Doing The Things 2017: Goin’ Places

It’s no secret that – if I have the time and funds – I enjoy travelling.

Last March, I visited Cuba (just after about-to-be-former President Obama, but around the time of the big Rolling Stones concert in Havana), touring the central part of the island with a small group.

Despite the crappy trip manager in charge of our group, it was a fun experience, and I appreciated both Havana and the smaller towns I had the privilege imag0897.jpgof visiting.

My next trip wasn’t until November, when I spent a weekend in Montreal – with a huge group of people I knew – for a friend’s birthday.

I’d been a couple of times before, but this time was different. It was my first time visiting Montreal in the fall. And we arrived the day after folks learned that Leonard Cohen died, so you could just sense the mood in the crisp November air.

It had been 13 years since my last visit,  but this felt like the first time that I actually walked around and took in my surroundings.

Which brings me to right now.

For the last couple of years or so, I always want my ideal travel intentions to be trips that take me out of the city, out of the province, and out of the country (not necessarily on the same trip).

So, I’m getting off to a running start in 2017.

On Friday, while events unfold south of the border, a group of friends and I are hot-footing it to Montreal.

Yes, I was just there. But months before my friend’s birthday plans – at my last birthday – I had already decided I’d be celebrating my 40th birthday differently.

Admittedly, I’ve found the whole planning/reserving process for accommodations and restaurants stressful. I’m used to organizing travel plans for myself. But I hope from here on in, it’ll be fun and easy.

Then about three weeks after that, I’ll be headed to Asia for a two-week tour. And by “Asia”, I only mean one country, which I’ll reveal later. But it’s somewhere that’s been on my travel list for at least 15 years. Let’s see how I handle finally being there.

As for my out-of-town adventure? We’ll see what the year brings. I’d love to check out an area like Prince Edward County, but where I’ll end up is anyone’s guess.

What are your travel plans for 2017? Will you be staying local? Are you knocking any destinations off your “to-go” list? Planning any road trips? I’d love to hear what you’ve got in the works!

**Photos posted above are mine. Please don’t use without permission.

 

 

 

Doing The Things 2017: My Well-Being

In the back of my mind, I earnestly thought I was going to start 2017 on the right foot, food-wise.

Who was I kidding.

What actually started my year was a ton of holiday leftovers: turkey, ham, shortbread cookies and homemade Jamaican patties from my mom …

And two sandwich bags full of homemade lemon loaf and French toast (which I normally never eat), brought home from a New  Year’s Day brunch I attended.

The post-holiday food festival continued with dinners out – my Kryptonite, because greasy restaurant food is soooooo tasty. Add to that a wicked sweet tooth, which is a challenge all by itself. So of course, my waistline is paying dearly.

I have to get my appetite (and bank account) in check. I also don’t want to encourage my body to start growing more fibroids so soon after my recent surgery, because of my eating habits.

And after two tiring days in supermarkets and my kitchen this is, I hope, the start of my rehabilitation:

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I want to give myself less of an excuse to hit the food court/vending machine/fast food joint when I’m at home or work. I don’t cook sophisticated meals, plus I hate the amount of time it takes to prep food for meals. But perhaps keeping my freezer stocked with something, anything, could slowly reduce (not eliminate, because that’s impossible) my terrible food habits, and help me to enjoy cooking, not see it as a huge chore.

(One future goal: to cook and freeze a meal or two before I go travelling, so that when I return, I don’t spend my post-travel recovery period eating burgers and pizza, as I have in the past.)

In the exercise department … my physical activity has been non-existent during the last five months (save for walks). Two or three of those months were due to post-surgery recovery (hence the walking). The rest was because of a complete lack of motivation (save for exercises during my physio appointments).

So last Tuesday afternoon, I got off my backside, put on my workout clothes, and trudged to a fitness class. Then on Thursday morning, I huffed and puffed my way through another class.

This is where I’ll start, to re-establish a routine. Upcoming travel plans will disrupt my exercise schedule until March, but some activity’s better than none, right?

It’s going to be tough. I’m going to fail. Hell, I’ve already failed this week.

But if, for each time I fall off the wagon, I can cut down on the amount of time it takes me to hop back on, those will be small victories I’ll gladly take.

2017: Do The Thing.

When I last posted, I’d just written about the latest in my family research, and had threatened to write about my latest travels.

