Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Place that will Always Feel like Home

This time four years ago I was preparing for our move to the West Coast from Toronto. I was excited, nervous, anxious and unsure about this big change that we were making. I knew that there would be adventures and struggles, and sure enough we got all of that and more. Way more than we ever could have bargained for.

March 25, 2012
The Lions Gate Bridge from Stanley Park during our first visit - March 2012

Making the choice to move across the country with a 9 month old was not easy. At the time I was excited to live somewhere new, especially somewhere as beautiful as BC. Neither of us had been to the west coast prior to our decision to move, but we knew we were in for wonderful things. What we didn't expect were the friends that we would make in our time here - only 4 short years. 

We met friends on the ball field (LOTS of friends) who filled our days with laughs and our summers and weekends with awesome adventures. We met friends in classes and at the farmer's market, and while in Mission we really made this place feel like home. We can go out to eat, be in the grocery store or at the farmers market on the weekend and our trips always take longer than planned because we run into a friendly face we want to catch up with. We will miss ALL of the faces and places that we have come to know so well.

China Beach - August 2014
A stroll on China Beach, Vancouver Island - August 2014

I will miss the snow capped mountains just outside of our front door, and being on the river in the summer with friends. I'll miss the drive to the dairy in the summer for ice cream with the family, and a winter that never really comes.

Family Day 2013
Taken during a BBQ on the beach in February 2013

The first year out here I really struggled. I felt so alone at home with a toddler, almost trapped some days with no one to talk to while Brett was at work. There were days that I cried and felt so lonely, but things began to change as we settled into a new home, in a new town and a new neighbourhood. I got involved with things that I loved and I met so many amazing people. All of this feels so hard to leave behind, but at the same time I know that this new adventure will bring us more wonderful things just like moving to BC did.

In four years we made the most of our time in BC. I look back on photos and can't believe all of the hikes we went on and the beautiful places that we had the opportunity to visit. I know we've barely scratched the surface, but that's only more reason for us to be back to visit... or possibly even live one day.

In my 30 years, I've learned that life will take unexpected twists and turns. You need to learn to roll with the punches and make the most of each and every situation. When the difficult strikes, we come together instead of letting it tear us apart and we try to look at the positives. We always try to find the positives and it helps us through those hard times. That's exactly what we've done. Brett losing his job was a big shock, but it was also an eye opener for us. We're ready for something more, even if it means leaving a lot behind. This isn't new to us, and together we'll go on an adventure of a lifetime.

June 29, 2013
Golden Ears Park - July 2013

As hard as it is to leave the home where Nolan was born, and all of our friends in this beautiful province, we have a wide open road ahead of us. To me, BC will always feel like home and we hope that one day we will return. It all depends on what road life will lead us down next. So as we drive away from our second home today, it's not "good-bye", it's "see you soon"!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings: The Emerald Isle

Last week was a little bit hectic as we were still working on getting the house emptied out. Looking back, it would have been ideal if I had shared this post last Wednesday. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, so instead you get our flashback to our trip to Dublin a week after St. Patrick's Day.

In 2009, Brett and I bought our first home together in Toronto, and I immediately started freaking out a little bit inside thinking I'd never get to do all of the travelling that I wanted. Brett was pretty sure travelling was not in the cards for us as well, so instead of just accepting this as fact I set out to book us a fabulous vacation within our budget... and I did. Only a few weeks after moving into our home, we booked a 5 day, 5 night escape to Dublin for only $1200 (American), and it included our flights, our hotel (which we upgraded to the better option) and daily breakfast. When I found the package and relayed it to Brett he didn't believe me at first, but when he saw it with his own eyes he immediately told me to book it. Then we had to wait 4 months.

The whole trip worked out perfectly, we flew in and out of Boston during our trip back to see Brett's family for Thanksgiving. Being able to fly out of Boston saved us a ton of money, but it also wasn't an added expense since we planned on being in the city already anyway. The only downside to the trip, was the horrible layover we had in Paris on our way there.

Dublin Trip 2009

It was a long wait for our connecting flight, which ended up being delayed even longer. After a rough flight into Dublin and then a long bus ride into the city we were thrilled to arrive in our cozy Hotel room. Though we were both jet lagged and feeling awful, we agreed the best thing to do would be to freshen up and do some light exploring by foot so we could get used to the time zone. 

We wandered around the city, and enjoyed a quick dinner before calling it an early night. We were both exhausted and wanted to be up early the following day to really make the most of our short time there. 

