Thursday, 31 December 2015

Life and everything beautiful

We interrupt this message to bring you breaking news. 

On December 24, I received a message from a dear friend with whom I spent 12 days on the ship to Antarctica. She was in the hospital, and I am glad I was still in Punta Arenas to be with her as she recovered until January 1, 2016.

These are the moments that help you realize how precious life is and the people in it. And I am thankful for both.

I dedicate this post to my friend and her strength and resilience as she experienced a difficult moment in her life, in a foreign country, alone in a hospital, with a fractured vertebrae, contusions, and other injuries. She was trekking the W trail on the Torres del Paine, when a strong gust of wind blew her off course and resulted in her injuries. I think I was more scared than her watching her as she lay in her hospital bed. But she looked as sexy as ever ;)

She has now had her surgery and will be recovering over the next month while in Chile. I know I will miss her company, but I hope she does not miss mine as she still has a month to go.

Her tips for you:
  • She would not have done anything differently, as she could not have prevented her fall
  • A good headband is important (a joke as her head was bandaged)
  • Travel insurance is absolutely mandatory! You never know the situation you may be in.
  • And, most importantly, don't have an accident on Christmas Day; the insurance company is on holidays
What I learned:
  • Give people space to recover from the shock of the accident
  • Everyone needs privacy where certain bodily functions are concerned; leave the room
  • You must overcome your own fear of not knowing the language in order to be there for others
  • It takes a whole community to communicate with an insurance company about claim requests, including numerous medical reports and cost estimates
  • Lazyboy couches are quite comfortable for sleeping
  • It is helpful to know someone who lives in the city, to help with routine chores like laundry
What we both learned:
  • You need to be careful how much you share and with whom, or you may end up in the news
  • Chocolate is a must, with some dried mango slices please!
  • Shower and food are welcome luxuries when you are in bed, or taking care of someone in bed
  • It is necessary to get fresh air and exercise everyday
  • Humour overcomes all.... (And you may not always have WiFi or a phone to communicate with loved ones back home)
  • Never underestimate the value of friends far and wide, around the world, even when you are facing a problem in one small city in a country that is miles away
On that note, I want to wish my wonderful friends and family, new acquaintances and old companions a happy new year filled with love, company, and lots of good humour.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Falklands

Day 11

Did I tell you; the shipment of my Merrell winter gear for Antarctica has still not arrived because of customs in Chile!

As I left for Antarctica on Dec 8, one of the ship's staff members generously loaned me two of her warm tops, without which I probably would have been chilly on every landing.

I had packed an extra pair of pants and socks from Toronto just in case (the project manager in me had to have a contingency plan in case of shipment delays!)

We arrived in the Falkland Islands on Dec 17, and I no longer needed the number of layers that kept me warm further South. Phew! As the ship anchored just off the coast of Saunders Island, I began to see green hills and sheep to my right, and a tropical beach to the left. It felt like I had been transported from fantasy in Antarctica to reality.

But, it was a different kind of beauty and worth appreciating for its own uniqueness. This is what I experienced....

Walking up the island, right in front of me were different types of penguins, including some King penguins with their large, furry, independent chicks almost half my height!

Yes, I am small, but they were huge! And, their walk was much heavier than the adorable Adelie penguins.

The King parents also walked with a dignified grace.

Right by them was a fence and some Gentoo penguins with chicks the size of my palm.

Although the fence seemed very out of place, I assumed it was to separate humans from the colonies during breeding season, and I hoped the penguins would not hurt themselves on it.

In fact, it looked like they knew how to walk around the fenced. Good news.

I spent a few precious minutes with the King chicks, affectionately nicknamed Chubacca by one of our fellow passengers, after a Star Wars character.

Then I made my way up a grassy hill. On the way, I came face to face with an intact sei whale skeleton. I learned that it was moved from the shore, where the whale had originally beached!

It was incredible being so close to an actual whale skeleton in nature.

