Friday, October 29, 2010

Enjoy the Silence

We have gotten a few people ask the same question over the last week: "So, are you really bored yet?"

The answer: a booming and resounding, NO!

There has been no other point in our lives where we have been in this situation of total and utter nothingness. No commitments, no work, no mortgage, no scheduled activity, no deadlines, no expectations, and only a far distant end in sight. It is a very beautiful thing, and something we have only ever had in small 7 or 14 day increments in the past, as far as our work allotted vacation would allow. And while we were in traveling around South America and our own country, there was a constant requirement to keep moving, keep exploring and keep finding things to write to you about!

So now we are very thrilled to just sit. Or stand, or kayak, or walk, or bike, or nap...whatever we feel like doing. We are relishing in the beauty of our situation, and making the most of every second of it, however we see fit. There has not been one single moment that we have wished we were some other place doing something else. And we are so extremely fortunate to live in this pristine and beautiful piece of the world, withdrawn into nature and truly nourishing our minds, bodies and souls.

We have been keeping ourselves busy, and in my case, a wee bit too busy at times. While we came into this with no deadlines or other commitments imposed on us, I have somehow managed to rope myself into some. Excited to put this inspiring setting to work through my writing, I searched online for some opportunities to stretch my fingers and maybe make a few dollars doing it at the same time. Well, I found some, and then some more. I applied for a few different jobs and managed to get offered and accepted for everything I put my name to! It has been a little overwhelming to get organized for all these tasks, but I have managed to get a rhythm going for it and I am sure I will be able to do it all in time. While none of these jobs pay very much, I am enjoying the challenges, and getting a chance to try different kinds of writing. Watch for me soon on and, and others that are to come!

When I'm not pounding on the keys, Pete and I have been cooking up a storm. Buns, cinnamon buns, perogies, hummus, granola mix, coconut cream pie, carrot cake, and cookies so far. We are scouring every online recipe resource to try to come up with "best ever" of whatever we are making. I can't explain this inner "Martha" that seems to be bursting out, but I guess this is just our form of "nesting" that is emerging now, seeing as this is the first place that has really felt like a home in a year and a half. (Thank goodness for the friends that are coming to see us soon, and can help us eat all this food!)


Thank goodness, also, for the grand outdoors, and the perpetual autumn of this area that is encouraging us to get outside and get active. The yellow leaves still hang beautifully from the trees, and when it is not raining we have rushed outside to enjoy them. There is no fresher are then what we have here, literally. There are types of lichens and mosses that grow only where there is completely pure air quality, and they grow here, in abundance. There is no industry to emit poisons nearby, no cell phone towers to give off radiation, there is only the pure mountain air. And we try to ingest it every chance we get, and in very big gulps.

Lichen and mosses = clean air!

And then there' s the Tuesday evening drop-in volleyball league! This small town of Burton is home to just a handful of people (similar to where I grew up), and the whole town seems to show up every week for volleyball. The games actually get quite competitive (for us novices, anyways) and it is a lot of fun.

So, as you can see, you don't need to worry about us and boredom. Stop conjuring up images of ax murderers driven insane by the remoteness and silence of our situation. We are busy, we are productive, and we are likely still in our pajamas as you read this.

We have never been happier!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Good" Boredom

“I’m bored” said Peter, as he bounced down on the bed beside me, disturbing my nap.

Uh oh. At that point, we were only 2 hours into our ~1,440 hour house sitting assignment. We had assured ourselves before accepting this assignment of caring for a house in the middle of nowhere that we would find plenty to keep us occupied. We loaded up on books, movies, craft projects, Spanish assignments and exercise goals. And here he was, on day one, hour two, complaining about boredom.

I guess I could understand his sentiment, a little bit. The house was eerily quiet, with the home owners having left that day. We had just had two full days with them in their beautiful home – they showed us the area and introduced us around. A pair of fellow travelers, there was much to talk about and many stories shared. We were excited that this “job” had introduced us to two new good friends, and we were sad to see them go.

But still, a declaration of boredom only 2 hours in was concerning! Until I looked over, and saw that Pete said it with a huge smile on his face.

“It’s a good boredom. I have lots to do, but nothing that has to be done.” That’s better.

