Overcoming the Impossible Dream

 

At times practicality seems to overtake dreams. Rather than fall prey to quashed plans it becomes important to consider how to go around, under or over what appears to be an insurmountable problem. Of course we all have our own buttons that, once pushed, provoke us into action we may, or may not take. Mine include family, kitty and money. As previously posted I also have health on my list. Take a heavy dose from the opening lyrics of the 1944 song, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative” and, in my opinion, you are well on your way to fulfilling dreams, often on a far more interesting road.

Why am I thinking such thoughts now? It all comes down to family. I have four daughters, two sons-in law, one grandson. Oh, and one cat, but he has his own category. Visiting the cold of Ontario once a year for a month has served well for visiting 5/7 of my family in one fell swoop. I share a household with another. Also with the cat. That leaves my youngest, she is 25. For some reason she tests my patience to the maximum. Perhaps it is that unquenchable urge to know the unknown. She is also a backpacker; she has been on the road since March 2016, with about an eight week break when she came home after falling quite ill with bronchial pneumonia. It was also an opportunity for her to give up her apartment, find homes for her pets and pack up all her worldly possessions before hitting the road again.

Fellow travellers, of course I worry about her being on her own in places she is unfamiliar with. Her sisters worry about me when I am away. That is how family works, or should. We do so because we care and are there for emergencies. Except my youngest resents it until she needs something – usually money. Hers, not mine. So, I have a question, particularly for the young travellers out there, would you prefer to rarely be in touch with family or do you, and family, appreciate daily or weekly check ins, usually more along the nature of something exciting/interesting/frustrating that happened during the day?

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I usually send a line or two, privately and publicly, to someone in my family – they are free to pass things along. I guess that is a third option. There are reasons for this, safety being primary of course. If a general itinerary, arrival dates, travel mode, with whom is provided – then you suddenly fall off the grid – someone will know when to start searching for you. After all, things can go wrong. Going solo can mean there is not anyone physically nearby to know if you are in distress – even temporarily, or for the most trivial reason. Someone at home could mean maintaining your sanity, or preventing an international disaster. Or, at least a cultural faux pas. It is a way to keep on top of how everyone is, a few lines quickly sent off can often say much more than a carefully crafted, edited letter. So, for those of us out there, remember the people who are not with you, (I fit into both categories) drop a line, because we can travel with you from afar, and we care. Hell, we love you.

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Then there is my cat. He came back with us from China, approaching fifteen years old. The family joke is that I left behind one daughter but brought back the cat. As things have turned out it is that daughter who makes it possible to leave the cat behind. I know he will be well cared for. The issue is that he is getting older. Aside from his quirkiness he has two chronic health issues. Yes, I worry about him as much as I do my daughter who is in….hm, Taiwan. (When I first started writing this she was still in Australia). For anyone wanting to travel but has a pet, consider who will care for him/her: ongoing healthcare, routines, food, and what to do in an emergency. Unless you have pet insurance, with a list of what is covered and not covered, even one urinary tract infection can break the bank for many. As a pet ages so to do the problems. Be prepared to allow final decisions to be made by the person you have entrusted your pet to.

My backpacker daughter had left left two cats and one dog in the care of a friend who moved into the apartment so as to maintain as much familiarity as possible. What had not been dealt was medical issues. It was only through luck that I happened to have temporarily gone home from my travels when a frantic message came saying the elderly cat was very ill. One look at her, the cat that is, told me it was unlikely she would live beyond that day. However, consultation on messenger of all things, (daughter in Thailand) meant taking her to the animal hospital to at least make her comfortable. I pulled no punches, the veterinarian was s little kinder providing options.

I had to make the decision to not prolong her possible suffering. Of course we were all upset. The thing is to ensure there is someone who can make such decisions, preferably after letting you know, but if not possible it is like an executive decision – only made as the best option. I had already ensured that when I am away my daughter at home has final say on the best course of action for my kitty if one must be made. He is, after all, approaching elder cat stage and prolonging life just for me to say goodbye would be cruel.

The final consideration when travelling is money. Which includes the care of a well loved pet. In addition, what about a home base, personal belongings, a job? What can, or should, be given up? Basically, the comfort zone lies in just how willing anyone travelling can let go of. Or make changes to meet dreams and plans. My view is that if anyone plans to go for it and travel for upwards of a year or more, and do not own property, drop the apartment, store everything, and pack your bag lightly. If you own your own place you should be able to figure out how to make that work for you!