I continued further up the hill and crossed a fence to reach a rockhopper penguin colony. As I
wobbled on the hill, I lifted one leg over the fence and then the other leg.

I soon found myself right next to a telescope that was focused on two Macaroni penguins sitting amongst a large gathering of rockhoppers.

Macaronis it seems, have been named after British gentlemen who visited Italy many years ago and returned with elaborate hairdos. The Macaronis are tranquil, and beautiful with their yellow headdress that distinguish them from the other penguins.

Surrounding the Macaronis are the more active and slightly aggressive rockhoppers!

I had been waiting throughout my trip to meet these creatures, and now they seemed so much smaller than what I imagined, and very different from what I pictured in my mind's eye.

The rockhoppers seemed to be more decisive than the Adelies we saw in Antarctica. They seemed determined as they arched their backs and stared ahead with their red eyes; their head flanked by yellow feathers on either side, like eccentric eyebrows.

We continued to watch them push their feet to gain momentum for their leap on to the next rock up the hill, down the hill, and on the sandy beach as they entered the ocean.

Each type of penguin so far seemed to have a unique personality.

I will certainly not be sharing which one is my current favourite, as that goes against the intent of my posts - to present to you the beauty of nature and travel. But, if you read carefully, you may notice a clear bias. Lol.

As I continued walking past the colony, I found myself at the top of the hill I had been climbing. I crossed a tiny stream running the length of the hill, cutting the path of a few rockhoppers.

Sorry guys!

My walk took me to a small black-browed Albatross colony with chicks bigger than those of the Gentoo penguins,  but smaller than the Kings' chicks. Since we were to see more chicks at the next island, I decided to soak in the vista in front of me instead.

I looked to the left, and down the hill far into the distance but close to the coast, we suddenly saw black and white commerson's dolphins!

They seemed to be swimming against the waves, and then surfing the wave back towards the coast, multiples times.

Ah, such whimsy!

I decided that I would begin to prepare to leave the island, as it could take me some time to walk back down the line as I passed by each penguin colony.

I also had no idea whether I would need time to descend down the hill, just in case it was a steep decline that required my care.

Well, let it be known - It was not that steep, it was a grassy hill which was very easy for me to walk up or down, and I was back at the zodiacs too early.

Fear had struck again - pshh!

But, I passed all the penguins on my way back, including the Magallanes penguins, which were living in perfect harmony with all the other penguins on the island.

And, once I reached the zodiacs, I sat by the coast to soak in the last few moments on the second last island of my 12-day journey.

Sitting there, I saw a number of large scavenger birds - the caracara - sitting on a land rover. I wondered why.

But I have always known that birds and animals have an instinct that we may not have.

I did see them previously taking turns to look into a burrowed hole for their hunt, and possibly eating a dead penguin chick....

Each island has its own essence and I am lucky to have seen is diverse wildlife and their habits.

I remembered Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.

The strongest survive here in nature. Humans however have been successful in cheating this truth in some ways, by building tools and supports.

Fair or not, we are lucky; and it may be causing a significant impact on the wildlife on our planet....

That afternoon I experienced the perfect end to my trip, at West Point.

I left my zodiac and set foot on a wooden dock. Parallel to it were tiny chicks of two geese. It seemed so odd after what I had experienced so far. What a strange creature!

I walked up and down some hills for about 30 minutes, towards a large rockhopper colony and an Albatross colony.

I removed my multiple layers of clothes as I walked, and enjoyed my body straining itself as I hiked. I had been eating and sleeping, and just walking for too long and it was time for my body to exercise!

I reached the colony and as I descended through the tall grass, equal to my height, I came across rockhoppers cutting my grassy path. I had to be extra careful not to hurt them, so I walked slower as I approached the colony.

I saw tiny chicks, and one rockhopper that posed for more than 10 minutes with its wings spread out; it was standing in an Albatross nest.

I still wonder if that was to cool itself on the hot summer day in the Falklands.

