My Solo Travel Experience to Cuba

Who embarked on an 8-day journey into the unknown, foreign, Caribbean Island of Cuba all on her own? This gal. But why? “You’re crazy!” The common phrase I’d get from those I told.

Well, It all started many moons ago when a dream sprouted from the depths of my inspired and determined mind. Squeezing my eyes shut wishing to be in a completely different part of the world to celebrate my birthday, with or without people by my side. So, this particular year of 2017 with extra travel adventure funds saved I scoured flight deals and came across a round-trip airfare to Varadero, Cuba for only $500 and a bonus, it overlapped on my 25th birthday! With my heart racing, a grin on my face and my eyes lit with fire, I booked it. 8 days in a Caribbean paradise. I proceeded to ask my closest friends and partner if they were interested in hopping on this opportunity as well but fully prepared myself that this may just be my first solo adventure! Then the universe made it so and deep in my heart I knew it was meant to be this way.

The journey began with my first lesson learned the hard way. Always call to make sure your bookings went through. I had a 12-hour layover in Toronto and decided to book a room last minute on bookings.com. I get there just after 11pm to only be told that my card wasn’t accepted and that they gave my room away and that they were sold out. Long story short, I called every single hotel in the area and they were all sold out so I had my first experience of sleeping in an airport; you never truly realize how loud airports can be until you need to sleep in one. The next morning I was fueled by excitement and adrenaline to arrive in Cuba.

I had booked a Casa Particular through Airbnb in a humble home in a suburb just outside of Varadero called “Santa Marta”. My taxi drove through long crumbling highways, passing people in horse carriages, locals selling fresh produce and fruit off of wheeled carts, random dogs, chickens and hens running around and families and children enjoying the sunshine. Then we pulled up to a large yellow metal gate with the words “Casa Yolanda” spray painted on it, we knocked and we were quickly greeted by a young Spanish lady nicknamed “Tata”. Second major lesson learned starts here. Learn the language before travelling to another country or at least bring a book with words and basic phrases because I didn’t commit myself to learning the least amount of Spanish and that set a huge barrier between myself and with a lot of people who I met on this trip, including those who’s house I stayed in. This young woman didn’t know any English either so when we arrived it was awkward and difficult, as she was trying to tell me things and I couldn’t understand any of it. I was culture shocked. An entirely different world surrounded by people who had no idea what I was saying or who I was and the challenge of not understanding them either.

I got to my room and was happy to know that it was the room that I booked. This first arrival day proceeded with a nap, cold shower, contemplation of going out to explore, renting a bicycle, confronting that fear to go out and explore, rode around the area and found a nice little restaurant to have dinner which had an English menu and an English speaking waitress – bonus!

The second day I rented the bicycle again and followed a family of locals who looked like they were dressed for the beach and that’s how I found my way to Varadero! The ride was fun, watching the transformation from local Cuban lifestyle to the grand illusion and world of tourists. I rode my bike down the peninsula, bought some handmade crafts in the markets, did some writing on the beach, found some tasty vegetarian food then spent the majority of my day swimming, bathing in the sun and laying by the water. It was also my birthday so I stayed out and watched the sunset. Something I haven’t done in so long. In that moment and throughout the day I reflected a lot on my own self. Reflected on the moments of solitude that I was presented with, acknowledged those feelings of loneliness and vulnerability but also found beauty in that because it was teaching me to become my own best friend; to pick myself up without having to rely on anyone and truly listening to my inner self. Then I came back to my room to have a private self-dance party and watch movies until I drifted off to sleep.

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Day 3 brought a lot more challenges. At this point I was very overwhelmed with not being able to speak or understand those who I was staying with or with those who were around me in the streets of Santa Marta and Varadero. This resulted in a multiple breakdowns in front of them, which also caused more embarrassment on my behalf. They were super nice though, giving me hugs, rubbing my back and even making me some beautiful Cuban coffee. This particular day I had found an ETESCA Internet café and bought a ticket for 8CUC for one hour. During this hour I chatted with my loved ones and did some research on the area and on basic Spanish words. I feel this made my homesickness even worse or catapulted it, because for the rest of the day that’s all I could think about, was my loved ones back home in Manitoba. I went to the beach again to swim only to be greeted by a creepy Chinese man who really badly wanted to swim with me or teach me to swim. He tried to hold me up in the water and kept grabbing my arm to follow him deeper into the water. I managed to back away and motion that I was uncomfortable and decided to leave the situation all together and move to a different area of the beach. I then tried to book tours through “Havantur” only to be greeted by a grumpy old woman who told me to come back tomorrow. All the goals I had set out to do were defeated, so in a homesick, anxious, hot mess I gave into comfort food of pizza at an Italian touristy restaurant and went back to my room early and had a very good cry. It was only day 3 and I was ready to go home. SIGH…what a day lol. Life is a rollercoaster full of ups and downs but it’s what you do with those highs and lows that create outcomes and steps forward.

