November 15, 2015

I Say I Want a Revolution

non judgement, revolution, happiness I want to start a revolution. A non judgement revolution where people are free to define and live their own happiness.

North America is an extremely judgemental place to live. Who wore it better? Who has the best house? Who gained weight? Who looks younger? Who has the best job/partner/life? As a society we are consistently judging other people on how they live their lives. I am asking for your help, we have to make this stop.

Many of Hollywood’s top actresses have chosen not to have children and they fight a continuous battle of defending their choice. Oprah, Ellen, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Kim Cattrall to name just a few. These are talented, driven women who have remained successful in an increasingly competitive and fickle industry. They have won awards, travelled the world, created empires, volunteered and donated millions of dollars yet continue to be asked if they feel incomplete for not having children. Why must they have children to be considered whole? It’s because it’s part of the recipe.

The recipethe North American ideal for success:

-go to post secondary

-get a ‘good’ job

-get married

-buy a house

-have children

-work hard

-retire

There you have it folks. Follow these simple steps and you too are guaranteed a life of happiness. While I do believe that this can be happiness for some, it is impossible to believe it is for EVERYONE. That is like saying there is only one recipe for dessert – vanilla cake. If you want dessert you must follow this recipe. That’s boring. People’s passions, dreams and interests are far to varied to be expected to fit into a one size fits all mold of happiness. Many are realizing this and are making their own adjustments to the recipe. The problem is when they deviate from the original they are judged by society.

A women in her mid thirties who did not go to post secondary, works as a server. She has been in the service industry for 15 years and is incredibly good at what she does. She has bought her own car, her own house and has an impressive financial portfolio. Despite all this people ask her when she is going to get a ‘real job.’ She loves her job, why is it not considered real?

Another women has her masters degree and a very successful career. She is exceedingly motivated and holds a position of someone at least ten years her senior. She owns her own house, her own luxury vehicle, and her own membership to a country club. She likes to travel for 2-20 weeks at a time. She is asked when she will ‘grow up’ and settle down and stop with the travelling. Why must she stop when it’s her greatest passion?

Another example, a twenty something, very successful young man works an incredibly challenging and thankless job with children and youth. He works hard and has forged ahead in his career with a rare combination of heart and determination. His job requires a level of giving that not many possess. He is scrutinized when he says he does not want to have children. He is called selfish and childish and told that he will change his mind someday. How is that fair?

A mother of two incredible girls, volunteers at her church, is extremely involved in her community and her children’s school as well as taking care of her house and large property. She is looked down upon when she answers stay at home home Mom to the question ‘what do you do?’ From six in the morning until ten at night she is working, investing everything she has into the future of her family. Sadly she is made to feel inferior to women with careers.

I am sure you have judged and have been judged. Neither one makes you feel good.

I am guilty of judgement. I used to question why anyone would get tired down to a 25 year mortgage, a life of debt for for some brinks and mortar? Why are they ruining their lives getting married so young? Why do you work so much? Why don’t you travel more? Judge. Judge. Judge. Judge. I finally realized that people do not want to live my life any more then I want to live theirs.

One way is not better than the other. That’s the thing about life, as long as you are happy living it, it’s the right choice. We have to respect and appreciate the diversity of life without judgement. Everyone has their own path to forge and while you do not have understand or even like another’s path you do not have the right to condemn it for not being like the one you choose.

We need to stop trying to compartmentalize life. No one should ever have to hear “Why don’t you….

get married

have kids

get a ‘real’ job,

travel more/less?”

Happiness is subjective and is unique as our fingerprint. Embrace the diversity.

Will you join me on the revolution or are you going to eat vanilla cake forever?

“WHEN YOU JUDGE ANOTHER, YOU DO NOT DEFINE THEM, YOU DEFINE YOURSELF.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

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Awesome, activities, Travel, adventure, out doors, unconventional, different, Live out there, geo caching, tree top trekking, sup, stand up paddle boarding, Canada, GTA, lifestyle, life,

Trekking in the trees

Written Exclusively For Live Out There

Getting out there and exploring the beauty of this awesome planet is something we all enjoy doing – but we all tent to get stuck in our habits. It’s easy to fixate on just one activity that you really enjoy doing – whether that’s hiking, running or camping, snorkelling, jazercising. It happens all the time, we buy gear with a single pursuit in mind and tend to forget about any adventures outside of our peripheral vision.

