Through the language we can bring healing to our people.

 

Through the Language we can bring healing to our people.

Tansi/Kwe,

As a First Nation, Inuit, and/or Metis individual, what priorities would you bring to the forefront of Turtle Island in order to bring healing, renewed relationships, positive action and revitalization of our diverse cultures?

This question was at the heart, spirit and intent of over 26 First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nations as I travelled Far East to “Unama’ki – Land of the Fog” and “People of the Dawn” in Membertou First Nation, Nova Scotia. Knowledge keepers, youth, elders, women, men, two spirited and all sovereign passionate souls gathered here on Mi’kmaq territory to collaborate, discuss, network, share stories and record ideas toward this question and plausible solutions.

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Jeff Ward (a member of Membertou First Nation) confidently stated that, “through the language we can bring healing to our people.” I have heard this time and time again from elders back home on the plains as well. That our languages and cultures go hand in hand and that it’s vital to keep our languages alive in order to also keep our cultures alive.

Jeff Ward also mentioned that, “We have a gift of Indigenous language, we need to think about that and honour that. Think of this gathering here in the east as a new beginning”.

A woman from the Native Women’s Association of Canada proclaimed that “Indigenous women are keepers of the language” and that only 5% of First Nation children learn an Indigenous language.

Many of these knowledge keepers, with passion in their words, their eyes pleading and searching for change, their hearts pouring out to a sea of Indigeniety sparked a flame inside my being. It had always been there but had not been inflamed to that capacity.

Being a young Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman, who was born and raised in the urban inner city, far from any Indigenous language other than the “official” colonial construct of English and French. I am now learning so much more about the loss of our culture and languages and how its such an incredibly important time right now to strengthen our heritage, revitalize and reclaim who we are as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. I must return back to my roots, visit and learn from the source, from my Cree (Nihithaw) territory in Northern Manitoba. I must return back and fully immerse myself in the language in order to fully become fluent.

Some nations have only a few fluent speakers of the language left and most of them are beginning to approach their final years in this physical realm. This is very painful to hear and ignites my spirit to want to create concrete action in order to reverse this. To create new generations of speakers.

Some tips to achieve this include:

  1. Record and document elders
  2. Teach children in public school system
  3. Begin immersion with on-reserve schools
  4. Create new generation of adult speakers committing to 2000 hours of meaningful exposure to the language.
  5. Language camps
  6. Elder socials
  7. utilization of media (TV, movies, cartoons, books, social media, etc.)

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With that, us as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, Metis peoples need to ask ourselves how bad do we want it? What are the commitments we are willing to make right now in this moment? What sacrifices do we want to make for our languages and culture? We need to feed the passion. We need to accept our role, its all within us.

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A group of passionate youth rose up and spoke out. They exclaimed straight from spirit that “before asking the people for their hand, we must ask for their heart”. They also said that language revitalization is about healing, reconciliation and belonging. We need to ask what re-learning our languages would mean for those “lost generations” to the residential school survivors. To bring life back to their beings and spirits. We must infiltrate and enforce our leadership, lead by example, use language whenever we can, adopt traditional roles and have hands on learning.

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Its time for us to come together and collectively heal. I believe in us.

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Honesty.

12/21/17

 

Shift of season. Changes and growth,
In perspectives, way of thought and way of life.
Winter Solstice.
Authentic, raw beauty.
The real soul weeding its way through the implemented stories and strategies for survival.
A code decoded.

I’ve always been better with words down on paper. The mess of my mind allotting space for my thoughts to organize themselves out and create structured sentences that makes a little more sense then the jabber in the mind. Creating space anywhere in society, to be read or not. The beauty of my words floating through cyberspace, without an unknown destination or gaze of an individual’s eye. Strangers, friends, my mom, who knows?

As I sit perplexed on weeks on end, bashing myself for not coming up with blog ideas, always thinking of the other. What would THEY want to read? What would THEY like and love? What will get THEM to share, comment and engage in my content? Who’s THEY and THEM? And why are they so important? Instead I actually enjoy the unknowingness of this process. To send out art and words, to release the torments of my mind out into the universe, just for little old me. If it inspires people, great! If not, that’s fine too. I want to share what I want when I want and not fear a response or a lack of response. I want to be authentic and raw and real. I want to share my experience just for the sake of sharing it. I want to release that pressure, that fear and let it go. That’s the beauty of art right? To find solace in the creations that derived from a deep space in your being. The exposé of the soul. This New Year will bring forward more real life stories, rawness and beauty.

So Shanley, how are you? How is your spirit? Well honestly, not well but I’m working on it. The winter months, the darker, shorter days getting to my spirit. The floating stage of my life swallowing me whole. I’m a graduate with no job, with dreams of beginning my own business but I have no idea where to start. People say I’ve already started? Perhaps that’s true. Dancing for audiences worldwide, being the token to be glorified for organizations, etc. But is it really my spirits passion? Maybe. Sometimes it feels good. The energy keeps me sane. The love that is spread makes me feel whole for a little while. But then I always sink back down into the abyss of lostness. I’m healing, I’m learning what this darkness is and what those sparks of light are and how to align and balance those both for longer periods of time instead of one or the other maximized. I’m sure it will be a life long process. Right now, I’m learning what makes my spirit happy like painting, playing, laughing, dancing, writing, drinking an overpriced Chai Latte, seeing my plant babies grow, baby animals, spending time with my family, loving my twin flame and seeing the world.

I’m also trying new things like morning guided meditations meant to clear negative energy and fill it with positive energy, guided by a man trying way to hard to speak relaxingly and stoic. Telling me to imagine a single white cloud drifting through a blue sky. Okay I see it, but I feel the same. Is it supposed to make me feel something? I’m also trying to stretch out my muscles and my body, even if I can only make it to my thighs and not all the way down to my toes. I’ll get there right? If I keep practicing? I’m trying to uphold the responsibility as an Indigenous identified young woman. Because my ancestors fought for me right? I must live up to their expectations and carry on the fight. I’m trying to nourish my body with conscious eats like weird looking veggie meat. It actually tastes pretty good! And little sponges of tofu, I swear I actually like it though! Oh and Soy milk that goes bad in like 5 days after opening.

