A letter.

“We have two lives. The second begins when we realize we have only one.” – Confucius

Looking back at the last 29 years I’ve seen, accomplished and learned a whole lot. I’ve also been a rigid planner, my life always needed to be planned and I needed to know where I was going. As I’ve grown throughout the years, I realized life is not meant to be lived like that.

Leaving Luxury Retreats/Airbnb has been bittersweet. When I got hired in 2016, HR sent me my welcome package and the first thing I noticed was “a great opportunity to make some fantastic friends.” That line did not disappoint. I have met some of the most amazing individuals and have created quite a few good friendships.

Was everything perfect? No, but in any company, it is not especially one who is going through growing pains and acquisition transition.

But, Luxury Retreats/Airbnb what you have given me is the ability to adapt to change, share my passion with the team, confidence but most of all the most amazing human beings.  Individuals who supported me through difficult times in my life and through the amazing times. When I gave in my resignation, I did not expect everybody to be so excited and proud of me. Because of that, my fear and anxiety of leaving have turned into excitement and joy. I am forever grateful to all of you at Luxury Retreats/Airbnb. My heart is full and you will not be forgotten.

Now it is time to live by my own mission statement when I came up with it one day in the fall. I booked a private room with Breather for two hours. I brainstormed with a whiteboard and recorded myself talking and played it back. What came up was: inspire and motivate people to create their own adventure and live a life they want. When I said it out loud I started to cry, then laughed because I was crying.  That was powerful.

Here’s to creating my own adventure and living a life I want. The trunk of my car is filled with my personal belongings. I am driving from East to West of my own home country, Canada. I have no idea what happens next.

And off I go into the open road.

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

Crossing Borders – Many Faces Many Places

Crossing borders around the world vary by country. You can just walk in, no questions ask or there is a border patrol officer that actually stops you and you have no choice but to stop and answer their questions or sometimes you have to know to stop.

Patrick & Carmen have been together since they were 19.  They thrive on experiences and traveling.  They both grew up in South Africa where they met during university while studying education. Once they graduated, they ventured off to Taiwan to teach English in order to help pay off their loans. They fell in love, they traveled over the holidays and as part of their marriage together they went off to a 7 month around the world trip.

One of their challenges during their travel was when they had to cross borders from Ecuador to Peru. Patrick & Carmen were traveling overland.  The mode of transportation they decided to take was to go by bus. During the early 2000s, the internet was not as big as it is today. There were not as many forums, blog posts on how to cross from one country to another.  Today, we google it and there are more than 1 million results!

They hop on the bus and fall asleep.  The bus driver did not wake them up when they crossed the border as they thought he would. Once they woke up, the bus driver realized that they did not have the stamps needed on their passports.  When crossing the Ecuador/Peru border, you need one stamp that exits Ecuador and another stamp that enters Peru.  The bus driver dropped them off on the side of the road. They had to walk back to the border, which was a good miles away.

Once they got to the border, they had to go back to the Ecuador side. They took a taxi to the other side that overcharged them. The border agents knew what happened and they decided to take advantage of the situation by charging them more money than needed. At this moment, Patrick & Carmen were both desperate. They needed to cross the border to get to Peru, there was no questioning that. They knew that there was nothing they could do especially when being in a position with people in authority.  You have to bite your tongue and pay what is needed. What got them through this entire situation was patience and remaining calm.

I was in awe at the end of this conversation, that is a scary situation to be in. Patrick did summarize it well – when you travel, even your experiences are not the best, but they are the most memorable. Stuff that seems the hardest, especially when you are about to give up when you are at that moment beyond final despair. Your end goal is that destination and he would not change anything if he can go back in time.

You can follow Patrick, Carmen & Chloe (the new addition to the traveling family) on Instagram via carlsonadventuring.

There is only you – Many Faces Many Places

There are many benefits to traveling solo – you only have to take care of you. You can create your own schedule, you can meet people if you want to, you can be a tourist and everything you do is your choice.  There is nobody with you that you have to compromise with, there is no friend, no partner and no kids. It is great, being a solo traveler myself, I love it! But just like everything there are the challenges that come with it. One of the biggest ones is that it is just you.

Kat Gaskin, the creator of the Salty Pineapple – “Be a pineapple, stand tall, wear a crown & be sweet on the inside” – went on an adventure in 2015 to Australia. Prior to this trip, she had quit her 9 to 5 to freelance and create her own brand because she wanted to be her own boss.  At that time, there were many challenges in her life including her partner who she was with for 11 years. They got married and through time, they realized they had grown apart. She wanted to travel and he was not on the same page.  After they separated she decided to go on her dream trip to Australia.

