Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

I know, I know, what do PSL’s have to do with travel, you ask?  Absolutely nothing.  But here’s the thing – I am absolutely obsessed with this fall favourite from Starbucks.  We have steamy, passionate love affairs every year when the leaves begin to turn.

The only thing is…as someone hell-bent on traveling the world…I don’t enjoy shelling out $5 a drink on these things.  Nor do I enjoy thinking about how much sugar and how many calories they contain.  I decided to try a homemade alternative this year, and I was absolutely blown away by how amazing it was.

Essentially, this recipe is for a homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup that can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to 10 days, and you can add it to your morning coffee or latte.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Here’s what you’ll need for the Pumpkin Spice Syrup:

-1 1/2 cups water

-1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (I used honey)

-1 tsp ground cinnamon

-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

3 tbsp canned or fresh pureed pumpkin (note: NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

Directions:

Combine and whisk together water, honey, cinnamon, pureed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice in a saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil, whisking frequently.  Let cook for approximately 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool before transferring it to a mason jar for storage in the fridge.  If you’d prefer it without the pumpkin fibres, you can drain the mixture in cheesecloth, although the fibres cook down to almost nothing and didn’t seem to bother me at all.

For the Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Spice Latte (if you don’t have a fancy latte maker):

Brew your favourite coffee or espresso.  Heat either milk or cream (I usually use cream) in the microwave (or a steamer if you’re lucky) for about 30 seconds, and then froth the milk if you own a frother or a handheld frother.  (I got my handheld frother at Stokes for around $5).  Combine coffee with desired amount of Pumpkin Spice Syrup in your favourite coffee cup, add frothed milk or cream, and garnish with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice if desired.  Proceed to cry tears of sheer bliss.  Enjoy!

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Summerhill Pyramid Winery – Kelowna, BC

We had been awake since 4 AM and had been driving for 7 hours when we arrived at Summerhill Winery in Kelowna, BC.  I had spent 8 years of my life living only a few kilometres away from Summerhill, yet I had never actually taken the time to do an in-depth wine tour.  When an old friend of mine from high school, Mike, heard that I was coming into town for a few days and was interested in writing about Summerhill, he offered to show us around.

The Entrance to the Wine Shop & Sunset Organic Bistro

The Entrance to the Wine Shop & Sunset Organic Bistro

Summerhill Winery

Summerhill Winery

Summerhill Winery

Summerhill Winery

My boyfriend Sean and I are both pretty passionate about wine.  While our knowledge is nowhere near as extensive as it could be, we both have seen some pretty incredible wineries in our time.  Sean spent 3 months backpacking through Australia and New Zealand after high school and visited dozens of beautiful wineries, and, well, I grew up in The Okanagan Valley.  Enough said.

Not only was it lovely to see Mike, catch up and reminisce about all of the shenanigans from our youth, but I was also blown away by his passion for his job and his extensive, impressive knowledge about each and every grape, bottle of wine, piece of history, and part of the winery itself.  We spent over an hour touring, tasting, and immersing ourselves completely into the splendour that is Summerhill Winery.  Mike had every answer to every question, and then some.  I have known Mike for long enough to know that, when he is passionate about something, he throws himself into it 110%, and wants to learn absolutely everything about it.  This is especially evident when it comes to his work at Summerhill.

Mike and I

Mike and I

The View from the Terrace

The View from the Terrace

Let me start by sharing a brief history of this incredible place.  First of all, it is important to note that Summerhill Winery is, in fact, Canada’s most visited winery.  Developer and Proprietor Stephen Cipes first visited the Okanagan from New York in 1986 and decided that the environment was absolutely perfect for growing grapes to produce sparkling wine.  He brought the grapes over from France and planted them on his own hands and knees.

Since then, Stephen Cipes and his team have taken Summerhill Winery to levels of excellence unparalleled by any other wineries in the area.  Winning countless awards, developing a completely organic practice of winemaking, creating a stunning wine shop, and building a pyramid with such precision and alignment that it is second only to the Great Pyramid of Egypt, where the wine is stored while it ages, Summerhill has developed an exquisite reputation while maintaining completely reasonable prices on their bottles of wine.  My personal favourite is the Cipes Brut – which won “Sparkling Wine of the Year” in all 2014 Canadian Wine Championships.  It truly is phenomenal, and it sells for only $26.95/bottle.

I was very interested to learn about the organicism that this winery is so passionate about and committed to.  It turns out that the grapes are grown with minimal to no intervention by humans, pesticides, or anything else.  This is not one of those perfectly manicured vineyards that you may have seen elsewhere.  The grapes are free to grow in their twisted, natural way – and you will see why once you taste the wine.

Pinot Noir Grapes

Pinot Noir Grapes

Summerhill Winery is also home to Sunset Organic Bistro, which combines world class flavours and ambience with local and organic ingredients.  The property also has plenty of unique banquet spaces, suitable for groups from 15 to 250 people for events such as weddings, conventions, or group tours.

The wine shop is open 7 days a week, year round.  The hours change seasonally, so be sure to check before you visit.  Tours run at 12 noon and 2 PM Monday – Friday, and 12 noon, 2 PM and 4 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.  There are additional tours offered in the busy summer months.  Tours cost $10, which includes four wine tastings, and a $5 rebate if you choose to buy any of the wines.  Summerhill even provides an organic sparkling apple juice if you choose to bring the kids along.

The Pyramid

The Pyramid

The Pyramid

The Pyramid

Inside the Pyramid - The View Looking Up

Inside the Pyramid – The View Looking Up

Empty Barrels ready to be filled inside The Pyramid

Empty Barrels ready to be filled inside The Pyramid

Summerhill Winery is an absolute must-do during your visit to Kelowna.  I am embarrassed to know that I lived just up the road from this incredible place for 8 years and never actually took the time to learn what all the fuss was about.  That being said, if you’re an Okanagan local, and you haven’t yet taken a tour of Summerhill Winery, you should probably be getting in the car right now.  It is an absolutely unforgettable experience, no matter how many other wineries you have toured in your life.  I could go on and write a small novel about this place and I still wouldn’t be able to say all that there is to say about it.  You’ll just have to visit it yourself.

