Making Sense of My Sense of Adventure

Sense of AdventureI know I had a pretty good childhood with very loving parents who wanted to provide for me as best as they could and  that they did.  But sometimes I felt I missed out on certain things in my childhood. Things that many of you probably took for granted.  Although loving, my parents were also very overprotective of their first-born daughter, especially my dad. I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepover parties for quite some time. I was only allowed to sleep over at my cousin’s because they knew her parents. Initially I had to have a chaperone at birthday parties. I wasn’t enrolled in organized sports because they were considered “dangerous”. I dabbled in various different sports in high school, but never found a particular sport that I could focus on in excelling in. I often wonder if I would have been a decent soccer/basketball/volleyball/tennis, etc player if I had started playing any one of those sports at an early age. Instead, I joined the dance team, student council and the student newspaper to improve my chances of getting a scholarship.

I was enrolled in things such as piano (which I hated), dance classes (jazz I liked, ballet I HATED) and enrichment math classes (definitely hated that too). I had to beg my parents to let me go on a week-long high school trip.  I had to beg my parents to let me go clubbing. I didn’t  have the guts to sneak out.  So it was quite apparent that I needed to go away to university. Of course my parents suggested local universities and disagreed with me applying to universities that were more than a 3 hour drive away. So we settled on a university that was an hour away. Far enough to be away from my parents, but close enough to come home on the weekends for groceries and laundry. This was the first adventure for me.

Living on your own in residence, being away from home and friends, juggling a demanding workload in a tough program, trying to make new friends- eventually it all got to me. As many frosh had experienced, university life was a huge adjustment. First year was a big adventure I did not end up conquering. I ended up switching programs, having to start over and make new friends, which I was never really good at in the first place. Eventually, everything did end up working itself out. I adjusted to student life, made a great group of friends and enjoyed my program.

My bf lived a completely different life. He grew up with pretty laid back parents who let him do whatever he wanted. He played organized sports and did all the things that most kids were allowed to do. Sleepovers and birthday parties were never questioned. He was so comfortable that he lived at home while he went to a local university. I hate to say it, but he had the childhood I wanted. I actually envied him for being able to have so much freedom at such a young age.

When we talk about  how we each grew up (and not too far from each other either), my bf says he felt he got all his sense for adventure out of his system at an early age.  I believe it had a lot to do with our individual upbringing and the fact that I was the first born daughter.  But also we are of different cultures. His dad grew up in Canada and his mom’s family has lived in Canada for several generations.  Now that I am an adult, I almost feel I have to make up for lost time. Do the things that I never got to do as a kid and more.  I constantly want to try new things and go to different places. Where has this sense of adventure taken me? Backpacking in Europe, treetop trekking and ziplining,white water rafting, surfing, mountain biking in Whistler, glacier hiking, portaging, rappelling off a cliff  and  eventually hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Every time I tell my parents I’m doing these things, they still say its dangerous. But life can get boring if you always play it safe and don’t tap into your sense of adventure.


Does “Glamping” defeat the purpose of camping?

What is glampingAs much as I consider myself to be an active and somewhat adventurous person, I don’t think I can consider myself outdoorsy. My parents were not outdoorsy people, thus I did not have a lot exposure to the great outdoors until I was a young adult in my early 20s. That may seem quite shocking, considering I live in a country (Canada) where it is known for its beautiful landscape. Who wouldn’t want to experience what the national and provincial parks had to offer? Well, my parents. The idea of sleeping outdoors and cooking outdoors never really appealed to them. It seemed like hard work. (When you really think about it, it is! But if you really enjoy doing that stuff, then it probably doesn’t seem like work to you). I often wondered if this reminded them more of their childhood and they saw it more as a chore, rather than a fun experience.

I have gone camping on several occasions, ranging from car camping to backcountry camping/ portaging for four days in one of the largest provincial parks. For those of you who are unfamiliar with portaging, it is the method of hauling your water craft (such as a canoe) and equipment ( food, clothes, water, tent, cooking gear, and the list goes on) over land between two bodies of water. My ex and I would canoe for 3-4 hours each day and carry our canoe and cargo to our campsite and set up.

Was it an amazing experience? Absolutely. The water was so clean, calm and peaceful.  It was just us and the sights and sounds of nature. We didn’t encounter any bears, thankfully, but still put our food in a bag and tied it up in a tree, away from our campsite.   Imagine being able to seeing a night sky full of stars and city noise pollution being a million miles away.

