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Announcement…

Dear Readers;

Word has it that my new website design will be going LIVE sometime tomorrow (Easter Monday). As this is my first time switching designs and web hosts, I’m not sure what to expect. It is for this reason that I’m skipping Blog Crawl Monday this week. Don’t worry, it’ll be back next week!

That being said there are a few exciting things happening when the new design goes live. I’ll be posting an interview with Julia Dimon, a socially conscious travel writer, author of Travel Junkie Julia and host of Word Travels (with Robin Esrock) on OLN. I’ll also be re-vamping my links list, and prepping my niece’s page.

If you would like to see a link back to your blog or site, please leave a comment or email me at pamlovestravel (at) yahoo (dot) ca. If you’d like a specific blurb (or a small 60×60 personal photo) to appear with your link, please include that as well.

I apologize for delaying Blog Crawl Monday again, but I promise to post an even bigger one next week to make up for it!

Thank you for your patience!

Pamela

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Ch Ch Changes…

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (this is where you nod your head, yes) you may have read my itinerary post way back in January where I laid out a list of countries in Asia I plan to visit on my upcoming RTW trip. Although Asia is still in my plans, I have made a few changes in recent weeks. As I prepare for my trip different factors have come into play, money being one and my Dad’s upcoming 75th birthday being the other. I hate the idea of being half way around the world on his birthday and thoughts of flying home for the weekend to surprise him were squashed when I looked at the price of flights. So, I’ve come up with a compromise, Central & South Americas.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Living in Canada makes Central and South America very accessible and getting there is cheap! Flying from Calgary to Bangkok will cost $1,600-$2,200 however I can take a bus down to Mexico for $270, travel throughout Central & South Americas, take a bus home to surprise my Dad for his birthday and then fly from L.A. to New Zealand and on to Asia. It’s the perfect plan- okay maybe it’s not “perfect”, but it is better.

So here is my new itinerary…

After arriving in Morelia, MX by bus, I’ll be spending about a month traveling through southern Mexico before moving on to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama (I’m not sure about Belize). I’ll then fly to Bogota, Colombia and travel through Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil before making my way towards LA to catch a flight to New Zealand.

Depending on my funds at the time, I may spend up to 6 months working and traveling through New Zealand before flying to Asia where my original itinerary still stands. This is an open-ended RTW trip and to date I have roughly 30 countries on my list of places to go. I’ll be spending a lot of time in some countries and only a few weeks in others. But either way I’m going to be embarking on an amazing adventure. Is it August yet?

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You may remember my post a couple weeks ago entitled Day One of No-Social-Life-In-Order-To-Save-Money-To-Travel-In-August has begun, where I explain my theory about having no social life in order to save money for travel. Until yesterday it’s been going pretty good. I’ve still buckled and bought my lunch occasionally, but that’s okay. I’ve been working or hanging at home, but lately I’ve started to feel a little worn out and tired. In all honesty, I haven’t thought much about it. I’ve chalked it up to eating too much sugar, diet soda and general crap and I’ve sworn to get healthy a.s.a.p.

As I sat on my sofa early yesterday morning I contemplated as to whether I should go out and do something for St. Patrick’s Day or stay home and rest. If you’ve already read my previous post, you know I decided to go out and see what the city of Calgary had to offer, and I had a great time. I didn’t think about money or budgets. I thought about living in the moment, enjoying myself and looking for ways to share my days activities with my blog readers. In fact I wrote yesterdays post with a slight Guinness and Kilkenny induced buzz.

Now, you may be asking yourself what the common denominator might be between the above paragraphs and I don’t blame you. Allow me to explain. Are you ready?? I woke up this morning and didn’t dread the thought of crawling out of bed. I started the day by putting my tights on backwards (it’s been like 3 years since I’ve worn tights, I forgot the rules, okay!), then after a quick correction I headed to work, where I found my head to be clear and my mood cheery. I didn’t feel the midday energy drop and I wasn’t watching the clock to see when I could go home. Simply put, I was happy and relaxed.