That is precisely the point of our stay here. After more than a year of running around from place to place and activity to activity, we now have 2 full months to sit still and enjoy ourselves and our surroundings, while also taking some time to “plan” (hate that word) for our future. We have no obligations beyond caring for the home – we don’t need to be anywhere specific at anytime. And our first week here has encompassed just the pure enjoyment of these facts (we’ll worry about the “pl@%ning” later).

We’ve had long walks in the pristine fresh air with nothing but the sound of the creek beside us. We’ve spent hours rotating between reading, writing, and watching the leaves fall outside. I’ve baked buns. We’ve watched the entire seventh season of Entourage. I’ve fed my new addiction of making jewelry (and created a forum to sell it! Check it out!)

Most enjoyably, we’ve gotten to do our number one favourite thing of kayaking on nearby Upper Arrow Lake. We spent one beautiful morning on the water with the entire lake to ourselves. For both of us, this is the definition of a small piece of “heaven”, and is one thing we hope to do quite regularly while we are here.

And so while officially we have nothing we “need” to do, we have a long list of everything we “want” to do. This might be boring to you as a reader, but to us, the good boredom is the best part.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sittin' on houses

From the frigid mountains of British Columbia to the scorching beaches of Honduras - Peter and I are about to take our roles of "homeless vagabonds" to a whole new level.

I will credit our family and friends for encouraging this behaviour. Since returning home from South America, we have been completely spoiled with shelter, food, drinks, name it, we got it...from our very generous benefactors. Who needs a home when we have such an amazing network of people to take care of us?

Realizing that we do not want to rely on this generosity forever (in case it should run out!), but knowing that we are not yet ready to "settle" and be committed to anything that cannot fit into a backpack, we began to explore new options. We debated another bout of backpack slinging, and researched the continent of Africa as our next destination. We sketched out a route of eastern Africa to the Middle East to Eastern Europe to Russia across Siberia to China. Yeah...we got tired just thinking about it. Our desire for a full-fledged traveling adventure is currently outweighed by our exhaustion after almost a year of such travel in South America. We need some more downtime to allow our full spirit of adventure to return.

And so our new plan (and career?) is born. It encompasses our desire to explore without the weariness of continuous travel. It allows for enjoying the comforts of a home without the roots of owning it. We have become professional homeless bums. We are house sitters!

For at least the next 8 months, we are committed to easing the minds of home owners who need to be away from their home for some time. We will begin with a 2 month "job" in the Kootenay's of British Columbia at this beautiful house.

No TV, sketchy internet, and we will be 30 minutes from the nearest town. We have loaded up on books, movies on our laptop, craft projects and more to keep us occupied during our stay at what some friends have dubbed The Overlook Hotel. We couldn't be more excited for this downtime, and to explore the surrounding natural beauty strapped into our hiking shoes or via kayak.

But wait - we COULD be more excited! After our 2 months in the beautiful mountains of BC, we will have just a few days to put away our sweaters and load up our bathing suits. Our second house sitting job is going to take us to the picturesque island of Roatan, just off the coast of Honduras. While the home owners wait patiently in the US for this house to sell, we will ensure that it is well cared for and maintained. We will have the opportunity to improve our Spanish, continue our passion of volunteering, in PARADISE! Because the home is up for sale, we could be in Honduras anywhere from one month to indefinitely, but are committed for 6 months if it remains unsold.

Does life get much better than this? These are obviously once-in-a-lifetime opportunities which we are again excited to grab hold of and enjoy to the fullest.

Homeless vagabonds, we be! And it ain't such a bad thing.

O Canada!

I returned from South America August 13, 2010 with a real mix of emotions. I was super excited to be reunited with Dalene, yet after a night layover in Miami and then being back in Calgary, I was overwhelmed with North American culture. Thankfully, we did not stay in Calgary for long and we whisked away to the Crowsnest Pass to enjoy a weekend alone together in the wilderness.

This was the start of our road trip in Western Canada. A friend of ours mentioned that we probably know more about South American countries then we do about our own country. She was right. Traveling in South America for a year has opened our eyes to beauty around us, and it has also gave us a new appreciation for the beauty in our own country. We were very excited to explore it.

For those who don't know Crowsnest Pass (CNP) is situated about 180km south-west of Calgary. A series of small towns situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains is a little haven for hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, golfing, rafting and pretty much any outdoor activity you can think of. All of this without the tourist influx of Banff and Jasper, and much more reasonably priced. We think this little known secret won't be a secret too much longer.