The would-be distant relative never told me what he found out.

And then I didn’t write anything else for almost 8 months.

Oops.

So, here we are. Two days into a new year. And time to write about things I’d like to see happen this year.

Since I haven’t said much of anything for about two-thirds of the last year, I thought I’d first refresh my memory by re-reading what I’d written around this time last year.

I wouldn’t say that the goals I had were impossible to achieve. But given how many, man, was that ambitious.

I did end up visiting Cuba and Montreal, and went car-camping one weekend with friends, so that was okay, travel-wise. I did make more meals for myself, but also ate my fair share of fast food in equal measure.

The ukulele I had borrowed from a friend about 3 years ago (as a resolution-on-a-whim) only made into my hands a couple of times. I recently returned to it to its rightful owner – which she gifted to her 4-year-old son, who’s starting lessons this month.

And a number of my choices and intentions were affected by surgery I had in last August to remove fibroids (17 of ’em).

Exercise and food choices – for at least a few months – took a turn for the better … but partially (okay, mostly) prompted by the co-worker who asked me one day in May if I was pregnant. After some reading on my own, I decided to approach my exercise/food challenge as a way to prepare my body for surgery and recovery.

Meanwhile, things regarding my career took a backseat because of the amount of time I needed to take off work.

On the creative side, I did do a bit of writing (even if was mainly on this blog, and only for a few months), and worked on the podcast project with my friends did carry on for a couple of months, before a lengthy hiatus. We just recently tried to pick things up again, but it’s been much slower than last season getting back on the horse. We’ll see how things turn out for this new season.

All of this to say, there were some small successes, and some failures (or, perhaps, goals deferred).

Recently a fellow member of a Facebook group I’m part of, asked what our New Year’s resolutions/intentions were for 2017.

Some posted little things. Others posted bigger, more long-term goals.

I thought about it for a bit, then wrote: “If I tell myself I’m going to do something, actually *do* it — not say, “You know, I should really do x”, and then dither until I lose interest/don’t do it at all. Just do better, in general.”

Because it doesn’t matter if I say, “I’m going to finally de-clutter that box I’ve wanted to unpack for the last 3 years”, or if I say, “I’m going to volunteer for that soup kitchen whose mandate I admire”, if what then follows is inaction.

If I ever ask myself or my friends, “Do I want to go to the gym?” or “Do I want to cook instead of ordering take-out?” it means I don’t really want to do it. So I shouldn’t waste my time with the psychological dance.

But my goal/intention/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for 2017 is to Do The Thing – even if it’s the tiniest of tasks.

If I’m looking at a pile of old magazines and saying (either out loud or to myself), “I should really go through those and toss some out”, then what’s my next step? To keep staring at the pile, or get off my backside?

If I’m looking at myself in the mirror and think I should lose 20 pounds (like I did a few years ago), then how should I tackle how to get there?

Do I want to travel to, say, Ethiopia? Yes. So what I am going to do to get myself there?

Look, I’m not saying anything revolutionary. There will be days when I don’t want to do any of The Things. At all. But that’s fine. That’s the joy of being an autonomous adult.

But I hope I realize those are probably days to take a breather from Doing The Things and Take Care of Me.

As long as I don’t go overboard and take approaches to things that might get me closer to success to failure, then perhaps to Do The Thing is to finally succeed.

Even though none of us really know what 2017 really has in store for any of us, I hope this is the year that you finally Do The Thing you’ve been putting off, and that you triumph.

Best of luck!

D’s 2016 Travel Shortlist

As the new year unfolds and I sock a little money away in my bank account, my mind swims with thoughts of travel.

I want to be a little more ambitious with this year’s destinations. But given the direction the Canadian dollar seems to be sliding, I’m not sure how successful I’ll be.

(Eh. I’ve always had lousy timing.)

Maybe a series of fortunate events will lead me to a one-time gift from one of those Powerball winners? Ehhhh?  **shrugs**

Anyway … here are some places I’ve thought about visiting this year:

Sri Lanka. Very high on my list. I’ve never been to Asia, but a conversation with a friend who went there 7 or 8 years ago left me interested in finding out more. And why not? It would be a good place to start. I’d be aiming to go in the fall.