Inside the Wine Shop

Inside the Wine Shop

Tasting Menu

Tasting Menu

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11 Travel Tips for Couples from 4 Travel Bloggers

I like to think that my boyfriend, Sean, and I make a pretty epic team of travel companions.  I cannot count the number of times that we have shared in a victorious fist-bump in airports, hotels, backs of tuk-tuks in Thailand, or in various other locales throughout our travels as a couple, to celebrate the fact that we accomplished something awesome together.  Whether it’s making a tight connection in an international hub, finding a wicked deal on a hotel room, or booking the tour of your dreams, travel as a couple brings about an entirely new range of emotions and experiences with each other.  Most of these are happy, but what happens when the inevitable tension arises?

Like any traveling couple, Sean and I have also had our fair share of arguments abroad.  Patience gets tested, privacy is a thing of the past, and comfort is not always a top priority.  I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about how we keep the peace, romance and excitement in our relationship when we travel.  But, instead of just writing about Sean and I, I went out and tracked down three other travel bloggers who also travel in a couple to share their experiences, too.

Here are our 11 Travel Tips For Couples:

The Blogger: Mary Kate from Wanderlusty Writer

The Blog: http://wanderlustywriter.wordpress.com

The Social Media: – twitterinstagramtumblrpinterest – 

The Couple: Mary Kate and John have been together for three and a half years, and in that time they have traveled to over 9 destinations together in Europe, South America and North America.

1. Know what type of a traveler your significant other is.  And know what type of a traveler you are. Are you a planner? Does he like to just wander around and see where he ends up? Figure out what’s important to you both and structure your trip accordingly. I personally like to plan a few big things (i.e. Hearst Castle is kind of a necessary stop when on a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway), but then I like to be a bit more spontaneous the rest of the trip. My boyfriend is also pretty flexible, with one exception: food. While I’d happily ignore my hunger pains to wander around a museum for an afternoon, he becomes impossibly cranky when skipping lunch. So now I know that on our trips, it’s important to have mealtimes planned into every day. Lesson learned!

2. Splurge (a bit) on accommodations. In my traveling days of yore (read: as a poor college student) my list of musts for a place to stay was one word long: cheap.  A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Paris, and I unthinkingly booked us at the same super cheap hotel I’d stayed at the whole time I lived abroad. As soon as we arrived, my boyfriend looked around dubiously. “Why don’t any of the sheets match?” he asked. “Is this really as hot as the shower gets?” And then, “Why is this mattress like a lump of cardboard?”  When I was 21, none of these things mattered;  we’d be trying to cram so many people into the hotel room I’d be lucky if I even got a bed. But when you’re traveling as a couple, it’s really nice to have a comfortable hotel room to return to at the end of the day. Don’t go crazy—I am still cheap when it comes to hotels, since if you travel the way we do, you’re really only there to sleep—but it is possible to find a hotel with hot water and a comfortable bed that isn’t insanely priced. Bonus if your room has a balcony for the two of you to relax on with a drink at the end of the day.

3. Spend a little time apart  This might sound weird—being together was the whole point of this trip, wasn’t it? But hear me out. Traveling can be stressful, and no matter how well you plan, unexpected things are going to come up. Even when you’re with the person you love more than anything, you’re going to get a little frustrated with each other.  I’ve found a little alone time—whether it’s an afternoon at a park he doesn’t care about seeing, or a drink alone at a café—to be invaluable. Then you have things to talk about when you meet up again! Oh and ensure you each bring a good book (or three). It allows you each a mini-escape from one another, whether at the train station or just a half hour on your hotel balcony. Sticking your noses in your books definitely beats spending that extended layover in the Dusseldorf Airport snapping at each other over circumstances you can’t control.

Mary Kate and ___

The Blogger: Alyssa

The Blog: Asked not to be linked

The Social Media: – twitter – interest - instagram -

The Couple: Alyssa and Jesse have been in the making as a couple for over 5 years.  It took them a little bit of time to reconnect, but they are now happily engaged to be married.  Alyssa currently lives in Cambodia and travels with Jesse whenever she can.

4. Get some alone time.  You’re on the plane together. You’re eating together. You’re in a room together. That’s A LOT of “together” time. And you love each other and want to be in each other’s company, fair enough. But each day, take 30-60 minutes for yourself. Meditate, pray, journal, social network, whatever you need to do to have some “me” time. This stops you feeling suffocated so you can still enjoy your time “together”. Because after a week of being in each other’s pockets, you still want to have that butterfly feeling you had before you left for the vacation.

5. Get lost together.  One of the best memories I have of traveling as a couple was when my fiancé attempted to find a little café in Paris that he had been to before. We walked up and down the same street for 2 hours. He never found it. But we did find another adorable quaint restaurant that ended up serving the greatest champagne either of us had ever had. Get lost together; you never know what adventure awaits you.

6. Do a bucket list item together.  This sounds super cheesy, and maybe it is. But one thing I always wanted to do was to put a lock on the famous lovelock bridge in Paris with someone I loved. Find a cool “bucket list” idea for the place you’re in or plan in advance for somewhere you want to go and accomplish it together. It creates an extra special memory that you can hold with that place forever.

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The Bloggers: Brooke & Wilhelm Genn from The Nomadic Newlyweds

The Blog: http://thenomadicnewlyweds.blogspot.com

The Social Media: -instagramfacebook – 

The Couple: Brooke and Wilhelm met in the US and fell in love with one another’s sense of adventure.  They have spent their first year as newlyweds globetrotting and writing about their experiences on their blog.

7. Brooke’s Top Tip – Schedule Downtime.  Plan out every minute of your adventure…then delete ¼ of the itinerary.  Put RELAX on the calendar…go ahead – write it in!  For me, prioritizing downtime is KEY to keeping my cool despite any travel blunders that arise. This is my #1 tip for enjoying your expeditions and for savouring the company of your travel partner!

8. Wilhelm’s Top Tip – Be Authentically Spontaneous.  Don’t do it for the photo. Your most beautiful and romantic moments will happen when you aren’t concerned with your social media following.  That being said – we always have the point-and-shoot camera in an accessible pocket – photos are important, just not more-so than the experience.  Keeping this tip in mind truly helps us experience our adventures more fully – here’s hoping it helps you, too!