The passengers and I also wondered if, in this type of mixed rockhopper-Albatross colony, the chicks would be confused about whether they were growing up to be rockhoppers or Albatrosses....

What do you think?

I saw some of us had crossed to the other side of this hill, so with much difficulty and  after getting lost amongst the grass a number of times, I made my way to that side. It didn't look very exciting, but I did not want to live with the regret of not visiting that side.

I sat down and began to watch the Albatrosses fly into and out of the colony.

As I lay down with my back on the ground and flatten my legs, I experienced what may be one of the best experiences I will ever encounter.... Although I could not capture the moment, I hope seeing this video will help you in some ways to understand what I was lucky to experience.

The Albatrosses were now flying close enough to me, that their bodies flew right above my own body. I could hear the strength of their wings as the wind whooshed above me. Some were only an arm's length away from me as they flew past to leave the hill.

The sun was shining right into my eyes, and I was in heaven.

When I walked back, a song played in my head - The hills are alive with the sound of music.

We ended the day with a fantastic feast of tea and biscuits, at the home of the residents who took care of the farm on the island. Their book of pictures told awe-inspiring stories, including of boats covered in snow with one of them on board, or a photo of one of them solo on a large mountain of snow.

The people you meet when you travel are just as much a part of our story, as our story about nature and about ourselves....

It was an incredible journey to the last continent, and a smooth transition through the Falkland Islands back to reality. I will never forget it.

As I left the zodiac that day, and embarked the ship one last time, I heard the sound of my voice saying that "this was the bestest day ever!".

Friday, 25 December 2015

The Last Continent - Part 2

I want to start off this post by wishing everyone around the world a very happy holidays. When we are travelling alone, my fellow travellers and I do miss our friends and family back home.

So this year, I wish you the happiest holidays from one of the coldest places on the planet on one of the warmest days there. Felices fiestas a mis muy queridos

And now the moment you have all been waiting for... drum roll please!!


Day 1

On Dec 8th, as soon as I land in Chile, I am lucky to find a ride to the city of Punta Arenas courtesy my flight mate from Toronto and her pre-arranged taxi. Muchas gracias!

A personal tour of the city, a visit to a dance club in honour of the national holiday, a few hours of sleep, and I am off to drop off my bags at the Hotel where we will set off to begin our cruise.

Thinking back, it feels like yesterday and the nostalgia hits me. I remember meeting a few new ship mates, the staff with whom I would form strong bonds, and the cabin where I would spend 12 days.

Click - photo captured!

Day 2-3

The dreaded Drake Passage is upon us....

We sail through the Drake Passage past stormy waters, towards Robert's Point.

Deep in the bowels on the ship, or just a little above it, I can hear the thundering crash of the waves against the ship, and feel the boat swaying from side to side with wild excitement. I trust the crew completely, and love every moment of watching the waves play with our ship.

I enjoy the turbulence that the ocean brings with it, as we dance with our plate fulls of food and stumble along the corridors to sleep whenever we can due to our motion sickness pills. I feel as if I am being rocked to sleep by the sea.

If only someone could sing me a lullaby as I doze off while rocking in my bed.
Day 4-5

We offload the zodiacs/ inflatable boats from ship to sea. We think we can visit Robert's Point. But the winds are too strong. At this point, I have no idea how strong the winds should be so I wonder if it will get any better We proceed on and cannot make the next landing either.

Everyone is disappointed but I am very comfortable in my cozy chair up in the lounge away from the Antarctic winds. As I stare out the window, I reflect on the journey that is about to begin, the people I have met so far, and where I will go next.

I am nervous about where I will stay when I return to Punta Arenas. Should I continue with my decision to travel without a plan. Hmmm... I brush away the insecurities and decide that I will live for Antarctica for the next 12 days.

Not too long later, we are all rewarded with a sighting of a breaching humpback whale and her baby!

All the passengers gather in the Bridge, behind those of us who sighted the whale blows in the distance! I am surrounded by binoculars and mammoth sized cameras, and feel the energy that has been elusive for days.