Dublin 2009

Dublin 2009

Dublin 2009

We lucked out on our first full day. Despite some cool weather (to be expected in Ireland in November), we had beautiful sunny blue skies. We started out wandering in the park next to St. Patrick's Cathedral, then headed to the Guinness Storehouse for some beer. 

Dublin 2009
Walking along the Liffey from our hotel

Dublin 2009

Dublin 2009

This was such a short trip to the city, so we stayed within the city limits, doing a lot of exploring by foot, and of course a lot of touristy stuff. One of the reasons I do enjoy some touristy things is buildings like Christchurch Cathedral. The architecture is beautiful and I love all of the detail in old buildings. 

Dublin 2009
An afternoon stroll at Christchurch Cathedral in the sun

Dublin 2009

Dublin 2009

Christchurch was definitely one of my favourite places to visit on this trip, as was Kilmainham Goal. Is it a pretty tourist thing to do? Yeah! But is the history and creepy factor totally worth it? Yup!

Dublin 2009

Dublin 2009

The Custom House was just the opposite side of the River Liffey from our hotel. It was beautiful during the day, but even more beautiful all lit up at night. The architecture was gorgeous and the detail up close was even better.

Yes, our Dublin trip was short and pretty touristy. We enjoyed the sites of the city, lots of good drinks and some good food along the way. It gave us just the right taste of Ireland to know that we definitely want to go back and see more outside of Dublin. One day, we will go back.

Have you been to Dublin before? Where should we visit the next time we're back? I'd love to go back with the kids and explore some of the sites outside of the city one day.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Affording a Life on The Road

These past two months of having Brett home with us have been beyond wonderful, and has led us to decide that we would love to be a full-time family. What does that mean? Well, it means the majority of time and focus for us will be on strengthening our family bond, and less time on the "rat race" we felt caught up in previously. Though I have been lucky enough to be a stay-at-home Mom since our daughter was born in 2011, Brett feels that he has missed out on a lot, so we are ready to shift our focus.

We feel that we are most definitely going into this new lifestyle prepared, however neither one of us have a definite plan for paid work at the moment. This means that over our next few months on the road we will need to stretch each and every dollar as best as we can. Here are some of the ways that we plan on affording our life on the road over the next few months:

1) Reducing What We Own: This one may be bigger than some realize. Not only will we not be faced with the cost of shipping furniture and other belongings across the country, but we are also making money selling our possessions. After two months of de-cluttering, we have rid our home of over a thousand items and we have made over $3,000! Plus, there's still more to sell before we leave in just over 2 weeks. 

Of course this money we make cannot all be viewed as cash in our pockets since we will have to furnish a home once we reach the east coast. Thankfully, we plan on having a much smaller house, and we also know we are quite capable of designing and building beautiful, functional furniture. Who knows, maybe our furniture building prowess will prove to be a money maker in our future. There's no one else I would rather work with than my handy husband!

Ross Lake - July 2015
We're no strangers to dry camping! Our first dry trip with our Boler was in July 2015 when Nolan was only 6 weeks old!

2)Boondocking/Dispersed Camping: Boondocking is a term used to describe backcountry or primitive camping, away from developed campgrounds and other campers. In the United States it's possible to camp for free in National Forests and land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This was actually something I only discovered a few weeks back as I was researching campsites along our west coast roadtrip route. Each forest has different rules and regulations for dispersed camping, so it's always important to take a look at those before you head out.

The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to dispersed camping is that services are not provided. No water, tables and often no toilets. For us this won't be a huge issue as we'll have the trailer and can bring our own water, we also won't stay in one spot longer than two days. It's also important to leave no trace - which means no destroying the forest or vegetation and cleaning up after yourself. Campers must leave these public spaces exactly how they were found. If you think you can handle this, it's the perfect way to make camping trips more affordable, and we look forward to trying our hand at it. 

3) Discount Camping Clubs: This was one of the first discounts I discovered for our travels. There are a number of clubs that you can join that give you up to 50% off campsites all over the US and Canada. Before signing up, check which campgrounds are included are in club so you can be sure you will maximize the money saved. Also, before you leave for your trip make sure you check the rules of each campground, as some will only allow the discount on certain days, seasons and lengths of time.

Discount Camping clubs can be extremely useful to travellers, just make sure that you do your research prior to joining to be sure you will save enough money to make your membership worthwhile. For us, we found Passport America will provide us the most useful discount during our months on the road. When we aren't dispersed camping, we should be able to save quite a bit of money with the campsites included in this program.