If you’re looking to get out there and try something unconventional and different,  to switch it up and have amazing new experiences, any of these are an awesome choice for mixing it up this summer. Read More…

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Caving, exploring, Adventures, Live Out There, Toronto, Horseback Riding, SUP, stand Up Paddle Boarding, Kite Boarding, Cycling, outdoor, nature, Canada

Exploring Caves and Caverns near Toronto

Written exclusively for Live Out There

Put the passports away. There is no need to travel far to experience amazing Live Out There adventures this summer. These are 5 epic experiences within two hours of downtown Toronto.  Caving, Horseback Riding, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Cycling and Kite Boarding.  If you want to get out there this summer without breaking the bank or fighting the cottager traffic, from the epic adventurous to family friendly fun, we have got you covered. Read more…

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Caving,Caving, exploring, Adventures, Live Out There, Toronto, Horseback Riding, SUP, stand Up Paddle Boarding, Kite Boarding, Cycling, outdoor, nature, Canada

Epic Adventures for Couples in Gros Morne National Park

Article written exclusively for Live Out There

Tablelands, Newfoundland, Gros Morne, Canada, hike, hiking, adventure, outdoor, couples, Live Out There

After hiking the Tablelands together you will feel like you can take on the world.

Standing on top of the bottom of the earth, unable to speak or move, I let the beauty of the place surround me. All of the pain and fatigue from the last few hours faded away in a fog that the cool air took down to sea. I looked over and smiled at the only other person I could see for miles…Read more

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Tablelands, Newfoundland, Gros Morne, Canada, hike, hiking, adventure, outdoor, couples, Live Out There
 
My Name Is Ashley & I Am A Millennial, Millennial, times are changing, google, happy life, work wee, work life balance, work to live, be happy, follow your passion

Ashley Shaw

An AMAZING Guest port by an inspiring woman,  Ashley Shaw.

District Manager, Story Teller & Serial Learner

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Erin Bender, Travel with Bender, Beach, California, Orange County, Corona del Mar, Ocean , Sea, Beautiful, WITS, Women In Travel Summit, Sheswanderful, travel, women

Erin Bender from Travel with Bender. I was star struck but she was even cooler in person.

Last week I got back from my first ever Women In Travel Summit (WITS) in Irvine, California. A three day conference for women in the travel writing industry. I was blown away! I have been to conferences before but they were nothing like this.

These are the five gifts that everyone who attends WITS leaves with.

Information ~ The amount of incredible, insightful useful information at you will receive at WITS is almost overwhelming. From the seminars, to the one on one sessions, to talking with other bloggers and influencers you will walk away with resources and insights you need to take your blog and brand to the next level of success.

Connections ~ The connections you make a WITS are vast, varied and very important. You will meet brands that want to partner with you, fellow bloggers that want to guest post with you, women who have been where you are and can share their insight on how to become more successful. New friends to travel with and new products to make your travel life easier. A fellow blogger that I met and I have already planned a trip together in May.

Relationships ~ There is an indescribable feeling of meeting someone who shares the same intensity for something as you do. Being at a conference with 500 women who have a passion for travel, a love for writing and a lust for life, you develop an instant bond with each of them. I booked two one on one sessions. One was with Gabi Logan who helped shape my three year business plan that looks amazing. The other was with Alexandra Jimenez. Alex suggested a career turn that I never would have thought of, but that is so perfect and I couldn’t be more excited about. I am beyond grateful of the opportunity to meet and speak with both of these awesome women.

Beach, California, Orange County, Corona del Mar, Ocean , Sea, Beautiful, WITS, Women In Travel Summit, Sheswanderful, travel, women

Corona del Mar Beach

Empowerment ~ Being in an environment where people are constantly telling you how amazing you can be and offering whatever they can do to help you get there, is incredibly powerful. When you decide to embark on a career as a travel writer or a life of travel, people tend to question your choices. Being surround by hundreds of others who have also made that choice, you can’t help but feel uplifted. I was so up lifted leaving WITS I felt I didn’t even need the plane to fly home. This feeling is invaluable, especially if you have been questioning weather you made the right career choice. Fuled with this new empowerment once back at home you are ready to take your career to the next step of success.

Experiences ~ WITS is always held in a super cool place. (Next year is Milwaukee and I am crazy excited). This year it was Irvine in Orange County California. I got the opportunity to explore the countless beautiful beaches and funky beach towns in the area. Irvine also hosted an awesome opening night party with great food, drinks and prizes. With Stray Boots we were put into teams and sent on a scavenge hunt all around Huntington Beach. Something I never would have typically signed up to do, but where I had an amazing time with some awesome women. I also pushed myself to network. I hate going up to a stranger and starting a conversation, but what I leaned from one of the speakers Nicolle Merrill was that most other people hate it too. What better place to practice your networking skills then at an event where hundreds of other people are practising theirs too? After a weekend at WITS I had the confidence to network like a pro.