The Nomadic Newlyweds at the Trevi Fountain, Rome

The Blogger: Me! (Ashley) from Adventure To Anywhere

The Blog: http://adventuretoanywhere.com

The Social Media: – twitterinstagrampinterestfacebookbloglovin – 

The Couple: Ashley and Sean met when they were 11 years old, but it took them until they were 20 years old to become a couple.  They fell in love with a passion for travel and adventure, and have traveled in 6 different countries during their two and a half years as a couple.

9. Have pep talks before situations arise that you know will be stressful.  There was a time that Sean and I had a ridiculously short connection in Bangkok to board our flight to Chiang Mai, during which we had just over an hour to clear customs and immigration, get our bags, re-check in, get through security, and get on the plane.  We were super organized with our customs forms and we had a serious plan of attack to ensure that we could make our connection.  A few minutes before we landed, Sean said to me, “Just know that no matter what happens, and no matter how stressed out we get, and no matter how many bickery things we say, and even if we snap at one another because this is stressful, even if we miss our flight and end up stranded in Bangkok…just know that I still love you.”  This was one of the sweetest and kindest things that he could have ever done for me.  There is nothing worse than being that stressed-out, frazzled couple screaming at each other sprinting through the airport.  Just chill out and remember why you’re here in the first place, even under pressure.

10. Lay out your pet peeves before departure.  Whenever I travel with another person, I make sure that they are well aware of my main pet peeve – wasted time.  I absolutely hate sitting around trying to decide what to do as the day passes by, or sleeping in past 11 and wasting away the best part of the day.  You don’t have to come with me, but if you travel with me, you have to know that I will be heading out shortly after 7am in order to get the most out of my day!

11. Make a list of personal “Must-Do’s”.  Every time we visit a new destination, we each choose at least one thing that we absolutely must do or must see before we even arrive, so that the other person understands how important it is to us once we are there.  When we were in Thailand, for example, it was essential to me that we visited the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, and Sean wanted to do some kind of cool boat adventure in Koh Phi Phi.  We ended up on a night swim with bioluminescent plankton.  Both experiences were incredible.

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What are some of your favourite travel tips for couples, or even for friends traveling together?  Comment Below!

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A Brutally Honest List of 6 Reasons Why I Decided To Travel Solo

I had been thinking about solo travel for a long time.  A really long time.  Like, since I was 13.  Unfortunately, I grew up in an environment that instilled a huge amount of fear in me, especially around the topic of travel.  I learned to be afraid of everything, of everyone, when I was anywhere other than in the safety and comfort of my own home.  Every stranger was a murderer.  Every public place was a ticking time bomb.  Every bar was ready to be shot up at any moment.  Every plane was destined to crash.  These examples may sound incredibly extreme, but this is how I felt for a very, very long time because of that fear-based energy that I carried around with me as a result of the ‘warnings’ from others.

Maybe they were just trying to protect me.  Maybe they were afraid of losing me to a life of passionate travel.  Maybe they truly believed all of those things themselves.  But no matter the reason, I found myself in a sad state of affairs while I was traveling through Asia earlier this year.  The trip was incredible, and had so many beautiful highlights, but what the photos and the stories don’t show is that I suffered from dozens of panic attacks in the 5 weeks I spent in Asia.

I would feel them coming on, mostly at night, when I began to realize that I was in an unpredictable environment, and it was getting dark.  But I didn’t just have them at night when I was trying to sleep in strange places…I had them on boats, in airports, on planes and even in restaurants.  It got completely out of control.  If I’m honest, I sent off an initial application to the counsellor I was seeing for a while I was lying in bed, shaking, in Narita, Japan, post-anxiety attack.  I knew that I had to get these attacks under control, because they were beginning to ruin my life.

I know now that this anxiety was not so much coming from travel (at the time, I also suffered from constant anxiety at home, at work, in the car, etc.) but from a place much deeper that had been repressed for a very long time.  Through a few counselling sessions, lots of reading, frequent meditation, journaling and a huge amount of gruelling self-work, I was able to come to terms with my anxiety and, while it still creeps up on me every once in a while, I have seen a massive improvement in my mental health.

Two days ago, I booked my trip to Costa Rica.  My hands were shaking as I hung up the phone.  I watched the money leave my account, and even that didn’t scare me as much as the fact that I had actually booked my first solo trip to a region I’ve never been and a continent where I don’t know a single soul.  But despite the anxiousness, I was excited.  So excited.  But people keep asking me why on earth I chose to go alone, so I decided to share my reasons.

Ixtapa, Mexico

Ixtapa, Mexico

1. I want to rebuild my independence

I have the most incredible man in my life that I could ever ask for in a million years.  He is such a strong, stable foundation of support for me, and while my life had been falling apart this past year, he had been doing everything he possibly could to help me put it back together.  I can truly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Sean.  However, before he came into my life, I was fiercely independent.  So much so, that I refused the help he was trying to offer me, I was terrified to settle into a relationship with him, and it also took a total of ten years for me to finally decide to give him a chance.  It became easy to rely on this down-to-earth, level-headed, stable soul who loved more than anything to take care of me.  And hey, it’s nice to be taken care of sometimes!  But in my weakest times, I couldn’t help feeling like I was losing my independence, or even choosing not to use it at times.  While I understand that it is ok to let people help you, and even more ok to let people love you, I think the biggest reason for deciding to take this trip alone is to simply prove to myself that I can.  I want to be able to rely on my own decision-making, my own instincts, my own desires.  I love Sean more than life itself, and he is so excited and supportive of my solo adventure.  Plus, he’s going back to school this year, so I’m going to have to learn to do a lot more on my own if I want to continue to travel as much as I do.

Southern Thailand

Southern Thailand

2. I have had a really freaking rough year

I’m not going to expand on this point much, because the last thing I want to do is wallow, but this past year really has been tough as hell.  It had some incredible parts as well – traveling to Asia, watching one of my best friends get married, seeing so many babies born, completing an obstacle course and mud race, receiving my first paid writing gig and backpacking through the Waterton Backcountry.  But some of the most devastating events in my life have also occurred this year.  I chose to go to Costa Rica in January of 2015 – a perfect time to set a beautiful intention for the New Year ahead.