Her adventure in 2015 was about 6-7 months where she ventured to Fiji, Australia, Bali, Maldives & Singapore. Before she left on her big adventure she met someone (of course, it always happens just before you leave). During her trip they tried to keep in touch, the longer they were apart the harder it was.

One evening in Bali, she got invited to a Chinese supper.  The restaurant was gorgeous, filled with big round tables and inspiring architecture. It was a beautiful supper with tons of people. Even when surrounded with so many people and as she was socializing she realized at that moment that she wished he was there with her to share this experience.  This was the first time on her trip that she felt lonely. That no matter how many people you are surrounded by, if none of them are your friends or family or significant others – it does not make a difference. The feeling creeps in and you feel sad, lonely and scared.

David Mitchell once said “Loneliness is an integral part of traveling. I used to think it was the downside to traveling, but now I realize it is a necessary educative part of it to be embraced.” When we travel and we have feel lonely, we learn something about ourselves. As for Kat, she journaled and wrote down everything – her feelings, her thoughts, her adventures & her experiences. She constantly reflected throughout this entire trip through the amazing times & the tough times. At the end, one of the most important aspect that stood out for her was that she was grateful for the opportunity and a year ago this would have never happened.  This trip was what she always dreamed of and she got to experience it.

You can follow Kat on Instagram via katgaskin & go check out her Salty Pineapple Shop – there are some SUPER cute mugs!

It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later // Many Faces Many Places

“Where are you from?”

“Where are you going next?”

“How long you’ve been here?”

“How long are you traveling for?”

Do those questions sound familiar? I know them all too well – they are the icebreaker questions you use all the time when meeting new people while traveling. They are easiest way to start a conversation and they lead to opening up to amazing people but sometimes they can also be the end of a conversation quite quickly.

Brittany, The Sweet Wanderlust, originally from Texas sold all her possessions to travel. Just like every single one of us who travels for a long period of time, we encounter challenges and learn a lot about ourselves and the people around us.

Brittany is the type of girl you will spot having a deep meaningful conversation with someone she connected to at a party and is not much for small talk. When she traveled in an spot for a short period of time, the icebreaker questions were used all the time and the conversations covered surface level. For the locations where she stayed longer, she began making friends with other travelers and every time she had to say goodbye, her heart broke and knew that she may never see them again. Her guard went up therefore she rarely allowed herself to become close with others as goodbyes were always hard.

And then there was Queenstown. The first place she had stayed longer than a month where she worked at a pastry shop and lived at a hostel. She met an incredible community where she opened up her heart to letting people in. She did not even think about the fact that she would have to say goodbye to them eventually. The time did come and it was the hardest one.

It was not a goodbye though, it was a see you later. Within one year after she left Queenstown, she reconnected with them in Germany, Australia, Scotland & London. She realized that the fear of goodbyes had held her back but not anymore.

“Time and time again, love wins. And so as I sit on a bus riding away from Exmouth, Western Australia and the community of surfers, divers, cowgirls, chefs, church-goers and fun-time friends, I’m grateful for the choice to open up and choose to love fully and be in the moment.”

– Brittany @thesweetwanderlust

Solo Journey in Morocco // Many Faces Many Places

Nando takes solo, spontaneous trips, with little to no planning and will often find a way to specifically challenge himself in a new and exciting way. In his first trip to Morocco, he vowed to go completely on his own and figure out his journey, one step at a time.

Arriving late at night, he decided that there would be no harm in sleeping on a park bench. He met a local who informed him that it would not be a good idea.

The local took him to the city center in order for Nando to find a guesthouse to sleep in.  The moment, he stepped out of the car he understood why the local said he needed to find a place to sleep. There were homeless men, following him, asking him for money and he noticed it was odd that he did not notice a single woman on the street. He finally found a guesthouse and stayed the night.

The next day, he was exploring the city with only a camera and a backpack. Eventually, he noticed that someone was following him. He felt uneasy, a sense of danger and knew that he had to get himself out of this situation fast. Based on his past experiences from traveling to dangerous countries, he adapted quickly. He crossed the street and took a taxi back to his hostel.

The locals at the hostel said that given his camera and backpack he was an obvious tourist – an easy target. It was then that he realized that this challenge was not the greatest idea. He went out a bought a SIM card for his phone, switched to speaking French and learned a few Arabic words and began mingling with local people. The situation turned around completely.

He met locals and expats living in Morocco. He started going out and discovering the local culture.

He learned to rely on his past experience and was able to recognize a dangerous situation.  He adapted and turned the situation from negative to positive. He also learned that maybe Morocco was not the best country to travel to without a local guide.

When I was speaking with Nando, he was back home in Aruba but now he has officially moved to Barcelona! You can follow his journey – @Smulldiaz & @mundusurfer that is a platform for young international talent to share their content with the world!