The four days at WITS literally changed my life. I have a new career goal, new tools to accomplish success, new confidence and new friends. A HUGE thank you to Beth Santos, the creator of WITS and founder and CEO of Wanderful. As well as all of the amazing ladies who made this experience so awesome.

So will I be seeing you in Milwaukee next year?

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March 17, 2016

Tales From The Haman

travel, Turkey, Bodrum, Haman, Turkish Bath, Female travel, misadventures

Bodrum, Turkey

I was convinced that I was never going to see my family again. How could I have been so stupid?

It was my last day in Turkey and I still had not had been to a Turkish Bath (Haman). Turkish Baths have been around for thousands of years and started out as a place to clean yourself, which is very important in the Islamic religion. It soon took on a social aspect as well, where friends could chat, deals could be made and secrets shared. It has been an important part of Turkish culture ever since.

I had heard about them before leaving and everyone I spoke with told me I had to experience a Turkish Bath. I was in Bodrum and I was leaving for Greece in the morning, it was now or never. I walked into a shop that advertised tours to a traditional Turkish Bath.

For seven Euros they picked you up, took you to the Haman and brought you back. Deal. Sign me up.

The man who sold me the ticket told me to wait outside of the shop and the ride would arrive in about 15 minutes. As I was sitting there a black Kia Rio with Turkish house music spilling from its windows pulled up. There were two men inside, the driver appeared to be in his forties and the passenger in his early twenties. The passenger jumped out and ran into the shop where I just bought my ticket. He was wearing all black, with dark black hair. He was very cute. The shop keeper came out with him and they both looked at me. I smiled.

Ok you go now” the shopkeeper said to me as he pointed at the car.

The young man opened the back door and was waiting for me to get in. You have got to be kidding me. No tour bus? No other people? I look back and forth from the shop keeper to the man holding the car door open, unsure of what I should do next.

Are you ready?” the young man asks obviously growing impatient.

Scenes from  the movie Taken are running through my head. There is no way as a writer and a responsible traveler that I can leave Turkey without visiting a Turkish Bath. On the other hand, how far am I willing go to for a story? I hop in the backseat and say a silent prayer to God that I haven’t made the wrong choice. Then I say one to Allah too, just to be safe.

The two men talk to each other in Turkish as I continue to pray in the backseat. I imagine they are discussing how much they will get for me when they sell me into the human traffic trade.

Her blonde hair and blue eyes will get a good price”

Yes but she is late twenties, not very young, that will drop her price.”

She is slim, but not very tall and she is small chested.”

We speed, twisting and turning getter further and further away from the safety of my hotel. I try to remember every detail so if I manage to escape I can find my way back. We turned down one more small road and stop at a dead end. I look around and all I see is a wide stone staircase leading down. This doesn’t make me feel better. The younger of the two men jumps out of the car and opens my door. He instructed me to follow him down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was a small sign that said Haman. Who would put a Haman out here? It’s not close to anything touristy and is so hard to find. The young man I came in with speaks in Turkish to a boy about 16, who wore brown capris and a baggy black shirt. They shake hands and then the young man left, without looking at me.

That’s it I have been sold!

The inside of the Haman did not look like any of the pictures I had seen. It was a big room, with a small counter over to the right hand side a hand with a hand written sign that said Tips Welcome. In the centre of the room there were three white leather couches, arranged as if around an imaginary television. There was an extremely narrow hallway that led to a dead end with a door on either side. The whole place had the feel of a school gym. I wondered if it was too late to back out and go back to the hotel.

The 16 year old boy then handed me a red and white checkered linen towel and pointed me toward the change room. The room was small, one wall held twenty pea-green lockers and a wooden bench. On the other wall was a mirror with two sinks and two bathroom stalls. I am not sure if it was the grey cement floors or the lack of windows but the place had a basement feel to it. I got changed and left my things in a locker with no lock. Stupidly, I forgot I was carrying my passport with me. Well that will be a nice bonus, I’m sure a Canadian passport brings in a great profit, maybe it will make up for my age. I closed the locker door.

I was now naked except for my checkered linen towel. I slowly and cautiously left the safety of the change room. I looked down the hallway, there was no one to be seen. I took small steps not really sure where I was supposed to go and what to expect. With each step my heart raced a little faster. All of a sudden the boy appeared out of what seemed like thin air. He smiled and walked quickly to a large wooden door to the right of the hallway. He opened the door and directed me inside.

