Tag Archives: Travel

Barcelona, Spain: A Photojournal

Well, yes… I’ve been home for a couple weeks now, but the backlog of work has been crippling (not to mention I’m working on a new project that has been demanding all of my free time!). Check out these photos from Barcelona, Spain!

We visited the Torre Agbar and saw Gaudi’s work at the Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell. Those pictures inside the church are from La Sagrada Familia, and let’s say that many fantasy scenes will be inspired from my visit that day. We also visited the small nation of Andorra (see the 12th century chapel among the mountains), and when we weren’t walking the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, we ate tapas (small plates) by the ocean.

Stay tuned for writing-related posts to come soon!

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Gauteng & North West Province: A Photojournal

Part three of the trip: A quick stop in Johannesburg in Gauteng province before entering the bush lodge in North West province. At the bush lodge, we went on game drives and got up close and personal with giraffes, baby lions, cheetahs, zebras, and elephants (to name a few). After time out in the bush, we were back in Johannesburg and got lucky enough to watch traditional Tswana dancers in Neighbourgoods Market.

Cape Town: A Photojournal

Things I did in Cape Town: a cheetah encounter, shark cage diving, exploring Melkbosstrand at sunset, Bettysbaai penguins, Signal Hill and Table Mountain, Chapman’s Peak, Muizenburg market, and St. James.

12 Hours in Frankfurt: A Photojournal

We had a 12-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany on the way to South Africa. We arrived in the Hauptbahnhof, walked around downtown, and ate in Römerburg. Check out my best photos!

 

My Nonna Shouldn’t Be Driving

Just in case my Nonna ever wanted to borrow your car in exchange for homemade lasagna and Mozzarella cheese.

Snapshots of Southern Alberta

I seem to have missed my Writerly Wednesday update, but to be honest, I didn’t do much writing with The Black Oracle’s release being on Monday and because I spent this past weekend in Southern Alberta!

And lucky for you, I have some photos! I flew into Calgary, and though I didn’t spend too much time in the city itself, the trip was amazing. I spent time in Banff National Park, exploring trails around the town of Banff, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon and Falls. I also traveled to Drumheller and went to the Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum and the Horseshoe Badlands.

Check out these photos!

Horseshoe Badlands.

Horseshoe Badlands.

I got photo-bombed by a dinosaur at the Royal Tyrrell Musuem.

I got photo-bombed by a dinosaur at the Royal Tyrrell Musuem.

Banff National Park.

Banff National Park.

Lake Louise all frozen over.

Lake Louise all frozen over.

Just more amazing views in Banff.

Just more amazing views in Banff.

Walking through Johnston Canyon.

Walking through Johnston Canyon.

Also, funny story: we decided to drive across the provincial border to British Columbia. Though we were successful, on our way back we got stuck on the Trans-Canada highway because an avalanche of melting ice blocked the road. An avalanche! We sat in traffic for almost 2 hours. But, what a place to be stuck in traffic.

We made it to British Columbia.

We made it to British Columbia.

View of Calgary from my hotel room.

View of Calgary from my hotel room. Mountains everywhere!

BUT!!

I do have a few writerly updates about The Black Oracle! Check them out:

  • The Black Oracle releases on MONDAY!!! You can pre-order the Kindle edition here and the paperback edition here. They will both be shipped to you on Monday.
  • I wrote a Dear Teen Me post last week where I address the teenage Michael and give him some sound advice.

More posts to come, and I promise I will have an *actual* update next Wednesday.

I’m a Travel Writer!

Just a quick post to announce that I am officially a travel writer with nexopia.com! I will be writing two to three articles a week about backpacking, tourism, and all things travel. You can check out my first post here where I discuss slum tourism and the morals behind the questionable practice.

Also, the cover reveal for The Black Oracle is on Saturday, so stay tuned for that also!

A Break in Samanà

It is cold in Toronto at the moment. Understand, though, that when I say cold, I don’t mean the stick-your-hand-in-the-fridge cold. I’m talking -30 degrees Celsius, boogers freezing to the inside of your nose, the air hurts your face kind of cold. For my American friends, -30 degrees Celsius is about -22 Fahrenheit. Stupid, terrible, f*ck-my-life cold.