Camping August 2014
Brett and Halle cooking breakfast together at Juan de Fuca Provincial Park in August 2014

4) Meal Prep/Planning: This is something I have been trying to be better about the last couple of years, and I must admit it is a great way to save both money and time. By sitting down once or twice a week to plan out breakfast, lunch and dinners (and sometimes snacks as well) I'm able to come up with a concise list that keeps me from spending unnecessary money or wasting food. It also helps us to not end up in a situation where we are hungry and end up eating out since neither of us can be bothered to come up an idea and cook.

Having a plan for what we'll eat means I check our pantry/fridge first to see what we have to work with, and plan around that. My shopping list is then usually much smaller since I also try to choose meals that include some of the same ingredients. You may be surprised at how much money you can save just by taking a few extra minutes each week to lay out your meals for the days ahead.

We haven't even hit the road yet, but so far these are the ideas we have come up with to help us in our situation. In an ideal world we'd also have a solar set up for our rig, which would reduce our need for our batteries, and prolong the time that we could spend boondocking. We also hope to spend our time enjoying the free natural wonders that will surround us as we explore. 

What other ways have you saved money while travelling? We're open to suggestions that will aide us in making this journey as affordable as possible.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings: The Beaches in Tofino

Leaving BC this spring will be hard, especially with all of the wonderful friends that we have made here. It is not made any easier knowing that we have yet to see and do all that we'd like to. British Columbia is such a big, beautiful province and there is an endless list of places to visit and activities to take part in.

We did our best to see as much as possible in our 4 years here, and last summer I was thrilled to visit the #1 spot on my BC bucket list - Tofino. In August, we ventured to Vancouver Island to explore and camp in our 1979 Boler travel trailer. The first destination on that trip was Tofino, followed by an afternoon in Ucluelet. 

After a long day of travelling, we arrived at Crystal Cove campground for the night. While the rest of BC was under a campfire ban, this was not the case in Tofino as it sits in a fog zone. From the moment we arrived we could smell the campfires and could not wait to get our own roaring, with the firewood provided.

Our first full day in Tofino, Brett went off on a fishing trip while I stayed behind with the kids to play and explore.

Tofino - August 2015
Halle could've played all day here... and pretty much did. I enjoyed the free Starbucks coffee, while the baby napped in the carrier and my big girl played happily.

Tofino - August 2015

Tofino - August 2015

The resort was so kid friendly and Halle loved riding her bike around, especially when we rode it down to the beach. With the baby in the carrier I was able to play with her in the sand, but really enjoyed sitting and watching her run in and out of the waves, getting soaked and shrieking with excitement. She is so happy when we are out in nature and it makes me so anxious to begin our road trips in the trailer.

Tofino - August 2015

Tofino - August 2015

At every turn I was totally blown away by all of the natural beauty in Tofino. Whether it was sunny or foggy it was stunning - rugged rocks, crashing waves, lush trees. It felt like a dream come true finally sitting on these beaches and enjoying every second of it with my family.

Tofino - August 2015

Our second day in Tofino was a full family day. We spent most of the afternoon exploring the tiny town on foot, taking in the views and stopping into little shops along the way. We picked up a lovely kite for Halle in Mermaid Tales Bookshop and she could not get enough of flying it with Brett when we got back to the beach.

Tofino - August 2015

Tofino - August 2015

Tofino 2015

Tofino is totally the type of place you want to explore on foot. It is small and you'll miss everything if you just stay in your vehicle. Make sure to walk along the public docks to get some great views of the water, then explore the small shops and fantastic restaurants in town. One of my favourite places we stopped into was Eagle Aerie Gallery, which showcases the stunning work of Roy Henry Vickers. Brett and I love to collect artwork as a memento from our travels, so of course we had to grab a reproduction piece from the gallery to remind us of our time in Tofino.

Tofino - August 2015

Tofino 2015

The next morning we packed up, ready to head on to our next destination. As we headed down the road, away from Tofino we decided to make a stop in Ucluelet for lunch and to take in the views. While the restaurants were nothing compared to the food we ate in Tofino, it was the beach that we spent the afternoon on that made that stop worthwhile. 

Ucluelet - August 2015

The sky was clear, and the beach was small but other people were gathering to enjoy the beautiful day. Behind us a wedding was setting up, and I knew there could be no better location (or day) for two people to start the rest of their lives together. Imagine the photos from that wedding?