I cannot be a hermit. I’ve tried and it makes me miserable and very, very tired! I need to be able to go out every once in awhile and enjoy myself. I’m not talking about spending loads of money, but spending some money to give myself a break is worth it in my books. As it is I now have plans to celebrate a staffs’ birthday on the 24th at the Ship & Anchor and then going to Dicken’s Pub April 17th to watch a co-workers’ cousins’ band (The Rose Alarm- check them out on iTunes).

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St. Michaels Square- Toronto, ON

I’ve been floating through the web for more than a couple years now reading travel blogs and forums (Bootsnall). I had big dreams, I wanted to do what other people my age were doing, traveling.  I would read their posts or blogs and get jealous when I’d realize that most of them had started traveling shortly after high school. They’re younger than me, and in many ways they seemed smarter than me as well.

I’m not the world’s best saver. In fact I’m savings challenged. I always have been. I like to shop, I like to go out and party or have dinner with friends. I like going to movies and taking last minute trips. Most of my trips since high school have been just that, last minute escapes. More often than not I used whatever cash I had in my bank account, went away on some 5-day adventure (I flew to London and did London and Paris in 5 days) and then come home to a month or more of backed up bills.   Short escapes are great when I’m doing them. I’m happy and free, but then I feel the crush when I’m home.

My family is very much a working family. My parents are both work-a-holics, in other words they give 110% at the job, and it’s something I’ve learned to do as well.  When I was younger I made the decision to quit my well paying job and move from Ontario to Alberta.  I had a summer hotel job lined up to bring in some cash and I was excited to be leaving home and venturing out on my own, but my family was a different story.  When I told my parents my Mom was not happy, but supportive. My Dad stopped talking to me.  I was crushed.  My Dad had never just stopped talking to me before.  In fact he and I usually had some wicked arguments (he did this “Well you’re not mad at me, you’re mad at yourself thing that would piss me off like you wouldn’t believe!). I tried to talk to him, but nothing. For 3 whole days he ignored my existence and it’s an experience that is still very fresh in my mind 10 yrs later if I allow myself to walk down memory lane.

Work, money & responsibilities are all things I’ve been taught, and there is nothing wrong with that. But blue-collar life isn’t meant for everyone. Some of us dream of more, and if you’re like I was, and drowning in debt – your dreaming of a nice shiny lotto ticket to solve all your problems.  I’ve been in the corporate or retail game for years. I thought that that was what I wanted. I wanted the big promotions and the big money. But when they came I was miserable, still unable to save money and still in debt. So how have I changed the cycle? It’s not easy, even today. My views and priorities changed after a major life event that has affected me in many ways and although it’s fairly personal, I’m going to share it with you (in shorter amounts) in hopes that you may get something out of it.

Last fall my parents were trying to reach my Grandmother on the phone, but she wasn’t answering and something felt odd. My Mom then asked my Dad to go over (she was at work already) and see if she was okay. My Dad found my Grandmother on the floor by her bed, unconscious and had no idea how long she had been like that.  Let me tell you, the 2.5hr drive from my house to theirs was agony! When I walked into the ER I didn’t even recognize her. My Mom had been there all day with her and there were no changes.  My Mom and I spent the next 4 days by her bedside in an emotional roller coaster, wondering if she was going to make it. She almost didn’t. But she kind of turned around.  We then spent the next 2.5 weeks by her bed making sure she was eating, monitoring her vitals etc. In other words, the hospital was our home. It was draining. I had worked as a Personal Care Aide when I was younger, so I was able to help my Grandmother more than I normally would have. If she asked me about her condition, I would be honest and give her a no shit answer (she would have killed me if I had lied to her). We were never close, my Grandmother and I.  It was always awkward going to visit her as we had nothing in common and she could sometimes have some very hurtful opinions.  But as I sat in her hospital room I understood her. I bonded with her and I realized that even though she may have been a tad cranky, she always lived her life the way she wanted to and never paid attention to what others thought.  She didn’t worry about spending her money because she couldn’t take it with her.