Would I do it again? It’s a definite no. Why? If you think plain old car camping is a lot of work, then backcountry camping and portaging is not for you. It helps to be in somewhat good physical shape, since you are constantly hauling gear and paddling to your campsite. There were no garbage cans at the sites. We had to bring EVERYTHING with us. Getting to your campsite to set up before dark is everyone’s goal. But just imagine trying to PADDLE to your campsite before dark.  I went portaging several years before I was fit, but even now I still wouldn’t do it again. It was just one of those, I’ll try it once, to experience it and say I did it.

So you must have already figured out now that I’m not too fond of camping. I do appreciate the scenery though. I just can’t sleep properly in our big comfy king sized bed, let alone sleep in a sleeping bag with the sleeping mat. Mosquitoes LOVE me, I mean REALLY love me. Just how caffeine doesn’t seem to keep me awake, bug spray does not seem to work on me either.

I do appreciate the fact that camping is a frugal and fun (for some people) form of vacation. That is one of the reasons why my bf and I did it during our East Coast trip, to save money on accommodations.  However, “glamping” is a not so frugal form of vacation. Glamping is one of those new words that you’ll hear and have to look up on urban dictionary. It is a fusion of the words glamourous and camping. Glamping is luxury camping.

This is how defines glamping:

“Recently, a global trend has caught fire that offers outdoor enthusiasts an upgrade on rest and recreation. It’s called glamping, a new word for a new kind of travel, defined as glamorous camping. When you’re glamping, there’s no tent to pitch, no sleeping bag to unroll, no fire to build. Whether in a tent, yurt, airstream, hut, villa or treehouse, glamping is a way to experience the great outdoors without sacrificing luxury.”

So you’re not sacrificing luxury, but from what  it seems, you may be sacrificing your wallet. This is an extreme case: the  Four Seasons Tented Camp in Thailand goes for $1729 USD/per night.  Whereas a yurt rental in California goes for $145/night. Might as well get a hotel room. Does an actual bed in a tent seem ironic? Or just plain weird?  One would think that because I am an odd person who likes experience adventure, but hates rolling up sleeping bags, glamping would be perfect for me. Probably, but the frugal side of me doesn’t seem to think so. I almost feel like it defeats the purpose of really experiencing camping. Call me crazy, but I like to experience things in an “authentic” way. I like to think of myself as more of a traveller, than a tourist.

Perhaps glamping is only meant for extremely wealthy people or celebrities, because they are perceived to be high-maintenance (Hello, J. Lo).

What are your thoughts on camping and “glamping”?

Haggling To Get the Best Deal

“What do you think of when you first hear the word haggling? Do you imagine yourself at a flea market browsing the aisles for antiques? Or do you picture a garage sale with people looking through old boxes and milk crates full of odds and ends?

Most of my haggling has been done overseas while on vacation in a foreign country.

I absolutely love going to their local markets or even vendors on the side of the road and checking out their handicrafts. Locals know you’re a tourist and assume you have lots of money. In my experience, when I ask how much, I find they’ll often offer me a price which is pretty high (It helps to know the conversion rate to see if you’re being ripped off, as well as a bit of the language so you can ask how much and say things like too expensive).  And so begins the battle of bargaining, naming prices back and forth until either you’re satisfied or you walk away in search of a better bargain.”

Read more about my thoughts on haggling @ Suburban Finance.



All Aboard the Inca Trail Express- Part II

Ok folks, this will be the last travel post for a while and I’ll get back to the usual random stuff. :)

So to continue from the tough second day hike, that was a 10 hr hike that just about killed me. By the time, I reached the campsite, I had barely enough energy to sit and eat my dinner. All I could think about was passing out. And that I did. But then I woke up in the middle of the night to unzip my mummy sleeping bag, which can be insanely warm, only to find the zipper was stuck. I ended up being somewhat cold throughout the night, which really sucks when you’re trying to sleep.

Day 3 was a much more enjoyable hike. For one it was shorter and two it was less steep and the terrain wasn’t as gruelling as the day before. We got to see some llamas/alpacas (Does anyone know the difference between the two? They look all the same to me) up close, which was cool, but didn’t get too close, because apparently they kick and spit. Just like camels.

