Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 29 of the Indie Travel Project - One Word

 E X P A N S I V E

BootsnAll Travel Network invited bloggers from around the world to participate in a daily writing project for November.  Each day, BootsnAll sent out a prompt for that day's writing.  The above is from Day 29 - One Word.  The prompt was:   What does travel mean to you in one word?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 26 of the Indie Travel Project - Photo

Kootenay Lake, BC

Six Mile Beach is a hidden treasure.  Not that it is a secret.  If you ask any local within the area, they will point to the roadway that leads down to the beach.  If they have time, they will tell you that it is a longer-than-you-might-think forested walkway or to be watchful of bears.  But unless you are told, you won't find Six Mile Beach except if you are on a boat and then it is more than obvious.  You might stumble over it. 

The narrow spit of sand juts into the west arm of the Kootenay Lake, a north-south lake carved by glaciers long ago and fed now by creeks that have a main line to glaciers.

The season for swimming is short, 3 months on a good year.  What I have found is that the heat in the air does not quickly translate into heat in the water so when I am sitting on the beach, the sun has heated up my shoulders and they feel on fire.  The lake beckons me.  But that first time each summer that I venture out, every body part under the water is paralyzed and every body part above the water is shivering.  Glacier water is like that. 

Locals call it refreshing.  Translated that means "you are really a wimp ass if you complain."

Since nobody, certainly not me, wants to look like a wimp ass, I traipse into the water, dunk my body so my shoulders are wet and skedaddle back to my beach chair.  Any memory of heat has been totally obliterated from my mind.  I watch a beach jock run into the water and dive in, head first.  A show off.  Probably a local.

By August the lake gets warmer and adults join the children who have been swimming in the lake for two months.  (Is there some biological reason why children don't have the same aversion to cold water as adults?)  

A few weeks into fall, I drive past the lake and see mist sitting on the surface.

"What is it?" I ask my friend.

"It's the lake cooling down."

Cooling down?  What is colder than cold?


Starting November 1, BootsnAll launched a project called 30 Days of Indie Travel. They have invited bloggers from around the world to join them in a daily blogging effort reflecting on our past travel experiences.  Each day, they post a new prompt on BootsnAll articles. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as they like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on their own blogs.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 24 of the Indie Travel Project - Giving Thanks

This year I have done a lot of exploring and pondering the life of a travel writer.  In that spirit, here are my thanks:

1.  My mobility

I spent two days of this week on crutches because of a hamstring strain.  On the day of the injury, all of my plans were kyboshed.  I was grounded.  What seemed so simple earlier in the day, like taking out the compost, was impossible. In an ordinary day, I don’t think about my mobility.  I realized how much I take this for granted.  My independence was swept away faster than I could even imagine.  Which brings me to point #2.

2.  The wonderful friends and family I have

Heather dropped her basement-cleaning chore as soon as I called.  Later she expressed her own gratitude for the distraction.  I am so lucky to have great friends and family who would come from far away if I needed them.  For my two days of being house-bound, friends brought me food, drugs and a lot of well wishes.  And the more I travel, I am blown away by the amazing people I meet.

3.  Choices

As I consider a winter vacation, the biggest dilemma I have right now is the possibilities.  Airlines, hotels, resorts, countries.  What a wealth of abundance!

4.  Being born at a time when round the world travel is a possibility

Not that long ago, RTW travel was available only to explorers who risked their lives to find out what was beyond the expanse of water.  From a bigger perspective, there is so much we are learning about the cosmos and our journey with other celestial bodies.  The more we learn about outer (and inner) space, the more we find out how precious we are.

5.  MatadorU

Through the MatadorU on-line travel writing course, my horizons have expanded more than if I pursued the career on my own.  The experience has helped me think about what it is that I want, introduced me to ideas that I knew nothing about, and connected me with a world-wide community of people who are passionate about seeing the world.

I am grateful. 

This prompt is from Day 24 of BootsnAll's 30 Day Indie Travel Project:
 Seeing what others have – and don’t have – around the world often helps us appreciate our own good fortune. What are you thankful for this year ?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 22 of the Indie Travel Project - Transit

He measured the distance in miles and then converted them to kilometres for me. I imagine that if I asked him today, he would know those numbers, even though it has been well over 2 years since he traveled the road.

The 8-year relationship was always long distance, a good deal of that decision influenced by me.  I couldn’t imagine it differently.

Twice a month, one of us waited for the other on Friday night.  I left after work as people were organizing their dinners.  The roads were quiet.  Just how I liked them. 

By the time I got to the turnoff road to the border, there was no one else on the road except deer, moose or elk.  As I slowed down for the tight corners around the rock bluffs, I looked to my left for the small gravel road that hugged the side of the mountain and disappeared around the trees.  The road always caught my attention, like a what’s-wrong-with-this picture where our eyes are riveted to the odd article sitting in a cloud. 