This new room was circular and made entirely of white marble. It was hot, like a sauna, and smelled of chlorine. Running around the perimeter of the room was a two foot wide marble bench and every 3 or 4 feet was a white marble sink. The sinks had brass taps that poured a steady stream of water which flowed over the edge onto the bench and floor. The sound of the flowing water echoed against the marble. In the centre of the room was an 8×12 solid marble table.

After assessing my new surroundings, I very slowly sat on the marble bench beside the sink, gripping my towel tightly. The boy did not speak English and with hand motions told me to pour the water on myself. He then smiled at me and left me alone in the marble room. On the side of each of the sinks was a small wooden bowl, I picked it up and dunked it into the sink. I poured the warm water onto my legs and arms being careful not to get any on my checkered towel. The water felt good as it washed over me and onto the floor below. I was starting to relax a bit when the boy poked his head around the wooden door…travel, Turkey, Bodrum, Haman, Turkish Bath, Female travel, misadventures

Man or lady?”

He does speak English.

Pardon?” I asked not really sure what the question was.

Man” he pointed to himself, or “lady” he pointed to me and then mimed giving a massage.

Ohhh, lady please” I asked, smiling.

Ok” he said and was gone again.

I looked up at the domed roof. It had ten small stain glass windows about the size of side plates. Not big enough to crawl through, I thought. Don’t be silly Tara, I attempted to calm myself. This is obviously a real Turkish Bath. But then why was I the only person here? My internal debate was broken by a girl about 17 poking her head around the big wooden door.

Hello” she said smiling.

She was beautiful, dark deep eyes. Light brown skin. Delicate features and a big angelic smile you couldn’t help but return.

Hi” I answered. Then she was gone.

Inspecting the new merchandise.

About five minutes later she came back in wearing the same checkered linen that I wore. She smiled at me again which made me feel calmer. She hummed a song that reminded me of The Little Mermaid. I smiled. She filled the small wooden bowl with water and without warning dumped it on my head. That was a shock. As I was blinking the water out of my eyes she did it again. She kept filling the bowl until all of me was completely soaked, humming the entire time. She put down the bowl and picked up an exfoliating glove and began to work on both my legs. She then did my arms and my back.

This is kind of nice.

She then started to undo my towel. I immediately held it tight and looked straight into her eyes. I don’t do well with nakedness. I could never change in the girls locker room, I always went into a stall. The thought of strolling topless on a beach gives me heart palpitations. Even undoing my bathing suit straps to tan made me nervous. Now this girl wanted me to just drop my towel?

It ok, no man, no man.” she said shaking her head and pointing towards the door.

Realizing she had limited English, I came to the conclusion that explaining my lifelong uneasiness with being naked would most likely be lost in translation. She stared at me with young innocent eyes. Oh what the hell, I have come this far,I let my towel fall…

She continued her exfoliating and her humming. Just as I was beginning to feel a tiny bit comfortable – she dumped water on my head again. She was rinsing me after the exfoliating but it still shocked me. She then instructed me to lie on my stomach on the large marble table in the centre on the room.

Relax” she whispered into my ear as she placed my arms by my sides.

Relax, right. How can I relax when I know that she is just primping me to be sold to the highest bidder!?

I tried to relax.

She dunked what looked like a white rag into the sink and when she brought in up, it filled with air and looked like a pillow case. She dragged it all along my body and it left a trail of thick, white bubbles. She did this twice and then began to give me a massage.

Ok, this is nice, try to relax and enjoy Tara, this is nice.

Ok turn over” she said.

Relaxing moment gone.

After repeating the procedure I was brought over to the sink to be rinsed off. She then dried me off with a large, thick, plush towel and wrapped it around me tightly. Ahhhh- exhale, covered again. I began to march to the change room to check on my passport and get out of here, if that was even possible. This place was giving me the creeps. So eerily quiet. No one here but me. The staff disappearing and reappearing all the time. I was ready to go back to the hotel.

No” she said as she grabbed me by the hand and led me to the three leather couches.

Here.”

She pointed for me to sit on one of the couches, but as I did she walked away into the change room. So now I sat alone, in a towel, on a couch, wondering what in the world I was doing there. I was clutching my towel tightly, feeling more than uncomfortable. Is this where the people come to purchase me? Is this where they decide how much I am worth?

Just then the trusty boy appeared from behind me with some Turkish tea. Turkish tea is served in a small tulip shaped glass on a side plate with two sugar cubes and a small spoon. The glass gets very hot and you must pick it up by the rim to avoid burning yourself and then return it to the small plate when done. I didn’t really want the tea. I wanted to get dressed, get my things and leave, but it’s considered very rude to turn down tea, so I took it and drank it as fast as I could. I looked around for someone to hand my empty tea set to or for some indication of what I should do with it. But yet again, I was alone, so I gently placed it on the table beside the couch and headed for the change room. The girl who had done my massage was in there getting ready after her shower. She was still humming. She looked at me and chuckled.