Once I cleared out every tear in my body (I’m so dramatic eh? Lol) I reminded myself of the reasons I was there in that situation and also realized my state. I was comfortable in an air conditioned safe place, I was alive and breathing and nothing seriously detrimental had affected me in any way, things could be way worse. So through this, along with the supportive and comforting words of my mother and partner over text I quickly shifted my perspective and attitude and found the strength to overcome my feelings, work through them and past them.

I awoke the next morning feeling determined and motivated to carry on, to not take any moment for granted and to find the beauty in the new day. This positive outlook brought a brighter day. I took a ride on the double decker Varadero bus tour that was only 5 CUC for the whole day. I sat on the top, uncovered windy level with my hair whipping in the breeze as I took in all the touristy sites and sounds of Varadero, only thinking to myself…this is all an illusion. People from all over the world travelling to Cuba thinking that this is “real” Cuba when really they are completely isolated in grand state run hotels deep down in the corners of the peninsula. A golf course platted across sacred Caribbean lands, an American plaza full of consumerism and direct materialization and marketing toward those with money, a dolphin pool completely far removed from the dolphin’s natural habitat and tacky pineapple pina coladas on every street corner. (Sorry if this brings any offence) I was truly discovering an eye opening experience. Travelling from my Casa to Varadero everyday, it was interesting to see the differences. On this day I was also able to book myself excursions to Cayo Blanco and Habana and found fellow Canadians from Quebec who I delightfully had a short conversation with.

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The next day I awoke bright and early to bike on over to the hotel where my shuttle bus would be picking me up to take me to the Marina where I’d experience a gorgeous catamaran ride to a small touristy island called, “Cayo Blanco”. Gliding upon open blue waters, under gorgeous blue skies, the sun warm on my skin, surrounded by smiles and relaxed bodies, as we approached the island. It looked like something out of a painting. I was in awe of the pristine waters that surrounded this tiny tropical Caribbean island. I proceeded to walk along the shore to explore, swim, eat some lunch and relax on the plentiful lounge chairs. Relaxed a little too much though as I drifted into a beautiful calm slumber to the sounds of the waves, the breeze though the palm tress overhead and the glorious perfect temperature I found in shade.

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I slept and totally missed my boat. In a panic I ran to the boat launch and truly discovered it to be gone. So I ended up asking a leader there if it would come back, he assured me it would but it didn’t so I approached another boat, similar to the one I came on and they let me aboard in order to get back to Varadero. I was supposed to swim with dolphins in a well cared area at an island across from Cayo Blanco and I assumed I missed the opportunity. But then the most epic thing happened. The boat dropped me off at the dolphin place; I swam with them totally alone with the 3 Cuban workers and watched my original boat pull up to the dolphin place to pick me up. When I hopped back on the boat everyone applauded. It was such a silly situation and even though I felt very bad and embarrassed for causing so much chaos among the workers and fellow travellers I also felt lucky and joyous of the play out of events.

When I got back to Varadero I unfortunately discovered that the bike I had rented was stolen – completely gone – even though I locked it up and everything! I’ll let you imagine the emotions I felt and how I had to break it to those at my Casa. I laugh about it now at my misfortune that day but at the time I was definitely feeling low.

The next day was my grand one-day adventure to Habana! With no bike I walked to the same hotel to be picked up again by a shuttle bus where we proceeded on our 2-hour road trip through Cuba. On this trip I met a very kind family from Slovakia and my tour guide and bus driver who were local Cubans themselves but spoke decent English. It was a beautiful day full of deep conversation and roaming the streets of Habana and learning some of the history of the area and about the residents of the country.

