Thursday, April 14, 2011

A new look

I figured with the end of my position at The Cord and the beginning of my job with African Impact at the end of next month, my blog was in need of a revamp. 

So I've decided to make the jump to Wordpress. So from now on, you can see my blog on this page, beginning with the lead-up to my trip back to South Africa, which will start with a trip up the Garden Route with Kenji. 


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Words of wisdom

Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore. 
- Lady Gaga 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I would like to be back here

Photo courtesy of Kenji Ashman.

The highest mountain range in Southern Africa, the Drakensberg rises to 3,482 metres (11,424 ft) in height. In Zulu, it is referred to as uKhahlamba, meaning "barrier of spears".

Friday, March 18, 2011

The great affair

The airport and I have a love-hate relationship.
From here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In photos: Favourite days in SA

My first day on the continent of Africa was filled with
adventure as I took a game drive in South Africa's
Hluhluwe/Imfolozi Game Reserve. 
One of my favourite days at Senzangethemba Creche was
painting the kid's faces for a Zulu dancing performance.
A wonderful bush walk turned led us to the beach overlooking
the Indian Ocean in 2008. Despite a serious case of the
giggles (which likely scared off all the animals), hiking
is the best way to see a country's landscape.

One of two of my trips to Swaziland (for very different
reasons), Elaine and I stayed at a beautiful Inn in the
valley. The gardens and locale were so calming. 
Just as the whales reached South Africa, I caught a glimpse of
a duo traveling up the coast. Lucky my friend told me to put
 down my camera and actually enjoy the view!
They were stunning. 
Working in Ezwenelisha during 2009 got me further away
from town and offered some breathtaking landscapes.
My friend Brier and I were trying to go over our HIV lesson
plan when Bubbles decided to intervene. I snapped this
beautiful picture of her in 2009 - it's still among my favourites. 
Only one thing to say: Mozambican beaches are beautiful. 
My last morning in South Africa in
2009, I caught the sunrise with Emil
and his photographers. 
Beautiful Ezwenelisha again on my last day in South Africa.
I climbed Drakensberg in May of 2010, but I think that
might be an entirely different blog post. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dealing with distance

Kenji and I climbing Drakensberg in South Africa (May 2010)
I think at one point I told myself that I wouldn't blog about my relationships any more, since the last one I blogged about sort of ended in disaster (understatement). But here I am, after Marie-Eve Vallieres requested via Twitter that I impart my knowledge of long-distance dating upon the world. Little did they know exactly how large the can of worms was she was opening - but it's not like me to deny a request.

Allow me to backpedal a moment.

Since we started dating, my boyfriend Kenji and I have spent a total of 28 days in the same time zone. We met last May while on a volunteer project in St. Lucia, South Africa with African Impact, though we didn't start dating officially until a few months later. That time (and many conversations thereafter) was reserved for a number of discussions regarding his traveling, my plans to study abroad and whether we thought being a couple was worth our time.

Most people ask me why, but I think that might be an entirely different blog. Long-distance relationships are hard, but they are by no means impossible. I wouldn't be in the relationship I'm in if I didn't think it was worth something and there are ways that make it easier on both of us. So here they are.

1. Set aside time
Make the time to talk, whether it's through type or voice talking. Obviously a phone or Skype call is best, but while traveling often the Internet is unreliable at best and typing over Facebook Chat is the best you can do. Whatever your situation, taking an extra twenty minutes at an Internet Cafe or finding a hostel with unlimited Internet access will make a world of difference. If you both don't take the time, one of you will start to feel resentful.

2. It's the little things

I couldn't have written this blog without some input from the other side, so Kenji offered this piece of advice. He likened the little things you can do while you're halfway around the world to the text messages you send during downtime at school or work even if you're going to see your partner later in the day. Taking the time to send a quick message, whether it's on Facebook, a quick e-mail or even a postcard can make your partner's day. Particularly when it's months before you'll see each other, not hours.