Day 4 was the final stretch of the hike, the one that led us to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. We woke up at 4:00 am to line up to the entrance to the final part of the hike. There were already quite a few hikers waiting in line. The estimated wait time at the gate was about half an hour. And then off we went! In the beginning it was rainy. So being cold, sweaty and wet was not a pleasant feeling, but I was determined to get there. It’s as if I got my third wind and all I could think about was reaching the end point. Remember I mentioned a long rocky path, I forgot to mention that the walking sticks came in handy, especially for us vertically challenged folk (I’m only 5″2). Well for the final day of our hike, this long rocky path got very narrow and slippery and had a sudden drop off. There were no safety nets, harnesses or ropes.  How many times did I have to force myself to look ahead than look down and keep telling myself, ” Don’t look down. DON’T look down. DON’T LOOK DOWN!!!” After sh*tting my pants while hiking the final stretch, I finally made it!

Rather than being able to rest right off the bat, our tour guide was taking us up and down and all over the city. I honestly thought my legs would suddenly stop functioning and turn to jell-o. All I could think right then and there was food and a hot shower, two things we constantly take for granted.  So as you know, I made it back  home alive and in one piece with about 20 Peruvian mosquito bites, a bad cold and the feeling of accomplishment.

Inca Trail


All Aboard The Inca Trail Express- Part I

The Inca TrailThe bus left the hostel at 7 am to take us to the area where the porters were busy organizing our gear and duffel bags. They also had snacks available for us to take for the hike such as juice boxes, oranges, apples, bananas, and cookies. This was our only chance to get the snacks, so I think out of worry of getting hungry on the trail, I overpacked on the snacks, which weighed me down a bit and tired me out quicker than I expected.  We hiked over to the 82 km (yes, we hiked a hard 82 km in four days) starting point at the Inca Trail. I was full of positive thoughts and determination so far. We waved to passengers on the train to Machu Picchu. We all thought they were lazy. I’m sure the passengers all thought we were crazy.

This first stretch of the trail was our training day trail, to get us used to the long days of hiking, get a rhythm going. Aside from our own personal breaks, we did have some rest areas at certain areas in between, but sometimes I felt the breaks weren’t that long enough. There were even a few little stands at the beginning of the hike where you could buy Gatorade, water and various snacks to replenish your supply. What was really rewarding was reaching the campsites. It is absolutely amazing what the porters and the cooks can do so high up in the mountain.  Imagine carrying all that heavy equipment and having to set up tents and cook a fabulous meal for 17 people. We’re not talking just franks and beans here.  Some examples of what we ate for breakfast: crepes, toast, eggs, sausage. Lunch and dinners consisted of pasta, turkey legs, fried rice, just normal food you would eat at a restaurant.  One of the hikers celebrated her birthday during the hike, so the head cook  BAKED a cake for her. I wonder what kind of special Peruvian easy bake oven does that!

The second day was the most challenging day of the hike. This was where you really had to test your mental, physical and emotional strength. The summit was at 4200m, for those of you who use the imperial system, this translates to a whopping 13,778 ft. Say what?!?!! I was still tired from the 6 hr hike the first day, so imagine doing an 8-10 hr hike,  where the majority is a STEEP, UPHILL climb and other parts being very rocky. I would go uphill for a bit, take a break at a flat portion to catch my breath, go again for another bit and take another break, etc. I would get to what I thought was the top, go around the bend, only to find that there was another hill,  waiting for me that was even steeper. It was almost as it was laughing at me saying, you thought you were done? Yeah right! This is where the mental toughness came in. At times, it was best to not look what was up ahead because I would automatically think, that’s impossible, how the “beep beep beep beep” am I supposed to hike that. I had to break it down into chunks and focus on what was just in front of me, not several metres ahead. Even after taking some of the weight out of my backpack the night before, it still felt like a ton of bricks. Everything feels like a ton of bricks when you’re exhausted.

As I mentioned before, the weather changed constantly and your best bet was to dress in layers, in breathable and waterproof clothing.  I would get sweaty from hiking, but as I continued to hike higher up, it became much colder, to the point where I had to put on a toque and gloves. The great thing about hiking in a group was like it was sort of like running a marathon (which I have never done). You feel like you can’t go on, you feel like you’re going to die, but then you eventually see the summit and people are at the top screaming your name and cheering for you.You’re sweaty, cold, exhausted, your heart is racing, you can barely move your limbs, a little light headed. But somehow, because of all that screaming, it gave me that extra push I desperately needed to make it to the top. When I got up there, I thought OMG. I can’t believe I did that. It’s such an amazing feeling and I was just overcome with all these emotions. I took it all in, and then took a look at the really rocky downhill path to our lunch campsite. Insert another swear word here.

Are you afraid of heights? Have you conquered that fear? Do you have any other fears? (Me: scary movies, snakes, and spiders are just a few)

 Inca Trail The Inca Trail