Anyway, I’m getting off track.
Let’s just say I’m going through things, just like everyone else and I’m not afraid to hide it anymore. I mean I probably will be sometimes. But the fact is I don’t WANT to be afraid and hide it anymore. I feel as though I’ve gotten a lot of praise for some of the work that I do and I know that some youth may look up to me and I don’t want to become one of those role models who’s life seems perfect and wonderful and happy. For that simply isn’t true and just a projection or an illusion created by me. But I want to change that. I want to share my more authentic moments and experiences. To let the soul within this physical body express itself without borders or barriers. So cheers to a new year and the hopes I doing so.

Dear fellow traveller.

02/12/2017

 

Wonderfully lost within tangles of thoughts with such great depths.

The seeds nourished and lovingly planted.

The soul embracing its nest,

the sun, providing life, energy, growth.

Young sakastew Iskwew.

The world ever-expanding.

Continuation of opening her mind.

Expanding it, paving the way for lost and found treasures.

Moments frozen in time, memories locked away,

her divine inner energy connecting with the sacred mother

from the humbling still depths of the waters

to the blue hue sky full of a universe too vast to comprehend.

Full of stars and stardust being wished upon from us tiny beings,

held down by only gravitational forces and a luck of balance

and life-sustaining chance from the greater unknown energies.

How magnificent it is,

on our one tiny speck of life lies so many diverse moments, minds, thoughts, beings.

On one tiny speck there are grand landscapes

plunging down into rocky untouched valleys,

long forgotten roads,

each leading to a new adventure, a new story.

We create a profound love,

so strong that it must be connected to that universe above or those greater energies so unknown to us.

We create hate, war, violence all connected back to those diverse sets of minds, bodies, spirits.

All cohabitating on this one speck.

Wandering,

wondering,

forever searching for ultimate happiness and for all of the answers.

My mind constantly shifts, like the clouds.

It constantly moves forward like that jetplane smoothly flying high in the dark blue sky.

My mind constantly growing,

even in the toughest and unimaginable terrain,

just like those cacti, standing proudly amongst dry red sand and unearthly rocks.

My heart is constantly reminded of the love so deeply embedded in my being.

For this chance to live, to see, to hear, to breathe, to be a part of something so grand, a part of such a beautiful world.

My spirit is constantly being guided to just where I need to be,

where I’m meant to be.

My eyes cannot unsee what I’ve seen,

my eardrums cannot unhear what I’ve been told,

what I’ve been taught,

my spirit will forever cherish and hold on to that feeling of connectedness,

the feeling of freedom and the utmost amount of feeling whole.

This my dear, are the reasons I love to wander,

the reasons I love seeing this world in its entirety.

The reasons I love travel as a whole.

With its ups and downs, complexities, learned lessons and moments of true bliss and discovery.

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Liebster Award

 

Liebster

 

Hello everyone! I’ve got a very special post for you all today, I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by two lovely gals and fellow bloggers Miri (blissfulmiri) and Leila (leilaspassport)! I am incredibly grateful to have been recognized and I’m excited to answer all of the wonderful questions and nominate new bloggers! The Liebster Award is special because it is fellow bloggers recognizing and connecting with other new up and coming bloggers and it becomes a network and community of friends. I now nominate two inspiring blogs, Peter from www.peterwchadwick.com and Debbie from www.yoursdeeply.com I will message you your questions! 🙂

I will answer the questions below but first of all, here are the rules after you have received a nomination and accept taking on the award:

  • Thank and link to the blogger who nominated you
  • Create a post on your blog, displaying the Liebster Award logo
  • Answer the questions designated by the blogger who nominated you
  • Nominate new favourite bloggers for the Liebster Award
  • Come up with a list of new questions for your nominee
  • Notify the nominee

Leila’s questions:

  1. What’s the most obscure thing you’ve seen abroad?
    To be honest, I haven’t been to many places abroad but I do remember snorkelling in Mexico and seeing some very obscure and strange ocean creatures swimming about. Almost gave me a panic attack in the water!
  2. Why do you travel?
    I travel for so many different reasons. To see the world, change my perspectives, experience new cultures, create myself and wholeheartedly live my life the way I think it should be lived. I wrote a whole blog post on this that lists all of those different reasons of why I love travel. If you’d like to check it out, here’s a shortcut!
  3. What is one international food dish you love to make or want to learn to make?
    I would love to learn how to make a stir fry or stew with grown and hand picked fresh vegetables and experience that entire process of making food from living off the land.
  4. Tell us about one of your BEST travel days.
    One day that comes to mind is when I was in Cancun, Mexico because it was a sunny and beautiful day with moments on the beach, shopping in the local markets and parasailing over the ocean. I remember being high up in the air, looking down on the shores of Mexico and just thinking to myself, “I will never forget this”. That was a day that I proved to myself that I can overcome my anxieties, try new things and really truly enjoy moments like that.
  5. What can ruin a great travel experience?
    I think if you are travelling with a group of people with different interests or values than you it can deplete a potentially great personal travel experience, that’s why its so important to find those people and those friends with similar travel interests.
  6. What was one of the most unusual experiences you’ve encountered?
    I don’t mean to offend anyone but I remember being in an isolated Indigenous community and a church organization from oversees had flown in and put on this dramatic play for the community about drugs, alcohol and violence and preaching about the importance of christianity. Everything was over the top and the children in the room were sitting there wide eyed. The group I was with including myself felt so uncomfortable with the whole situation. We have nothing against other religions or faiths but the way it was presented to this isolated Indigenous community was very unusual and seemed to be very aggressive and unnecessarily confrontational.
  7. Where’s your hometown and what’s the best thing about it?
    I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. The best thing about it would probably be our diversity and the ongoing dialogue around inclusion and progressive ways forward. We have a beautiful, resilient group of innovators and youth becoming more and more active across the city.
  8. What is one of the best travel lessons you’ve learned so far?
    When travelling solo to Cuba I learned the most lessons the hard way which in turn created a positive because I was able to overcome those challenges on my own and prove to myself that I have the strength to overcome obstacles. Best lessons I learned was that we all have the power within to shift our perspectives and moods and we don’t have to rely on anyone else other than ourselves. We CAN be our own best friend! I also learned that its incredibly important to learn the local language of a place before going there in order to truly have an authentic, cultural experience amongst locals.
  9. Why did you start blogging?
    I was a natural writer ever since I was a young one and expressing myself through writing was what I knew best so it just made sense. I also had many exciting experiences and perspectives that I wanted to share with my friends, family and other audiences with similar interests. I was also very inspired by other travel and lifestyle bloggers so I decided to create one and start. 🙂
  10. What’s your next travel destination?
    Next travel destination is Santiago De Chile! I’ll be going there for the World Indigenous Business Forum and straight after a group of us will be heading over to trek up to Machu Picchu! I’m overwhelmingly ecstatic that I have the opportunity to be part of such an incredible experience. Stay tuned for posts on it too!
  11. What is your favourite quote?“Let thy faith be greater than thy fear”