My eyes are peeled towards the horizon, and I ignore the delicate posture that strains my back and eyes, bending forward to allow passengers behind me a view of the whales. It is incredible!

Blow after blow, we see flukes (tails) appearing and the whales exiting the water face first and falling behind with a giant splash.

It is my first whale sighting. My wish to sight a humpback whale had finally been granted. I was on cloud 9

That night, the ship's PA system announces that our first landing will be for camping. Our very first landing! I have no idea what to expect but this is something I wanted to do, and I will do it dammit! (This blog is not suitable for young children).

Day 5 night

Land ahoy! The weather is finally calm and we can set sail for the peninsula!

I feel comfortably warm and safe, but cannot turn my head or body. Oh well, as long as I am warm right? I have on 5 tops and a jacket, 5 pants and an outer pant layer, earmuffs, a scarf, gloves, a lifejacket, and a waterproof backpack intact on my body.

I have dipped my rubber boots in water and scrubbed them clean to preserve the peninsula from foreign materials. My toes begin feeling a hint of cold and I ignore it - it is manageable. 

We then wait on deck to board the inflatable boats.

I watch as the passengers file into each zodiac, and are instructed about how to enter the boat. And then it is my turn to walk down the gangway (stairs) and on to a floating boat.

We are all smiling with nervous excitement!

As soon as we land at Portal Point, my camera dies!

As I walk a few feet to our camp site, I see mushy brash ice in front of me, penguins on either side of me on a stretch of Antarctic peninsula, and the Antarctic sea behind me with tiny bits of floating icebergs. I stand there staring at the Gentoo penguins to my right, and turn further to my right to watch the soft pink sky just above the ocean. The sky is dotted with what looks like a stack of pancake-shaped lenticular clouds,  some long enough to span the entire sky. I am in heaven.

My camera has died!!

Oh well, I decide to store away the memories in my own hard disk (aka brain) and live in the moment. I make my way up a hill on my left, and on the other side are British guards. Okay, not real British guards but tiny Chinstrap penguins that certainly look like guards because of the black lines that run under their "chin". I cannot help but smile....

After some time, I walk back to the camp site to get ready for the night.

I find on my travels that I am always trying to learn more about myself and my relationship to nature. As I lie in a caterpillar cocoon of sleeping pad, sleeping bag, liner and bivvy, in the tiny snow coffin each of us has dug for ourselves to escape the wind that would blow past us, I stare up into the sky.

I am slightly cold because my hands were exposed while digging the coffin and the sweat in my socks had moistened my feet leaving it vulnerable to the cold. But the rest of me is warm so I settle in. My rubber boots are tucked into each other forming headphones above my head. My jacket, outer pants, and backpack form my pillow below my sleeping pad.

I have been mainly disconnected from technology but I have seen and felt its presence in cameras and laptops around me on the ship. My true nature appears only in the absence of communication with technology, also when there are few other people around me.

Sleeping on the peninsula, I am finally free, although cold. I do not sleep a wink as it never gets dark and I believe I can solve the meaning of life on this Last Continent as I stare up at the clouds.

But all of a sudden I am attacked. Not by any animal on land, but by a sudden desire to use Mr. Yum Yum, the resident toilet. I probably would have solved the meaning of life had my biology not caught up with me! Maybe next time? But I do take away some lessons from my experience.

My Tips:
  • Wear multiple layers of pants and tops
  • Wear comfortable ear muffs (hint - its wires should not be digging into you)
  • Change your socks before you wiggle into your caterpillar cocoon (see definition above)
  • Mittens are great for the cold but not if you need your fingers to dig a snow coffin
  • A good scarf goes a long way
  • A blog is hard work; especially if you want to leave technology behind

Day 6

On Day 6, I am reminded of our thirst for National Geographic action. Out here, the beauty and tranquility is so pervasive that we sometimes forget that nature is unsympathetic to its wildlife.

