Tag Archives: travel

himalayan entry 3: i meant to take a hot shower but i got into a hot mess instead

21 Jan

Day five of trekking had me in some kind of hot mess.

Day five brought us to Kyanjin Gompa. This was the end of our trek into the mountains where we would stay and do day treks for a couple of days before hiking out. The previous five days allowed me to trek in the lush jungles and forests, in the fields, and on mountain cliffs. I had monkeys jump in the trees above me, I saw birds that are endangered and I saw wild horses. I loved every single second of the adventure I was on.

I started to allow myself to relax as I knew we were going to be resting in Kyanjin Gompa and I started feeling a bit emotionally tired. Trekking is incredible and the absolute experience of a life time but it’s also incredibly arduous and challenging. One must be emotionally and mentally prepared.

I was prepared, in every way. Until I got into the shower.

As we walked through the village, a woman with two young children came up to us. She was wearing a blue apron over her ankle length dress. “You need place to stay?” She held out her hand with a card in it and it read Snow Leopard. That’s the one we wanted! You see, as you climb you cross paths with others who are in different stages of their trek than you are. If someone offers a suggestions on a good place to stay, you usually take it – they know what they’re talking about and what you will need.

Her two children danced around us until the older one grabbed Lucas’ hand and then grabbed my hand. Out of habit I said, “Let’s lift!” and so Lucas and I followed the mama back to her place swinging her child to and fro, giggling and smiling.

She brought us back to her home and introduced us to her husband. He came out, walking slightly forward as if we had a light magnetic pull on him and said “Hello. Wel come.” His smile was huge, happy, radiating warmth and kindness. Radiating pride and hard work.

Just a side note: I wrote “wel come” in such a way because that’s how they spell it, but even more noted, that’s how they pronounce it. I thought it was really cute, the way they would pronounce each syllable, with a brief pause in between. I just loved it. 

We were happy to see clean beds and bedding and proceeded to unpacked our things. What I was really excited about was the fact that they had hot water so I was going to take a shower and absolutely enjoy the shit out of it. The shower was located in a different room and because of the way the structures are built in the mountains, there was about six inches of open space between the roof and the wall so all of the cold air came in. No big deal in a hot shower, right? Right.

I turned on the shower and out came hot water, running through my fingers, dancing in my palms.  At this point Lucas had taken my change of clothes and brought them to the dining room to warm them up by the fire. He was coming back in a couple of minutes with them so I could throw them on right away as it’s really, very cold at night.

Ok, my shins are wet, my arms are wet and I’m about to step under the water, excited and giddy, that I get to feel clean. Here I go, come to mama…

And then the hot water pressure ceased to exist.

It was at this moment that my hot shower turned into a hot mess. I started to cry but not one of those “sniffle, sniffle, pass me a kleenex, aren’t I cute?” cries. It was one of those pathetic silent cries with a super ugly crying face. Get this… I’m naked in the shower, crouched over, half wet, half dry, ugly crying, on a mountain with Yaks outside with window.

Oh, roller coaster of emotions, how I have missed you! Where have you been? GET OUT OF MY SHOWER! I started really crying at this point when Lucas arrived back outside the door with warm clothes. He started knocking on the door asking me to unlock it and when I got to it he rushed in asking me, “What’s wrong?! What’s the matter?! Talk to me!” Uh, hello, can you not see that I am PMSing and I’ve been on a mountain for five days and the hot water has dwindled down and took my dreams of a hot shower with it? No? I managed to get out, “I’m just having a moment.”  He wrapped me in a towel and I got dressed. Uh, best man ever, yes?

Looking back, even later that night, we agreed that this scene was straight out of a comedy and I was the naked, shivering, crying comedian. Oh, Lordy!


the writing isn’t on the wall… it’s in the yak shit

29 Dec

Sometimes, no matter what you believe in, whether it’s God or coincidences, or nothing at all, strange things can happen. Strange things happen to me all of the time and I love it.

Lucas and I started our trek in the Himalayan Mountains on an incredibly hot day, ascending 1300m to 3300m by the end of the day. I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew it would push me. I knew, in all of that silence and space, I would think of her.

What I didn’t know is that she would show up. In the form of a tree.