Miri’s Questions:

  1. Why did you decide to join the blogging universe?
    I decided to become a part of the glorious blogging community and universe because I loved the idea of writing my experiences and thoughts down into susceptible sentences that can then be reached to potential audiences with similar interests. The pool of finding, creating and sharing inspiration also tickled my fancy. So far so good!
  2. What’s your favourite holiday?
    Christmas all the way! Because my family gets together and everything around gets cozy, merry, bright and magical.
  3. If you would go on a trip, name 5 things you need to take with you.
    5 essentials would be my camera to take snapshots of memories, a journal or notebook to jot down thoughts, poems or doodles, a bathing suit in case there is a swimming pool in my hostel, hotel or airbnb or even if there is a body of water near by and great weather! I would also make sure to take a warm cozy sweater and my cellphone in order to stay connected to back home.
  4. Which sport do you like the most?
    Hmm..good question. I’ve dabbled in many sports when I was younger but nowadays I’m not very into any of them. I suppose soccer or tennis would be a few of my favourites to play recreational with family or friends on the odd occasion.
  5. Do you prefer fish or meat?
    Neither, but if I had to absolutely choose it would be meat and only certain meats like bison or chicken.
  6. Are you a planner or are you spontaneous?
    I’m definitely a planner. I appreciate plans, itineraries and lists and sticking to them. Whenever plans change or if things become too spontaneous I begin to experience a little anxiety. However, I’m learning how to overcome that and embrace my spontaneous side including others because I think a good trip is a wonderful balance of both planning but also spontaneity.
  7. What’s your favourite perfume scent?
    I admire a good sandlewood cologne smell or a not too powerful vanilla bean scent.
  8. Who’s your favourite artist or band?
    Favourite band at the moment is “Young the Giant”.
  9. Do you prefer a sandy beach or a snowy mountain?
    Oh my goodness. So hard to choose. I love both equally and if they are in the same place then thats a bonus!
  10. If sky’s the limit what would you do next?
    Wonderful question. If the sky was the limit I would pack up my essentials, sublet my apartment, kiss my family farewell and backpack the world for a year or two with my partner or on my own, working from the road, sharing my experiences and learning so much more deeply about travel, myself and the world.

 

My questions for the new nominee’s are as follows! 

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. If you knew you had one last day here in the physical world, what would you do?
  3. What is your biggest goal/dream and why?
  4. Why do you travel?
  5. If money was non-existent, what would you do?
  6. What do you stand for?
  7. What is one of your passions you hold close to your heart?
  8. Any advice for newbie bloggers?
  9.  What is your favourite “Life” Quote
  10. What’s the funniest lesson you’ve learned in your life?

Naicatchewenin First Nation

As the open road warmly embraces three generations of dancers, Treaty 3 territory smiles right back as we whisk our vehicle through curvy roads bordered with lakes, treetops and far open lands. Headed to the beautiful little community of Naicatchewenin First Nation for their 40th annual Powwow celebrations.

Just a month prior I was in the same location, presenting to the youth of Naicatchewenin First Nation and surrounding communities at the same newly built wooden arbor. After that presentation, two members of the powwow committee approached me with tobacco and asked in a respectful way if I would come back to represent as head lady dancer for their powwow. Honoured, I accepted. I had never been a head dancer in the many years I’ve danced so the new experience and opportunity excited me.

The day finally approached. As we left, the sun was just sitting overhead, ready for our 4-hour journey into their beautiful territory. We set up camp atop of one of the hills overlooking the powwow grounds close to some friends from Winnipeg who had also travelled over for the celebration.

The next few days were fulfilling and good for the soul. Late nights spent by the fire at our camp, watching the flames dance in the summer breeze, listening to the nightly creatures roam around the land, looking high into the sky at the brightest stars and Milky Way twinkling. Thinking deeply about this life and all experiences and opportunities that lead me to that very moment. Getting lost amongst constellations and wishing upon shooting stars. Sharing laughs with my mother and grandmother, as we lay snuggled in our tent.

The community was amazing. They were very hospitable and generous. Each morning we were greeted by smiling faces that cooked up massive delicious feasts for breakfast at the community gym. We were also served grand feasts for dinner; Tender fresh fish fry, moose meat, handmade wild rice, potatoes, bannock and vegetables. We were also offered a beautiful cabin just a few kilometres outside of the community but I had decided to stay within the community and camp amongst the locals and stay close to the powwow grounds.

The community and powwow committee also allotted me space and time to host a dance special! I raised enough funds to put together an “Empowering Our Youth” special for kids ages 12 and under. The four places were granted to those youth who danced hard for the people with high energy and smiles. They were then granted a set of their own hoops and some prize money for them and their families. The drum group, “Little Foot”, then honoured them with an honour song. I also made sure that every youth didn’t walk away without anything so I put together consolation honorariums and put together a handmade motivating gift for each young one. I felt this special was important, as the committee members had mentioned most of the people in the community haven’t seen hoop dancing and many are dealing with healing journeys of their own through intergenerational traumas. So in order to empower the young ones to keep dancing and carry on these traditions I held this special.

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Almost over 70 youth filled the circle, dancing hard for the smiling elders under the hot summer sun. Their beaded and sewn regalia sparkling in the sunshine, their fringes and ribbons whipping all around to become a beautiful wonderful blur of colours and resiliency. I was in awe. I felt proud of all of them and their families cheering them on from the sides. It was incredibly difficult to choose only four dancers to receive the hoops but with the help of my mother, grandmother and the headman dancer, we put our minds together and decided on four who’s spirits lit up when they danced.