Ucluelet - August 2015

Ucluelet - August 2015

Ucluelet - August 2015

As we headed back to the trailer, we came across a friend in the parking lot. A lone deer, searching for food. We stood very still and watched as he calmly strolled past us. 

Ucluelet - August 2015

My favourite memories though, remain the moments we spent playing on those stunning sandy beaches. Halle's squeals of delight and the crashing waves, while Nolan slept on my chest. These are the moments we live for, and these are the moments I feel most alive. I hope that in some way she has at least small memories of these travels, because as great as photos are it's the feelings you have when you spend time together that are the most special.

I'm really looking forward to more barefoot, messy sand adventures in the months ahead.

Monday, March 7, 2016

On Big Life Changes

Am I making this sound easy? Just sell all our stuff, move into a trailer and travel for a while... then move to the other side of the country. Piece of cake, right? Well, not so much. This whole process, while extremely liberating, exciting and freeing, has been equal parts scary, emotional and stressful. Many nights I lay awake wondering if we're doing the right thing, if we will miss our life here and all of those other late night nagging thoughts. This sh*t is hard! Excuse the language.

While we are crazy busy finalizing plans and downsizing, I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Once everything is done here, we will be out there exploring and spending more time together doing the things that we want. Today's post is a little more personal, giving you a bit more insight into some of the crazy and emotional thoughts running through my head recently. 

Are we doing the right thing? Well, YES! Of course we think we are. A couple of years ago, Brett's sister came to visit and told us she was thinking of quitting her job to go back to school. Her decision would bring her and her fiance to the opposite side of the country and be a huge life change. We cheered her on, encouraged her and told her that sometimes you just need to let go and trust it will all work out. Now we find ourselves taking our own advice. While we have done a lot to prepare for this new chapter in our lives, there is still so much left to do and there are a ton of unknowns in the months ahead. Despite the stresses, I keep reminding myself the most important thing is that we will all be together, and we have friends and family who support us in what we are doing.

March 22, 2012
Our very first visit to Vancouver in March 2012 to find a home

I often remind myself that only four short years ago we were just visiting British Columbia for the first time. Back then I was thrilled that our little family would have the opportunity to live in and explore one of Canada's most beautiful provinces. At the same time, in the back of my mind I was terrified of this big change. We were leaving behind our families and friends to move to the opposite side of the country, and we had no idea if we'd like it. When we arrived, we did our best to embrace it. We met so many wonderful people, went on fantastic adventures and made the most of our time out here, rain or shine. We learned that change is hard and scary, but so worth it. We also learned that going into something with a positive attitude and outlook can drastically effect the outcome of any situation. So this is exactly how we will move forward on our new adventures.

Will we miss our life here? OF COURSE! I bring myself to the brink of tears almost daily thinking about the friends we are leaving behind and all of the things we still want to do. We didn't build our life here overnight. It took a long time to make this place feel like home, and we are surrounded by some seriously awesome friends that have become our family. I will miss them dearly, but they are also the best reasons for us to come back and visit as often as possible.

July 26, 2012
July 2012 - our first trip to Vancouver Island with our friends who we now consider family

Each night as I snuggle the kids to sleep, I look around whichever bedroom I am in and think of all of the wonderful family moments we have shared here and my heart aches a little. I know at the end of the day a home is strictly bricks and mortar, and it's the people and memories we make that truly matter. Saying good-bye is never easy, and leaving this home where Halle grew into a little woman and where Nolan was born, will not be easy.

The hardest part by far is knowing that Halle struggles with it. We're doing our best to keep communication open with her, while not burdening her with unnecessary details or worry. We stay positive when we discuss it with her or in front of her, and she's enjoyed things like picking out our new truck and trailer. But still, she'll frequently approach us out of the blue, with a tinge of anxiety in her voice and announce, "I need Mama/Dada snuggles" and we know that she's feeling nervous or anxious about what is to come.

Family Photos - Oct 2015

We talk about how we will miss our friends and our home, but we will visit and we will make new friends. She knows that we'll have a new house with lots of space to run and play and she'll get to help us decorate her new bedroom... she may also get a cat. I am most reassured when I think about how much she loves travelling, nature and adventure, and how she will flourish with all of these new experiences.

As much as we are about to set out on an adventure we have always dreamed of, I am still feeling small bits of worry along the way. It won't always be easy, but I know deep down it will most definitely be worth it.