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

3. I like being alone

I don’t have a ton of close friends.  I have many acquaintances, professional relationships, and strong friendships with coworkers and family, but real, true, close friends are something that I am extremely selective with.  Because of this, I am decidedly a bit of a lone wolf.  I enjoy my alone time.  I love learning new things.  I like going at my own pace.  I think spending some true, intimate time with myself will be wonderful.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

4. I love the having the freedom to be Selfish

When people ask me why I don’t want to have children, my automatic response is that I am too selfish.  I usually say this in a joking way, but there is a huge amount of truth to it.  I love doing whatever I want.  I love being able to drop everything and go to a yoga class, or run out to the grocery store to spend an entire day trying a new recipe, or making a split-second decision to hop in my car and drive to the mountains.  I’m so excited to do what I want, when I want in Costa Rica.  When you travel alone, you’re not obligated to participate in anything you don’t want to.  You don’t need to worry if everyone else is enjoying themselves.  You can just focus on yourself.

Cuba

Cuba

5. I want to force myself to be more social

When Sean and I traveled through Asia, we met plenty of wonderful people, but we kept to ourselves for the most part.  Sometimes I think traveling with a partner prohibits you from making new connections with people.  I’m so good at telling myself that I don’t like being around people, but I want to change that.  I love building new relationships, I just don’t like that initial awkwardness of introducing yourself to another human being and attempting to make yourself look like a desirable person to hang out with.  I’m hoping that my time in Costa Rica will force me to become more social and outgoing with the people I meet.

Narita, Japan

Narita, Japan

6. And yes…I need a journey of self-discovery.

Oh, how cliche…a privileged Canadian twenty-something attending a yoga retreat in Costa Rica.  Guaranteed number one question I’ve been asked so far… “So, are you going to ‘Find Yourself’?”  Actually, people asked that when I went to Asia, too.  Why does someone have to be lost to travel?  But, you know what, yes, actually, I am.  As a matter of fact, I am hoping to do a little bit of self-discovery while I’m by myself in the middle of the Costa Rican Jungle.  I’m hoping that I will experience some spiritual transformation as well.  It sounds terribly cookie-cutter, but there’s a reason why the majority of solo-travelers I have met have a hell of a story to tell about why they decided to travel alone.  Most of them are healing from hurt of some sort, whether they choose to admit that or not.  Because travel is amazing.  You rely on the kindness of strangers.  Your heart feels full.  Your spirit feels alive.  You see things that you didn’t know you could ever see.  You meet other beautiful people who inspire you.  Of course we travel to heal.  We travel to run.  We travel to disappear for a little while, to be someone else for a while, to disconnect, unplug and enjoy.  Why would anyone not want to embark on a Journey of Self-Discovery to somewhere they’ve never been?

Sunrise from Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia

Sunrise from Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia

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Moraine Lake, AB

Moraine Lake is a glacier-fed lake located about 14km from world-famous Lake Louise, Alberta.  I had lived in Calgary for most of my life and had never been to this iconic lake, so on my 23rd birthday, I decided to make the trek up and see what all the fuss is about.

Moraine Lake is approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Calgary, but it is a beautiful drive through the Rocky Mountains.  Since it is located within Banff National Park, a Park Pass is required if you plan to visit Moraine Lake.  See more info regarding Park Passes here.

We went on the Friday of the August Long Weekend without even thinking, and it was absolutely packed.  There is  a large parking lot near the lodge, which was full, and people were parked on the side of the road for over a Kilometre outside of the lot.  If you can avoid going on a weekend or holiday, I would strongly suggest it.

Moraine Lake Parking Lot

Moraine Lake Parking Lot

Roadside Parking

Roadside Parking

Once we found a place to park, we embarked on what was about an hour long stroll around the lake.  It’s not a hike by any means, more of a nature walk, but it’s amazing how much more peaceful things become when you walk even 250 metres away from the main lodge and “Rock Pile” that everybody climbs on top of to take photos.  (We didn’t.)  There are lots of little spots off the trail to sit and lounge in the sun, read a book, or snap a few photos.  Canoes can also be rented from the lodge, so expect to see lots of people out on the water if you visit during the summer months!

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Beautiful Colours

Beautiful Colours

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Turquoise Waters

Turquoise Waters

If you’re looking for an upscale dining experience, the Walter Wilcox Dining Room located within the lodge looked beautiful.  There is also a smaller area with snack concessions as well as cold drinks and (highly overpriced) local beer by the bottle.  In the lodge you will also find public washrooms and, of course, a gift shop.

The Lodge at Moraine Lake

The Lodge at Moraine Lake

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Moraine Lake is a beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon in the summertime.  There are several hikes located nearby as well if you’d like to extend your time.  The walking paths around the lake are suitable for adults, children and seniors alike.  Some people even had their strollers on the trails.

For more information, visit morainelake.com

Taking in the Beautiful Surroundings

Taking in the Beautiful Surroundings

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5 Tips for Dealing With Language Barriers while Traveling

Would you like to hear a story about how I ended up on a field trip in rural Quebec with a Peanut Butter and HAM Sandwich for lunch?

I knew you would.  When I was in grade 10, I participated in a French Language Exchange through my high school, which was sponsored by the Government of Canada.  We were matched up with an exchange student, and they spent a week in Kelowna, BC with us and our families, and then we spent a week in Baie Comeau, Quebec with them and their families.  I was picking up on french quickly, but one day, when my exchange mother was making our lunches for a field trip to the aluminum mine, I forgot the word for “jam”.  (It’s ‘confiture’.)  Anyway, I kept saying that I wanted a “Sandwich beurre d’arachide et JAM.”  As it turns out, the french word for ham is “jambon”, so she thought I was trying to ask for a peanut butter and HAM sandwich.  She looked at me like I was an alien as she assembled the grotesque meal, and I didn’t have the heart to stop her.

It can be really difficult to keep your vocabulary straight when you have traveled to several countries that all speak different languages.  Actually, it can be really difficult to travel in countries that speak different languages, period.  If you’re new to the game of language barriers, you’re in for quite the experience.