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It was a memorable experience that I will cherish and I hope to see these young ones grow with their hoops or still see dancing as we all grow through the years still following that red road and powwow trail.

On some time off, my family and I explored the beach where the locals swim and we shared stories and laughs with some new families we met there. Being a head dancer we had many roles. Each and every grand entry and retreat we were there, dancing behind the honoured flag carriers, elders and dignitaries. We judged dance competitions, supported all honour songs, spot dances and traditional sacred whistles that were blown and above all we just danced. Danced for our communities, for the community of Naicatchewenin, for the youth and elders. We danced to pray and to heal and to represent Indigenous country with our heads held high, with our feet and moccasins connected to our mother the earth, praying with each step of light for that water just a few meters over. Praying for the continuation of healing nationwide for our people and that renewal and reclamation of our identities.

It was a beautiful time spent with family, community, outside on the land and opening our minds to connect, experience and grow.

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Exciting Updates!

Tanisi – Hello!

Hey, happy hump day! (published on a Wednesday obviously – hopefully this opening line grabbed your attention instead of losing it, because sometimes I think i’m funny and clever when really I’m not).

Moving along, I would just like to do a stream of consciousness, a stream of words typed out onto my laptop screen to be read by potential readers who may or may not be interested in my exciting developments and insight into the little life of Shan. So here it goes.

First of all, I don’t think I properly acknowledged or announced my new domain in a blog post yet, but I secured the domain name of http://www.anishanaabe.com! How sick is that!? I would also like to point out how clever I feel and also the meaning behind this title. So, Anishinaabe is usually spelled with an “I” like I just did, but I changed the “I” to an “A” so that my name is also within the website title. Thus making it Ani – SHAN – aabe. Does that make sense? I thought it was a pretty clever name. Anyway, a new domain means a new whole journey. I hope to grow this little online business through travel and lifestyle blogging and to become a self-employed Indigenous woman boss badass. That’s the goal anyway. So here I will put a plea of please finding it within your heart to support this little project of mine through subscribing to this website and take it a step further by sharing it with your friends. I really want to focus on growing this website and little business of mine, so you will now see more consistent and quality blog posts.

There is a lot of exciting opportunities and experiences coming up that I will also announce now so that you can start to get excited for potential future posts.

  1. I have booked by first solo trip to Cuba where I will stay with a host family and explore the local Cuban culture, lounge on the beautiful Vardero beach, take day trips to Havana, Trinidad, etc. and hopefully meet new people with similar interests. I hope to gain some insight into what it will be like to be a solo female traveler!
  2. I will be turning a quarter century old at the end of June so perhaps I will try my shot at instilling some of my wisdom I have gathered throughout my 25 years on this planet. lol.
  3. I will be attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival 2017 in July, but there’s a twist! This year I’ll be an actual performer! Say whaaaat? with the backstage access pass and everything. I will be hoop dancing alongside my little sister Rylee Sandberg with the amazing DJ Shub at the “Big Blue @ Night” Stage Saturday night with mini workshops throughout the days on Saturday and Sunday.
     
  4. In October 2017 I will be traveling to Santiago Chile to attend the World Indigenous Business Forum. On top of that, I will be exploring the city and then taking an extra week to venture off to Machu Picchu. Crossing that off my travel bucket list and I’m extremely excited.

These are just four of the many exciting opportunities that I’ll be up to this year and that will surely be highlights. However, there will be many more adventures in between that I will also be posting about. I would also like to take the time now to switch gears over to a new feature that I have instilled on this website which includes YOU! the wonderful readers and blogging community! I hope to feature a monthly guest here on the site under the tab marked “community”. With this, I hope to gain a fair amount of entries and I will pick a person every month. The community post from you can include anything from a guest blog post about a subject you are passionate about, it can be a multi-media project, it can be photography, written works like poetry or short stories or anything that is related to who you are and where you are from. This is a chance to share your voice, in whichever way you like and to also promote yourself. So please start sharing with your friends of this awesome opportunity and start sending in your entries.

Before I log off, I would also like to ask, how are you doing? How are you really doing? Have you asked yourself this lately? For myself personally, I’ve been asking these important questions and I have discovered that I have been a wild mixture of emotion, thought and weird transition adulting stage in my life. Perhaps some of you can relate. I have felt this vibe or energy of a shift in my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being. Now that i’ve graduated from something that I’ve known my entire 25 years of educational institutionalization, I feel like i’m floating. I don’t really know what’s next and that’s both incredibly terrifying but also extremely exciting. I am in a stage of my 20s where I am exploring more of who I am. I am discovering new interests, new passions and I feel like I’m graciously growing into womanhood and shedding away my younger self. I’m beginning to find new ways to move forward and to regain my independence. I feel a shift in who I am, a change, a growth and I’m learning to embrace it and go with the flow. I want to say “yes” to more opportunities, I want to slay the game in my business and to work towards my goals and dreams with confidence. I’ll be honest though, its not all healing and holistic and easy. It’s messy and scary to confront your fears, to bring your voice forward and to trust yourself. It’s challenging but also very gratifying to realize your own potential and what you can be capable of. It is amazing to look around and see that you are surrounded by those who love you dearly and who want to help and support you in any way possible. Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. You just gotta put your hands up and embrace the ride.

Phew, okay I’m done. It feels so good to have these thoughts down in a post and to send it off into virtual internet land. Please leave a comment below, perhaps send me some entries if you’d like to be a featured monthly guest and don’t forget to subscribe/follow to this blog. Thank you all so much, take care for now!

~ Shan.

Reminiscence of the Miss Indian World Contestant experience.

The days of April 25th – May 1st and those leading up were a pure whirlwind that took my world by its roots and nourished them with adoration; a whirlwind that took me to new heights and greater understanding and respect for the world around me. An unforgettable experience that consisted of adrenaline highs, altitude sickness lows and all the amazing fun times through that, far and wide and in between.