Mom’s favourite tree in the world was the one that sits in her front yard. It blooms every year for a limited time but when it does, it’s rich in pink, soft, exquisite blooms that fall to the ground and leaves bright colour scattered everywhere like an artist gone mad.

We were slowly ascending up a hill (no shit, it’s a mountain), and we turned on a switch back. Lucas saw it first and then I saw it. In the entirety of a forest, dressed in deep greens, ferns, and oak trees, there stood one single tree with pink blooms hugging every inch of branch. It was the only tree without green. The only tree that stood out, dressed in bright pink. The only tree that had well over 100 chick-a-dee like birds in it.

It sang! Oh, did this tree sing, with the lungs of these birds. The vision! The sound! It could not have been more perfectly planned than if it was put there by mom, herself. It had Deborah written all over it and it was like she was there to see me off on my first day.

Naturally, I climbed to the tree’s roots and put some of mom right there under her tree.

It was the only pink tree, in the entire forest and jungle that we came across on our ten day trek. It was the only tree with as many singing birds in it. It was her tree.


Like the tree, she came around in her own way (or is it my way of having her around?) on our second day of trekking. We had just crossed paths with a wild pony and was happily continuing on in the forest. The forest itself was magical in every sense of the word. You could feel every atom in your body tingle with how magic it was. Disney didn’t have shit on it.

Through the forest and out into an open field. The scenery hit me. I felt my body become rigid and I could only think of her and how she deserved this view, this experience. I was stricken with such sorrow in that moment, feeling angry and sad that she would never see what I could see, that I could never share this with her, that I could never bring her to this spot. I was filled with sorrow and stood heartbroken. 

The field was on an incline and at the bottom of a small hill I saw a rock and I pictured her sitting there, looking out towards the mountain edges. I pictured her there with her big, lopsided pointy tail, smiling. The grief started in my stomach and spread itself outward, touching every part of my body. I couldn’t hold it any longer and started to cry.


Now she can enjoy this view from her mossy rock.

I took the tiny container I carry her in out of my bag, held her in my hands and sobbed audibly on the top of this mountain. I held her tight as I marched down to the rocks I pictured her sitting on. I found some soft moss to sprinkle her on and and as I did, the familiar, crushing panic that wells up inside of me when I let the grief come too close, washed over me like a wave. I pictured her sitting there again and my cry become louder.

I slowly got up, closed the container and started walking back to my bag. I reached my bag, put her away and began to catch up with Lucas who was waiting for me just ahead. I was sobbing, and looking pathetic when, in true Deborah fashion, I slipped in a pile of wet mud and Yak shit and fell over right on my ass.

I howled! Here I am, bawling my eyes out, with a snotty, messy nose, on a Himalayan mountain, spreading my mom on moss, just covered in shit and mud. It was hysterical. What bellowed out of me was the hardest laugh I think I have ever had. What a pathetic sight I must have been to Lucas, to anyone who could have seen it. I sat there for a minute, trying to catch my breath from laughing with such fervour, thinking of how utterly silly this looked. I walked away laughing, just waiting for the shit and mud to dry so I could shake it off of my entire right side.

I am more like her than I every thought and if there’s such a thing as “watching over,” then we must have shared this joke. Perfection.

costa nova: you ran out of money, lucas ran out of breath, and we ran into annabelle

16 Oct

costa nova: the land of no money but lots of memories!

Portugal is incredible. You know what’s really incredible? Credit cards. You know what doesn’t always go hand-in-hand? Portugal and credit cards.


The day after Fernando and Carla’s beautiful family party, we got to the beach. What. A. Beach.  After swimming, suntanning and thanking whatever higher power we believe in (I’m still feeling this one out), we went for a walk and found ourselves sitting on a patio munching on some cheap eats. It was cheap! What’s the worry? They will take credit card. No? Ah, shoot, it’s all good, the ATM is attached to the restaurant we are eating at. Oh wait, what do you mean there is “no money left” in the ATM? Ah, right, there’s one down three blocks. Ok, good. Wait, excuse me? That one is empty too? Uh, how does that happen? All the money is just gone? Ok, ok, can you tell me where the next ATM is…? FOURTY MINUTE WALK. OUT. OF. TOWN?