Smartling is an ingenious product that provides users with the technology to remove these language barriers, specifically in business situations, in order for them to reach their Global Market.  As a part of Smartling’s “Breaking The Barrier” Campaign, I now present to you…

 

 

My top 5 tips, tried, tested and true, for embracing the challenges of multi-lingual adventure.

A selection of my favourite menu translations from Thailand.  They are partial to "Vagtables", and I do NOT want to know what "Mental Cheese" is...

A selection of my favourite menu translations from Thailand. They are partial to “Vagtables”, and I do NOT want to know what “Mental Cheese” is…

1. Memorize Basic Phrases

Before I travel someplace that doesn’t use english as a first language, I try to set aside a few minutes every day leading up to my departure to practice memorizing basic phrases of the country.  Even just being able to say Hello, Please and Thank You in another language can be extremely helpful and will help to gain the respect of the locals.  However, if you want to take it one step further, learn how to say things that you might use frequently, such as “Do you Speak English?”, “I do not speak Spanish”, “Where is the Toilet” and “How much is this?”

 

2. Keep a “Cheat Sheet” on you for emergencies

Once you’ve memorized your basic phrases, you may want to write a few more phrases down on a small piece of paper that you can keep in your wallet just in case.  Things like numbers from 1-10, how to ask for directions, how to explain any special needs or circumstances that you may have or anything related to the travel process itself will be valuable.  I usually carry around a very small notebook and pencil in my bag so that, if worst comes to worst, you can write things down in attempts to communicate with someone.  This can be especially helpful when hiring a taxi in parts of the world where you have to agree on a price before you leave.  That way, the driver cannot claim to have said a different amount.  (ie. fifteen becomes fifty).

Our german home stay dad, Wolfgang - Ellwangen, Germany

Our german home stay dad, Wolfgang – Ellwangen, Germany

 

3. Have a Sense of Humour

I once received a question via email asking “is it awkward when you can’t understand somebody?”  Of course it’s awkward!  But it’s life!  It’s just as much a part of travel as losing your luggage or being taught how to swear in German.  People will laugh at you.  People may even get frustrated or upset with you.  But most people are generally very understanding, and just as confused as you.  Try to keep your heart light and laugh it off when things get uncomfortable.

 

4. Get Comfortable with Charades

You will inevitably have to act out certain things on your travels, so just come to terms with it now.  Here are just a few examples of things I have had to act out for an unfortunate crowd of onlookers; “Where is the toilet”, “May I have a napkin”, “Is there a Bank nearby” and “Do you sell finger condoms” (that last one was super awkward trying to act out in multuple Thai pharmacies in Ao Nang when Sean severely injured his toe!).

Thai Coca Cola…I Hope?

Thai Coca Cola…I Hope?

 

5. Try Not to get Frustrated

It is easy to get overwhelmed when you’re first adjusting to a new place with a new language.  You’re most likely overtired, jet lagged, hungry, and craving something that you can’t get in the country you’re in.  I vividly remember having a full blown meltdown in the middle of a roadside cafeteria-style restaurant somewhere in Germany because I didn’t understand how the lineup for the salad bar worked.  Just try to take some deep breaths, collect your thoughts, and remember that humans are mostly good and willing to help.  And even if you do make a fool of yourself, chances are that you will never, ever see those people again anyway.  And if you do have to see them again, you’ll have made a new friend who speaks another language!

Our lovely volunteer coordinators in Bali

Our lovely volunteer coordinators in Bali

 

What are some of the ways that you handle language barriers when you travel?

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Añejo Restaurant – Calgary, AB

It has been 3 days since my exquisite experience at Añejo.  An old friend of mine from high school had recently moved to Calgary, and it was actually her idea to try this place.  My first thought was that I really didn’t feel like going downtown (I am ridiculously suburban and driving downtown gives me bouts of anxiety).  My second thought was that the menu looked a little on the pricy side for someone who is living on a very strict work-to-travel budget.  But my third thought reminded me that I own a website called Adventure To Anywhere, and how adventurous am I if I simply spend yet another night at one of my fail-safe, go-to restaurants in the South?  So, at the risk of having a panic attack whilst stalling my car attempting to parallel park on 4th street, we decided to give Añejo a shot.

I don’t typically write restaurant or food reviews on Adventure To Anywhere unless they’re absolutely phenomenal or extremely unique – an adventure, so to speak!  The only other Restaurant Review on this site so far has been for a restaurant in Bali called Ibu Rai - a place that I still visit in my dreams to this day.  I didn’t go to Añejo with the intention of writing about it.  But dear sweet baby Jesús, what an incredible surprise.

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Añejo is an artistic, multi-level skylit restaurant with an intimate feel.  It is home to a wide array of authentic mexican cuisine prepared with fresh, local ingredients, over 150 tequilas, and a unique, interactive dining experience.  It was absolutely packed when we arrived, and they unfortunately don’t take reservations on the weekend between 6:30 and 9.  We were told that we’d have to wait about 45 minutes for a table, but received a call 5 minutes later telling us that a table had opened up.

The service was wonderful – although not incredibly quick, but you will see why when you get here.  The servers spend a lot of time interacting with their tables and every single dish is prepared as fresh as possible.  With such a unique environment, though, why would anybody want to be in a hurry?  We were taken care of by a delightful server named Zack.  He had an excellent sense of humour, was attentive but never overbearing, and was very knowledgable about the menu.  He made fabulous recommendations and we were in heaven before we’d even received our entrees.

We started with drinks.  I ordered a corona and, at Zack’s recommendation, Vanessa had one of their famous Chili Coconut margaritas.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous…what an incredible combination of flavours.  If you like spice, you will absolutely love it.  As I said, I still can’t stop thinking about it…and I only had a sip.  Next up was the King of all Guacamole.  The ingredients were brought to our table in a lava rock mortar bowl – whole avocados, serrano chile peppers, tomatoes, onion, fresh cilantro, lime and sea salt, and the guacamole was prepared right in front of us.  It was hands down the most incredible guacamole I’ve ever had…and I am a bit of a self-proclaimed guacamole snob.