But lucky for me, I was able to travel away from it for a while. After my huge backpacking trip to South Africa and Europe last Spring, it wasn’t long before I had my sights on my next destination. Given that last winter was brutal with this polar vortex nonsense, I knew that I wouldn’t survive another winter without being able to break away for a bit. I knew I needed to get away in mid-February and I needed to go somewhere HOT! So three friends and I booked our trip back in October and my backpack has been anxiously awaiting sun since.

Bahia Principe Cayacoa in Samanà, Dominican Republic.

Bahia Principe Cayacoa in Samanà, Dominican Republic.

Now, I’m not someone who normally enjoys the all-inclusive resort travel style. I like more intimate settings, accommodation that brings me closer to the culture and the people of a place. It’s nothing against the all-inclusive (who can say no to unlimited Piña Colada?), but I just prefer to immerse myself in a new place and make my experience as authentic as possible.

However, this all-inclusive at the Bahia Principe Cayacoa was exactly what I needed. My photos don’t do the resort much justice, but it was a medium-sized resort complete with three pools, bars, restaurants, and most importantly, a gorgeous beach!

Besides the endless days in the sun catching up on my reading and recharging my creative juices for a final 15,000 words on my work-in-progress, what really made this trip was the excursions.

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Our first excursion wasn’t much of an excursion at all since it was technically attached to the resort, though not owned by it. Three islands jut out from the beach at the resort (which I believe is called Los Cayos, but I’m not sure) and they are connected to the beach by bridges. It looked like the city of Samanà may have tried to build recreational buildings on the islands, but they have since fallen into disrepair, and it’s awesome. They are covered in graffiti and it gives the islands an almost post-apocalyptic feel as the jungle reclaims the structures and the fauna incorporates the stone into its growth. Considering my obsession with the jungle and with a post-human Earth, our mini-excursion-but-not-an-excursion led to a cool discussion about art and humanity.

I love jungles!

I love jungles!

I don’t yet have photos of our next excursion yet, but I’m hoping I will soon and then I’ll make a separate post about it. So, for now, I’ll just say that I went scuba diving! TWICE! It was terrifying and exhilarating and fantastic all at the same time. I have a fear of both heights and of depths, but despite this, I don’t allow my fears of stopping me from trying new things, especially when I know I’ll regret not trying something. So, in line with sitting on Leopard’s Rock  over Oribi Gorge in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa last May to counter my fear of heights, I decided that scuba diving would be an awesome way to face my fear of depths.

The first time we went, we didn’t see many fish because the ocean was choppy and our guide wasn’t able to bring us to the spot he intended. However, seeing the bottom of the ocean is something surreal and magical, so when he came to us again the next day and offered to take us to a shipwreck, we couldn’t refuse. It was amazing. I know words aren’t doing much for you right now, but once I get the photos and videos from my travelling companion’s GoPro, I will write a separate post. What I will say though is that scuba diving is a strange kind of peaceful, and as unnatural as breathing underwater is, the ocean floor is serene and calming. I can’t wait to do it again!

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Our last excursion of the trip was to El Limòn, a waterfall deep in the jungle. For me, this was the most anticipated part of the trip, but it ended up actually being the most disappointing — as the most anticipated things generally are! I adored the waterfall and the chance to get to it by horseback, but the amount of tourists made the experience a little unenjoyable and chaotic (yes, I know: I’m part of the problem!) But the number of tourists was only eclipsed the number of locals. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting locals when I travel: it’s a cool way to enrich experiences and learn about other cultures. But no, I don’t want a parrot on my shoulder. No, I don’t want to buy anything. No, I don’t need you to hold my bag for me or take twelve photos of me with your fancy camera or give me a toy iguana. Frankly, it was annoying and took away from the serenity and tranquility I wanted to feel when I visited. I didn’t even feel like going swimming and that was the ONE thing I wanted to do there. Oh well, there will be more waterfalls to swim in, I guess.