This was at this point in the conversation that Lucas was having with a server that people, English speaking tourists, were starting to listen. This might be because they just happen to notice us or, oh, I don’t know, because Lucas was visibly and audibly annoyed. It happens. One sweet, younger couple offered to “lend us the money” to pay our bill. How would the logistics of that even work? We had to catch the bus back to where we came from whether we owed him and his honey or the restaurant, the money. We politely said “no thank you” like good little Canadians and I started to hide my total embarrassment behind a polite smile. Was I embarrassed of us? I don’t think so, we are sort of a crazy couple in public to begin with; we dance, we’re loud, we love out loud. I think I wasn’t comfortable with the language barrier we were facing and I do want people to know that we plan on paying for our food. I’m a planner. I have post-its. I plan. A-type. What?

Looking at the time we know that we 22 minutes until the last bus leaves Casa Nova to where we are staying. After discussing our various options (Hey! what a great place for our first dine-n-dash!), we speak to the people running the restaurant and they allowed us to leave  and go to the next ATM that might or might not have money and come back with the cash. Here is what happened:

We walked very quickly to the bus stop where we would need to catch our bus and I held the bags we had brought with us for the beach. Lucas then started running. And I mean running. He is gone in seconds and I can’t see him. I sit there basking in the sun trying not to look at my watch and concentrate on this woman who is standing at the pay phone with beautiful, curly hair and a sweet looking chocolate lab. Ah, I can’t handle it any longer! What does the watch say? Oh fuck. Ok, 15 minutes isn’t bad. He”ll be back.


So I started into a full sprint knowing that I only had 22 minutes which means I had 10 min to get to an ATM, 2 to get money out, and 10 to get back and that’s not even allowing  time to pay for the bill but that’s something I would worry about later by convincing the bus driver to wait for us while I pay the bill.

It is at this point that I realize that I’m grossly out of shape. I have been running for 30 seconds.

I am also realizing that flip flops are not an ideal choice for running shoes.

I stop, take off the flip flops and proceed to start running as fast as I can on the grass. What seems like eternity goes by. It’s been 3 minutes. I’m exhausted, my feet are sore, and I am now realizing that even if I were Ben Johnson I wouldn’t make this run. Plan B. I start throwing my thumb out while running in a full sprint. I am actually running along the side of the high way, no longer on the grass, while cars honk at me in aggravation. I’m a leaky, sweaty mess and no one is pulling over. Watch check: 15 minutes.

While sprinting, I contemplate that it is time to turn around, give up, and stiff the waiter. Fuck karma. Fuck the waiter. Then I think, that won’t fly, Tana is all about Karma. Time for plan C. That’s when I see a pair of hazard lights, a sweet Audi wagon, and a pretty, curvy Portuguese woman frantically waving at me to come to her car, “Hurry up and get in; we’re on the highway!” I learn that her name is Annabelle.

My first worlds are “I’m soaked in sweat. Should I get in the back?” Annabelle laughs, and says no, get in. I’m clearly going to like this woman. Over the next two minutes, she communicates that there are not enough nice Portuguese people and assumed that since I was running at such a frantic pace, I must be in need of something. I tell her the situation and that my girlfriend is waiting for me. She asked how much time we have left and off she goes at breakneck speed towards the nearest bank.

Time check: 13 minutes.

We arrived at the bank. I run across the street, almost getting run over excited that the mission might actually happen only to find that I need a bank card from that institution to get into the bank.

I look around, the streets are empty. Annabelle now gets out of her car and asked “What’s the problem Lucas?? I told her. “Ah fuck,” she says “we’ll get this.”

Between the two of us, we verbally harass the next 10 people who passed by, frantically asking in a combination is English, Portuguese and Spanish, if they are members of this bank and will they let us in?

A woman, who was more stunned than agreeable, hesitantly opens the door for us with her bank card and pretty much runs away once she does.

In and out money is had. Back in the car and off we race. Five to go.

While Annabelle is driving towards Tana, she explains her story of her very recent divorce, her lovely three children and her longing to travel. I explain where we are off to and how we have met such amazing Portuguese people not to be outdone by our host Fernando and Carla, she offers to drive us to their home.


Ok, we will have to just swallow this one and take a cab. It will be expensive but we are screwe…. why is Lucas in that car? With a Portuguese lady? Slowly waving to me? He just passed me. Am I missing something?

Alright. That was Lucas. He must have gotten a ride back to the restaurant. We might even make it ba… and there they are again.