Returning from a windy, cold morning of packing away camping gear, I enjoy a hot shower and breakfast at 6 in the morning. And then, a few hours into the Bransfield Strait, we spot Orca blows in the distance close to a baby humpback blow! It could mean that the killer whales are hunting the humpback.

Mama humpback is close by but cannot break the pod of killers, which are preventing the humpback from surfacing to breathe. The humpback is being drowned below the ocean surface as the killers are circling with their fins clearly visible.

Our ship is approaching the whales, and most passengers are out in the cold on the bow of the ship, right up front. The rest of us are on deck 6 in the Bridge. We are looking through our binoculars towards the multiple Orca fins and backs. There has been no humpback blow for some time. And mama humpback is also nowhere to be found.

Soon, one of us now spots blood around the mouth of an Orca. But we do not know if this means the end of the hunt. None of us move. We continue to look on.

There is more activity further in the distance. And we see some blows of humpback whales - whether these are the same whales, we do not know. But we would like to hope....

Not too much later, the Orcas are now chasing a lone Chinstrap penguin!

Penguins are aquatic and only land on icebergs or the peninsula to breed, lay eggs and take care of their chicks. This lone penguin, who has become the sole target of a pod of killers, is caught amongst the Orcas. It begins to porpoise, swimming in leaps out of the water, while all the ship's passengers are cheering it on.

The staff radios are alive with commentary. The penguin then takes a detour towards the ship and back away, and succeeds in eluding the Orcas. The Orcas have turned away as they are probably only training their young to hunt. The ship echoes with the relieved cheers of all passengers on board!

But soon after, I hear another penguin has lost the chase.

And one more has won.

Penguins 2; Orcas 1.

Day 6 evening

The end of Day 6 culminates with a visit to Deception Island. 

As we approach the island in the zodiacs, I smell the stark contrast against the other islands, and then see it. There seems to be a strong presence of sulphur, and steam is rising from the sea bed close to the coast line . We have arrived at Deception Island.

We are in the crater of an active volcano. When it last erupted many years ago in 1969, the resident workers had to run to escape from the rocks spewing from the sky.

But it looks peaceful now, and yes I feel safe.

The island is a scene of abandonment as boats are lying upside down on the sandy floor of the island, and I see the buildings on the island deformed and empty. They are being repaired.

Yet we see a few penguins, fur seals, and Antarctic terns. As I walk along the coast, I come face to face with Gentoo and Adelie penguins walking and sliding along the coast.

We maintain a distance of 5 metres from the penguins and even larger from the fur seals as they are molting.

However, as I make my way up the hill, I find myself an inch away from a seal and startle myself. I backtrack very quickly and scold myself for not being observant and mistaking the seal for a large rock!

As I retrace my steps and take a different route, I arrive at the top of the hill overlooking the ocean, and find out that the actual volcano is deep below the surface of the sea.

Fear is our worst enemy. When we are fearful, we stop ourselves from experiencing events that can change our understanding of nature.

As I stood up there, I re-learned that very quickly and once I overcame my hesitation as I made my way down the initially steep, pebbly hill, I vowed to continue relearning that lesson and find ways to overcome any fear.

Day 8

Brown Bluff - the land of the undecided

Our zodiacs are sailing along the coast of the Antarctic continent as snow and wind envelop us. This time, I am prepared with double gloves, multiple socks, and a plan to warm myself up if I am cold. As we approach the island, we see penguin highways etched into the snow-covered hills and multiple penguins wobbling downwards to the edge of natural diving boards to jump into the sea.

Penguins are very indecisive! They seem to be teetering on the edge of the rock with their penguiny-mates and noone has the courage to jump in. They backtrack and give it another go - should I jump in?? And yet no result. But I must say in all their indecisive adorableness, I enjoy staring at them for hours and, no sooner than I start watching them, I smile widely and even chuckle.

We are seeing Gentoo and Adelie penguins comfortably living together with seals on the same island. Even a leucistic penguin (lacking the usual penguin coloration) is part of the clan and welcomed with open penguin wings.

