Friday, August 5, 2016

The Birth of a Passion

As much as I now love it and the idea of it, I haven’t always been a traveller. Adventurer, yes (at least in my own mind), but not an avid traveller. My travels involved going to places in my imagination. Middle Earth, Narnia, A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away, etc. Actually travelling was always a dream, but I thought of it as unobtainable. I had a job and the desire to buy a house (preferably on an acreage in the country) and settle down. My family never travelled and so I never thought that option was available to me.

That changed in the winter of 2012. I spent seven (7) weeks travelling around Europe and seeing some of the most amazing sights that I could think of! Those seven weeks were spent visiting eleven (11) different countries, starting in Athens, Greece and ultimately ending in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. Claims to be established in 1189.
That's 678 years before Confederation in Canada!!
I’ve always been a history buff and the chance to see some old ruins and buildings was one that I could not pass up. I mean, the ability to sit and have a pint of ale in a building that’s older than my home country… That’s something that you just can’t turn down. Castles and churches surrounded me at pretty much all times while I was over there and, needless to say, I was in a form of my own heaven.

Since then, my feet have been itching to be on the move. I went off to Spain in the summer 2015 and spent three glorious and relaxing weeks there before returning home to face reality yet again, but the thought of travel has never left my mind. Saturday, August 6th, I start a brief course in Japanese to prepare myself (ever so slightly) for the next trip on my agenda. Next June I intend to be in the Land of the Rising Sun, and with any luck that won’t be my only trip of that year.

I know, deep down in my heart, that I’m not yet meant to settle down. My feet long for the road and adventure is calling. As Bilbo used to tell Frodo: 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step onto the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'



Friday, July 29, 2016

The Five Downsides of Travelling

There are a few things to look out for when one decides to travel. I’m a big promoter of solo travelling, but it’s not all rainbows and lollipops (thanks, Aly, for the quote). Yes, it is an absolutely amazing time and experience, but certain things are always going to come up. Here’s a list of five (5) downsides to travelling alone.

Number One (1) – Loneliness

It happens to the best of us, whether we like it or not. And whether we are travelling or not. It’s a common thing to go through for everyone. And regardless of the fact that you’re staying in a hostel and surrounded by amazing people 24/7, the cold hard truth is that you’re going to get lonely at some point while travelling. Even though you are surrounded by intriguing events and gorgeous locales, loneliness and melancholy will inevitably rear their ugly heads.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, to be completely honest. It helps you to learn to live with your own company. Aly over at says it wonderfully in her video here. You need to learn to be your own best friend. After all, when everything is said and done, you have to live with yourself and rely on yourself for your own happiness.

When I left for Spain, I knew absolutely no one there. It took a while, after the new and shiny wore off, before I really started to feel alone. Perhaps that was one reason why I didn’t stay in Madrid too long, but instead found myself back on a train to Barcelona and semi-familiar surroundings. But everyone needs alone time. Myself, slightly more than others. And when you think about it, alone time and the occasional bout of loneliness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Number Two (2) – Absence of Comfort

It can be extremely uncomfortable at times when you’re travelling all by your lonesome. And I don’t mean “I’m sleeping on a rock, this is so uncomfortable”, or “I’m so uncomfortably hot right now”. No, I mean more mentally uncomfortable. You’re going to be pushed into so many uncomfortable situations that you have no choice but to cope. And that coping can only make you grow as a person. It’ll push you out of your comfort zone, and once out of your own self restrictions you’ll realize that you can enjoy a lot of activities that you otherwise would steer clear of.

I’m not a very social person. In fact, the thought of large crowds of people generally intimidates me and I really don’t go out of my way to talk to people. Regardless of what some people would say, I am not a people person (which is odd, with my job as a bartender). But travelling leads someone to push the boundaries of their limitations. Not in a million years would I walk up to a table of people that I have never met and ask if I could join them while at home. But that’s exactly what I did in Barcelona and it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Nor would I head off to a bar with others that I had just met. But I did when I was in London and Calgary (admittedly, Calgary is practically home). Maybe it’s the fact that I was staying in hostels and they are generally filled with friendly and like-minded people from all over the world. Or maybe I’m broadening my comfort zones.