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Is your job just paycheque to paycheque, do you absolutely love it or can you walk away without any qualms? Perhaps you are near retirement or have managed to set aside a sum towards travel. It is amazing how a little can stretch far with ingenuity. I assume travel is the goal if you are reading this. I promote exploration, in your own country or abroad. My one caveat is to have an emergency fund and/or travel insurance and someone ‘at home’ to contact ‘just in case’. Do not fear adventure, rather grasp it, wrestle with it, love it – then leave it for new ones. Happy travelling!

Last Days of Semi-Solo Travel: or ‘Final Countdown’

At Christmas I was given one last gift to be used just prior to going home. Tickets to see a local little theatre production. Before we would meet one of my daughters for dinner and the show, her sister and I managed to have a wonderfully stress free day despite dealing with banking and other stuff. With all of that out of our way we decided to have lunch at a small pub in a small strip mall along one of the main roads in Kingston. The Rose and Crown on upper Princess. They even have live music on Wednesday nights, sadly we were there far too early and had other plans.

Knowing we would be going for dinner later I chose from the lunch menu. Breaded sole, a small side of chips (aka French fries) and a side order of coleslaw. The sole was fine, chips not greasy and only lightly salted (a bonus in my books) but the tartar sauce was a poor concoction of green relish, mayonnaise and mustard. My daughter said she needed a photo of me using ketchup to show my grandson. The coleslaw was crispy, lightly dressed, quite nice. I only ordered that because there was no vegetable offered with my meal. Rather disappointing.

My daughter had the meat pie with Caesar salad and a small side of previously frozen vegetables. She declared the meat pie good although most likely too salty for my taste. The Caesar looked nice, I neglected to ask, the sad looking vegetables were not touched. The atmosphere was simple, a good place to stop at if in the area – perhaps while out shopping for a vehicle, which is how my daughter and her husband came across the place a few years ago. That is an indication of most likely not a place I would purposely seek out in the future.

We then headed to a mystery appointment. My daughter had something planned on her hands. I really could not think what it might be as she was talking about meeting a co-worker I did not know. We were getting pedicures and manicures! Although this can be a solo activity, and I have done so often, the interaction with others, and, this time, with my esthetician, who may have missed his calling to be a comedian. We also talked about Vietnam, his home country and where two of my daughters have been, It did not hurt that he was a nice looking young man and served us chocolate. Twice. Full chocolate bars. I stashed mine for emergencies. So far they are still stashed. There is something about getting a pedicure in the middle of winter that seems positively sinful.

 

Dinner and a show (I am not at all spoiled):

I was determined to eat at a favourite place I found last year, only to be stymied with recalling if it was Mango Thai Cafe (also a nice choice) or Taj Curry House. The styles of cooking only sort of touch regionally so it took some sleuthing on my part. My memory served me well, it was Taj. A small, family operated eatery. We had three dishes and were thankful we did not order four! Vegetable Biryani, Beef Ragan Josh and chicken Dansak. A small appetizer of onion Bhaji, some naan to share and we were all well satisfied. Much like Crave for a coffee out, Taj Curry House is a restaurant I will make a point of visiting when back in Kingston. Of course I am always game to seek other eateries and activities.

The little theatre production was put on by Blue Canoe Productions. This is primarily a youth company, 13 – 30, many performing for the first time. Their enthusiasm certainly helped to hold up the production. Peter & the Starcatcher, written in 2006, played on Broadway April 2012 – Jan 2013. This is the story that tells us how Peter Pan became a lost boy. A young girl, other lost boys, Smee of course, a nasty pirate captain, mermaids and the crocodile are all included. I could not catch some of the very quiet lines and the poor sight lines for the many occasions the players were sitting on the deck of the boat or the sands of the shore were frustrating.

There is nothing more irritating than having to peer over shoulders for a glimpse of the action or to hear the lines. We were there for opening night, the audience was well peppered with family, friends and production people, so a full house. Encouraging for actors. The Baby Grand Theatre is a cozy set up, and would work much better for players rising up, rather than sinking down. I believe this production might play better with a raised stage. We joined the audience and actors for a post show gala – we must have been the only ones not somehow connected to the show. Having been involved in many theatre productions, a lot of higher caliber, I left thinking how fortunate I am no longer.

Farewell hug to one daughter then back to the countryside. Some serious packing was on my agenda for the next day.

Maple Syrup Heist: Improbable Escapes

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It was a weekend of family fun activities – Christmas present from one of my daughters and SIL for all of us to enjoy. First the shivery, yet delightful Lumina Borealis, then the following night we headed to Bellevue House to try our collective acuity at detective work in a game offered through Improbable Escapes, a local business that encourages interaction, fun and wearing of thinking caps for a fee. Fortunately this was an indoor activity!