My Grandmother eventually left the hospital, but not for home. She was sent to palliative care. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and things were moving faster than the doctors thought.  I lost my Grandmother (my last Grandparent) at the beginning of December.  But, as I look back I don’t dwell on all those draining, stressful days spent by her bed. I dwell on the life lessons she taught me; to live and enjoy my life while I can. I still suck at saving money, but my Grandmother has left me some money in her will.  It’s my Grandmother that inspired me to finally suck it up, get myself out of debt and finally do what I’ve been dreaming of doing for years. Thanks to her I now have a solid focus and direction.

It’s funny how you can change your destiny with the right motivation. For me it took a life-changing event to “see the light”. I evaluate everything I buy, and if I falter and find myself having buyer’s remorse the next day, I return it. I’m trying really hard to shrink my bills. I opted for the basic cable pkg (which really sucks some days). I save my recycling and take it to the depot to get the levy back. I’m trying hard to take lunches to work (I’m really bad at this. I take a lunch like 2/5 days and sometimes I just skip eating it all together), but I find myself walking to Quizno’s more than I should. Saving money is hard when you’re not a saver to begin with. As for my debt, I pay a little off with every pay. I save extra money I get from GST credits, recycling etc without using any of it for bills. I’ve even had to go as far as opening a savings acct at a bank that’s totally annoying to discourage myself from taking money out (It has like $4 in it right now).

I’m not a 20-something traveler; I’m a 30-something traveler. My style has evolved; I have more focus and direction.  It’s taken me a lot longer to wake-up, but I’m awake now. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows yet. It’s still a struggle. On bad days I remember trips to China, Cuba, Scotland or my-5 day adventure to London and Paris.  On good days I look forward to the new adventures I’ll be having and the start of my RTW trip in August. I still get a little jealous of the 20-something travelers, but I wouldn’t change my life experiences for anything. I’m a late traveler bloomer and I’m okay with that.

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Yep, that’s right Day One of No-Social-Life-In-Order-To-Save-Money-To-Travel-In-August has begun. This is not something new, a lot of travelers starve socially before heading out on the road. Or so I hear. My decision is mostly based on my desire to be completely free by mid summer. Travel is my passion, and what good is life if you can’t pursue your passions, right? Although I make decent money, I still need to cut corners and save as much as I can.

Sustainable travel is the ultimate goal, funding sustainable travel is the challenge. I’m a girl, I enjoy shopping, going out, having some fun. But do I enjoy those things more than travel? No way! So for now I’m willing to make some small sacrifices like not eating out, going to movies or taking small getaways. It’s months of eating what I have in my cupboards and doing minimal shopping. It’s opening an account at a bank that’s a pain in an ass to go to and use it for my travel savings. Hey, I can be lazy. If I have to drive out of my way to take money out because I don’t have online banking, I’ll opt out. Sad, but so very, very true! Finding ways to cut corners and save money is fairly easy. I’ve blogged about that a little bit before. Doing it can be slightly harder, but with the right motivation it can be fairly easy as well. The hard question is, “What do I do with all my time?”

Here are a few ideas…

  • Twitter!! Oh yea, if you’re not sick of me on Twitter now, you may be soon. Actually Twitter is a great way to connect with other Travelers, Travel Bloggers, Photographers etc. It’s a fantastic way for me to keep my insatiable appetite for all things creative and travel under control.
  • Stumble Upon is proving to be more fun than I had original thought. When my schedule permits I do Blog Crawls every Monday and stumble the blogs and posts that I enjoy.  Stumble is a wonderful way to share content and to eat up some of my free time.
  • Blogging on my own site has proven to be more rewarding than I initially thought. It’s become a great way to express my thoughts, research future travel, and share past travel. My hope for the future is that you, as a reader enjoy my blog so much that you share it with friends, stumble it and offer any feedback you may have. After all, without you this blog would just be a fancy public diary 😉
  • Facebook has diminished for me a little in the past few months as I’ve been spending more and more time on Twitter. However since starting a fan page for Spunky Girl Monologues I’ve been spending more time on it.