Number Three (3) – Costs

There is ALWAYS a cost associated with everything. And regardless of what I, or anyone else may tell you, travelling ain’t cheap. There are a few things that you need to take into account when planning a trip, and one of those is budget. Most people don’t go on a trip and think about earning money while away. In fact, for a lot of people it is very hard to do. You have to make sure you have enough funds to support yourself for the duration of your trip. And as much or as little as you want to save will dictate what you can do and where you will stay.

Now, the above paragraph is a bit of a horror story. However, I can tell you that I would have spent more money staying at home then I did when I went to Spain. I’m not quite sure how that worked out (because that most definitely was not the case the first time I went to Europe), but it is the honest truth. There’s always ways to save money and cut back on spending. Uncommonly, I tend to spend less when I am away then I do at home. Perhaps I need to change my habits….

Number Four (4) – Homesickness

Regardless of where you go or how long you stay, you are going to get homesick. It’s just the absence of the familiar that gets you. You wind up in a different country, not able to speak the language or read the script, not knowing a single person, get lost and confused, and you start wondering why you went in the first place.

Maybe you’re there because of work. Maybe you’re there because a flight had to make an emergency landing. Maybe you’re there because of a personal reason. But whatever the reason, you are there. And you are undoubtedly going to have the time of your life! There is very little in life quite as magical as travelling. I promise you, you will not regret making the decision to pack a backpack and fly away somewhere.

Number Five (5) – Coming Home

Yes, I am listing this as a ‘downside’ of travelling. Seems odd, doesn’t it? Well, think of it like this: You built up your courage after your breakup. You saved and finally bought that plane ticket. The excitement courses through you and you’re finally off for your solo dream trip! But alas, things don’t go quite your way… You get stuck sleeping in a subway for starters. And then it starts to sink in that you don’t know anyone and all you want to do is go home to your friends and family. But you’ve spent hard earned money on this trip! You can’t go home now! So instead you go out of your shell.

Those people up at that table? You don’t know them, they don’t know you. Hell, you don’t know ANYONE here. Maybe they’re nice. You ask if you can sit with them.
“Sure! You’re more than welcome!” They say enthusiastically, an accent coulouring their words. “Where’re you from?”
“Canada, and yourselves?” (See? It wasn’t so bad talking to them, now was it?).
“Crikey, that’s a long way! We’re from Australia. I’ve always wanted to go to Canada.” And so on and so forth. All of a sudden you realize that you’re not so lonely after all and did something well out of your comfort zone. Congrats!!

And then, before you know it, it’s time to go home. Maybe a month wasn’t enough time after all. Maybe you don’t want to go home. But the flight is already booked and you’re set to return to work again. Back to reality and the constant grind that you were in in the first place. When at home you’ll constantly refer to your trip. It’ll be a great conversation starter and people will be genuinely interested. I mean, you’ve done something that they’ve always wanted to do but have never built up the courage. But eventually they’ll stop caring about your stories. They won’t want to hear about them anymore. I mean, it’s all you talk about. And so you sink into a melancholy mood and stare longingly at the pictures that you took and have to live through the constant droll of everyday life until you can go away again. And that melancholy that you get is definitely a downside in my opinion. But don’t worry, there is a cure! You just have to travel again.

And there you have it! Those are my five downsides to travelling. The main point is that there isn’t quite anything like travelling. It changes you for the better in my most humble of opinions. It broadens your understanding of the world, places, cultures, and people. You learn so much more by experiencing things first hand than you ever would reading about someone else’s experiences in a book. Or by watching a television show on someone else roaming around. Or listening to your friend’s amazing travel stories. Go out and find your own story.

Agree or disagree with anything I’ve written above? Feel free to leave a comment down below if I’ve missed something!



Monday, June 20, 2016

Passions and Distractions

I believe this would be classified as a ‘lifestyle’ blog, though it wasn’t quite my intent at the time of starting. I mean, my first few posts in 2014 were about nothing at all. And I mean nothing. Then 2015 happened. And, well, I’ll let the posts speak for themselves. It wasn’t until mid-2015 when I started to feel like myself again, but that’s also when my posting became irregular and put to the wayside. But I want to start posting again. I want to start showing people that I’m good and will continue to be good. And so, fresh on the heels of last week’s post (which you can read here), I’ve decided to take my own advice and slow down for a bit. What I realized by doing that, and reading previous blog posts, is that I seem to have four (4) passions going on here.

Passion number one (1)
A very small selection of my Comic Books
I’m a dork. Through and through. In fact, my first few posts of 2014 highlight this. Although not exclusively (because dork-ish material is mentioned throughout my posts), entries such as:
The Expo Experience
An Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age
Time of Legends, An Age of War
The Superhero Effect
Why Do We Fall?