A little about the Bellevue House Historic Site, which seems rather off the beaten path until the history of it is known. Built in the 1840’s, Bellevue House was the first non-traditional home built in the area, moving away from the familiar Georgian architecture of the time, to Italianate, and not greatly admired by the population of Kingston at the time.

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There are, according to the floor plans, seventeen rooms, including the cellar, and seven levels! Of interest is how well situated the house is, the style includes an aesthetic that takes into account the lay of the land. I was there at night, in the winter, what I could see in the darkness of night, half moon and stars helped, were the darker shades of bare trees, a vast stretch of snow and vines in need of leaves and blooms.a good reason to visit when the weather is finer.bellevue-kitchen-ashx

According to the Parks Canada website, “the Italianate style belongs to the Picturesque period in architectural history. Picturesque taste, besides advocating unusual architectural styles, valued the siting of a house to take advantage of scenic vistas. Bellevue House was built on a height of land with a southward orientation so that the principal rooms, the drawing room, dining room, master bedroom and study, would benefit from views of Lake Ontario. This orientation, co-incidentally, fulfilled another goal of Picturesque design: the rooms are pleasantly sunlit for a large part of the day.”

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Sir John A. Macdonald , the first Prime Minister of Canada, and his wife, lived at Bellevue House (before his political life took off, and before he was a Sir) for about one year, 1848/49. The house is now a museum set up in the fashion of when Macdonald lived there. As such the house is an interesting look into the past as well as being a wonderful venue for the fun of trying to solve the Maple Syrup Heist.

Maple syrup, that golden, all natural sweet topping for pancakes, as Canadian as hockey. 71% of Maple Syrup in the world is produced in Canada, 91% of that in the province of Quebec. It takes 40 litres of maple tree sap to make one litre of pure Syrup. There was even a real, year long Maple Syrup heist between the summer of 2011 to summer 2012 – worth $18million! We take our maple syrup very seriously and culprits, once the theft was discovered, were arrested. Alas, only 70% of the stolen golden syrup was recovered.

Bellevue House Historic Site is a National Site, which, for 2017 means free entry! Improbable Escapes is not free and only runs through to February. A wonderful way to utilize a historical site that would otherwise remain empty until May.bellevue-dining-rm-ashx

“This will be something you’ve never experienced before. A jump from the traditional escape room. Imagine a series of puzzle rooms with a limit to solve each room.” An apt description of what we were about to encounter. We had one hour or so of chaotic fun searching for clues, running up and down hallways, stairs, into various rooms and being handcuffed. Silliness ensued, we were assisted by a maid who insisted she had not stolen the Maple Syrup and gave helpful hints whenever we appeared bogged down with too many clues and little time.

We had only eight minutes in each of the six rooms we had to search. I became enamoured by all that was not included in the clues which meant I was not very helpful. Observation was important, just not what I observed! Six of us should have resulted in coming up with at least one correct clue, alas, we became two camps and came up up with two sets of guilty party, where the Syrup was stolen from and how they escaped with it. We also had a marvellous last holiday evening.bellevue-master-bedrm-ashx

Lumina Borealis: Fort Henry Magic

I had the pleasure of going to an outdoor winter wonderland with my Ontario family. A time to let the worries of the day, let work and school blues be dropped for an hour, don warm winter garb and be treated to a light show for all enjoy.

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The original Fort Henry was built in 1812, for fear of an attack close to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, an important shipping and trade route, when the British were fighting against the Americans. Canada was, and remains, a member of the Commonwealth. Today it has absolutely no connection to the military in Canada besides being across the street from a base. It is now a museum and historic site. Over the winter the Fort and most of the facilities that are open for tourists are usually closed. Of course, this means I have never been inside the grounds.

My travelling companions joined us.

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Lumina Borealis opened the gates to a quiet, mystical wonderland that welcomed all who entered; from the swirling mists and illuminated walls depicting various scenes, to the soft, inviting music from beyond, it was an ethereal, magical hour. Upon entering we were encouraged to slow down, stay awhile, follow the blue movement and changes on the walls of the Fort before wending our way around a bend where we came upon lit iceberg sculptures. A short piece of poetry was illuminated on the wall, stopping walkers in their slow tracks. Arches of the Fort in this area echoed pleasantly with throat singing mingled with softer sounds. As we reluctantly left the soft light and crags of the stylized bergs we rounded another bend.

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It was a little like entering Narnia. A forest of low pine trees that held lights in their branches, then lit up all around us. On the stone walls depictions of animals slowly came to view. The curve of a head, twitch of nose, the stealth of foot, wings spread, silent howl. An owl, rabbit, a fox, the wolf, and other friends of the forest were there, then faded away. Like a memory from long ago. Of course I knew it was all done with lights. It did not matter, for a short time we were outdoors, enjoying life.

