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I have been writing more and more frequently in the last few days and so I know it’s time to share a bit. This is my usual pattern. Write, fumble..write, wonder how one can have writers’ block when one isn’t really a writer?? scratch, write more, stumble, feel a bit of flow, laugh at the crummy stuff I’ve come up with… and then in one fell swoop write something I feel I can share. It’s like a quick exhalation of real coherent thought… although this is subjective!!

The rest of it, all those little pieces of writing-excess, they are good and important and all that, but for me, the thought that hits home has a specific feel. I might compare it to the feeling you get when you swing the club and know, right away, that it’s a good one… maybe it doesn’t quite get you that hole-in-one, but it’s fairly straight and it’s not going to hurt anyone. It’ll go as far as your experience, strength, and equipment will allow.

And so I plan to make this a short post….

My last few months living down in a valley and working up on a mountain have been everything I had hoped for and so much more! It’s been refreshing, fun, social, and rewarding to work outside again. My snowboard and I have made good friends. I might not know thirty words for snow, but I know that “variable conditions” mean many different things to many different people and that the whole feel of the mountain can change in a matter of twenty minutes or twenty centimeters..

The season is coming to a very quick close. As I find myself in another period of transition.

I’ve also come to realize that as I settle down into routine and into living in one place for more than a few months, that the vastness of “new and different” aren’t lost – instead they change. I might see the same scenery day-in and day-out; speak the same language; align myself with those old familiar social norms; it’s all so the same. But really everyday is unique. There’s a richness in routine. The layers of the people we meet, the decisions we make – it’s fascinating and it keeps the spark alive. I’m especially impressed by my friends.

I don’t want to sound like an over-indulgent parent, but my friends are amazing! They make hard decisions, follow-through even when the going gets tough, and have the gumption to admit when they’re wrong.

They are funny when it’s appropriate and hilarious when it’s not.

They stand strong, ask for help, melt a bit, reorganize, restructure, change their friends’ kid’s diapers and down an 8-pack of Lucky in the sun when they have to. I have friends that run marathons, start new lives in foreign countries, and deliver new lives without even melting a bit!

I could go on and on, but I think I mentioned this being a short entry?

It’s been quite a ride. The forecast continues to call for variable conditions, with a 50% chance of melting.

Theme Songs of the Day:

90-Mile Water Wall – The National

Pigs of Tongatapu

Pigs of Tongatapu

Anyone who thinks that roosters only crow at dawn has obviously never stayed on a farm and has definitely never been to Tonga.

I awoke every 20 minutes from about 3:30am onwards, as my feathered friend hoarsely announced even the possibility of the sun rising within the following few hours.  As I grew accustomed to the cock-a-doodle doing and was drifting back to sleep, I heard the beautiful sounds of church bells.  Tonga is an extremely religious country and over 98% of the population attends religious service.  It was still dark but the sound was pleasant….at least the first twenty rings or so.  As the bells continued – 25…35…50… I started to wonder if this was some kind of warning system – was something wrong? …would someone come get me in my lone room in the upstairs of my out-of-the-way guesthouse?

I decided that at the first yell I would evacuate – to where, I’m not exactly sure.

View from Pangaimotu

View from Pangaimotu

Well as it turned out – the bells topped out at about 60 rings and only moments later I heard the beautiful sounds of a church choir.  All was well.  I didn’t get back to sleep but I was happy to know that nothing too exciting was going to happen on my first full day on the island of Tongatapu…little did I realize the poignancy this dose of foreshadowing would hold.

My ten days in the Kingdom of Tonga were amazing.  I have never been anywhere quite like this little south Pacific gem.  Although its four main island groups are some of the least visited in the region (everyone goes to Fiji), this is a county that retains its natural beauty and culture.  The people are so friendly!

One of the highlights of my trip was watching fire dancers leap around while I enjoyed a feast of traditional local foods (including the delicacy of roast pig cooked in an umu, an underground oven).