You fast.” she said looking at me through the mirror.

I guess most people relax and enjoy their tea instead of inhaling it. But there was no one else around and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I opened my locker and went through my stuff, everything was exactly where I had left it. The pains of guilt began to crawl up my stomach. Shame on me for thinking such things. The Turkish people had been overwhelmingly gracious, generous and kind. How could I have thought that they would do anything so horrible?

Shame on you Tara! I tipped and thanked the girl and then left the change room and walked down the hall to the front door.

Standing at the entrance to the stairs there was a man about fifty, leisurely smoking a cigarette. He looked surprised to see me.

Oh, your driver is not here yet. Ten minutes. You are very fast.”

Yes, the fast Canadian who flew through her Turkish Bath for fear of being sold to human trafficking. Stupid me.

Ok I will just wait here” I said, smiling.

You ok?” he asked looking genuinely concerned.

I nodded, still smiling. My driver came and I made it back alive. No one tried to sell me, or kidnap me, or steal my passport. I am sure they are still laughing at the terrified looking ‘fast’ Canadian girl.

How was it?” the man at the front desk of my hotel asked.

Very relaxing” I lied. Or at least, it would have been had I not been an over imaginative drama queen.

It’s one thing to be cautious while traveling, especially when traveling alone as a women. It’s another to let these cautions take over your experiences. I was angry with myself for letting what was suppose to be a very relaxing afternoon become a very stressful one. That’s the thing about life, if you stress too much and allow the over anxious media effect how you see the world, you will neglect to appreciate the precious tranquil moments.

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travel, Turkey, Bodrum, Haman, Turkish Bath, Female travel, misadventures
Snorkel, whales, Newfoundland, conception bay, Ocean Quest, boat tour, bucketlist

It’s hard to look cute in neoprene.

I felt like an alien. I was in a full piece black neoprene wet suit complete with hood. I was sitting in Ocean Quest’s zodiac listening to Holly Stanley my tour guide for the next three hours. We were headed out of Conception Bay, Newfoundland into the Atlantic Ocean to do something I did not even realize was possible. We were about to go snorkeling with whales.

The tour holds 12 people and was full the day I went. Our zodiac was zipping along looking for the mist of a whale saying hello. It was a beautiful clear day with only a few small clouds dotting the pale blue sky. There was not even the slightest hint of a breeze. Holly, who has spent a great deal of time on the water told us that she had never seen the water that calm. She also informed us that this was very fortunate as it would make it easier to spot the whales. I was enjoying just being on the water admiring the beauty of the shoreline and being amazed at how much it looked like Ireland. The sunshine glistening on the crystal blue waters as Holly explained;

Ocean Quest, back in it’s earlier days, teamed up with a company called Ocean Net who’s mission was to help instill a marine conservation ethic starting with the youth. We had youth and the oceans conferences every year with guest speakers such as Bill Montevecchi, who helped to educate the youth and even the adults on how important it is to keep our oceans clean.”

She told me how one of the company’s moto’s is:

Take only pictures, leave only bubbles’ and clean up when they can. We do not want to harm or disturb any animals that we encounter on or under the water. This will allow us to be able to see them year after year. Everyone needs to respect them, just as they do us.

The staff at Ocean Quest want people to have incredible experiences, to see things that they never would have seen and to get a greater appreciation for the ocean and marine life. They want to do this in a way that does not harm the ocean life or disrupt the the animals environment. They want to not only amaze but also educate people as well.

Snorkel, whales, Newfoundland, conception bay, Ocean Quest, boat tour, bucketlist, Holly Stanley

Holly Stanley our tour guide

Holly’s explaination was interrupted as she pointed out into the ocean at the whale blow spraying in the air. She told us that it was a humpback as the driver turned the zodiac towards the whale. We saw the whale jump and dive this time even closer as the boat raced toward the giant creature. The zodiac stopped which placed us right in the whales path about 20 feet away. We watched it jump and breach as Holly looked at all of us in the boat and told us to put on our snorkel masks, jump out and swim towards the whale. Everyone did as there were told. Everyone except for me. I had questions. This is a wild animal that can weigh between 25-40 tons and we were just suppose to jump in the water and swim to it? Holly offered reasurance me by telling me

With the knowledge and experience throughout our 16 years in business, Ocean Quest has been able to try and gauge the reactions of these giant creatures but we also respect that everyone and everything can make mistakes. Due to the whales echolocation, they know exactly how large they are and where we are in respect to their say tail. We make sure to have a safety swimmer in the water when we have a large group in order to keep the group together and reduce the risk of accidents. We have a spotter along with the boat operator looking for aggressive activity from the surface. If the whale is aggressively feeding, actively breaching or lob tailing we do not put anyone in the water with them.”