For the first time in awhile I dug deep to find the courage to apply and run as a “Miss Indian World” contestant at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In past years I had never felt fully confident in myself and my abilities and the title of “Miss Indian World” seemed incredibly prestigious including the criteria of a young, beautiful, confident Indigenous woman with strong cultural knowledge, abilities to represent entire Indigenous nations across the world, speaking from her heart and showcasing her true self to the world. I always thought to myself, of course I wasn’t deemed fit for that. However, at this time I would like to thank those strong, beautiful and resilient women who inspired and mentored me throughout the years to the point where I felt ready to embark on this experience. To my mother Melanie Dean who paved the way my entire life, implanting that seed of cultural knowledge, raising me in a home with our traditional instruments, medicines, teachings and creating intricate works of regalia for every stage of my growth. I also thank my grandmother who also shared with me her wisdom and stories and offered her support and care. These two women were my prime examples growing up, following in their footsteps and striving for self-respect, self-love and an all seven sacred teachings attitude toward our self and the world around us. With this thanks, I would like to extend it to the rest of my family from my Nihithaw “Swampy Cree” roots on my mother’s side from our community of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. Including all of my aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers and countless cousins who supported my journey throughout the years. I would also like to acknowledge and thank my father Andrew Spence and my Anishinaabe/Ojibway roots from my father’s side from the community of Lake St. Martin First Nation. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for that acknowledgement of both my Cree and Ojibway identity.

The thank you list continues, hang in there. Please do not turn away, as these people are vital to the story and deserve all of the recognition in the world. I’d like to thank those community mentors who have inspired me, those who I looked up to and found guidance from including Tasha and Leslie Spillet, Miss Lisa Meeches, Wab Kinew and Lisa Kinew, Connie Constant, Ray and Rhonda Stevenson, Violet Duncan and many many others. All of these people have paved the way for us as Indigenous peoples. Becoming well known in their home communities and being amazing people in their own ways, thus becoming role models and mentors for young Indigenous women like myself. Tasha and Wab specifically helped me with writing incredible recommendation letters and Lisa has always motivated me toward running. I’d also like to acknowledge Hilda Bighetty: super awesome phenomenal elder and cousin who helped me with my Nihithaw language that I would later include into my speeches, introductions and recognitions. All of these beautiful souls helped build together the courage to represent myself as a Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman and to also bring a voice to Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Lake St. Martin First Nation and speak on behalf of issues that I felt were important in our Canadian society including youth empowerment, mental health and (MMIWG) missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Youth empowerment encompasses youth from all nations and backgrounds but of course also specifically within Indigenous youth. Providing them with the tools and resources to feel empowered toward reclaiming who they are as Indigenous young people; Reclaiming songs, dances, traditions, languages, stories, etc. and being proud of that. Bring empowerment to educate themselves on their rich histories and find ways to move forward in this ever-expanding world. Also empowerment to non-indigenous youth to do the same, learn about who you are, where you come from and learn to keep an open mind and open heart to those around you. Create safe spaces of acceptance and equality among your peers, find ways to diminish racism and discrimination and violence in your community, for we are all related and we all need reconciliation and healing.

In regards to mental health, this is a topic I am also passionate about because I have experienced my own path of mental health in forms of anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It is a story that I was ashamed of for many years and kept a lot of it to myself but it was through the strength of sharing my voice and asking for help that brought healing into my life. The hoop dance and a lot of my cultural teachings also played a major role in this growth. I hope to grow to be a strong advocate for these issues and bring a heightened awareness to mental health and its ties with Indigenous communities in terms of intergenerational effects, adaption to urban lifestyle, etc.

And of course my final platform of MMIWG, after attended countless candle lit vigils, watching the tears and outcries from elders in my community, watching as fear set into the young women in my community and watching close friends, family and community members have to deal with a lost loved one. This is an epidemic happening in Winnipeg and all across Canada that needs to be fully addressed, talked about and given action from all levels of peoples from our self, to our communities, to our nations and through out governments and those in power. We need change.

With each young woman backed with their platforms in mind, the pageant began with a fun orientation dinner where all of us young women met each other and our chaperones. The next day we were straight into traditional wear and private interviews. The holding room was full of nerves, laughs, coffee and snacks as well as beautiful, motivating and inspiring positive talks from the committee members. Following the interviews we had another dinner at an aquarium where we were distracted by the large pointed toothed sharks, funny looking fish and ancient looking turtles. This is when we also did the raffle draw. At this point I would also like to thank all of you who supported and bought raffle tickets even it was only one with the 2.50 in your pocket or if you bought 50! The support was greatly appreciated and I was very proud in the fact that I had sold all 1000 tickets. It was a fun evening and by this point I was more relaxed with the amazing group of women and committee members.

The next day was the huge talent production at the Kiva Auditorium with rehearsals all day starting at 8am sharp leading up to the main event at 7pm. I had chosen to fuse together traditional and contemporary powwow music together and bring forward my teachings on the traditional Indigenous hoop dance. The day was full of fear, excitement, dancing, massage trains, random break outs in song, braiding of hair, makeup fun with the Aveda team, all of us practicing in any space we could find vacant including showers, bathroom stalls, hallways or quietly in a corner. This was a day where I feel like we all truly bonded over funny family and travel stories, through sharing our experiences and common feelings and creating friendship and networks that would leave us feeling supported, grounded and ready for the night ahead. Let’s just say, I believe this was the pinnacle turning point of the whole week. The amount of adrenaline and pride I had up on that stage, giving it all that I had, dancing hard and speaking from the heart to the audience. Then afterwards being greeted by a roomful of applause from my newfound sisters. This was followed by an influx of crowd after the show; peoples young and old approached me in enthusiasm with an overwhelming array of questions, compliments and photographs. Through the blur of people I was on a mission to find my loving family through the sea of faces. The moment I found them my mom broke out in tears which then initiated the empathetic tear train from myself, my grandmother, my aunty, Lisa (one of the hosts of the talent show) and Candice. In that moment, I felt on top of the world, I felt proud in my performance and I could feel the immense amount of love and energy pouring from my family and those audience members who approached me and the rest of us girls after the show. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I spoke and danced with the strength of my ancestors deep in my heart, I danced to honor my family, my community and those who were in attendance that night. This performance won the award for “Best Traditional Presentation” on the final day.