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This day I also met a young man who was a local from “real” Habana. He worked as a cyclist for the tourists every other day and offered me a free short ride and a conversation that I’ll never forget. We discussed our interests; education and lifestyles and then I asked him about the people in Cuba, how he felt about the touristy set up and how the relationship was between the people and their government. He proceeded to tell me that all of what was surrounding us was an illusion and only for the tourists, that it wasn’t “real” Cuba. He continued exclaiming that the Cuban people are oppressed and live in fear every day. They look happy on the outside but really they are sad and fearful on the inside. He said that if he was caught talking to me about all of this that he would probably be put in jail and that a lot of what the government does, doesn’t inquire with the people first. After this conversation my perspective shifted, I saw everything that was around me in a different way. I felt so appreciative to have found that space, that moment in time where the world continued around us but we were in our own world truly having a deep soulful, human conversation.

The next few remaining days I saw Cuba through a lens that I felt many people who had travelled there probably didn’t see. I was also extremely appreciative and accepting of all the lessons I had learned, all the mistakes that humbled me and also the small growths and strengths I acquired through my own mindfulness, self-compassion and moments of human connection. My last moments in Cuba were full of swimming in the turquoise salty waters, watching more sunsets, dancing salsa on the beach, in the sand, with another local as we hummed our own music, trying different restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner along the peninsula, confronting my fear of the dark and walking back to my Casa after the sun had set and having magical little moments with the people at my Casa. Magical moments including the magnificent breakfast they made for me twice including a bountiful array of ham and cheese slices, scrambled eggs, toast with jam and peanut butter, fresh cut mangoes and pineapple, freshly pressed juices and coffee with warm milk and sugar. It was delicious. I also left one of the ladies a gift before I left and she discovered it and her whole being lit up, she smiled and hugged me and kissed my cheeks with many gracias’. I proceeded to take a taxi back to the airport and also had a nice conversation with the driver who spoke wonderful English so I ranted a bit to him about what I had experienced the past week and he offered some advice and consoling. It was a wonderful conversation before I boarded my flight back home to those I love.

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Now that I’m home, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I had learned and what I had experienced on my first solo trip. Although I feel like I went through very challenging times, I am still very thankful for those times because it taught me a lot – mostly in the hard way – but it was definitely an awakening of what a travel lifestyle can bring. It can bring those moments of overwhelming situations, homesickness, loneliness and challenges but through those you learn how to problem solve, remain calm, be present and live an entirely different way than you have your entire life. It forces you out of your comfort zone to confront fears and challenge your mind to keep a positive attitude and perspective on what is presented to you. It makes you appreciate the little things in life like a simple smile or conversation with a fellow human being or the sun setting putting on a magnificent show of a hue of colours in contrast with the landscapes that surround you. I truly believe this trip was a beginning and awakening to truly listening to my inner voice and to the practice of self-compassion and mindfulness. I feel a greater sense of my own capabilities and sense of self. It’s amazing and I will keep these moments of learning and growth deep in my memory as I walk forward in this life. If I choose to return to Cuba I will definitely travel with family, friends or my partner and I will definitely learn at least some basic Spanish and I will strive to discover the “real” Cuba that I had only had a small taste of on my travels.

With all of this being said, I hope a majority of you made it to the end. If so, thank you so much from the depths of my heart. I’m ready for the next adventure. Are you?

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.

 

Summer Season – Fav Place In Winnipeg, MB!

I was recently challenged by EventBrite to participant in their Hometown Hunt online project and share one of my favourite local places during the summer season. I thought this would be a great opportunity to promote our little hometown city known as Winnipeg, MB and spotlight one of my favourite areas to visit and a place I would recommend anyone visiting in Winnipeg!

The exchange district is without a doubt one of my most favourite places in the city for a variety of reasons. Besides the beautiful architecture, character charm and historical aura . . . it offers support to small local businesses and artists. Just recently it has welcomed “Teri Beads” to the area which is an indigenous owned business that sells traditional indigenous materials and beads and also supports the indigenous community in Winnipeg.