She assured me that she would never put anyone in a dangerous situation, and told me that it’s an incredible experience that I would never forget. As the other people climbed back into the boat amazed with what they had seen I took a deep breath and got ready to jump. That’s the thing about life, you don’t always know what’s going to happen, but if you don’t take a deep breath and just jump in every once and awhile, it may just swim right by.  


Snorkel, whales, Newfoundland, conception bay, Ocean Quest, boat tour, bucketlistThe next whale we found was a Fin whale, one of the largest whales in the world. I secured my mask and waited for Holly’s que to jump. The zodiac pulled into the whales path and we were told to go. I jumped into the ocean and shivered a little as the cool water snuck into my wetsuit. I kicked my finned feet towards the whale and then looked up. There before me was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. A massive creature gliding through the water in a graceful dance. Seeing a whale jump and breach through the waves when in a boat is amazing, but being ten feet from this giant of the sea and getting to see it in it’s entirety was heart stopping. Time seemed to slow down, it was just me and this whale. The only sound the controlled rhythm of my breathing through my snorkel. I have never felt so small, so peaceful and so connected to everything. How could something so immense move with such elegance? I was in awe. As my new friend dove out of sight I silently thanked him for sharing a swim.

We stopped a few more times, to make sure that everyone got to experience swimming with a whale. Ocean Quest is really good in making sure everyone gets to see a whale before they head back to shore.

As the zodiac sliced through the water back to land, the smile on my face grew wider. I just got to share a swim with one of the largest creatures on the planet! I shook my head, just another day in Newfoundland.

Ocean Quest Whale snorkeling tours run all July and August for $199 a person. For more information please visit www.oceanquestadventures.com

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fTeatro alla Scala ,lying clothes, Private Box,  La Scala, Milan, Italy, late, ballet, Raymonda, hostel, Ostello BelloBig surprise, I was running late.

Clothes were flying in all directions as I whirled around my small room in Milan trying to get ready. How do you make a backpacker look like they belong at the most famous opera house in the world?! I was going to see the Raymonda ballet at Teatro alla Scala (known as La Scala), the world’s most famous opera house.

Miracurously I emerged from my room 10 minutes later red carpet ready.

I attempted to look elegant as I rushed into the lobby, I had 2 minutes until the ballet started. I sprinted up two staircases to a long hallway full of gold doors. A woman usher was standing at the top of the staircase. She guided me down the hallway to the very last door, unlocked it and let me inside,

Enjoy” she said closing the door behind her.

I stood in shock, I could not move. I was in a box and I was all alone. This could not be right.

The floors and walls were made of white marble and there were two huge gold framed Private Box,  La Scala, Milan, Italy, late, ballet, Raymonda, Teatro alla Scala mirrors on either side. The ceiling was a gold detailed mosaic design. There were ten small chairs in the box covered in red velvet with golden legs and backs. Two huge gold framed openings overlooked the inside of the opera house. The railings by the openings were covered in deep red velvet, it gave the illusion of two beautiful live pictures of La Scala.

The orchestra started to play as I slowly walked to the front of the box to look out at the interior of the opera house. Absolutely incredible. It was a circlular theatre covered in the deepest, richest red and most vibrant gold I had ever seen. I felt like royalty just looking at it. All around the entire theater were six tiers of perfectly square gold boxes just like the one I was in. In the center of the theater on the ground floor were rows of red velvet chairs.

At the front on the thatre and almost directly below me was the orchestra. The conductor dipped and twirled his arm like a soaring bird. Musicians dressed in tuxes and black cocktail outfits sat perfectly straight with intense focus on the flowing music.

The stage was daunting, cloked with a massive red velvet curtain that hung a mere twenty feet away.

I didn’t want to blink for fear of missing something. The people who own this box had to be arriving soon to claim it and push me back to my rightful seat. I wanted to take it all in before that happened.

Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more impressed, I looked up. Hanging in the middle of the opera house was a massive gold and crystal chandelier that looked as if it had dropped from Heaven.

I couldn’t believe I was here, in Milan, at La Scala, in my own private box about to watch Raymonda. Taking a deep breath I began to look around the theater again, knowing this would be one of my most favourite memories. That’s the thing about life, sometimes it delivers moments that you feel imprinting your soul.