The King of Guacamole

The King of Guacamole

To Die For

To Die For

Then came time for the main dishes.  We basically ordered a whole assortment of tacos – crispy snapper, pulled pork, beef short rib, chicken – they have so many different kinds.  All were phenomenal.  The hot mayo they serve on the side is killer, but it’s definitely spicy so tread lightly if you’re not a huge fan of the heat.

Crispy Snapper, Beef Short Rib & Adobo Pork Tacos

Crispy Snapper, Beef Short Rib & Adobo Pork Tacos

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We didn’t have room for dessert, but the menu looked fabulous.  Añejo also does a happy hour from 3pm – 5pm every day with $5 margaritas on special.  Amazing.

Margarita Menu

Margarita Menu

If you’re looking for a unique mexican dining experience that goes above and beyond your basic expectations of tacos, burritos and enchiladas – look no further than Añejo.  An ideal choice for cocktails after work, a girl’s night out, or an intimate dinner date, you will not be disappointed.  I will be back again and again and can’t wait to spread the word about this incredible place.  You can view their website here.

 

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August 2014 Adventure Spotlight with Chad from heyitschad.com – Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, Wyoming, USA

This post is part of an ongoing monthly column called “Adventure Spotlight”.  If you’re interested in writing for ATA, click here.

 

Chad approached me with an idea for an article focusing on a place that I have never been, and, to be honest, until now, I didn’t even really know it existed!  He is so passionate about sharing his experiences and connecting with other adventurous people.  The header on his site reads “Chronicles of a Life Enthusiast”, and I could not agree more.  Check out his personal blog at www.heyitschad.com.

 

The Writer:
Hello there! I’m Chad and I live in the southeastern United States. I love being in the outdoors, camping, backpacking, paddle sports, traveling and exploring new places in pursuit of those hobbies. However, my favorite aspect of travel is meeting people. You know, converse with strangers, learn their stories… what good is travel if you only do so as an observer rather than a participant. I believe leaving our comfort zone is better for us than we realize and, when traveling, it’s rare I leave a flight, cab, restaurant, or local watering without having gained a friend… or at least some good conversation. For me, befriending new people in new places is as big a part of any journey as seeing the mountain, the forest, the city, or the history I came to visit.

 

I’ve gone a few places and seen some great things but I’m far from an adventurer extraordinaire. I’m just a guy seeking to live my short time enthusiastically and not miss out on nor take these opportunities for granted. You don’t have to travel to distant lands or have extreme adventures to fit that mould. My blog, though in only its infancy, is a chronicle of personal experiences set out to show just that.  Although, when the opportunity to explore some far corner does arise, you can bet I’ll be there!

 

The Destination:
Grand Teton National Park – Jackson, Wyoming (United States)

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Why:
I have a love affair with the untamed Western United States. There exists something truly majestic about the Rocky Mountains and the unsettled wilderness surrounding the region that draw so many people westward, myself included. I visited Grand Teton National Park as part of a road trip beginning in Salt Lake City, Utah- traveling northward through Idaho and finally east onward to Wyoming and the Teton Mountain Range.

 

Top 5 experiences:

1) The Teton’s Big Reveal.
Quite possibly one of the U.S.’s most inspiring mountain “reveals”, not viewed from an airplane window, occurs just 5 minutes out of Downtown Jackson. Northbound on US 191, the drive is a slow yet steadily-ascending path out of the city and it will not leave you disappointed. At the peak of this climb, the Teton Range suddenly towers into view in spectacular fashion. Those cloud-catchers demand you pull over immediately if for no other reason than to pick your jaw off the floor, smile, and realize how lucky you are to have seen something so special for the first time. You should snap a few pictures here too.

 

2) Fly fishing the Snake River
A legendary river winding along the Teton Range, the Snake River is well-known as a can’t-miss destination for fishermen and tourists alike. Though it was my first time with a fly rod, I had a great time learning the basics and eventually hooking some trout. I recommend researching and utilizing a guided float trip from a local outfitter because you really will get your money’s worth in both good fishing and interesting history along the river. Not to mention a spectacular shot of the Grand Teton during one particular section of river. Even on the cloudy day I ventured down, it was pretty awesome.

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3) Jackson, WY- Proper: Exploring the shops and streets.
There is another reason this part of the world is so well-known. Jackson (the closest city) is as popular a North American ski destination as it gets. When celebrities like Harrison Ford have a personal hangar at the local airport, you know the town is unique. And although it is a booming tourist destination, downtown Jackson has retained a “village” charm with its shops and side streets all comprised of uniquely Western-Americana architecture. There are several unique restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, outfitters, and hundreds of other businesses that are worth window shopping at a minimum. If in town for lunch and its warm enough, I suggest a stroll along the town square then grabbing a bite to eat and a cold beer on the porch of Mile High Pizza Pie.

 

4) Cowboy Bar- Good food, good atmosphere
Speaking of a cold beer, visit Cowboy Bar in the evening – a uniquely Jackson saloon. There is dining downstairs and on this particular visit my crew and I hilariously found ourselves sharing both our meal and drinks in the same room as a celebrating wedding party- with which we had no prior affiliation and obviously no objection to dining… Hey, when in Jackson! Haha!

 

You can also slip upstairs for drinks and live music. You’ll likely find yourself stomping your feet to a local music act and the place will quickly be packed with an eclectic mix of people. I met a couple en route from the oil fields of Texas, moving to Montana to begin a new life and later two school teachers from Arizona teaching in Jackson on a government assignment. From cowboys, doctors, and school teachers to locals, tourists, and wandering travel bums – This place caters to everyone and all were having a great time.

So let your hair down, toss back a couple of local-brewed Snake River Ales, dosey-doe a cowgirl (or boy), and make some new friends at Cowboy Bar.

 

5) Camping (Gros Ventre campground)
Camping is my preferred method of overnighting anyway and – let’s be honest – if you’re going to visit the Tetons, why would you ever consider NOT camping? This is the “Wild West” after all and part of what makes a visit like this complete is tenting beneath the stars, laying down for the night smelling of campfire, and taking that first breath of chill mountain air upon waking. The Gros Ventre Campground is located approximately 9 miles Northeast of Jackson just inside Grand Teton National Park. Its sites are within short walking distance to the Gros Ventre River which provides ample opportunity for spying wildlife. It’s serene. It’s clean. And the staff were friendly. If you’ll be camping between May and October in the area, you should definitely give Gros Ventre Campground a look.