The exchange also hosts a variety of engaging community events. Just recently they have hosted the 2015 JazzFest with a variety of unique musicians and bands at venues around in the district. Another bonus to the JazzFest is their free opening weekend with live local music playing at a stage known as “The Cube” right in the heart of the exchange district known as the old market square. This is always a wonderful opportunity for families and friends to gather and take in the sounds of good music and to enjoy the surrounding food/beverage vendors. Other exciting events that the exchange district plays host to is the Fringe festival which supports our local actors and performers, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and many others that help bring our community together and support the up and coming businesses and artists.

In addition to this, the exchange district offers so much more such as a variety of artsy cafes, lounges, restaurants and bars with great food and great drinks and most offer live music or their own unique twist. The exchange district also offers walking tours of the area to recount the history of the area and to witness some of the popular venues or buildings with specific  meanings or rich character.

These are just some of the reasons why I enjoy the exchange district, particularly during the summer months. This is just a quick sneak peak into some of the things the area offers but there is so much more that could be said. If you are at all interested in learning a little more about what the district offers, feel free to visit their website! Also please feel free to visit the website of eventbrite and consider using it to help host an event in your community! They have a great event management page easy for anyone to use! Click here if you’d like to host an event!

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed it! What’s your favourite place during the summer and why? Let me know in the comments below!

Take Care Everyone!

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My Roadtrip Playlist!

Hello Everyone 

The time has come!
Summer has finally given itself a sneak peak and most have already proclaimed it has begun. Nonetheless, warmer weather is here which calls for road trips, beach days, and time out in the warm summer sun with family and/or friends. I believe the road trip or summer playlist is always an essential part to the season. Your perfect summer tunes blasting as you cruise down the highway, as your getting lost on purpose and living in the moment.
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Below I have showcased my top 15 road trip tracks that I think most of you will enjoy.
P.S – My playlist and my favourites are always changing and I would never be able to choose just one, which is why I have offered 15 of my current favourites.
What are you some of your favourite summer jams?
I would love to know!

Wye Oak – Civilian

Missy Higgins – Secret

Jose Gonzalez – Stay Alive

Chic Gamine – Days and Days

City and Colour – Comin’ Home

JP Cooper – Keep the Quiet Out

Broken Bells – Leave It Alone

A Tribe Called Red – PBC feat. Sheldon Sundon

Aloe Blacc – I Need A Dollar (Ben E & Falki Remix)

The Paper Kites – Featherstone

Jack Johnson – Traffic In The Sky

Asa – 360°

Gary Go – Heart and Soul

 Banks – Waiting Game (Judah Remix)

Ed Sheehan – Bloodstream

FlashBack Friday: Cancun, Mexico!

38314_410435867129_8361007_nBack in 2010, my graduating class and I took a trip down to Cancun, Mexico for a week of adventure. I remember it being my second time travelling alone without family so I was incredibly nervous but also extremely excited for what plans we had ahead. The idea that I was travelling with my fellow peers did put some of my nerves to ease though.

We stayed in the beautiful Gran 37492_410437117129_1068305_nCaribe Real Hotel right on the shores of the blue watered ocean and right in the heart of the touristy side of Cancun. The staff were incredibly friendly and the atmosphere of the place felt very comfortable and safe. There were many amenities to keep us busy, unique restaurants in each direction, private balconies and two large lavish swimming pools to bask in and enjoy the Mexican sunshine.

34940_410442627129_6780428_nThere were many highlights about this trip that I can remember and will probably remember for a very long time. I have shared some of my favourite photographs I snapped while on this graduation trip and I hope you enjoy them. Starting at the hotel, besides the beautiful scenery, lavish pools, wonderful staff and unique restaurants there was also many exciting activities that they offered such as the parasailing which myself and a high school friend went on.

34607_410436857129_3771729_nAfter they drove us out to a boat on a water sea doo, they buckled us into the seat and launched us into the sky.The view I seen from up there will always remain in my mind, it was beautiful, you could see the entire coast and the ocean stretching as far out as you could see, fading into depths of blue and meeting with the skies. If you ever get the chance to parasail, please do it because you won’t regret it one bit and you’ll experience a feeling never felt before.