Private Box,  La Scala, Milan, Italy, late, ballet, Raymonda, Teatro alla Scala I sat down in one of the red and gold chairs and faced the stage and rested my arm on the plush velvet railing. It felt like I was in the middle of a fairytale. The orchestra music danced with me while I admired the beauty of where I was. I started to imagine the nobility of days gone by who may have sat in this very spot. Back when the chandelier would have been lit candles and the guests would have arrived in horse drawn carriage. Women with gloved hands and men in top hats would greet each other in the lobby, speaking of art and the politics of the time.

The lights dimmed and the curtain rose. I looked around the box. Had the owners of it come in while I was in my 19th century dream? No, I was still alone. A huge smile stretched across my face as I realized that I was really going to get to watch the ballet from here. This was epic.

My breath was caught as the ballet started. The costumes were works of art, the sets where so colourful and realistic I felt that I was apart of the story. The dancers were magnificent, brilliant, amazing as they gracefully glided across the stage. I was practically hanging over the railing in awe. As the curtain came down for intermission I clapped so hard my hands went numb.

During the intermission I cheers my good fortune with a glass of champagne. The owners of my box never did show up.

After the ballet I was met by the warm sweet air of a perfect September night. I decided to walk back to the hostel but I honestly think I floated.

Grazie Tetra alla Scalla, stasera vivrà nel mio cuore per sempre

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heart, breaking upI cannot believe that I have to write a list about what to do when breaking up. Even more incredible is the fact that my single friends and I are encountering the SAME break up issues in our 30’s that we did in out 20’s. But alas here we are and here is the Traveling Waitress’s top ten ways NOT to break up with someone.

1. Do not disappear.

To suddenly stop returning calls, texts, emails is the cowards way out. Yes it is going to be uncomfortable to have to tell someone your just not that into them anymore or that you don’t see a future together. However it’s the respectable thing to do. It offers the other person closure, instead of them always wondering if you were abducted by aliens.

2. Do not turn into a jerk so that they break up with you.

If you feel your time together is done, then sit down and have the horrible and awkward conversation. Turning into a total slim bag so they have no choice but to break up with you is pitiful and just forces the other person to do your dirty work. You will also forever be remember as the a*#hole instead of ‘the nice one who it just didn’t work with.’

3. Do not cheat

Break up first then go out and do whatever and who ever you want. Cheating is wrong and it makes you pathetic. Simply don’t do it.

4. Do not suddenly become the busiest human on the planet so you don’t have to deal with the break up.

Bite the bullet. Just do it.

5. Do not do it over text/email/post-it note.

Do it in person. Take a deep breath, look the person in the eye and tell them it is over. Answer their questions, hug them and then go get a cocktail. Done.

6. Do not get somebody else to do it for you.

I once had a guy’s roommate break up with me. This is unbelievable and may actually cause the person to not believe that you have broken up with them. Do – it – yourself!

7. Do not do it before they have a major life event.

As much as you just want to get it over with, breaking up with a person before they have an exam, major presentation at work, a funeral is not ok. Wait it out for a few days until a more appropriate moment.

8. Do not do it while out for dinner

As a waitress I see this a lot. Someone is crying, or screaming, the server feels awkward going to the table. People around you are staring. If a guy ever took me out to dinner to break up with me, I would create a huge scene to show how disrespectful that is. “What do you mean you slept with my Mom!?!?”

9. Do not lose your nerve and keep dating them because you’re afraid. Do you want to be the one that someone settled for? No. So why put another person through that? If you don’t want to be with them don’t stay out of fear.

10. Do not allude to the break up on social media before it happens.

Changing your relationship status on Facebook, going on twitter rants about the #singlelife and posting Instagram photos of you with someone new before you have broken up is tacky and just plain rude. Hold off on the social media posts until after the deed is done. Better yet hold off on social media posts about your break up all together.

Basically, do not be a d*&k. Have respect for your fellow human being. It’s never fun or enjoyable to have to tell someone you want to break up, but that’s the thing about life, it’s full of un-enjoyable things that you have to do (taxes, dentists visits, colonoscopy’s). But we do them because we know it’s the right thing to do. Take a deep breath and know that breaking up with someone does not make you a bad person, but the way that you do it does.

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Newfoundland music, Newfoundland Tourism, Anchors Aweigh, Gros Morne National Park, Rocky Harbour, Ocean View Hotel, NewfoundlandThe Anchor Room Bar is packed with people, every seat is taken. The waitress’ twist and weave around tables like snakes through the jungle grass, serving cocktails to the patrons who wait with excited anticipation. Being told the show is a “must see” while visiting Gros Morne National Park they are ready to experience it for themselves.