Also, the CNP is known for the Frank Slide. In 1903 the small mining town of Frank was obliterated by a mountain collapsing and the rock covering the whole town in the middle of the night. The slide killed 90 people and it is now a national historic site.

Remnants of Frank's Slide

After the few days of unwinding in the Crowsnest and a quick family visit in Lethbridge, we made our way up north to Grimshaw to visit Dalene's extended family. We stayed for 6 days with Dalene's Gram and enjoyed what Northern Alberta had to offer. In fact, one day trip to visit a cousin in Hawk Hills was the furthest north in Alberta that I have ever been. We were only a few hundred kilometers to the border of the Northwest Territories.

We were lucky that one of Dalene's uncles wanted to get out on the lake with his new boat and do some fishing. So off to Lake Atikameg we went for a day full of fishing. What a day it was! The rookies (me and Dalene) out-caught Uncle Ken and Uncle Calvin, but lucky for us they did the dirty work of cleaning the fish after. We (less Dalene) enjoyed our feast of fresh pike and pickerel the next evening with the family.

One of Dalene's big catches


After northern Alberta we ventured to Edmonton for my brother's wedding (the main reason we came home from South America). A great week topped off with a beautiful wedding in nearby Wetaskawin. We left Wetaskawin and headed for Vancouver Island.

This was not a quick little drive by any means, but the drive alone through the Rocky Mountains, the Okanagan, and then finally to the coast was stunning. After stops with friends in Bragg Creek, Kelowna, and Abbotsford, we got enough great advice (while indulging in countless glasses of wine) about what to do once we got to the Island.

The 2 hour ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo was the first leg, and on the way we were treated to a pod of killer whales swimming just in front of the ferry - first time we had ever seen them!
We got to shore and headed for our first camp. Just outside of Parksville is Rathtrevor Provincial Park. We were treated to great walks on the beach, admired the jelly fish and birds, and enjoyed a stunning sunset. A good start I'd say! The next day we went over to Qualicum Beach to check out the beaches because the tides seem to go out for killometers. Some truly remarkable sights.

Tide out, humans in


We spent 2 nights here at Rathtrevor, and unfortunately the weather was highly uncooperative and we got soaked. Seeing as it rains on Vancouver Island about 200 days a year, this was no surprise. But as we were tenting it, it was very frustrating to be so wet, cold, and to have to put away a wet tent - we decided to put the camping gear away and splurge a little and get a bed and breakfast for the remaining nights on the island.

Off to Tofino we went for 3 nights and days exploring the Pacific Rim National Park. Along the way we stopped at one of our favourite spots on the whole Island - Cathedral Grove. It is an old forest of trees up to 800 years old. The trees are covered in green moss, giving the forest a very mystical and enchanting quality. Not to mention, some of them are really huge, one is even bigger then the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy.

Tofino is on the southwest part of the island, and is known for its surf and laid back lifestyle in a stunning locale. Lucky for us we came at the end of tourist season and so didn't have to combat the large crowds that exist during the summer months. In Tofino we took in many hikes in the National Park, watched the surfers from the beach while enjoying some good books, and also got to do some great sea kayaking to enjoy the sights of wildlife that this area had to offer.

Surfers on Chesterman Beach

Long Beach



Victoria was our next destination. We packed up the car and drove the 5 hours to meet Dalene's famous hairstyling cousin for a few days. David was a very generous host, he was our guide in this beautiful city. We took a walk down to the harbour, a stroll through China town, and of course found some time to sit and have a pint. And one of the best things about the city is how environmentally conscious it is - a nice breath of fresh air (literally) in comparison with that of truck saturated Alberta.

After Victoria we had to start making our way back to Alberta first for an Arcade Fire concert, and for a short 10 day house/cat sitting stint for Dalene's Mom. We quickly stopped back in Abbotsford to surprise a friend for her birthday, and then the next morning we were back to being eastward bound.
A long drive again, but we took our time through the Crowsnest Pass highway. We were treated to many different terrains of geography. The coast, to tall tree forests, the desert of Osoyoos, back to pine forest in the Rocky Mountains, and then back to the Plains in Alberta. We made it to the concert (barely after a flat tire), but it was a great way to cap off our road trip in Western Canada.

What lies next?
Dalene answers that in the next blog, as we have *just* answered that question ourselves. I keep seeing a savings plan commercial on TV that has someone singing "If I only had a plan..." So far, our life of non-planning has been working out quite well. What do they know??? =)