Cuba. I was last there in 2005. A friend and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Veradero in mid-July. (Never do that. Unless you really don’t mind feeling like rotisserie chicken.) It was nice getting away for a week. But when we booked a day-trip to Havana through our resort, the results were, well … mediocre. I felt a bit short-changed. I like to move around a country if I’m going to visit. Winter’s finally arrived, but it’d be nice to take a break in, say, March — maybe book a tour and go for 8 or 9 days — and see the sites before big changes sweep the island.*

Colombia. There’s been an uptick in travel here in the past few years. And I have this secret attraction to Fernando Botero‘s artwork and sculptures. Plus, I have a friend who lived there for a good year and a half. I always told myself I wouldn’t go to South America without properly learning some Spanish beforehand. But I’m willing to make an exception.

Washington, D.C. It’s not that far. I’ve never seen the White House in person (but know where its limestone came from), and the number of museums in one place is a nerd’s dream come true.

New Orleans. Other than visiting family in Florida, I’ve never really been to the South. Of the people I know who’ve been to NOLA, I can’t recall anyone saying they left disappointed. And it just seems like a really interesting place to visit, historically and culturally.

Louisville, Kentucky. Okay, this one’s a bit random. I first read about it a few years ago on a list of “underrated places to visit”. A couple of my friends took a road trip down to Louisville and they had a good time. Also: bourbon.

New York. Like Cuba, I’ve been here before. I never seem to get enough of it. There’s no such thing as “not enough to do” here, so it always seems like there’s unfinished business. If I went this year, it would be for these reasons: Hamilton (c’mon, wealthy Powerball benefactor) or Eclipsed, and a meal at Red Rooster Harlem. I’M NOT PLAYING.

Montreal. The last time I set foot in this city, I was 26, my friend Dave lived and worked there, and the Jazz Festival was in full swing. Montreal in the summer is magic. But honestly, I don’t need it to be summer for me to visit, and see some of the sites I missed last time. Added incentive: If you recall my family research  (no? start here), my mysterious, elusive great-aunt lived and worked here. It’d be neat to physically see some of the streets (and maybe some of the houses), perhaps do a day or two of sleuthing, in the flesh.

Vancouver. Straight up, I’ve never been to the West Coast or seen the Rockies. This would tick off both boxes.

Manitoulin Island or Pelee Island. One requires you to take a ferry called the Chi-Cheemaun to get to it. The other boasts the southernmost point in Canada. Both are beautiful, and are right here in Ontario. Visiting either location would be lovely.

There’s NO WAY I intend to knock all of these off my list. But if I manage to do at least two, even with a low loonie, I’ll be pleased.

*A recent check of some tour companies tell me this is probably not possible.

**Reminder: I’m part of a one-month writing challenge, as are my friends Renée and Kath – just click on their names to check out their excellent work!**

Let’s Go(al) #4: Try New Things.

I recently went to the bookstore and – on a whim – bought Shonda Rhimes’ book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person.

I hope to start reading it soon, but — according to the description on the inside flap — it’s Shonda’s account of what happens when she (an introvert) takes something her sister says to heart and spends a year saying “yes” to things she would normally say “no” to.

It’s getting me thinking.

Perhaps I should use this year to try different things, things I would normally say “no” to.

Compared to Shonda Rhimes, I’d probably describe myself as more of an extrovert. I do say “yes” to some things. And no, I certainly don’t think I need to read a book by a top Hollywood TV producer to just learn to say “yes” to things. It’s not a new concept; people the world over have — at some point — tried this exercise, with varied (and sometimes surprising) results.

Regarding the book, I’m a fan of Rhimes’ work, so I’m genuinely curious to see how things worked out for her.

But personally, as (relatively) good as my life is, I admit it’s getting a wee bit staid. Every once in a while, I need to shake things up, give myself a jolt, keep it interesting.

What kinds of things? Hmm. Good question. Perhaps it’s as simple as doing something that I haven’t done in a while.

For example: On Monday evening, I signed myself up for a 30-day pass to a yoga studio. I’ve done yoga before, but usually, it’s a one-time event. I want to see if I can do it on a regular basis, to help with some minor back issues I’ve had (which isn’t helped by long periods of sitting at work). If I stick with it, all the better. If it doesn’t, at least I’ve tried.

Oh, here’s another: My friend Renée found a set of writing challenges people can try to improve their writing, or get into the exercise of writing regularly.