A few minutes later I slowed for customs.  I turned off the music and put on my regular glasses.  Border guards don’t like shades.

“What is the purpose of your trip?” 

“I am visiting a friend.”  I knew that my friend answered it differently. 

As I passed through the border, I settled into my seat and turned up the music.  I chose the CDs for the journey, lively rock music full of energy. The trees hugged the road closer on this side of the border.   

Even in the height of summer when tourists retreated to these northern lakes, the roads begged for action.  Except for a few small towns, only cottages dotted the sides of the road.  No cell service here.  Once when I drove in the dark of winter, I was surprised to see so many lights pouring out of windows on the sides of the hills.  Not everything is as it appears.

As I edged the winding river, forests on my right, I watched the mountains lowering in the sky ahead of me and towering in the rear view mirror.  The final bend in the road and the sky opened in front of me.  My eyes peeled upwards at all that vastness.  A straight stretch with fields of grass on both sides.  This was my favourite part of the road.  My prairie roots. 

The road winded its way back into lakes and trees.  Watching for deer, this was wildlife country. 

When I merged onto the two-lane highway, city anticipation bolted through me.  New ideas of places to check out on the weekend popped into my head.  I tuned the radio to pre-programmed stations. I flicked buttons, the novelty of so many choices. 

At the outskirts of the city, I turned left down a back road that detoured the busy main street.  Several kilometres down the road, I turned right.  I was on a rise and ahead were farmer’s fields.

I was almost there.  I knew that the road would take me up over a hill and back into the city.  I knew I would be just as delighted to see him as he was to see me. 

But for now, I was immersed in sky, land, and trees. 

Day 22 of BootsnAll's Indie Travel Project was prompted by this:
The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Visitor at the Ashram

Today I am beginning a new feature of this blog - Photo of the Week, a picture from my travels whether near or far. 

The following photo was taken at the Yasodhara Ashram on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.   

Visitor at the Yasodhara Ashram, August 28, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 20 of Indie Travel Project

Yesterday,  I jumped into the Indie Travel Project writing about the first 4 prompts with some funky notion that I would catch up.  If this day hadn't gone sideways, I would be feeling optimistic.   Instead, I was more inspired by today's topic - Drink - and I could really use one about now.

Day 20 - Drink:  Just as the cuisine of a place reveals clues about its culture and history, so does its signature local drink. What’s the best drink you had on the road, and did the drink have any connection to the place where you drank it or the people you drank with?

Years ago, a colleague and I drove to the West End of Vancouver after a day of workshops in nearby New Westminster.  The West End is a densely-populated, action-filled,  groovy part of the city bordered by Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver.  Denman Street, a short 8 blocks from Robson to Davie is a hub of activity with great restaurants and cosmopolitan shops.  This was our destination.

We decided to go for drinks before dinner.  My companion suggested Delilah's, a martini bar and restaurant.  We sat at the bar.

"What would like to drink?" asked the bartender.

"I have never had a martini before.  What would you suggest?"  I asked.

He asked me about my preferences for sweet or sour.  He recommended the Crantini, a blend of both.

As we sipped on our drinks, we watched him make martinis for the other patrons.  We asked him what made a good martini, what was the most popular, and remembering James Bond, we asked if he preferred shaken or stirred.

"If you want shaken, you can find that at A & W."

For some reason, that struck me as quite funny.  I laughed quite heartily.   He ignored us and went to the other end of the bar for ice.  When he came back, I said, "You are a pretty funny guy."

"What I have noticed is that the more my customers drink, the funnier I get."


Saturday, November 19, 2011

30 Days of Travel

In addition to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo), November is also National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). The idea behind both of these projects is to write every day; in one you produce a draft of a novel and the second you increase your postings on your blog by 30.

In that spirit, an on-line travel network called BootsnAll has launched a daily blogging project reflecting on travel experiences. Each day, they post a new prompt and bloggers are encouraged to "follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as they like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on their own blogs."

Seeing as today is November 19th, I have happened upon this a little late. Still, it all sounds intriguing. Here I go.

Day 1 Prompt - Goals: What were your travel goals last year? Did you accomplish them? What travel goals do you hope to accomplish this year? 

Setting goals is a bit of a challenge for me. I tend to follow inspiration or see what arises. That is how I found the biggest travel surprise of this year - I am fascinated with LA. It was largely an unplanned trip with my son and his girlfriend, where we let each day unfold as we were energized by the moment. I had a great time. I can also see how that approach may be problem.  My post-high school graduation was to go to Australia.  I still haven't been there. 

Exploring LA - Kodak Theatre in Hollywood

What I have learned is that many things in life happen because we plan for them. Australia needs planning.

My goals for this year are to travel in the winter (January 2012) to somewhere in the sun; I am currently checking out possibilities. Any ideas would be helpful. And I need to get on that Australia idea.