Ah, we spot a chick at one of the penguins' feet at the top of one of the small rock cliffs. A tiny ball of brown fur with a small beak has reached out for food from mama/ papa penguin.

The Wedell seals, although not as active, are inching closer to the water with their large seal bodies. One of two on the other side of the island soon enters the water effortlessly and swims with its head bobbing in and out of the water.

We are surrounded by penguin calls, penguin highways, porpoising (swimming) penguins, hobbling penguins, and sliding penguins. It is a winter wonderland of penguin mania!

Day 8 evening

I decide to leave all my layered clothes on as we are departing for another excursion in the evening. The layering of clothes is a pain but once I am out on the sea, I appreciate every moment with my wild companions.

We are going to see a colony of Adelies! Another group of Adelies? But didn't you already see enough??

Well, when you come face to face with these Adelies, you will not ask me that. As we stand by a large group of Adelie penguins, I am constantly amazed by their calls,  how they walk and slide, and their tiny chicks that keep appearing from the recesses of their parent's feet.

A number of Adelies are walking to and fro from their partner's nest to the coastline. They are collecting pebbles to build up the nest. But I have never seen the pebble actually land in a nest, only the penguins carrying them in their beaks.

In fact, a few penguins have new born chicks too! I can see the tiny fur balls right at their mama/ papa's feet as usual.

And they are all protecting the eggs and newborn chicks from the well-known skua!

All the islands seem the same to me now, but the memory of the penguins regardless of their location is distinct. And when I watch the videos, I hope I always smile with the same new-found fondness that I have for them now.

Day 9

We are now close to King George island to drop off a sick crew member who has contracted a liver infection. But from what I hear about him boarding a zodiac, he is smiling. Well, that's good news!

He will be taking a flight from the island to a hospital on the mainland. We are waiting for the plane to arrive, as we watch various different bases from different countries inhabit the same enclave. Each country has its defined location but all bases are on the same island - from Chile, Argentina, etc.

I hear later that he has been successfully picked up as the weather permitted it, which really dictates everything in this part of the world.

I hope his surgery is successful.

In the evening, we take a tour of Maxwell Bay and watch different iceberg formations with clear blue water playing at their bases.

One has formed its very own enclave and the etches on it are incredible! It tells a story of snow, wind, water, and years of evolution as it stands towering above us and invites us into its enclave.

Day 9 evening

Robert's Point!

If you have heard that name before, scroll to the top of this post. Yes, that's the island we missed due to weather. We have come full circle and we are so grateful. Adelies, Gentoos, Chinstrap penguins, and elephant seals! Have I told you how much I love elephant seals?

Well, I love them!! Especially when they are play jousting! Or even sleeping... Lol.

And guess what??!

My camera is out of memory... Activate brain storage!

Yes, do you see a trend? Ah technology....

I sit on a rock and watch the seals for what may have been hours. Their tails flapping upwards and their bodies upright slamming against each other. There are two doing the same in the sea right by the land. They are juvenile males and practising fighting for when they will mature into full adults. I can only imagine the blood and gore that will follow then.

I hear a staff member recount her story of a baby seal laying its head on her lap, when it's parents were out to sea for a long while to feed.

As I walk back towards the zodiacs later, I climb a mountain and observe our tiny British guards nesting. There are some broken eggs around. I wonder if these are chicks that have already hatched.

It is time to go, and we bid a sad adieu to my new favourite Continent. Although cold, it is a land full of beauty, power, and a looming presence with active and endearing wildlife and impressive icebergs.

We will be sailing back into the Drake Passage shortly. What a treat!

Day 10

The Drake had been relatively quiet. Calm before the storm?

Nope, it is smooth sailing and I imagine Shackleton's voyage past these very seas and his encounter over a year, stuck on the Antarctic peninsula as the sea ice closed in on him.

Earlier in my day the ship was surrounded by numerous fin whales swimming all around us and heading in various directions.