The Expo Series (Links to the entries can be found at the bottom of the post)
Europe, I Am In You! starts off with mention of Eek Fest
Why Stay?
Expo Ahead (I promised posts from the Expo, but, well, they aren’t coming. Sorry!!)

Passion number two (2)

Yoga Mat and Aikido Gi
Fitness seems to be up there too. Or lack of fitness. I mean, I start with good intentions but they never, ever, seem to amount to much at all. Those can be found in posts along the lines of:
The Martial Art of Peace
The Mats
Operation: Superhero
Orange Is The New Fit
For the Love of the Run
A Mindful Triathlon

Passion number three (3)

Notebook, Ink, Ink Well, and Bamboo Calligraphy Pen
Writing. I’ve alluded to it over and over (and I’m pretty sure I’ve stated it on more than one occasion). Writing is my career goal. I have two diplomas in Children’s Literature (from the wonderful folks at the Institute of Children's Literature) and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve posted a few stories (links below), but the regular posts on this blog are in no way indicative of my skill as a writer. Nothing here is very polished at all. My writing posts can be found by clicking the links below:

The Page Turns
And She Still Got On That Train

Teddy Bear In The Locker (quite possibly my most polished story to date)
A Musical Interlude (if Teddy Bear In The Locker is the most polished, Gaining Music might be my go-to story… Tough choice…)
Wordsmithing - My Timeless Goal
A Story With a Life of its Own
Friends With Benefits. Writing Benefits.
A Whole New World

Passion number four (4)

A small collection of travel-related books
And finally, what seems to be my most written about topic: Travel. Sure, they may not be my most read blog posts, but they are the ones that I find the most fun to write. And if I’m having fun writing them, there has to be a passion there, right? You can find links to all my travel related posts by clicking on this link here:
The Wandering Jedi
I’ve also mentioned a new and upcoming trip in this post here, but by clicking on The Wandering Jedi, there’s links to all my strictly travel-related posts at the bottom.

Adding it all together

Adding it all together, you get a very disorganized blog. Four passions in one online corner. It’s a tad crowded, don’t you think? Well, that’s soon to be rectified. I’m looking to make a dedicated blog for at least one of those passions of mine. Not saying that it will take that passion away from this blog here, but I’m hoping to make those posts a bit more polished and thorough than what you’ll find here. After all, this is the Distracted Jedi. And distractions are kind of my stock in trade.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Live Your Life

Unplug and Breathe
Take a moment. Close your eyes. Breathe.

In a world where everything is turning electronic and everyone is connected 24/7, try disconnecting for a bit. Turn everything off but yourself. Just be. Just for a moment.

We’ve forgotten how to be us. Whether it’s the hunt to attract the opposite sex; seeking to impress friends and acquaintances; our peers; employers; random people on the street; even people we don’t like, everyone’s always trying to impress someone else. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to.

Quite possibly the best name for a
candy store ever created
If it makes you happy to be your quirky self, be your quirky self. If you feel like going for a run, pumping out your motivational superhero soundtrack, go for that run! If you feel like sitting on a couch with a bowl of popcorn waiting for the next Kardashian to have a tantrum over something inconsequential to the rest of us, start popping those kernels! Do what makes you happy and screw the people that you spend your time trying to impress.

Like the opening of this article says, try disconnecting from everything but you for a moment. Go for a walk and turn your phone off (or better yet, leave it at home). Walk slowly, there’s no rush. Think about what truly makes you happy. When you have that figured out, do everything that you possibly can to do what makes you happy. It’s your life, and you only get to live it once. You have the obligation to yourself to be happy.

All this time I’ve been finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I do feel lost. Others, not so much. But regardless of whether I feel lost or not, I’m always finding myself. Trying to figure out what makes me happy and how to achieve that happiness. It’s a constant work in progress. Not just for me, but for everyone, whether you read my little blog or not.

What inspired this little melancholy/inspirational post (depending on your take from it)? A few things actually. First and foremost, a couple of conversations I’ve had with a couple of friends. And then there’s a couple of other blog posts that I’ve read. You can read them here and here. The take away? It’s life. It’s not perfect and it’s not what you might expect. But it’s yours to live. Live happy and realize that life’s imperfections are what make it worth living.