Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cambridge Bay

Do you have a bucket list that you're systematically working through?

Cambridge Bay

I believe it's incredibly important - no matter what your age is - that you have dreams and aspirations and a bucket list of must-see or must-do items to keep you inspired and to broaden your mind.

The cliche, all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy, is never more appropriate than now. Life is passing you by but it's your choice as to whether you will continue to ride the wave, or hop off and partake in the pleasures our planet has to offer.

One of my fondest memories is of a trip I did to Cambridge Bay, which is situated up in far northern Canada in the Nunavut province.  Cambridge Bay has a community of about 1400 people, of which the vast majority are Inuit.

The people

Elders teaching the youth tribal dancing
The Inuit are an amazing group of open and friendly people, with a great outlook and fantastic personalities.  They are quick humoured and wonderful hunter gatherers.

Their lifestyle is generally filled with adventure and one can easily see their love for their land and why.

The Elders are a great example to the younger generation by passing down stories from generation to generation.

They don their tribal suits and dance out stories, teaching their youngsters what it was like in their generation, showing them how they used to hunt,  and teaching them to play the traditional tribal drum. They also teach them to throat singing, to name only a few.

The Landscape

Remarkably, Cambridge Bay is the largest stop over for passenger and research vessels.  These vessels travel up the Northwest Passage - a disputed area since the Canadian government claim these waters to be Canadian Internal Waters, while others claim that they are either international waters or territorial waters.

Wild flowers
There is no doubt that Cambridge Bay is a huge attraction for tourists and visitors alike.  The surrounding landscape is filled with beautiful low lying wild flowers in summer.  These flowers carpet the ground and are a marvellous contrast against the ochre stone beaches and calm waters of the ocean.

When riding around on a quad bike one can smell a hint of perfume from all the flowers, and a hint of drying fish, since some of the fishermen fillet their Char and hang them outside to dry - a wonderful treat for the long cold and dark winter months.  The ocean air is crisp and clean.

Cambridge Bay is surrounded by landmarks, which include Mount Pelly, Lady Pelly, The Augustus Hills and many lakes.  You will find that many of the locals own cabins outside of the town for an escape over the weekend or 24 hour summer days.

The Attraction
Arctic Char drying on racks
Undoubtedly, one of the best attractions is fishing.  It is essential when visiting to try your hand at fishing for Arctic Char, however if you are not successful at catching any, the local fish processing plant sells them direct to the public.  In Inuit, Cambridge Bay is known as Iqaluktuttiaq,  which means good fishing place.  In addition to fishing there is a considerable amount of wildlife, from Musk-ox, Caribou, Fox, Arctic Hare, and a wide variety of birdlife and ducks.

Feet in the ocean, and feeling the almighty cold!

The accommodations include, The Green Row, The Green Row Executive Suites and the Arctic Island Lodge.  All are neat, clean and comfortable to stay in.

In summer, the community hosts a music festival which concentrates on local northern and contemporary music.

If you've never put your feet in the Arctic Sea, now is the perfect time to do so.  How many people can boast that achievement?

For more information and the history of how Cambridge Bay came about, visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Bay

Of course if you wish to comment or ask for more information, please leave a comment.

~  Vanessa

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 Important Safety and Comfort Tips While Traveling

Whether one travels a lot or only on a one off occasion, your personal safety and the safety of your belongings is very important. Over the years I've taken a lot of caution - especially when I travel alone, nothing raises alarm bells quite like a vulnerable traveler so I've compiled my own list of the 10 most important safety tips whilst traveling.

Here they are:

1. Less is more. While everyone would love to travel with a huge wad of cash in their back pockets, the reality now days is that we simply no longer can. The risk of carrying large amounts of cash is high and if a would-be thief spots that bulge in your pocket he or she will become aroused and excited (not in the way you would imagine), and your hard earned cash will find its way to the big spenders hands.

2. Passports. When traveling abroad, there's not too many times after one has arrived in ones destination that one would need to produce that passport again. With the exception of duty-free shopping, renting a car or checking into a hotel, your passport serves no other purpose, so protect it. There's no need to carry it around with you and if it's not on your person, chances are you won't lose it. Take an extra set of passport photos along with you and a copy of your passports information page in the event that it is lost or stolen, this will make replacement far easier. If possible join up with a Smart Traveler Program.

3. The Safe. Most hotels or motels provide a safe in their rooms for their patrons and if your room isn't equipped with a safe, one can ask the concierge if they have a guest safe in the complex. Use it. It will take no more than 5 minutes to set up the password and this will give you peace of mind that your documents will remain safe while you catch up on some site-seeing.

4. Separation. There is no need to carry all your credit cards, cash and travelers cheques with you wherever you go. If your purse or wallet are stolen, all your money will be stolen too. A friend of mine once saved all his money for a once in a lifetime vacation to the US. Shortly after he arrived, his man bag was stolen along with cash, cards, passport and mobile phone.

To add insult to injury, his itinerary was also in the man bag and he had no idea of where he was going to next. With a rental car booked, he was unable to collect it, pay for it or prove that he had a drivers license. His vacation was booked for two weeks and it took in excess of 10 days to get replacement cards and an authority to travel back to his home country after his passport was stolen. As you can imagine, this was not the vacation he had envisaged for himself and the whole experience left a bad taste in his mouth. When asked what he would have done differently if given the opportunity again, he said he would never have carried all his valuables together at once. He had looked at the safe in his hotel room after he checked in but in a split second had decided that he didn't need it.