I am now watching a series of tabular icebergs lasting 6 miles and I absorb my surroundings as we exit Antarctica.

I hope to return some day.

La Antartica, tu tienes mi amor....

What I will miss most:

  • The company of my fellow passengers, and a good time on ship
  • Constant food, warmth, and a cozy bed
  • A big, warm towel and access to soap, shampoo, and moisturiser
  • Looking out the window at the vista and being surrounded by beauty 24/7
  • The penguins, seals, whales, and birds of the Antarctic
Next stop on the cruise to and from Antarctica - Falkland Islands.

Please leave any comments or questions below. I would be more than happy to answer them. And please subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by entering your email address on the right side of this post.

And don't forget to share this blog with others. I would love to hear from more of you!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Last Continent - Part 1

Every time I begin travelling, I experience a period of ambiguity about my present and future. I ask myself what kind of traveller I am, whether I brought along too much or too little to sustain myself, how I will be spending spend my next day, and the penultimate question about whether my bag is resting well on my hips!

Yes, that's right, I find I have to readjust all my straps many times that first day for the perfect torso alignment. But the first question about what I seek on my travels sometimes lasts for the entire duration of my trip.

As I travelled to The Last Continent (Antarctica), my question to myself amplified while hearing the stories of my fellow travellers, the crew, and Antarctic explorers. I have met accomplished men and women on this first leg of my journey, young and old, of varying professions, interests, and abilities.

I would be remiss if I said I didn't want to walk shoulder to shoulder with them. This trip, on a research expedition ship, although  spectacular, somehow became insufficient in the first few days of the trip when my admiration for others' adventurous spirits was a constant.

However, as I sat in the lounge and felt the waves playing with the ship and rocking me soothingly, the whole world melted away. A soft tune in the background, a fetch of sea, and the Antarctic plains in the distance, I was the only passenger on the ship. It did not matter what kind of traveller I am, only that I exist to experience nature in its purest form.

Looking past the stern of the ship and picturing the different shades of blue enveloping the scenery in front of me, my imagination ran wild picturing the largesse of whales swimming under what looked like a molten sheet of water, each wave pushing the next under the bright sun.
It is fathomable that explorers spent days at sea, becoming one with the environment surrounding them. Why would they return to land? I was home....

Stay tuned for more updates on my trip to the Antarctic peninsula, including encounters with marine mammals, birds, icebergs, and beaches.

Until then, please leave a comment below (all comments are moderated so do not worry if you do not see it immediately).
Please also sign up your email on the right to receive notifications of new posts!!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Bloggist Attitude

One full day after leaving Toronto, I am now in Chile by the mountains. Still in the airport and waiting for the next (aka third) flight, I am appreciating the quiet and solitude, save for a Spanish soap that is playing in the background.

It has been an eventful day.

Yesterday my second flight of three was delayed until 3am the next morning! My Bloggist Attitude kicked in - I was excited because I felt my next blog had written itself!

As I lugged heavy carry-ons through an airport and headed to the Radison Hotel, I rethought my Bloggist Attitude.

But there is always an up side - hot food, hot shower, and a warm bed for 2 hours. Plus, I now had tiny table tennis size biceps that should be golf ball size by the end of the year!

This is what I appreciate about travel. It pushes you to live up to your potential even when you are tired. It gives you opportunities to meet amazing people. And it teaches you about the world in a way that you would never learn from the news.

Amazing new people?

Yup! Meet my fellow travellers - hagglers, intellectuals, and caring individuals.

A few hours later and back at the airport, we haggled to find out how many pastries we can buy if we combine all our food vouchers together! Success - guess how many? ;)

We talked about books, diction, and English literature. I learned about the standard of living in Chile, and I was informed about the state of politics in Chile and Argentina. Left versus right, the skewed average income, and the need to balance economics and human rights.

And, the finale? A group photo - lol. You asked for photos, I give you selfies!