3. Have a time line

Dealing with distance can be made so much easier when there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Plan ahead for the next time you see each other no matter how far away that date may be. Even discussing potential visits will help ease the stress of long periods of time apart. Ballpark a date or a month that you will see each other next and make tentative plans by researching things you could do together. Even the prospect of seeing each other will lift your spirits and give you something to look forward to.

4. Use Skype

Skype is likely the greatest invention known to couples not living in the same city. Free calling between computers and cheap calls to landlines and cell phones make Skype a great tool for those in long distance relationships. Being able to speak to someone and see them on video can make all the difference when you're coping with months apart.

It's almost to be expected that if you love traveling your current, or potential, partner will share that passion. Trying to make a long distance relationship work 20 years ago would have been next to impossible, but technology now helps us keep in touch so much more intimately. If you are serious about making it work, you can ease the strain of the miles.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Until now: Top 5

You can also read this blog on GotSaga.

From the relatively obscure to the well traveled, my adventures are far from over. Up until now, here is a list of places that I would return to in a heartbeat and that I recommend you visit at least once.

1. Antrim coast, Northern Ireland

Breathtaking Northern Ireland’s hidden jewel is a car trip that can easily be navigated within a day, as the road around the north of the country has four magnificent sights. It’s such a great experience that I did it twice.

First stop is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, once used by fisherman and though not for the faint of heart, even if you don’t to cross the bridge its locale provides great views. Second is Torr Head, just off the Causeay Coastal Route which is another great lookout, though not as fantastic as the medieval Dunluce Castle, whose kitchen once crumbled into the sea. Finally the volcanic anomaly of the Giant’s Causeway, the most popular attraction in Northern Ireland, is the last, but not least stop on the road.

2. Drakensberg, South Africa

Trekking and hiking are among my favourite activities to do abroad, which is probably why climbing the Drakensberg mountains in Zululand ranks a very close second on my list.
A relatively easy climb for the inexperienced mountaineer, the mountain has breathtaking views from all altitudes. It may take a couple days, but one can camp or stay in beautiful mountainside lodges as they make their way up the mountain. Once at its peak, you’ll find yourself standing on top of Tugela Falls, the world’s second-largest waterfall.

Full of beautiful gorges and the rare opportunity to drink straight from the fall’s crystal streams, it’s a must-see for anyone traveling to South Africa.

3. Ezuluweni Valley, Swaziland

Swaziland is one of the most underestimated travel locations in southern Africa. With plenty of adventure attractions combined with luxury hostels and spas on the cheap, the Ezulwini Valley has everything any traveler could want in one street.

Surrounded by beautiful hills filled with typical African flora and fauna, Swaziland is rife with culture and beauty. Quad biking, game drives, white water rafting and caving all provide great experiences for the adventurous traveler. At the same time, spas and luxurious bed and breakfasts will please any traveler looking to relax on the cheap. I loved it so much the first time jumped at the opportunity to return two years later.

4. Santorini, Greece

Home to the best Greek salad I’ve ever tasted, this small Greek island is packed with activities for every breed of traveler. Whether you choose to hit the bars, stroll the streets or quad bike around the small island, you’re sure to be satisfied – and the beaches will not disappoint. If you arrive by boat, riding the donkeys up the steep slope from the harbour is a must – not only is it thrilling but you’ll be laughing about it for the rest of the day.

5. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My first experience on mainland Europe has really stayed with me, however it’s probably because I did everything right during my brief stay in this beautiful city.
If you only have 24 hours like I did, I highly recommend visiting the Amsterdam Historical Museum, located in what was once the city’s orphanage. Having a friend who was attending the university, I was able to borrow a bicycle and see the city the way it should be seen, and I recommend renting a bike and doing the same. And of course, don’t miss a brief stop in one of the local coffee shops.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The best of 2010

This year was the most turbulent of any travel year I’ve had in terms of planning when my trip to backpack Europe came to an abrupt halt (let's not open that can of worms) and was replaced by another stint of volunteering in South Africa.