She asked if I wanted to try blogging once every day this year.

You’ve all seen what my writing habits are like. But I’ve said yes. Truthfully I don’t know if I can do it, but I’ll give it a try (and I hope you’ll come and visit me here if I do do this).

But there are other things that I should open myself up to trying.

Maybe I’ll try another con like I did that one time in 2012 (scroll down that post to skim).

Perhaps it’s volunteering.

Or semi-spontaneously travelling somewhere for a weekend. (I’m not a spontaneous traveller.)

Or maybe it’s finding myself in the middle of salsa dancing …

These are purely examples, not real things I’m aiming to do. But who really knows?

At least once this year, I have to push myself just a little bit outside my comfort zone, say yes, and travel down a rabbit hole that isn’t virtual and doesn’t lead me to YouTube.

Whether the result is glorious or disastrous, it would be a life experience. (And those things also make for great stories, no?)

What about you?

Is there anything you’re trying or wanted to try, but never got around to it? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Let’s Go(al) #3: Get Outta Here.

If you know me personally – or have visited my blog – you’ll know that I enjoy travelling. Especially if it’s off the North American continent.

Last year, I did a couple of short trips state-side and to Jamaica (respectively) — primarily to visit members of my extended family that I hadn’t seen in months or years.

It was nice. It was great to take a week or two off, and just get away from things.

But as much as I liked and appreciated seeing my family, there was something missing …

The sense of discovery. The act of going by myself to a place where I don’t know a soul. The feeling of being a bit uncomfortable or unsure of what to expect. The exercise of figuring out where I am, and where I’m going, without getting lost. Or even the ability of letting myself get lost and finding my way out of it.

It’s been more than two years since I’ve flown more than a few hours to get somewhere … and the itch is intense.

Add to that the fact that I’m part of an online group of black travellers, whose jet-setting ways put me to utter shame and leave me speechless.

If I what I have is simply a travel bug, then they have a full-blown travel syndrome.

They’re expert packers! They jump on glitch fares like cats on mice!  I’m simultaneously envious and in awe when I read their anecdotes and look at photos of their travels.

So, it’s time.

My goal this year is to:

Go on one big trip. Right now, it’s a toss-up between Sri Lanka, Ethiopia or Colombia, later in the year.

Go on at least one short-hop trip. Maybe I’ll go back to New York. Or perhaps I’ll stop in Montreal or another Canadian city that I’ve never been to. Or maybe I’ll finally get down to Washington. Or New Orleans! The possibilities are endless. (What’s not endless, however, is my bank account.)

Leave room for a surprise trip. I’m mulling one over as I type this. It all depends on the timing and the bank balance in my savings account. And that’s all I’m saying for now.

Your turn.

Have any travel plans? Is there a destination you’re considering this year? Are you looking to knock a city or country off your bucket list? Or are you just going with the flow and playing it by ear? Maybe we can inspire each other. Leave me a comment below!

 

Let’s Go(al) #2: Make More Things

So as I mentioned in a previous post, my friends and I started our own podcast in the fall.

(By the way, you can listen to our latest episode right here!)

It was mainly born out of a yearning to be more creative, and to have ownership over something that I helped create.

It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun meeting up with my friends once every couple of weeks to record our thoughts, peeves, discussions of issues, and my friend Kath’s movie reviews.

I’ve also really enjoyed the process of editing our episodes, so they sound a bit slicker. (That’s despite the number of hours it takes to edit those episodes. I’m hoping that I get faster with time.)

This year, I’d like to do even more creating of things … and sending those out into the world to share with others.

Perhaps that will consist of the writing I was supposed to do more of last year (but didn’t quite achieve).

Maybe I’ll finally, FINALLY carve out some time to learn how to play my friend’s ukelele. (I might need to try a one-on-one approach to kickstart that, rather than trying to concentrate on teaching myself on YouTube.)

Or maybe I’ll try making my own baked goods for a change, instead of just buying and eating them.

Whatever I end up doing, I hope that the end result can be to continue doing something I enjoy and appreciate when I’m not working.

And who knows? Perhaps my creative pursuits can help me out in other areas of my life.

What about you? Are there any creative hobbies/pursuits you might consider taking up in 2016? Any reasons as to what has prevented you from doing so before? Let me know in the comments!