“Get in! Hurry!”

I picked up our bags and I ran to the car. I would normally think this was much stranger than I did in this moment, but this has Lucas written all over it. I hear Annabelle as I run to the car, “You are indeed a lucky man.” This tells me that he wasn’t just picked up; they have been talking for a while.  I say hello and Lucas does the introductions the same way he did when I met his oldest friends.

I smile. “Annabelle, you must be sent from heaven because if you hadn’t picked him up, our day would look very, very different.” Listening to Annabelle, I too learned about her recent divorce, her new love, her children, her garden and her kittens. She found her kittens in the wild and brought them into her home. She said “I found my kittens the same way I found you.” I thought that was the best sentence I have ever heard. I also learned of the faith she has in God which is why she picked Lucas up. “God trusted people, so I do too.”

Annabelle drove us back to the place we were staying, got out to share hugs and good-byes and went on her way. I hope she realizes what a difference in our day she made.

“I found you the same way I found my kittens.” Cutest. sentence. ever. I adore you, Annabelle.

this story has a key message: a coruna

16 Oct
sailing on the Atlantic with Jordan and friends. uh, yes please

sailing on the Atlantic with Jordan and friends. uh, yes please

I like to think of it as Ahhhhhh, Corunaaaa…

This place is stocked with pathways for runners and walkers alike. It also has a Tapas section that consists of a three or four block radius where one can wonder and get lost amongst the restaurants in search of a good drink. Once you order one drink, magic shows up. For example, whenever I ordered a glass of wine, I received a piece of tortilla (Spanish omelet), or a piece of baguette with cheese, or some soup, or whatever delicious morsel those brilliant bartenders had behind the bar. Whatever it is, it is delightful and amazing. But this is not what stands out in A Coruna. It is the people and experiences that shine.

Jordan, oh sweet, hilarious Jordan. An Australian living in A Coruna for work. He’s a legend, really, and one of the best hosts from Couch Surfing that we have had the absolutely pleasure to be with. We immediately fell in love with him. I think he was taken back by my sense of humour at first, (we were on the ground, laughing in the hallway after one very inappropriate joke at one point) and I had fun listening to his rationalization of female and male relations. I must elaborate.

While we were sailing on the Atlantic ocean with Jordan and his friends, we all got into a discussion about woman and men. Spain is “machismo” in comparison to Canada and I was interested in this. As we discussed this, the topic naturally lead to sex as it’s always a favourite topic when comparing the two genders amongst adults. Now, before I tell you Jordan’s theory, for those of you who know me well, know that I have never shied away from calling myself a feminist. In fact, I find that too many women start sentences with “I’m not a feminist, but…” as if it’s some horrible label that they don’t want to be associated with. There is a spectrum of feminism: you have the woman who believe all sex is a form of rape, then you have others like me, who think that feminism means to understand where woman have been, are coming from, and where we still need to go, and there is everything in between. Not to devalue my perspective of feminism as it is much more than this but it’s not what this post is about.. it’s about the theory. Here we go with Jordan’s theory:

“It’s the lock and key theory.”


“Yeah, the lock and key theory or the master key theory.”

“Tell me more!  What is it? This ought to be good!” My head pops up from laying down on the boat as it sways back and forth in the  Spanish September sun so I can make eye contact with Jordan and the others.

“A lock that can be unlocked with any key isn’t a lock. It doesn’t work. It’s fucked. No one wants that lock if any key can unlike it, right?”

“….Go on….”

“But if you have a key that unlocks all locks, that’s just called the master key. It works on every lock and everyone wants it because they can unlock every single lock. A girl with a lock that any key can open? What good is that? But a guy with a dick… that’s just the master key and can unlock every lock. The lock, or girl, that any dick can unlock, it’s a broken lock.”

The word “broken” made the hairs on my neck stand up and made my muscles tense.

My head, that I had propped up to listen intently to Jordan’s theory flung back down and I could not hold in my laugh. We were all laughing. I can only speak for myself when I say that I wasn’t laughing because I believe this to be true, I was laughing because of the level of ridiculous this held and how I was already forming a dissertation length response on the societal double standards that women are held against. I didn’t respond with this though. I feel comfortable in my own feminism to the point where I do not feel the need to challenge every word that goes against it. I am learning, especially through travel, to appreciate and enjoy people regardless of different views or ideas. I don’t think I’m any less of a feminist because I laughed.  In fact, Jordan told me this theory with such a sense of puerility that I wanted us to put him on our pocket and keep him as a friend. He has this credulous sense about him that I can’t help but find wonderful.