My methods may have been unorthodox, but it helped me realize that I don’t need concrete travel plans to have a good time and even if I change my plans last-minute, by the time I’m immersed in an adventure I won’t even realize I’m on the wrong continent.

Here is a list of my top 10 travel list of 2010:

10. Niagara

Guilty – I’d never seen Niagara Falls until this December. So you might be asking why it rounds off the list. Or maybe not. Niagara is too touristy for my liking, and as you’ll probably get to understand as you read through the list, I’m a bit of a sucker for the outdoor-sports-backpacking-the-countryside kinds of adventures.

Nevertheless, the falls did surprise me with their sheer magnitude, and spending the afternoon in Niagara-on-the-Lake was beautiful.

9. Farming in S.A.

The minute I step off the plane in Richard’s Bay, South Africa, I want to do manual labour. The African Impact project I worked on includes some great farming development components and there’s nothing like helping out in the garden of a Zulu family to help you really get to know the culture and people of the region. Plus, the views from the gardens were always spectacular.

8. Cycling Amsterdam

I hate feeling like a tourist when I’m traveling, so when I visited my friend Emily Slofstra in Amsterdam for a night, I was given an opportunity to feel more like a local than a backpacker. Emily had been living in the beautiful Dutch city while going to the university there, so she knew all the ins and outs of the town – and even had an extra bike. I felt completely at home while sitting writing my blog in a cafe by the university, and it was a great introduction to mainland Europe and to my 2010 travels.

7. Quadbiking in Swaziland

Every once in a while it’s fun to do something that nearly kills you. Quadbiking may not seem all that dangerous but in places like Swaziland, the rules are a little lax and you have to maneuver your bike over logsand up 80 degree hills without toppling over. After avoiding toppling to a fiery death, the group I was with got to see a beautiful sunset, so I guess you could say it was worth it.

6. Sailing the Mediterranean

I’m not a huge fan of cruise ships but I’ll admit that they are a great way to see a lot of places in a short time and decide where you would like to go back to for a longer period. Although it’s a little lavish compared to the way I usually travel, it was a nice, relaxing break and pulling out of the harbours of each country made for breathtaking views.

5. Venice, Italy

Although I enjoyed Amsterdam’s canals more than those cutting through Venice, running along the pier and staying on a yacht in the heart of the city was a great experience. Seeing an orchestra playing in the evening and walking through the city eating gelato was exactly how I pictured a night in Venice – and the city did not disappoint.

4. Teaching HIV Education

The main reason I travel to South Africa is to teach HIV education to both adults and kids. Teaching in primary schools is particularly rewarding and a great way to learn a new language and culture. Just make sure you agree with the way the organization you work for runs their development assistance programs and it can be on the of the best ways to see the world.

3. Horseback riding in South Africa

There’s something special about seeing landscapes from the back of a horse. Despite having been to South Africa three times, the bush ride I took with some friends last May was a breathtaking experience. However, I would only recommend a bush ride if you know what you’re doing on a horse – the guides know when you’re experienced and they’re usually game for a gallop. And since the majority of us had been riding for upwards of 10 years - let's just say the ride likely ended up being even more dangerous than the quadbiking.

2. Santorini, Greece

Santorini was the highlight of my first trip to the Mediterranean. We rented a jeep and drove around the entire town, which exemplified everything I had ever imagined the Greek islands would be – topped off with the best Greek salad I’ve ever eaten. Although I only spent the day there, I’ve been told that it’s also a great destination for backpackers, too.

1. Climbing Drakensberg

By far the most amazing experience I had this year was climbing the Drakensberg mountains, the highest mountain range in Southern Africa. Sitting atop the world's second-highest waterfall, the Tugela Falls, was breathtaking and climbing up the mountain’s chain ladders was a thrill. It was a great first climbing experience that has kicked off my desire to do more climbing.