The band members gather together behind the crowd to do their ritual shot before taking to the stage. They smile at each other, this is what they love to do. The smiles grow bigger as they walk on stage and pick up their instruments, the crowd can’t help but smile too. You can see their passion for music as they play. The audience can feel it.

The audience becomes the sixth band member. Anchors Aweigh gets people singing, clapping, dancing and laughing. You are not just watching the performance; you become part of the performance.

That is something that people do not forget.

People are always coming up to me to shake my hand or throw their arms around me saying how much they loved the show last year, or even two years ago, that it was one of the highlights of their trip and that they still tell people about it,” Mike Mc Donald, the drummer, explained.

I have seen the show three times and it gets better every time,” explained Jeff Organ an audience member from Norris Point.

Anchors Aweigh is so much more than just a band, it is an experience. They teach you about Newfoundland culture through music, jokes and stories.

Newfoundland music, Newfoundland Tourism, Anchors Aweigh, Gros Morne National Park, Rocky Harbour, Ocean View Hotel, Newfoundland

The members of the band: Reg Williams ~ accordion/harmonica, Mike McDonald ~ drums, Paul Barry ~ bass guitar, Wayne Parsons ~ lead vocals/guitar, Wade Jones ~ guitar/keyboard/ugly stick.

The band has the talent to be much bigger than they are. They could tour, they could fill a bigger venue, they could have an ego. But they don’t.

We have turned down some major, major offers but during the summer we are so busy; many of the band members work 7 days a week,” Mike explained.

You will see them in town extending their hand to help you aboard the water taxi and captaining the boat tour. They have “day jobs” and are the first to offer a smile or share a great tip about the place they are so proud to call home. No rock star complex here. With all of the band members working around the clock, it’s a wonder they don’t just do one show a week and actually have a night off.

It is a stress relief. Look at Reg, he has so many businesses and is so busy the guy doesn’t stop. But one thing about him, no matter how contrary he is or how tired he is, when on stage he comes alive and is happy again,” Mike explained.

The band members actually do this for the love of performing. They enjoy entertaining people and truly want them to have an amazing experience.

We want everyone to leave happy and entertained… you’re guaranteed some laughs. It is not just great music. We relate to the people, we interact with them, we make them a part of our show,” Paul told me.

It’s not just the talent of the band that is amazing, but also the soul. Wayne used nearly all of his very short and much deserved lunch break, talking to fans dining in the same restaurant he was. After he left, the two couples were so excited that a member of the band took time to speak to them and thank them! They didn’t stop talking about it for the rest of their lunch.

Talent and heart is a deadly combination. Added to the fact that each member is a self-taught musician yet play with such skill and passion. This band must truly be experienced to be believed. 

We are all self-taught. Wade has a degree in music but was self-taught first,” Paul told me.

To be able to jump from playing a traditional Newfoundland song like Sonny’s Dream into Ozzy Ozborn and Led Zeplin without a music lesson is astonishing.

There is a difference between learning the theory of how to read notes and actually being able to play, Mike explained.

There is a certain talent that cannot be bought or learned but is inherent within an artist. Each member of Anchors Aweigh possesses this talent.

I can’t read a chart, but I can play (guitar and bass). I only have to listen to the song and I got it. You have to feel it. If I can’t play without looking at piece of paper I don’t want to do it,” Paul explained.

It’s this type of talent that continues to blow people away, show after show.

Being from Toronto, I have seen a lot of bands and have been to tons of performances and I can honeslty say Anchors Aweigh is one of the best shows I have ever seen,” explained audience member Dianne Fee from Toronto, Ontario.

Newfoundland music, Newfoundland Tourism, Anchors Aweigh, Gros Morne National Park, Rocky Harbour, Ocean View Hotel, NewfoundlandI managed to ask the entire band one final question: How long would you like to continue doing this for? Their eyes lit up as they answered without a moment’s hesitation:

Paul: “Until I can’t do it no more.”

Wayne: “As long as people keep coming to the show I don’t see any reason to stop.”

Wade: “Until we drop.”

Reg: “Until I can’t do it anymore, until they are shovelling the dirt.”

It was Mike’s answer to the question that sums up the heart, passion and soul of Anchors Aweigh: “If we have to come out in wheelchairs we will come out in wheelchairs, that’s it.”

Anchors Aweigh Play at the Anchor Pub in the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbour Newfoundland. You can catch them every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:00pm through July and August, and every Wednesday and Friday at 8:00pm in June and September. Tickets are $25 and reservations are required as tickets sell out fast. You can book online www.bontours.ca/anchors-aweigh by phone 1-888-458-2016 or in person at BonTours in the Ocean View Hotel.

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