 

Something I wish I’d known: 
My visit was only part of a short road trip and I had no idea of the other things I would find myself wishing I had more time for while there. From wildlife tours, to snowmobile trails, to hiking, biking, rafting, and much more – Grand Teton National Park is a wild and magnificent place. I should have known these things before of course, but wish I’d taken a little time to research the various ways to explore the area and made time for a few more.

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What is your number one tip for other people planning to visit this particular destination?

Talk to people. The historical American West is full of tales of travellers, vagabonds, adventurers, and even folks escaping their past. The modern West may be a little less legendary but it’s no less interesting. Ask your waiter where he’s from, your rafting guide what brought her here, or the barkeep some local history. From those stricken by wanderlust, ski-junkies, nomads and free spirits, to those who simply visited and never wanted to leave, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of transplants to the area and it seemed like everyone had a good story to tell of what drove them to call this place home. So talk to the locals. You’ll likely discover a hidden gem to scope out before leaving the Tetons.

 

Then again, you may decide to stick around yourself.

 

Thanks so much for sharing, Chad!

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3 Days Hiking & Camping in the Waterton Backcountry

I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into approximately 8 months ago when I proposed the idea of a Backcountry Hiking Trip to Sean and his dad, Gord.  Gord is a well-seasoned outdoorsman and has been hiking and camping in the backcountry for about 13 years, and Sean would oftentimes accompany him.  The two have tackled major famous Canadian trails like the West Coast Trail, the Mantario Trail, the Chilkoot Trail, the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail, and countless other hikes and outdoor activities.  I think the boys may have been being extra-polite when they didn’t burst out laughing at my suggestion of the three of us taking a trip together.

I’m not exactly a rookie to the outdoors – if you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I’ve done my fair share of hiking and camping around the Rocky Mountains in the past few years.  But I’d only done one backcountry trip before, and it was when I was 17 years old.  It was a school trip, guided and organized by teachers and chaperones, and even though it was an awesome introductory experience, I basically just had to show up with my clothes, food and gear and follow the leader for a week through Yoho National Park.  This trip was going to be different.

We decided that 3 days, 2 nights, and approximately 30 kilometres of hiking would be a good start. Gord took the reins on trip planning – he decided where we would go, which I was more than okay with.  He also did the meal planning, which was incredible, by the way…he had us eating butter chicken and pasta with meat sauce and breakfast wraps.  We definitely weren’t “roughing it” when it came to food!

 

Day One – Drive Calgary to Waterton, Hike Red Rock Canyon to Goat Lake

We were well prepared and had everything packed and ready to go the night before departure, so we were on the road at around 7:30am on Day One to make the three hour drive from Calgary to Waterton Lakes National Park.  By the time we had picked up our permits, made it to the Red Rock Canyon parking lot and got all geared up, we hit the trails just before noon.  The hike from Red Rock Canyon to Goat Lake is about 7 km, and the first half is more of a nature walk.  It didn’t really get difficult until we began our ascent to Goat Lake…prepare to get your heart pumping.  It’s only 2.5 km but it took almost the same amount of time as the previous 4.5, especially with full packs.  You’ll know you’re almost at Goat Lake when you pass one of the most beautiful little waterfalls you have ever seen.

Day One - Ascent to Goat Lake

Day One – Ascent to Goat Lake

 

Day One - Ascent to Goat Lake

Day One – Ascent to Goat Lake

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The Falls – This Means You’re Getting Close!

The campground only has 4 tent sites, one outhouse, and campfires are prohibited.  We made our cook site by the lake, and there is a bear-proof food hanger well away from the tent sites.  The lake is full of fish (National Park fishing license required) and crystal clear.  It was extremely cold when we visited in Mid-July but we were so hot and sweaty by the time we arrived that we couldn’t help but go for a frigid (4.2 second) swim.  We were lucky enough to be the only people camping on the night that we were at Goat Lake, however the area was busy with day hikers during the afternoon.

Our Tent Site at Goat Lake

Our Tent Site at Goat Lake

Gord making sure we stay Hydrated

Gord making sure we stay Hydrated

Our Backcountry Birthday Celebration

Our Backcountry Birthday Celebration

Skipping Rocks on Goat Lake at Sunset

Skipping Rocks on Goat Lake at Sunset

 

Day Two – Hike Goat Lake to Twin Lakes

We woke up around 8 on the second day and took our time with coffee, breakfast, and packing up camp.  We probably weren’t on the trail until close to 11 for the 4 hour, 8km hike to Twin Lakes.  The hike down from Goat Lake was as difficult as the hike up, and it was HOT.  The hike to Twin Lakes was a bit of a challenge, but not quite as tough as what we had faced on day one.  What was nice, though, is that it was a lot more forested and therefore shady and cool.  We arrived at our site around 3:00 and ate an early dinner, but not before hiking down to Lower Twin Lake (much prettier than Upper Twin Lake) through the SNOW (yes, snow) for an extremely refreshing swim.  The water wasn’t quite as cold as Goat Lake, but it was still a challenge to stay in it for more than 10 seconds at a time.  I was so exhausted from the action-packed day…I think I retired to my tent by 7.

Day Two - Descent from Goat Lake

Day Two – Descent from Goat Lake

Day Two - Descent from Goat Lake

Day Two – Descent from Goat Lake

Hiking down through the snow (in pink crocs!) to Lower Twin Lake

Hiking down through the snow (in pink crocs!) to Lower Twin Lake

Swimming in Lower Twin Lakes

Swimming in Lower Twin Lakes

 

Day Three – Hike Twin Lakes to Red Rock Canyon

We got an earlier start on day three after a really rough sleep.  We were fed, coffee’d, and packed up and on the trail by 9:30, as we knew we had a 14 km hike ahead.  This long day of hiking had a pretty challenging start as we had to hike straight uphill for about a kilometre, and then through avalanche zones for about 2 hours, which meant deep, slippery snow, broken trees, tons of debris, and losing our trail a couple of times.  It slowed us down but it was nothing we couldn’t handle…I was very grateful to have brought hiking poles though for stability, balance, and confidence crossing the snow.  After we made it through the tough stuff, it was just a lot of slight decline, which we were all very grateful for.