Jordan created a space and an experience that allowed us to fall in love with A Coruna. He also allowed me to intrinsically challenge myself to see that I do not have to challenge every idea that goes against my stance on feminism. Now I must go to the locksmith; it turns out that I have lost the master key and my lock is, well, locked.


the feminist in my life. she taught me all i know, including that it’s ok to laugh through the ridiculous sometimes.

opinion impopulaire: c’est ok de ne pas aimer la ville de l’amour

1 Oct


Lucas and I decided to go to Paris. Ah, oui, ce Paris, the city of lights, la ville de l’amour, the city of the best baguette we have ever tasted.

When I think of Paris, I try to stray from the negative. I mean, the negative within myself. Then I think, no, fuck that, life isn’t alway positive. It’s ok to be down sometimes, as long as I can get myself out of it and see the positive sooner than later. Let that shit out. When I was working with Gilda’s Club, a non-profit in the cancer support community, we told people that it’s ok to say “cancer sucks!” because it does. The people living with cancer don’t always have to have a smile, a positive attitude.  It fucking sucks. And so did Paris.

Let me explain.

Upon arrival I felt like something was wrong. Paris just didn’t sit right in my tummy. No, it wasn’t the crack addict outside of our apartment, they don’t phase me. I got there and it was just like my brain hurt, a fog of, I don’t know how to put it into words, like looking through a foggy window after a shower or trying to run through glue.; it was difficult to see and it was difficult to move.  We were there in Paris,  but we weren’t doing Paris. On our first morning there I was sitting on a terrace and through talking with Lucas, I realized, this is all wrong because this is where my mom was going to meet us with Dan. Paris belonged to my Mom.

A little off topic, but this will relate, I promise. My mom loved Great Big Sea (GBS) and the last time I got to see her beautiful face was in Newfoundland to see them, a trip we took together. We have gone to a number of their concerts together. In fact, my first one was when I was in grade 5. I’m not 27 years old.  This summer I went to GBS for the first time without her to honour her, to remember her, to have a piece of her. My friend Tallie joined me and it turns out, Tallie might be the extent of what I enjoyed about the concert because it was Mom that made GBS what they are. Once GBC got on stage and started their set I thought damn, they are really off tonight. I kept running through what could be wrong; is the treble off? Is the mic not set right? Too much base? Too much lighting? Not enough? In the middle of ‘Consequence Fee,’ which, mom would always yell “This is my song!” I realized that is wasn’t a component of sound or light that was missing, it was Mom.  Paris was like a three day GBS concert.

My mom wanted to go to Paris. She wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower and kiss Dan, her husband, on the top. She was a romantic. The other thing she wanted to cross off of her list was to eat a crossant and drink an espresso on a sidewalk cafe.

I originally wanted to go to  Paris to honour her in a way. I wanted to and then I decided that I didn’t want to. It just didn’t feel right in my gut but when I told Lucas he said we should and that it’s important that we do “this.” Sometimes, believe it or not, your partner knows you a bit better than you know yourself. Lucas is good at this but this time “this” turned into a breakdown in front of the Eiffel Tower on our last night there.

We were walking around after dinner trying to find the “perfect” cafe to have a croissant and an espresso at with the Tower in our view but we couldn’t find the right one. So we began walking even further and looking for another spot, and another spot, and another spot. It was turing into something that it wasn’t supposed to turn into and it began to amplify the fact that mom wasn’t in Paris with us. It was amplified because I just kept wanting to ask her where she thought we should go. She wasn’t there to ask. Would she want a croissant at night? She wasn’t there to ask. Does it need to be in front of the Eiffel Tower? She wan’t there to ask. What about just a drink on the river? Would that be something she would want to do? She wasn’t there to ask. Can you imagine the pain, no, the anguish this would conjure up in someone’s heart? It’s unquestionably horrific.