As you can see, I’ll be logging a lot of computer time over the next 5 months, but that’s ok. It’ll keep me home where my money is safer. Plus it gives me a chance to learn about my Macbook, de-clutter my apartment etc.

In the meantime, I’ll be staring at my new desktop photo…

View from Trypp Cayo Coco in Cuba

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As I’ve mentioned before, I abhor being pinned down to itineraries. Gear however, is totally different. Having the right gear for your trip can mean the difference between a great trip and a so-so trip.  There is nothing worse than being half way around the world and dealing with inadequate gear or wishing you had listened to yourself and bought those other shoes etc. When considering which gear to take cost is important, but so is size and weight.   What may seem okay in the beginning, could feel very heavy a few weeks into your trip.

List the gear you think you’ll need and start researching the various types and brands. If you start doing this early, you’ll make better choices.  Plus it’s a great way to stay travel focused while waiting for your trip to begin.

Although I haven’t nailed myself down to a specific itinerary, I do know I’ll be gone for 6+ months.  I also know I want the flexibility to write my blog posts as they come to me instead of waiting until I find an internet cafe and I’ll be taking an obscene amount of photographs. Here are a couple items on my gear list.

  • Flip Mino HD– I want to create some videos on this trip for my niece to watch on my blog. It’s a great way to add some education and spunk to my posts.
  • MacBook– I’m currently using a Toshiba, but I like the flexibility with MAC, especially when it comes to photography.
  • Wide Angle lens– I want more options with my Nikon D60 while on the road.
  • 2 Clairefontaine Notebooks– I love these notebooks, plus they’re very affordable and well made.
  • Writing supplies– Pencils mostly, but a pen and some pastels or crayons work well too. A mini ruler is handy, and a glue stick is a must!
  • Extra SD cards for photos.
  • Batteries– I need to buy an extra camera battery, as well as a pkg of AAA for my maglite.

As you can see, two of these items are pretty big purchases.  I’ve spent months looking at the Flip and MacBook. I’ve visited stores, touched the product, surfed websites etc.  Now that I’ve narrowed it down, it’s time to start putting my money aside and watch out for sales.  I want to buy both of them in the next couple of months so I have time to play and learn before my trip- which I highly recommend.

Whatever your gear needs are, take the time to research them, being rash can hurt not only your wallet, but your back as well if you’re not careful.

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The Canadian Plan

When I started planning my RTW adventures for later this year I knew I was going to drive my car to Ontario and park it at my brothers house, but that was where it ended.  However, the more I think about it, the more I want to take some time to explore Canada a little more before heading over to Asia.

I’ve blogged before about Canada, and how incredibly beautiful it is. Oceans, mountains, prairies, tundras, lush forests and mineral deposits. Yet for all the greatness that is Canada, I have seen very little.

In June I plan on quitting my job and driving 3,400 kms from Calgary to Toronto – with stops in Regina and Winnipeg.  After a few days in Toronto I’ll drive down to Niagara Falls for a couple days before heading to TBEX ’10 in NYC.  After a fun filled, travel related weekend in NYC I’ll drive along I-95, through Boston and Maine to Fredricton, New Brunswick. After a few days camping around NB, I’m off to Nova Scotia to visit friends before boarding a ferry bound for Prince Edward Island.

As I slept through PEI during my last visit, I plan to stay a couple days and eat copious amounts of fresh lobster before boarding another ferry to Newfoundland.  I’ve been dying to visit Newfoundland for quite some time and hopefully I can spend a week or so exploring before heading to Quebec City.  After a couple days in Quebec City it’ll be time for me to head back to Toronto to decompress with family and friends before my flight to Asia.

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