37492_410433327129_3516729_nAnother exciting unforgettable experience was the excursions we had the chance to go on including the trip to a natural swimming pool, I remember feeling envious of those who were smart enough to bring their bathing suits or brave enough to jump in with their clothes on. It looked like a fun time and cool experience that I wish I did. Another place we were fortunate enough to visit was the famous wonder of the world, the Chichen Itza ruins. I remember it being a hot, muggy day but I was in awe of all of the manmade structures and pyramids that had survived after so many years and the intricate carvings of stone and special placement of stones. We weren’t aloud to climb any because they were trying to preserve the sites as long as they can. It’s amazing to think about how on earth Mayans and their communities had the ability to create this structures so far in the past. It was amazing to witness and walk around these sacred lands.

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On ano37890_410440372129_5972108_nther day we ventured off as a group to the local markets and escaped a little of the touristy side we were used too. It was exciting to go out and witness the local community and see more of Mexico. I remember this one fellow who had his guitar and was singing aloud for the whole bus to hear and his voice was amazing. He was singing songs that we knew including, “All My Loving'” by the Beatles.

34608_410441177129_2651194_nThis young man inspired me and surprised me since we aren’t used to singing on busses in Winnipeg due to it being banned which I think is stupid haha! Another highlight was the day we spent out on the ocean on a boat. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and high temperatures. We sailed along the waters enjoying music, activities and relaxing in the sunshine.  They even stopped at a shallow point along the coast for a chance to swim in the calm blue waters.

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After that day in the sun we concluded our night at a fun unforgettable foam party just down the street from our hotel. I’ve never experienced that type of party before and I thoroughly enjoyed the night, dancing in waist high foam and foam constantly pouring over everyone.

There is probably much more moments that I’ve left out and many more photographs I’ve left out but I think those were the most memorable parts of my trip. Someday I hope to travel back to a destination such as Cancun and experience that relaxing, vacation like vibe again and to marvel among the gorgeous scenery and wide open ocean. S-Trip made it possible for my graduating class and I to take this trip and book all of the exciting excursions we were able to join. I truly recommend it if you are looking for a student deal for your next trip or class trip.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing more “Flashback Friday’s” of my trips I’ve taken in the past.

Hope you enjoyed!

Do you have any memorable trips? 🙂

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Phoenix, Arizona & The Grand Canyon!

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Back in February 2015, my mom and I decided to pack our things and head down south to Phoenix, Arizona to participate and dance for the first time in the world hoop dance contest at the Heard Museum. It’s an annual event where hoop dancers from all over turtle island gather to mingle, dance their hearts out and represent their home communities. Ever since I had started hoop dancing I had only seen videos of the event on Youtube and I admired the unique intricate routines from established dancers from around the world. The idea of participating in the event myself seemed like such a far fetched dream, so when the opportunity presented itself I was more than thrilled to partake.

3:30 AM Friday morning, we made our way to the airport.
After a long day of travel, we finally arrived in the beautiful sunny Arizona. I was beyond excited to bath in the sunlight and enjoy the high temperatures of the desert landscape. We rented a car and made our way through the winding freeways to find our hotel. We kept seeing various road signs along the way such as Los Angeles and the thought of how easy it would have been to take a drive down to these other various cities excited us. We definitely put that our list of things to do for next year!

IMG_7402The next day began bright and early as we made our way to the venue. Before the day of hoop dancing began, they held a meeting to discuss the rules and answer any questions that the dancers may have had. Then it was time to get ready for grand entry! I was beyond excited at this point, marveling among the hoop dancers I’ve looked up to and only seen in videos. Everyone dressing into their different vibrant beautiful regalia and everyone was buzzing with energy.

Then grand entry began with over 75 hoop dancers both men and women, children to senior, from all across the world dancing together. This is where it all hit me. I was in that moment and felt a strong sense of belonging, like that was where I was meant to be. That overwhelming feeling embodied my whole being, a feeling of pride and happiness. I couldn’t believe I was there, dancing along side with my fellow mentors, those who had inspired me to keep on hoop dancing, those who had such an influence on my life. We were all there in the Arizonian sunlight, dancing  to that sound of the drum that I’ve known all my life. It was truly an amazing experience.

IMG_7406IMG_7416IMG_7418The day continued as they showcased each dancer beginning with the tiny tots then into the youth  and teen divisions. Then they showcased the senior division and then completed with the adult division. Each dancer was marvelous in their own way, dancing in various styles and introducing IMG_7426different hoop formations coupled with their fancy footwork. Throughout the day, all of us dancers mingled and met with each other and talked with the spectators of the crowd. Everyone was so warm and friendly and a mutual acceptance and respect was felt from everyoneIMG_7442. Then it was my turn to dance.