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All in all, the trip was spectacular. It was a much needed break from the cold and from work, and I think it gave me just enough time to relax before I finish this WIP. The only issue now is that I want to travel again! Maybe this summer? Iceland? Turkey? Maybe a road trip to Calgary and the West Coast? Why not it all? I’ll take a hiatus from life and travel the entire world.

If only, right?

Stay warm!

Featured Interview on Katie Hamstead’s Stories

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Check out an interview I did for Katie Hamstead’s Stories where I talk about writing, my first novel, travel, and more! Katie was actually my Acquisitions Editor for Curiosity Quills Press who picked up The Black Oracle when it was still being passed around for potential publication. Speaking of which, The Black Oracle now has a release date! Stay tuned for those details and *perhaps* a cover reveal in the not-so-distant future.

You can read the interview here. While you’re at it, stay tuned for the month of January where Katie will be interviewing other authors and editors from Curiosity Quills Press.

4 Ways to Make Life Slow The Heck Down!

We live in a fast-paced society. Hell, we live in a fast-paced world. Things change almost instantaneously. News outlets churn out more stories per hour than the amount of bathroom breaks I take in a day (and I have a small bladder). People talk at a hundred words a minute and so much is going on that speech is hardly concise anyway. And what makes this worse is that we are busier than ever: eating, sleeping, working, groceries, errands, sports, leisure, socializing. And some of us don’t even have kids yet! Besides, even without them, all our free time is sucked into social media and technological mind-clutter. But worst of all, living in a high-paced world and being chronically busy makes time seem to race by. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the calendar and saw that it was December and 2015 would soon be upon me. And it’s already December 9th!

But I’ve devised a plan. I’m gonna hop off of this high-speed train before it hand-delivers me to old age and I’m gonna work a way to slow things down while I still have the time to do so. Maybe try a few of these out and let me know if they work for you too.

Decrease Time-Wasters

This is my number one problem. I’m an addict. I’m not afraid to admit it. And chances are, you are too! I’m addicted to my phone and my laptop and Netflix and the internet and constantly being preoccupied with SOMETHING! What’s worse, I catch myself doing it. I can feel myself sinking into the chair and opening Facebook or Twitter or Buzzfeed and then endlessly scrolling. Sure, a half-hour here and there to unwind isn’t bad, but my obsession with scrolling has surely accumulated at least a year of time where I could have been doing something productive.

So, vow to stop that. Limit your wasting-time time. Do something that’s exciting and inspiring and maybe even productive. At least you won’t feel like you wasted your time when you look back at what you’ve done with your day.

My current kryptonite...

My current kryptonite…

Stop Multi-Tasking

Multi-Tasking is the cancer of the modern-day, middle class Western citizen. Well, okay, maybe there are others, but it’s one of them. In any case, dividing focus is the best way of losing just that. And what’s happens when we lose focus? We glaze over. Maybe it’s time to be intentional and singular and enjoy the things that we do, instead of just doing eight of them all at one time just to get them over with.

Experience New Things

I’m going to come out and say it: my forty day backpacking trip felt like a lifetime in comparison to the amount of time I’ve been home. I returned a little over five and a half months ago but all that time seems condensed and monotonous. There are periods of time where it seems I have no memories. I was just mindlessly going through the motions. But I think back to the trip and that time seems to stretch out forever. It even felt like an eternity while I was out doing it.

Why? I was doing something new. I was experiencing something out of my normal that was exciting and fun and fresh. Am I suggesting that I leave my home and my job right this second to do it all again somewhere else? Well, it’d be nice, but no. However, maybe there is something to learn from that. Maybe we should strive to do new things in our lives all the time to break up the monotony, whether it’s a new recipe or a new place to visit or a new hobby.

Allow Yourself to be Bored

In fact, I think you should encourage yourself to be bored. Take some time to do nothing. Seriously, absolutely nothing. No distractions. No TV, no computers, no books or phones. Just be for a few moments. Meditate if need be. It doesn’t work for me, but if I can set aside just ten minutes to reflect and absorb, maybe I won’t feeling like I’m half-assing and skimming through life all the time.

Got any methods for slowing life down and being in the moment?