Fire Dancing at Oholei

Fire Dancing at Oholei

All of this took place in a huge cave on the beach.  As I sat there watching the beautiful dancers and eating my roast tapioca and fresh fish soaked in coconut milk, I wondered if I really needed to continue on to Australia…could I eke out another few months in this paradise? Would it be so bad to spend maybe another few weeks going to the market for fresh vegetables and reading my days away?

Then I remembered that damned rooster.  A couple of weeks was probably enough.

After a few days of exploring on my own via bike and foot, I was honoured to get a personalized tour of the entire island by new, local friends.  It’s not hard to see all the sites (albeit briefly) in one or two days.  Tongatapu, the main island (meaning: Sacred South) has an area of around 260km² and is home to over 70% of the population (approx: 73,000).

The Trilion Near Niutoua

The Trilion Near Niutoua

To put this into perspective for all you folks living in BC – Togatapu is not even double to size of Saltspring Island.

My tour was fantastic and I was given an abundance of information from my exuberant tour guide Julie and her personable fiancé, Aki.  At one point we stopped at Julie’s aunt’s house and picked up an array of roast vegetables and meat.  The four of us (Milo the driver, provided bread and corned-beef) parked at the beach and enjoyed our Tongan picnic before I went for a swim in the surf.  You don’t get this on every tour, but I was lucky to meet such fun and friendly people. My trip wouldn’t have been the same without them.

The next day I made my way, via ferry, to a small island 2.5hours off the southeast coast.  Eua was meant to have exceptional hiking and caving.  It was going to be an adventure, I was sure of it.  And I wasn’t wrong.

Theme Songs of the Day:

Within You – Ray LaMontagne, from the album Till The Sun Turns Black
Lesson No. 1 – Viva Voce, from the album The Heat Can Melt Your Brain

Cook Strait

Cook Strait

As I write this, I’m enjoying my last solo night in New Zealand before meeting up with friends for one final adventurous week abroad.  Tonight I’ve decided to camp next to a little out-of-the-way geothermal hot spring.  I wanted to avoid the crowds and commercialism of some of the bigger, more established areas further north in Rotorua.  I made the right decision.  I feel I have my own private nook – a little piece of cold paradise (apparently it’s the coldest winter they’ve had here in quite a while).  It’s peaceful and natural and smelly (like eggs). I have spent hours in the water and when I’m done writing, I will hop right back in….ahhhh….

What an incredible country!  The people I have been fortunate enough to meet are fantastic!  I have belly-danced and learned the basics of medieval sword fighting.  In Christchurch I met a fascinating couple who took me in and were so hospitable – we ate too much seafood and made a break for the mountains.  I received insider information on the best powder in the area (not to mention the use of full gear! – thank you M. Lucas).  I met a friend of a friend and not only had a tour of the village and a hike through the surrounding hills of Lyttleton, but also had the pleasure of partaking if some great conversation (she’s walked thousands of kms all over the world and she makes the idea of biking from Melbourne to Sydney out like it’s not a big deal).  I was made to feel right at home in their lovely little cabin (thank you Joan & Bryon).  I was invited to accompany a beautiful family up to some thermal pools on the South Island. We chatted amongst the steam while looking up at the surrounding mountains – their three little boys keeping me entertained the entire time (thank you Angel family).

Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs

The people here are fabulous and the scenery isn’t bad either.  My drive over the last few days has been incredible!  First, I have my own music because of the ingenuity of an iPod adaptor.  Second, the campervan is free as it’s a ‘relocation’ which means I have five days to get from Christchurch (on the South Island) to Auckland (on the North Island) and I simply pay for petrol.  Third, most of the 1800km+ that I’ve covered in this beautiful country have been magnificent.