The days that followed consisted of the the grand “Gathering of Nations” powwow! Nations represented from all over turtle island, North America and beyond. It was held at their new home at the Tingly Coliseum – Fitting name as the grand entry and the powwow always leaves most of us with the tingly feelings. Neeeh haha – This is me trying to offer some comic relief now, not too great at it ay? Anyways, our days were full of dancing in the grand entry, a feeling all on its own. The bright spotlights reflecting off our intricate regalia, our ribbons and fringes ready to whip, our feathers standing tall and our heads held high. The moment of first walking in to that arena, all eyes on you from every direction, the jingles of the bells and the bass of that drumbeat pounding through your entire being. The singing of that grand entry song as the announcer introduces each category into the circle. To be a spectator of the grand entry is marvelous but to be a participant within the grand entry, to be surrounded by nations, pride, dancers and constant flowing energies is beyond anything I’ve ever felt before.

Throughout the powwow times, us girls had our public speaking competition out at Stage 49, our dance competition and of course the crowning and awards ceremony that took place after the final grand entry of the final day of the powwow. During this time I became deeply reflective mode Shan. When am I never deeply reflective mode Shan though, am I right? Anyways…the whole day I was reflecting on everything I had learned, gained and found through this experience. I was thinking about everyone back home and those who were keeping up with this adventure online throughout social media updates or on the live stream. I was thinking about the youth, the elders and the community members back home. I was thinking about our ancestors who perhaps prayed and dreamed about a day like today where we were all gathered in that one place in pride. I reflected a lot on the past, present and future and above all I reflected very deeply about whom I am, whom I’ve become and whom I strive to be moving forward. The moment that they called my name for Second Runner up I was astonished. All of my hard work paid off and excitedly I ran up to Danielle who passed over to me the banner and gorgeous award with flowers. I would also love to congratulate the First Runner up, Mykhal Mendoza and of course the amazing Raven Swaamp. They were both so deserving of the titles they won and I know they will both do amazing at representing Indian country. I also want to congratulate my fellow sisters who also worked incredibly hard and represented their home nations with pride too. Each and every one of them inspired me and brought forward valuable moments and experiences that I will cherish for a very long time.

With all of this being said, I would like to thank everyone for reading up to this point and if I left anyone out of the thank you list I apologize, but please know everyone’s words, thoughts, prayers and immense support was deeply appreciated by little ol’ me and I am honored to have had this opportunity and to have been guided on this path in my life.

You may be asking, “K now what?” and in response to that, I’m going to keep doing the work that I am doing. I am going to continue to represent myself, our ancestors and our nations in the best way I know how through hoop dancing, fancy shawl dancing and speaking in regards to our reclamation as Indigenous peoples, bringing to light issues that are still prevalent in our society, raise awareness of topics I am passionate about and continue to try and inspire the next generations and change the world in the little ways that I can. Here’s to upward and onwards. See you on the trail! 😉

All my relations, ekosi – thank you.

  • Shan

P.S – Please enjoy the snapshots below that don’t even represent or encapsulate the amazing trip that we had or display the multitude of emotions, events and feelings that occurred throughout. Feel free to click on a photo for a longer description of that particular photo.

Thoughts from the road – Beginnings of the Miss Indian World Experience!

Tansi,

Hello readers!

Road trips often result in the deepest reflections. Long hours of highways and changing landscapes, delving further into unknowns and driving further away from what we know, who we know and where we come from.

On this trip in particular, I have been thinking about each and every one of you. Everyone who is taking the time to read my thoughts carefully typed out into constructive sentences, everyone who has lovingly supported this journey, and those who have inspired and mentored me throughout my years of growing up. Those who have come into my life to teach me lessons, those who have offered kind words of support or critique and most of all, my close and distant family who have been the backbone and foundation for all that I do. I truly appreciate and honour all of you. I keep you close to my heart as I embark on this new adventure.

As we left Winnipeg, I was mixed with emotion. I was full of fear and sadness as I drove further away from those I love, my friends and community. However I was full of an immense amount of excitement, knowing that I would be driving toward a new experience with the potential to change my life, a chance and platform to stand proudly as a Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman. Growing up, through ceremony and powwows I was greeted with that pride of our community. It was my home and it was through dance where I learned my biggest life lessons about myself. This included my limits, fears, visions and ultimately my Indigenous identity. It was also through dance where I was met with boundless opportunities to meet with other cultural communities, spread awareness and education about our Indigenous nations in Canada, to speak on behalf of the teachings that I was gifted with, to dance for that healing for our peoples, to put a smile on a diverse array of audiences, to instill that hope within our elders that the next generation was continuing with our dances and teachings and to reconnect to those deep depths of who I am.

The first day was fairly easy, only driving a few hours to Fargo, North Dakota. The second day we managed to drive through 3 states! Making sure we had enough time to stop, move about a little, dance, practice my speech, fuel our bodies with nutrition and maybe a little too much chocolate and popcorn and enjoy the scenic route. We even had time to greet the gorgeous Missouri River that popped up just as we turned a corner, its waters glistening in the sunlight. We said hello, dipped our toes in, skipped a few pebbles and kept on.

All the while, I was thinking about everyone back home in Winnipeg and the intense April snowstorm that hit, wondering what everyone was getting up to and then also thinking about the pageant and how it will be like meeting all of the other beautiful young women. Also pondering about what the competition was going to be like and if I’d do well. Wondering about this huge responsibility that we all took upon, to be ambassadors, role models and mentors and the huge responsibility it will be to who ever takes that crown. How beautiful it will be to witness in person, side by a side, a new Miss Indian World. I can’t wait to fully commit myself to learning all that I can, trying my ultimate best, pushing past my own walls and barriers that I had built over so many years and to conquer my fears to find all that is meant for me on that other side of fear.

For the Miss Indian World pageant, there are 5 elements that we all had to focus on, an essay we had to write, a personal interview, public speaking, the talent presentation and then the dance competition. Then all in between we have moments to grow our friendship among us 24 women, where life long friendships will be formed, inspiration will grow, motivation will manifest and an inner evolution, a fire, will ignite in all of us.

Today we start a new day, finally reaching our destination of Albuquerque, New Mexico and then the chance to finally meet everyone and start our amazing experience will begin tomorrow evening! If you are interested in keeping up to date, please make sure to follow my facebook page here www.facebook.com/shanleymary! You can also livestream the public events online (this includes the talent presentations, the 1st day of the powwow with the dance competition and grand entry introductions and the last day of the powwow with the awards and crowing!). The livestream can be found here www.powwows.com. Perhaps leave me some comments below and I will be sure to respond as soon as I can!