Day 2 Prompt - Embracing Change:
Change can be exciting and bring new joys into our lives. But it can present challenges that frustrate or annoy us. How has travel changed you in the last year? Did you welcome these changes or resist them at the time, and how do you feel about them now?

In 2010, I did my first solo trip outside of the country. What I found out through that process was travel can have plenty of challenges. From being stranded in Denver during a spring snowstorm, I learned that sometimes when it appears that there are no choices, all I can change is my attitude.

Day 3 Prompt - Music: Music and travel memories often go hand in hand. A song can inspire our explorations, or it can take us back to a specific place and time. Tell us about your travel playlist and what it means to you.

When I drive across Washington State, I always think of Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. A friend of mine gave me a four-CD set about NVC; I listened to it as I passed miles and miles of agricultural land. Looking back, I can see many seeds were being planted.

Day 4 Prompt - Mistakes: Everyone makes mistakes. We forget to ask for Coke without ice in Mexico and spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom. Or we arrive at the airport for a 7pm flight only to realize the flight left at 7am. Tell us the story of your worst travel mistake.

One of my first journeys I had as an adult was travelling to Mexico. My children were about 5 and 7 years old.  While I was gone, they had a great time with their grandmother, living by grandma's rules (read: spoil them). Not too long ago, I came across a photo from the airport departure as I was leaving on that journey.  They sat on a bench, both hunched over in their winter jackets, mouths drooping, and tears in their eyes.

There it is - four days in one. Will I catch up? Tune in tomorrow.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ymir Writing Retreat

Ymir Palace - Ymir, BC
What do you call a writer who isn’t writing? That sounds like a stand-up’s opening line.  Here I am hanging out with other writers at the Ymir Writing Retreat, an annual event devoted to encouraging the writer within.

And nothing is coming.  Writer’s block.  That term doesn’t adequately describe what happens.  What do writers DO when inspiration flees?  What I have found is that distractions move in with their toothbrushes and PJs, ready for the long haul. 

The hands-down best diversion for writers is the internet. Which is why writers like Barbara Kingsolver plant themselves in a room with no access. 

The internet is so handy.  You can be in the same room with other writers as I am doing at the writing retreat.  Laptops in front of us, none of us knows what the other is doing.  They may be thinking whatever I am writing is brilliant and it is just a matter of time until a publisher seeks me out.  They may be wishing they were so productive. 

But really they don’t know.  For those of you who are curious about what a writer does, here is a synopsis of my day.

 I bunked myself at the table, laptop in front of me.  My writing pals sat in the other chairs, quiet and focused. I decided on fiction, a tale of 3 people wound up in their 30-year histories.  Where to begin?  I stared at the screen. 

I remembered a word that had caught my attention earlier.  Iterative. I meant to look that up. A method used in computational mathematics.  Curious.  After a couple other links, I remembered my task.  Get back to work.  A plot.  That’s what I needed.  Something compelling like The Tudors.  (Where did that come from?)  That Henry the VIII was such a tyrant.  Who succeeded him?  Was it a boy? No, that was the problem – Henry beheaded his wives because they didn’t produce males.  Wikipedia will have the answer.

It was his son Edward but not for long.  Nine years.  There was a link to the list of Henry’s wives.  Six of them. How many were beheaded?  Only two.  Anne and Catherine.  There were 3 Catherines according to Wikipedia.  The last wife was the god daughter of the first wife.   This is getting complicated. 

Enough of that.  Back to work.  Where was I?  Forget the plot right now.  What about the angle?  It could be the view from the mother, her lover or the gardener.  But it doesn’t make sense from the lover’s perspective as he isn’t around for long. 

Has the sky clouded over?  I thought the snow might melt today after all it was so bright this morning.  Still snow on the ground.  Good thing I put on the hiking boots before I came out here.  I would never have expected to be walking on packed snow. 

I looked at the blank page on the screen in front of me.  The gardener’s name could be Julio.  I can see him being from Central America.  Is Julio a Central American name?  I am sure Google would know.   Origins of Julio.  The Internet was down.  I gave myself a mental note to check it out later.  Julio is a good gardener’s name.  What about a last name?  Rodriquez?  Is that how to spell it?  How about the lover?  How about Martin?  How about Martine? 

I looked at the top of my screen.  The internet was back up.  I immediately thought of my e-mail. You never know who might be trying to get a hold of me.  No new mail. Maybe someone was trying to call me.  The cell phone reception was a bit dicey out here in the forest.  No new messages.  The phone needed to be charged.  It seems to need to be charged a lot more frequently these days.  Is it time to get a new one?  There – plugged in.  What about the computer?   The battery had 13% remaining.  I found the plug in and the wall outlet. 

Back into my seat.  I switched to the word processing document.  Not one word on the page. 

Writer’s block.  Google had 12.5 million hits.  A popular condition.  I looked at the browser tab.  I had one new Tweet from Advice to Writers:

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet. ZADIE SMITH