As I waited for my turn, the nerves set in but I kept reminding myself that it was just like any other showcase I’ve done, to just go out there and dance my hardest and even though it may not be the best…the experience would be worth it all. Some fellow hoop dancers came by and gave me some last minute advice and that really helped calm my nerves. I spoke to the northern drum who would be singing for me before walking up to the center and placing my hoops in anticipation. The beat began, the timer started and all eyes were on me. I was full of energy and excitement mixed with nerves but I was more than ready. I danced my little heart out and danced the hardest I’ve ever done before in that center dusty pit under the blazing sun. It felt exhilarating.

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Out of 22 dancers in the adult division I was 15th on the score card and even though I didn’t place I was thankful and incredibly grateful for the experience and for meeting all of the other dancers. I definitely already started making plans for next year, I’m just getting started and it feels amazing. Also a huge thank you shout out must go out to my mother for making it all happen and for supporting me all throughout, without her I wouldn’t have made it there and I am so incredibly grateful and appreciative of everything she had done.

The second part of our trip we took a drive up to the Grand Canyon and the pictures can speak for themselves . . .

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Overall, It was a truly breathtaking trip and instilled a deeper pride into who I have become and who I am as a young indigenous woman. It was beautiful to escape the Winterpeg winter and bath in the warmer southern temperatures and to witness the grand landscapes of Arizona. The trip up to the Grand Canyon and experiencing such a breathtaking view of one of the world’s natural wonders really put into perspective just how beautiful our world can be. I already cannot wait for next year and I look forward to continuing this journey of hoop dancing, travelling and experiencing all this world has to offer.  
Thank you for reading 🙂

 

 

Montreal, Quebec Adventures!

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At the end of January 2015, I had a chance to spend a weekend in Montreal, Quebec. I had recently been hired as a regional intern with a non-profit international development organization called, Development and Peace then they sent me on a plane to Montreal for an orientation and meet and greet weekend with all of the other interns from across Canada.

After our days of meetings, presentations and intense complex debates/dialogue we also had the chance to wind down and spend some time exploring the streets of Montreal. All of it was such an exciting and exhausting whirlwind of an adventure.

IMG_7385Our hotel was right in the middle of downtown Montreal, right in the heart of the beautiful city so it was easy for a group of us to just walk down the street and discover something new on every corner. My room was a small cozy area on the fourth floor with a gorgeous view of the sunrise every morning glistening on the rooftops and filling the room with an uplifting natural light. The only downfall was the very loud mini fridge and the constant sound of the elevator near by going up and down all night. Besides the noise it was a cute little room where I felt very comfortable and safe.

On the first evening after orientation we went out to dinner at a very busy restaurant (which I forget the name). After we finished our delicious meal we walked down the street to explore the shops and cobblestone roads. Besides the freezing cold temperatures and the bitter wind scuffling at our faces it was nice to venture around the streets and catch a hint of the Montreal essence.

On the second day after orientation we had time to do some more exploring before catching our flights back home. We jumped in a cab and told him to take us to the famous Notre Dame. It was beautiful. It was closed so we couldn’t witness the beauty from the inside but the outside was just as gorgeous. After that we walked around old Montreal for a while, marveling among the gorgeous old architecture and French style boutiques. We all instantly turned into the typical tourists, snapping as many pictures as we could with nearby sculptures and under intricately designed arches and doorways. We then walked through the cold up to a street full of small shops and restaurants and decided to go warm up with some soup. After our quick but exciting exploration it was time to head to the airport and begin our journeys back home.

I really wish we had more time to adventure around the city and I know for sure in the future I will be coming back to explore this beautiful city. I met so many inspiring and friendly people who I hope to keep in contact over the years and felt comfortable in cozy Montreal. I hope you guys enjoy the few photographs I was able to snap from the very short but pleasant trip from the weekend.

please leave a comment below with your blog because I’d love to check some new ones out! Also feel free to leave any suggestions for future posts or anything else you’d like to share, thank you so much for reading up to this point. Take care everyone!
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