I look forward to representing my swampy Cree/Nihithaw roots from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Pukatawagan, Manitoba. I also look forward to representing my Ojibway/Anishinaabe roots from Lake St. Martin First Nation, as well as my birthplace and home of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and to represent all of you who have been a part of my life. Elders, community members, family, friends, youth, mentors, teachers and those amazing souls who have guided mine in the most profound ways. I hope to continue to speak from the heart, follow my heart and to lead with light and love to best of my ability.

Kinanaskomitinawow, love you all.

  • Shan

A Start to Twenty Seventeen

Happy New Year to you ,where ever you are in the world!

I’m a little late to the game but better late than never to celebrate a brand new year amiright? To celebrate this new year, you have probably already noticed but I have relaunched my website, which is now http://www.anishanaabe.com! I was very excited that I was able to claim this domain name and I hope to increase it’s presence in the blogging world. I also updated some of the pages and created a super cool new tab labelled “community” which provides links to amazing resources and grassroots led initiatives and a space for anyone willing to share their story in any form each month. I am looking forward to keeping this site updated with the little shenanigans I get up to and the shenanigans that my community gets up to.

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Anyway, it’s that time of year again, where all of our minds drown in our deep self-reflections and analysis. We reflect on the past year and what it has brought to us in terms of successes, failures and all of the good stuff in between. It’s that time of the year where we start to make lists of goals and dreams and make plans to commit to them. It’s that time of year where we feel the utmost amount of love and gratefulness for those closest to us and for those who have supported us every step of the way during the previous year and hoping to god that they stick around for the next one fast approaching. It’s also that time of year where I make my own annual reflection of the year that has passed and offer some of what I have learned into the deepest depths and corners of the internet in hopes that someone somewhere out in the world can relate to my words or gain something from my insights.

img_0744 img_0733Personally, 2016 has been the most influential and awakening year of my life. My eyes, mind and heart were open and I gained incredible insight into who I am, who I want to become and to the world around me and how that all interconnects and correlates. I am astonished, looking back to where I was this time last year. I was a completely different person. It’s truly amazing how fast one can change and grow and how fast ones perception and mindset can evolve. It’s amazing to witness the amount of people who left your life but also how many new people and new connections can come into your life. It’s amazing how many changes and self-improvement that can happen and ultimately change your life forever.

In 2016, I learned to let go of negative energies that could include people, thoughts, activities or routine. I learned that once you do that, it could open your world to so much more. I’ve met so many amazing people and have created closer and more meaningful connections to people who taught me so much. What I thought was impossible happened and actually proved to me that it was possible. I learned about the importance of breaking down barriers and walls, even if they are your own. I’ve learned more about the beautiful community that I’m situated in and the Indigeniety and resistance that remains strong despite such a vast dark history in our country and the ongoing colonial systemic processes that continue to oppress and challenge our people. There is so much work to be done and I only hope that the work I continue to do makes even the slightest change in our community.

Speaking of hope, this is something I really want to focus on in the year of 2017. I have hopes to take what I have learned and implement it daily in the work that I do in our community and in my mindset through completing my education and pursuing my dreams. I hope to stay inspired, motivated and passionate about all of the little things that I commit to and then in turn inspiring, motivating and impassioning others who dare to witness.

Through this I have learned that it’s important to look after yourself, to take the time to heal and listen to your heart, mind and spirit and to follow your intuitions. I hope to continue to travel, express myself creatively, share my story and share the stories of my community to the world. I hope to continue my path of awakening, self-discovery, self-love, understanding and to flourish in a colonial world that tends to put immense pressure and limits to our capacities. I will also end this blog entry with the hope that you – the person reading this right now – understands the jibber jabber that I have just typed out onto my screen and that it somehow engaged you and implanted a lasting impression, so much so that you’ll come back and immerse yourself into my future words that are yet to be extracted from my brain and heart and formed into sentences and blog posts or other forms of creative media for you to see, share and discuss. Therefor I believe that it’s a perfect time to do a little self-promo plug, please subscribe to this blog to be notified when my next gallivant of thought is posted. I would greatly appreciate it. Also feel free to share it with your circles and consider sending me your story to be featured in the community tab of this site.

The photos provided in this post are personal photographs depicting how I rang in 2017, I have also provided a youtube video that captures those memories, please feel free to watch if you’d like to. ❤

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Ekosi – kinanâskomitin for taking the time to read.

Farewell for now.

~ Shan

22 Reasons I Love Travel & Why You Should Too!

Hey Fellow Travellers or future travellers! 😉

I have a list for you today! I am going to assume that there are probably many duplicates of this kind of list already out in the blog world with a wide range of different perspectives. Or not. Maybe I’m the first one! Anyway, I get this question a lot – “Why do you even love to travel?” and it inspired me to dive deep into the canals of my brain and create a list of reasons why I personally love to travel, which could potentially be reasons why all of you should love travel as well! Travel can certainly be a beautiful thing. If I have left anything out or if you have any unique reasons why you love to travel, let me know down in the comments! I’d love to hear your perspectives!

1. Experience of new cultures

It can be a wonderful thing by opening our minds and learning about a new culture from a different part of the globe. Immersing ourselves into what they have to offer and what they can teach us through various beliefs, values, teachings, traditional knowledge and ways of living. It can be beautiful to learn about individuals and their unique perspectives on life, culture and the world as a whole.

2. Witnessing breathtaking landscapes

Can’t deny that overwhelming feeling that floods your entire being when your eyes behold the beauty of the environment around you. That dream like state where you end up questioning yourself, “Is this even real? Is this real life? Am I actually here right now?” Well usually you are! Maybe try pinching yourself.  You are that lucky person, right in that moment, enjoying a rare beauty. Take it all in my friend!

3. Meeting new friends 

Speaking of friends, an awesome part about traveling is the potential to meet awesome new people! Sometimes they may be fellow travellers too and you can share stories with each other about adventures and hopes for the future. Sometimes It may even be locals of the area you are visiting, in which case you can potentially receive some inside scoop of the community. Score! Most of the time, these cool people you meet along the way can become life-long friends and if you travel enough, you may even create a network of friends all around the world, how cool!