Hiking through the Avalanche Zone

Hiking through the Avalanche Zone

Some of the Avalanche Damage…trees bent in half, others snapped clean off, others uprooted…so crazy

Some of the Avalanche Damage…trees bent in half, others snapped clean off, others uprooted…so crazy

Sean and I

Sean and I

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

We were following a bear down the mountain part of the way…we saw fresh scat and lots of overturned rocks.  I entertained myself by yelling “beep beep beep” and singing with Sean for hours on end so as not to startle whatever was lurking in the woods.  Luckily, we never actually saw the bear.  The last part of our hike was through the stunning Red Rock Canyon, which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Red Rock Canyon is also easily accessible (less than 1km) from the parking lot, so it would make for a super easy quarter-day hike / nature walk.  That last kilometre was the longest of my life, but it felt pretty amazing to turn a corner of the trail after 3 days in the backcountry and see a parking lot full of cars. Cars meant air conditioning and transport to a restaurant in town for burgers and beer.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

After a wet-wipe sponge bath in the public washroom and changing into the clean clothes I had left in the car (highly recommended), we drove into the town of Waterton for a late lunch at Trapper’s Mountain Grill.  I out-ate both of the men and wasn’t even upset about it.  The avalanche burger (topped with onions, cheddar, bacon and a fried egg) is awesome if you’re starving.  We then treated ourselves to way too much ice cream at Big Scoop and then piled in the car for a food-coma drive back to Calgary.  It was glorious.

The 3 days we spent in Waterton were absolutely incredible.  I learned so much and I was so grateful to have two knowledgable, patient and supportive men to help make this idea a reality.  I’ll definitely be doing another Backcountry trip soon.

Have you ever been to Waterton?  Did you spend any time in the Backcountry or mostly just stick around the townsite?

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6 Ways To Live an Adventurous Life When You Can’t Travel

Those of us with a hunger for adventure often find ourselves limited by things like time, money, and the ability to drop everything and travel.  While a life of constant travel would undoubtedly provide an ideal canvas for many adventurous experiences, most of us find that, unfortunately, that sort of a lifestyle is a little unrealistic.  So how else can adventure-seekers and wanderlusters quench their thirst for exploration?

This challenge is something that I am faced with all the time.  While I have been fortunate enough to do a fair bit of traveling throughout my short 22 years, I now find myself in a place where I have (ridiculous amounts of) bills to pay, important commitments, and a full-time career, that I actually take seriously, which requires me to stay in one place.

Here are a few ways that I have adjusted my day-to-day routine to incorporate a little more spark to my life and to satisfy my hunger for adventure when I can’t actually get on a plane.

 

1. Make the Most of your Days Off

This one may seem obvious, but I can think back to several occasions where I have let my precious 48 hours away from work come and go with no real reward, and instead spent them doing laundry, cleaning my apartment, running errands and doing other things that are less than exciting.  In my experience, I have found that, by committing to a plan for at least one of your days off, whether that means a day drive, a hike, or an afternoon spent exploring a new neighbourhood – I am persuaded to get the cumbersome “chores” finished up on the days that I’m already working anyway.  It may add to an already hectic workweek, but when the weekend finally comes around and you realize that you have nothing to do but get out and enjoy it, it will all be worth it.

Visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

Visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

2. Be a Tourist in your own Backyard

If you’ve done any amount of traveling, then you’ve probably met somebody along the way who asked you tons of questions about your home country, or maybe even your home city.  They may have asked you what it was like to live in New York City, or if you’ve been to Niagara Falls.  More often than not, the people I meet abroad would give anything to visit North America to see all of the spectacular things that this part of the world has to offer.  Be careful not to overlook all of the beauty and adventure that awaits you right within your own country, state, city, or even your neighbourhood.  If you’ve never checked out your city or town’s official website, or searched your own area on TripAdvisor, I strongly suggest that you do.  You will probably discover tons of attractions and experiences that you didn’t even realize existed, like the time I planned a Stay-Cation here in Calgary and ended up spending the most incredible day out at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.  Life is all about perspective, and just because you can’t go far, does not mean that you can’t still experience amazing new things.

Riding through Fish Creek Park in Calgary - literally my back yard

Riding through Fish Creek Park in Calgary – literally my back yard

 

3. Take Advantage of Business Travel

Going on a week-long trip to a conference somewhere you’ve never been before?  Why not extend your trip by a day or two in order to explore the area a little more?  This works especially well if your company is footing the bill for your flights…it most likely won’t make a difference in the cost if you choose to stay a few extra days.  So take a few vacation days or stay in town for your days off and see some of the local sights!  This is something I am planning on doing to my upcoming trip to California for a business-related class.

 

4. Connect with Like-Minded People

Surround yourself with positive, life-loving people who also want to fill their spare time full of adventures and awesome experiences.  Not only will this provide you with a kickass group of friends who will most likely be great human beings, but it will also open up a bunch of new opportunities to try things you may have not otherwise thought of.

 

5. Try New Things Constantly

Step out of your comfort zone whenever you can, whether that means hitting a new restaurant on a Saturday night, taking an outdoor climbing class, or booking that overseas tour of your dreams.  Shake up your routine and try something different.  You won’t regret it.

 

Spending the day exploring Elbow Falls, only a 40 minute drive from my front door

Spending the day exploring Elbow Falls, only a 40 minute drive from my front door

6. Start an Adventure Fund

Contributing to an “Adventure Fund” is something I have been doing for a few years now. Every time I stop myself from spending money on something that I really don’t need, I try to make a mental note of it and transfer the amount of money that I would have wasted on silly things into my Adventure Fund instead.  Those $5 a day lattes, shoes you will only wear once, and mediocre nights out on the town can really add up over time…maybe they will even add up to going towards paying for your next vacation.

 

What are some of the ways that you incorporate adventure and exploration into your everyday life when you aren’t able to travel?

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