I have witnessed vast horizons, towering cliffs, the rugged snow-covered peaks of the Southern Alps, inlets and sail-filled harbours, black sand beaches, white sand beaches, and sprawling volcanic plateau.  I’ve seen more sheep in the last few days than I’ve seen in my entire life prior to this.   Wooly cows, lamas, pigs, ostrich, deer, porpoise, baby seals,  mama seals, hawks and a large variety of birds… lakes, hills, valleys and rivers – this lone exploration has been a time of beauty and reflection.

So what to think, or to do, as this chapter of my travels winds down?

I’m not sure how I feel right now.

I guess I’m caught up in trying to be in the present moment; enjoying my last few days in New Zealand with good friends…

All the while I feel as though my brain and my heart are being pulled in opposite directions – a conflicting feeling of numbness and painful sensitivity.  Actually “pulled” isn’t even the right verb…it’s more like my brain and heart are contained in that rare state we learnt about in science: homogeneity.  Everything is dispersed evenly – neither floating nor sinking (thanks high-school, for these random references).  I am not fully present in this moment – or really any particular moment; ‘not 100% in the room’.  I feel I am suspended.  I don’t even feel caught or stuck…I just am – just hanging out in that beaker back in science class.

What are the thoughts and feelings I see suspended beside me in this beaker – these particles that all take on the same weight – the same gravity?

A View of Picton from the ferry

A View of Picton from the ferry

I am thinking of home…of a home that is different now.  I am thinking of the logistics of travel and getting back to the island.  I am thinking about how I will spend my time back in Canada; seven weeks will fly by.  I am thinking about my journey up to this point: where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, who I’ve met, how I’ve felt, how some experiences have affected me more than others- and the reasons for this.  I am thinking of Kevin.  I am thinking of family, and friends that are family– many of whom I haven’t seen since the wake.  I am thinking about summer on the beautiful West Coast. I am thinking about my cat.

I am thinking of continuing forward, like we all must do

through all these incredibly hard things that punch us in the gut

they crosscheck us from behind

tear us apart

strip us down to the basics

and give us a chance to rebuild

to find strength from hidden sources

delve deep to locate power-buried

and rekindle our faith in the human spirit.

*A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to travel with me in real life and also via this website – your support is invaluable.

*My plan is to continue writing and sharing during my trip back to Canada – the journey continues…

Can’t wait to see you all.
Love and many hugs,

The Successful Traveler
~just a girl who has somehow managed to find a way to gear down to first~



Sunshine During Rain

Sunshine During Rain

Ah, the break has been good.  In slowing my writing down for a bit, I have had to adapt and learn to organize my thoughts in a different way; reassess, I guess.

I will never regret the two years that I have been writing with some sort of regularity.  I think it has saved me more often than not.  I also know it brings clarity to large portions of the past that I would otherwise see in a blur (or forget entirely).  “Oh, right – we DID go to Whistler in June…oh, yeah….THAT’S  how we spent October.”  You know, things like that…more important events and thoughts as well, but you get the idea.

I think this may be a bit of a turning point for me.  I’m not sure where exactly I’m turning from, and in which direction I’m now faced, but there’s some kind of crazy road sign associated with it, I’m sure.

Only in Melbourne

Only in Melbourne

Actually the Melbourne hook-turn comes to mind as a very suitable analogy.  Here in Melbourne there is an insane, yet perfectly legal and common maneuver whereby you pull into the far lane to make a right hand turn (keep in mind we drive on the left over here, and to turn right means to cross oncoming traffic).  So you’re driving along and realize you need to go right at the next intersection.  You must pull into the left lane, turn your blinker on and wait for a gap in traffic traveling in both directions! What!?!  You should really only attempt this crazy turn when you’re comfortable.  It feels SO strange…a little exhilarating…different…

… yeah, a good analogy I’d say.

West Coast Eagles lost!

West Coast Eagles lost!

So as one may assume, I have landed myself in Melbourne, a lovely city, indeed.  It was a sad affair to leave Perth, but I had a great last couple of days there, before heading south.  On my last night, Kim and I managed to snag Footy tickets (thanks Sean!)!  Now this is a truly Aussie passion and I can see why: a riled up crowd full of supporters for both teams, fit men running up and down a huge field…running, tackling, kicking (and that’s not including what’s happening in the stands!), over-priced-beer-drinking… Yup – they’ve got everything a good hockey game has, with the exception of ice and Luongo.