4. Trying new foods

I’m still trying to get used to this one but it can be fun to try new foods from around the world. Most of the time it pushes you out of your comfort zone but it can be an awesome feeling once you try it and can say that you have. Hurray for bragging rights! Who knows, you may actually find some delicacy’s that you actually love and didn’t know existed!

5. Feeling of freedom

Through experiencing a sense of independence, away from your normality, witnessing such vast landscapes and meeting such humble soulful people can all contribute to the feeling of freedom. Free from our realities that we are used to, free from judgment, free from the constraints of our societal experiences and free from our closed minds which opened through these various experiences.

6. Experiencing new climates 

If you are like me, born and raised in the prairies where we experience all four seasons, where summer just always seems way too short, the lands are flat, the air is dry and mundane. Then if you ever travel to a hotter climate during winters or experience a different climate/weather system then it instantly becomes exciting.

7. Humbling experiences 

There’s something humbling about learning that you are but only a small part of a much large scale puzzle of the world. It is then you discover that all of your small concerns like your pizza being delivered too late, or that B- in English Literature instantly become non-relevant and you truly appreciate the simplicity that you are alive in that moment and that their are much bigger things out there in the world.

8. Mind-opening 

 Expanding from this idea of humbleness and the sense of freedom comes this notion of opening your mind. Opening your mind to things you’ve never witnessed or heard of before and welcoming those new experiences with your arms and mind wide open. In doing so, your travels become much more rich and much more engaged in the community or environment you are immersed in.

9. Letting go 

Please do not reference Frozen. Travel along with its distance and time can bring healing. As you remove yourself from your day to day activity and potentially toxic elements in your life and place yourself in a different part of the world. This can create space for you to breathe, think, analyze your life and your being and potentially bring healing in the art of letting things go.

10. That “No one knows me here” feeling 

Sounds exactly the way it is. There’s something fun, beautiful and different about being in a place where you feel that no one around you knows you. Being surrounded by strangers (potential future friends) and that feeling like a clean slab, free from judgments – if that makes any sense. No fears of running into your ex, hurray!

11. The architecture 

It’s a fantastic thing when you can appreciate the intricate arts of architecture and the various forms it can present. Temples and buildings that have been there for centuries, detailed carvings in stone and placements of shiny tiles and pebbles. Beautiful artwork and paintings of locals and the stories that can come along with it.

12. Finding hidden treasures

Usually the road less travelled can take you to the places that no other traveller has seen. Hidden gemstones of nature or unique objects and gifts from a certain community or individual. These treasures will forever remain in your heart and in your mind throughout your life. Now go out and explore and find that treasure!

13. Adventures that make you feel “alive”

There’s always moments during travel that reel you back into the reality of your situation. Sometimes, in our daily routines of work from 9 – 5, volunteering, school or whatever we become zombified to the point where we just move through the notions and know what to expect. But during travel, unexpected things always arise and that brings you back into the present moment where you must think on your feet. Hurray for de-zombifying ourselves!

14. Adventures that keep you in the present, in the moment

Expanding from the last point, these adventures that make you feel alive bring those instances that draw you back into the present and make you truly live in that moment with no time to think about the past or future. Most of these adventures will also make fantastic stories once you return or for your future grandchildren. Take it all in, perhaps record them in a journal and explore!

15. That little window where time ceases to exist 

Another beautiful but dangerous thing about travel is those moments where time seems to not exist. When you are flying across the ocean with your mind wandering high among the clouds, or when you are sitting and becoming one with the environment around you or if you are simply having a fantastic time with friends and/or family, time can simply vanish. Time doesn’t become a necessary thing to think about. You don’t have to worry about that class starting precisely at 2pm or that parking ticket due tomorrow before 3 pm. Just make sure to not miss that flight.

16. Expanding the idea that things are possible 

Pretty self explanatory. Travel can inspire the idea that anything is possible. Even the notion of you being able to travel can create this idea because you can look at your situation and be like, “well hey, look at me. I was a poor university/college student with the idea in my head that I had no time, no money or no one to be able to go travel but here I am, exploring a different part of the world!” It just takes determination and passion to get to where you want to be.

17. Pushing out of your comfort zone & facing your fears  

There’s something about driving along mountainous roads, trying new foods, swimming in potential shark infested or other creature infested waters, or seeing different wildlife and insects that you aren’t necessarily used to that creates the need for you to be pushed out of your comfort zone and face your fears. This can be both horrid and/or fantastic. It of course, depends on the situation at hand but usually these are all great life experiences and cool stories to share back at home or with your friends and family wherever they may be.

18. Faith in humanity restored 

Sometimes through witnessing the kindness and generous hospitality of another community or individual can in-still that restoration of faith in humanity.

19. Learning about the origins of things & how the world works 

Do you know where your clothes were made? or where those coffee beans were grown? Most of the time, a lot of us live our daily lives taking things for granted not ever knowing where it comes from, who makes them and how it has come to that point. Something beautiful about travelling is learning about those origins, depending on where you go. For example, I travelled to Guatemala and found out that a lot of the coffee i’ve been drinking was farmed and produced in the hills of central america by small scale family farmers. Who knew!?

20. Living minimally 

There’s something humbling about packing only your essentials and leaving all of your extra bits and bobs at home. Living minimally can contribute to that feeling of letting things go in the sense that you are leaving behind your comfort zone of having probably way too much choice and all of those unnecessary items. Come on, you don’t need those extra toe socks or that pointless fluffy onesie – those items can wait for you when you return 😉

21. Inspiration

Travel can often bring inspiration. Wether you are an artist, dancer, writer, entrepreneur, or some other cool title with its unique passion and flare. You may be surprised where inspiration can unexpectedly sprout from on your travels. It’s fantastic! Embrace it and move forward.

22. Learning about who you are and creating yourself

Finally, last but definitely not least, the fact that travel is a way to learn more about who you are deep inside. Learning about what you enjoy, what you loath, what your boundaries are, how you react in certain situations and your holistic views of the world and your place in it. This also goes along with creating yourself into who you want to be. I read a quote once that exclaimed that “life is a journey where you must not find yourself  but create yourself”. How deep.