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Fire pits served three purposes, warmth, light and more creatures. The light show this time was interactive. We could walk across the path where soft blue hues dominated, heading towards s main fire pit where ‘our’ animal would present itself. I was a wolf. When several people were there, we were a party of six, a wonderful display of pale blues, purples, reds, oranges and whites mingled towards a fabulous explosion of muted colour. The shades of winter. All with music that was just there, as though not being present would diminish the sensation.

There was more, and it was wonderful to see Fort Henry being put to positive use for all. Similar winter shows are happening in Quebec, Nova Lumina, Chandler; Forest Lumina, Coaticook, QC; Anima Lumina, St – Felicien, QC. I encourage anyone living nearby to attend. It is an hour of enchantment – and we all need that. I hope a similar show is offered for the 150th birthday of Canada in December.

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I also had the pleasure of visiting a relatively new bakery, tucked away in a small plaza. We nearly missed it. Of course I had to go in, it is called Grama’s House. We bought a couple of apple tarts and one butter tart. The Apple tart was yummy! Not too sweet, the apple still a teeny crisp, flaky pastry, and a small bite. Perfect for a little snack without feeling dreadfully sinful.

Winter can be quite beautiful.

The Boring Stuff That Makes Things Possible

Happy New Year!
It is officially 2017, I have seven more days before my Winter Trip is done, and not enough time to figure out just how to fit everything in for my travels this year. Therefore, I decided to deal with some of the practical stuff first. Although money is important I need to consider my health above all. How dreadfully boring, yet necessary to be absolutely sure of not needing to make a call home for someone to rescue me, send medication or, for that matter, money.

I do take medications. I hate taking them. My goal, much stronger than any other year, is to reduce what I have to take. There are a few reasons for this. Primarily, who wants to be constantly worrying about carrying even a month’s worth of pills. I have done this, even up to six months worth. A couple of things I learned – blister packs (flattish, easy to access, two weeks of medication). Six months takes up a lot of room! Then there is the problem with humidity in some countries, some pills swell if not in a small bottle. Well, they do in those too, just not as quickly. Swollen pills taste nasty. Medication, even in Canada, where we have a stellar medical system, is expensive. Getting medicine for more than three months, in my province, is also not easy. It is possible, just not easy. 

It seems the only medication I will most likely have to stay on is, to date, not covered, I can either continue to pay $300 for three months or change to a less effective prescription. I am not willing to do that. The joys of being a diabetic (yikes, there it is for all to read. I kept that secret from my mother to the day she died) unwilling to use insulin, or anything needing needles. I abhor needles. I have heard they are also not easy to take from country to country – I will use any excuse. Unfortunately I will still have to poke a finger every morning to test my blood sugar. Sigh. 

How to reach some health goals. Well, of course common sense means exercise, healthy eating, enough sleep. Visiting Ontario seems to make maintaining the first two difficult. One issue with travelling solo but staying with family. I am also not a cold weather lover. Which means I am not getting out for enough walks and am eating fabulous meals with family and going out for meals. Which brings me back to health again. My blood sugar was the highest it has ever been. We did have dinner very late, but it was a scare for me. Only once before did this happen, while travelling, but also after a few days in Quebec City where fabulous food and lots of opportunities for exploring were available. The difference was not having the one expensive medication. Now I know.

Then there is the forgetting things. I sure as hell hope this is only just as bad as from my teens forward. I did have a head injury in 1972, back then such things were not really dealt with as thoroughly as these days. Technology – read that as anything to do with computers – drives me batty. Yet I feel compelled to continue to use it. Which brings me to my first solo attempt at posting a post!  Swift way to reach out to family, book tickets, troubleshoot, share adventures or ask for tips.

 I would love to hear from anyone with medical , minor or major, issues who travel a lot, particularly if solo.

Other Stuff

I mentioned in another blog needing a new travel backpack that I will not have to check in. I still want it to have a waist and chest strap, airflow and be sturdy. I will be carrying everything I need for however long I will be travelling. This time without a Swiss Army knife! Considering I might be heading to warm places then cold I could very well have a problem with keeping everything compact. My winter coat alone takes up all the space in my backpack! 

Anyone interest in visiting Canada, Parks Canada free admission, Discovery Pass for the full year to celebrate our 150th anniversary. I highly recommend visiting this fantastic country. I hope to add some of these wonderful sites to my adventures. At this rate my cat will fully disown me.

Wishing everyone grand adventures!