Where am I?

I am now at an airport by the mountains and waiting for my next flight.

Thoughts through my head - this is serene; should I ship my luggage around the world (forget building biceps); and when will I have access to WiFi again so I can post my blog and work on my passion project.

Next stop - Punta Arenas and Antarctica!

Blog pending ;)

Leave a comment below if you would like to encourage me as I push on or if you want to read about anything particular! And don't forget to share this blog far and wide. I just may run into someone you know!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

So long, farewell....

It almost feels like the beginning of a race. Exiting the door this morning with my gear, I was gripped with the excitement of adventure and possibilities. My Merrells by my side, I now anxiously await my first destination at the airport.

The journey to the beginning of the earth (aka the beginning of my round the world trip aka Pearson Airport) has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Take Tuesday this week -

At one point in the day, I was grabbing a bus from one end of the city to other at a moment's notice to get my doctor's okay for a cruise to Antarctica.

Later, I was on multiple calls at the same time while scanning multiple forms to multiple companies to book multiple tickets. Key word - guess - multiple!

And, who says multitasking is not possible! I have managed to work while walking, eating, talking, thinking, and writing (I am sure I am missing some activities in this list).

What about the amount of spring cleaning. Yes I know it is winter!

No space on my phone - remove half a dozen apps that I haven't used, replace it with other apps that I may use, and continue this process until I have the perfect combination of apps for travel!

No space in my bag - prioritize each of my carry-ons to determine which ones are most essential. End result - A few pairs of clothes and gear that must cover all cultures, activities, and weather globally.

Limited money - break up with some activities, tours, and accommodation styles and form relationships with new, cheaper ones. 

It has been a few months of multiples and decimals, but relationships are key

The coworkers who encourage you and live your energy - so infectious

Family who bring you food or give you a hug when you need it most - priceless

Friends who tell you they will miss you while you are away - love you

My year away will be a journey of many more multiples, decimals, and relationships and as I leave behind my work and begin my travel, I begin to bid adieu to Toronto, to Ontario, and to Canada, the home of the compassionate, kind, and caring.

I love you all. And with every blog I hope to see your comments below and on my Facebook and LinkedIn groups (One Woman Empowered)!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

I Got This!

Some days you just have to tell yourself "I got this!". These three words are the most empowering words that help reassure you that nothing is impossible.

Over the past few weeks, I have been hit by a whirwind of emotions, from excitement to fear to frustration and stress. The amount of research that goes into planning a year off is unbelievable. It is not just about which tickets are best, but also which companies can help you get the best tickets, and which companies are most responsive and accessible. There are times when I have been so overwhelmed by the number of questions about the status of my trip that I have lost sleep, weight, and sanity. A perfect example of my lack of concentration and my stress - I heated raw oats without any water in a microwave; the result? Hot raw oats!

Only 1 week remaining and the anxiety is mounting due to the number of outstanding tasks, including packing. What have I learned?:

  1. Take time off a month before you depart on your year away. This will give you time to research, follow up, and finalize your trip details
  2. Tell people about your trip. Your family and friends will support you by lending you items, providing you with resources, making donations, and just making you feel better by encouraging you
  3. Sometimes you need the most important things to be finalized at the end. You benefit from last minute deals and do not pay for last minute changes to tickets.
  4. As long as you overcome your fear, there is a world of beauty in nature and in people on the other side of your door.

My most ardent supporters have been my immediate family and my near and dear ones at work. What advice do they have for me as I embark on my journey?

"Khudi ko kar baland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai" - my dad's favourite quote, by a famous Indian poet, repeated many times in my childhood.  The quote encourages individuals to make themselves so worthy, that a "supreme being" begins to ask them what they wish before their destinies are written. With such advice from family, it is no surprise the little girl in me has grown into a self-confident, empowered woman who, despite facing difficulties, continues to push her own boundaries and seek happiness in herself and others.

What are some pieces of advice that you have received that has helped you empower yourselves in your lives?