmm) granola, gluten-free gingerbread "men" (turned out to be various limbs,  "abstract" shapes and circles). I Christmas shopped for anything I hadn't already bought from the luxury of my computer (yay lululemon for everyone!) haha

One of my favorite "broken foot" projects was painting my massive canvas! The blank canvas had been staring at me for almost a year. It was daunting leaning against the wall in all its blankness, but for some reason I could never start it. Firstly, I never felt inspired enough, and secondly, I was nervous about what to put on such a massive space. I felt like it had to be an epic masterpiece. As part of my lessons in relaxation, I set it all up, and waiting for my artsy mood to hit. When it did, I just painted with no plan! Can you imagine!? No plan at all, no idea of what I was intending to create, I just let the right side of my brain lead the way, with the help of some killer tunes of course! It was, magical! The painting is no where close to complete, but it was such an amazing feeling to let go, stop thinking, and let my body and brain do whatever they wanted.

Unfinished - Acrylic on Canvas (went in a peacock, dragon kinda direction...)

And finally, I had this fresh start by tying some lose ends, finishing up projects and getting my mental health up to check, I decided that 2013 was going to be a pivotal year for me. It was time for a serious resolution. Not year long change, this was going to be a life time change. Time to switch my gears and to start doing what I want. To be authentic and live my life exactly how I want to be living it.
Alas, my resolution: check off at least 1 item on my bucket list every month.

I started this list back in high school and I have been adding to it ever since. I have about 120 things I want to do in my lifetime thus far, with only 22 checked off. So,  I am committing to at least 12 things this year, but planning to do way more than that.

On top of this promise to myself, I also thought, why not blog about it?? So, as I check off my life dreams, I will be sharing them with you too! Aren''t you lucky!?

I have completed January's already... stay tuned...

-Em :)