Finally I just had to stop. I didn’t do it. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Oh, I honoured her, I sure did and there is a butterfly in a tree in a park above where I drank-of-the-bottle wine and cheese and baguette  to show for it.  I didn’t, however, try to recapture her image of Paris because it is with her, in her mind and in her spirit. It is not what is supposed to happen now.  Perhaps, one day,  but for now, it is not right.


grief is a leaky, sneaky bitch

9 Sep

1150790_10153148919135277_2074439964_nI am a part of a club where members want to give their membership back no matter what the penalty is for early cancellation. The grieving club is the worst; it’s not like one of those fancy golf clubs where you have attractive women drive up to you on the course and bring you beer. My club doesn’t have shiny toilets or a newly paved parking garage with valet. My club leaves its members with challenging life lessons, guilt, headaches and heart ache, and the task of finding the person you have lost, in a new way.

I know that grieving for a loss never ends.  Only recently have I learned that it morphs into different shapes and sizes depending on what is happening in my life and traveling has opened up a new kind of wound inside of me that I had no idea could exists: I relive her death again and again in the very first moments of the early mornings.

This is what happens: I wake up in a strange, beautiful place. The warmth from the Portuguese sun streams onto my bed from the window. The ray isn’t on me but, instead, lies beside me like a warm gentle presence that slowly coaxes me awake. I turn my head towards the window and look up to the sky because it’s blue and beautiful and happy. Then I experience that fleeting moment where I think to get ahold of her; to tell her where I am, that I am safe and that I can’t wait to see her in Paris. I become happy at the prospect of hearing her voice talk to me over the phone. Only after a slight, soft moment do I feel the heaviness and sorrow quickly weigh in on me. I get a feeling that starts in my very core and works its way upwards where my heart starts to pound while it sinks deep to the back of my chest. It’s a purging feeling that drains me and I have to realize, again and again, that I will never be able to phone her and hear her voice.

This, by far, is the hardest part of traveling.

can i get a valium, please?

5 Jun

Yes, drugs. Preferably a Valium. I would love to have my heart slow down just a little bit with three months until we take off into the abyss of far away lands. More specifically, I will be leaving for Toronto and Halifax in two weeks and at this point, there is much to get done and more so, much to purchase.

Ah yes, the term “purchase.” It’s been on my lips a lot lately and now I am starting to chew on it like a piece of Jerky – vegetarian Jerky, of course. I chew on it and then I swallow it  but what I would really like to do is spit it out. Let me explain.

I have purchased a 35 litre bag to travel the world with. Do you know what a 35 litre bag looks like? It is small. Think about a small backpack. Ok, you ready? Now imagine it smaller. That’s it. Now make it more narrow. Yeah, about that size.

Itty, bitty, baggy, committee. That would be mine on the left. Lucas' is on the right.

Itty, bitty, baggy, committee.
That would be mine on the left. Lucas’ is on the right.

So I have the bag.

Now, I have conversed with seasoned travellers. Word has it when one travels they learn that North Americans purchase and use too much. They return home with a fresh sense of consumerism, or lack there of, and realize that they don’t need to live with nearly as much as, say, I think I do.

Cute little flower the the deuter bags come with.  Free advertising. deuter, pay me.

Cute little flower the the deuter bags come with.
Free advertising. deuter, pay me.

Here is the struggle: I am also told that I need to purchase a number of items before the trip. I don’t think that I need that much.

I am worried that I will buy all of these random items that seem attractive now, but for what?  For example, new shoes (I have a pair that are just swell), or a day bag; can I use the one that I got for free at a conference? I mean, I understand that there are important things that I need to buy. For example, a camera, a rain jacket and of course, my shots.

The contradicting messages are throwing me off but I have my own ideas about this. For those of you who are familiar with my A-type personality, sit down.

This is one time that I get to just gather my stuff, go, and figure this shit out along the way.

I want to open my arms and hug the challenges that I will face. In fact, I want to invite them in, make them some tea and whisper sweet nothings into their ear.  If I stay in my preferred comfort zone, and purchase and plan this thing to death, I will forever be stagnant, surrounding myself with the comforts of North American convenience and I do not want that.

“Throw away the pen! Throw away the lists! Bring the old shoes! Forget the comfortable, multiple purchases!”

Every time my mom started the engine in our beloved van at the start of a road trip, she would turn to me and say, “If we forgot something, it must not have been that important!”

*I will never, ever throw away my lists. They are my life line. I was lying.