I won’t pretend to understand the rules, but it was great to watch – and the atmosphere was electric.  We made friends with the people sitting next to us and managed to make our way to the club bar for a celebratory pint or two.  Good times!

A View from Federation Square

A View from Federation Square

The flight to Melbourne was straight forward, and wouldn’t you know, I happen to be sharing the plane with Matt Gresham, the musician I had seen a couple of weeks earlier in the city (One of his songs was features in my ‘theme songs of the day’ last post).  We had a little chat, and I got to tell him what a great performer he is.  Good times!

I had a total of three days in Melbourne and my tour guide did the city a great service by introducing me to the wonderful cultural diversity that oozes off the pavement here.  There are so many restaurants and cafes and galleries; little nooks to get lost in.  The streets are littered with pieces of orange and red and yellow; it’s just at that point in the season where the balance has been tipped: there are more leaves on the ground than in the trees.   Everyone looks good, somewhere to go, a hurried but casual pace.   This is how I imagined it to be.

It flows upside-down...crystal clear on the bottom

It flows upside-down...crystal clear on the bottom

My tour guide, and host, Matt, is a friend I met in Hawaii many months ago.  He has recently moved back to Australia to travel around a bit and, as his family lives in Melbourne, he thought that a good place to start.  We have kept in touch and the plan is to stay in the city a few days – then we head down to Tasmania for a week of exploring.  What fun.

An adventure awaits… but then, when doesn’t it?

Theme songs of the Day:

Rose PicklesThe Custom Kings, from the album At Sea

Number One – The Custom Kings, from the album At Sea

I’m almost in the clear – mere boxes to move and some floors to clean, and I will be free of the heavy house hanging over my head. Ha.

Why am I writing this all down? Should I have started this whole blogging thing once the actual journey began?…maybe on the plane…or in Brisbane, my first stop? It definitely could have been a little more exciting, had I new and novel things to write. But no – I think I started writing – or, more precisely, sharing – at the perfect time for me. Starting now, while I’m still at home, offers some sort of anchor to my world here; a point of reference.

After spending many hours with friends, packing and cleaning and talking – well, it reminds me why this will always be home for me. I am so comfortable here. I am so safe and cared for. Who could ask for more? I am grateful.

While an old friend and I briefly talked this evening, I realized that writing has always been important to me. I find joy in keeping track of stuff – all of it – thoughts and ideas, events, quotes… it’s inspiring, but it can be a lonely place as well…an oubliette of sorts. I delve and sometimes I can’t find the way out. Writing with intent may be a good way to stay out of the dungeon. If I believe that someone may read the stuff I put down on paper (so to speak) then I should be able to stay coherent! At least I will aim to be coherent…er…at least after this paragraph!?!

So only a couple of days left in town. Every moment is something special. I am taking snapshots in my head. I am racing around to tie up all those loose ends, and all the while I am doing my best to have fun. I think I am succeeding. I KNOW I am.

How do I know?  I know, because no matter how high-strung I feel, I can still find time to sing loudly in the car.  To all the songs.  Whether I know the words or not.

This is one of my favourite things in the world. Everyone should do this. Who cares if other drivers look at you funny! Maybe you’ll inspire them to do the same. Admittedly, I often take the long route in order to finish a song. It borders on ridiculous, but there it is…my semi-guilty pleasure. Oh, really…you know, I don’t feel guilty at all.

Anywhere we can find joy – that’s a good place to be.

Theme songs of the day:

Take Me to the Riot – Stars, from the Album In Our Bedroom After the War

Anecdote – Ambulance LTD, from the album Ambultance LTD

Can’t Stand Me Now – The Libertines, from the album The Libertines


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August 2020