5. Personal Behavior. When traveling abroad, there are certain personal rules I adhere to. I never wear all my jewelry, especially not any expensive pieces. Nothing screams "I have money, target me!" quite like a tourist dripping in gold and diamonds, carrying a camera and a map book. Whilst one may feel good in expensive jewelry, it's certainly not worth it in the long run if you are mugged and robbed.

6. Eat and be Merry. When traveling on my own I very seldom go out to a restaurant for a meal and I certainly avoid pubs at night. I find it far safer to have my main meal at lunch time and sometimes fancy restaurants open their doors early enough for me to have a good meal before the crowds arrive. Your safety abroad is important, so work your schedule around the times that best suite you and don't compromise your safety at any time.

7. Lite and Easy. Travel lite. There's nothing worse than carrying a heavy laptop with you wherever you go. It will become a noose around your neck and the bain of your trip. With today's technology and the ability to travel with an iPad, there's no excuse for being uncomfortable. Ditch the heavy cameras too! Unless you are a photographer on a special assignment, a small camera will capture your memories more adequately than having to lug a big camera and all the lenses you might require for a day out.

8. To inoculate or not. It's great not to have to go under the needle, but when traveling to a destination that you've not been to before make sure your inoculations are up to date. If you have not done this, be careful of drinking the local water, I can't emphasize enough how important this is. Drink bottled water and be cautious when ordering coffee or tea or any beverages made with local water. One can hardly claim to have been extremely cautious when one has omitted to think of all the things we take for granted that contain water. Stomach bugs are so easy to pick up when traveling and can completely ruin a good vacation.

9. Medications and Drugs. Drugs? Seriously, are you that stupid? Medications should be kept in their original packaging in the event that customs have any issues with them. If you're intent on taking your recreational drugs on vacation with you, may I suggest you get a letter from you doctor either stating that you are a basket case and need to take them for your sanity or stating that you are aware of the consequences and ready to face the music when you're found out. Honestly, need I say any more?

10. When walking alone at night, avoid dark alleyways and quiet streets. Stay where the crowds are but avoid riots and processions. Use common sense and don't do anything you wouldn't normally do. Take a few minutes to research the safety of the country you are visiting and take heed of the warnings.

Safe and happy travels.

~ Vanessa

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Comfort while Traveling Abroad

 I've been traveling abroad for many years so think I understand how to travel by now. Light and comfortable is the only way! But initially this wasn't the case, I had to learn the hard way and I'm sure I'm not the only one with some herculean travel stories!

Many years ago I travelled to Hawaii on vacation. This was my maiden vacation taken on my own and one of the first trips of many to come. My idea was to take my camera, travel light and explore the entire Kauai island.

My excitement was overwhelming. Not only did I have to control this excitement but I had to stay focused enough to control my own packing. A ten day trip means day wear for ten days, night wear for nine nights, undies, extras - just in case you spill your early morning coffee or your verjus in the evening, right? And shoes!

So why did I have the biggest suitcase in the airport? And why did I feel so overdressed?

I've always been amused when I see travelers wearing designers clothes and shoes ready for the catwalk about to board a plane, and seriously? I have to admit I've been there, although in all honesty I've never flown in high heel shoes.

I had decided all on my own that I was going to wear my most comfortable clothing on the plane; so jeans it was, a beautifully tailored blouse and my Burberry coat. Now that's what I call comfort! A couple of days prior to my trip I had bought myself the most gorgeous pair of leather boots, so I donned on those too.

When I bought my boots they were a little tight, but of course I was not concerned at all because leather stretches. I also didn't get the boots with a zipper on the side because I liked the idea of an all enclosed boot and a snug fit.

When I sat down on my seat in the plane, I realized that perhaps my clothing wasn't the most comfortable after all. The jeans felt tight around my belly and the button felt like it was boring it's way down to my spine. My beautifully tailored blouse twisted around my waist and I began to feel restricted. My designer coat felt tight on my arms and made me feel like I was wearing a straight jacket.

The only thing that seemed to work for me was my awesome boots, not that anyone could see how awesome they were because the seat I was sitting in was so small and leg room was so scarce that my boots were touching the person in front of my seats feet.

By the time the plane landed in Honolulu airport I was feeling tired and frustrated with trying to maneuver myself around to get comfortable. I had half an hour to get through customs and to catch my connecting flight so started to feel a little anxious.

When I arrived at customs, the line was so long that I knew it would take a few hours to get through so I pushed my way forward, telling people I was about to miss my connecting flight. No one really seemed to care about my dilemma, especially the security guard at the front of the queue who immediately grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and sent me back to the end of the line. I had tried to explain that my flight connection was about to take off, but she was adamant that I get to the back. I did not argue besides, the security guard was a big fat mamma and I had no chance at winning an argument with her.

I think that was when I experienced my very first hot flash! I know 24 is young, but if you were in my shoes you'd understand entirely.

By the time I had reached the customs counter I was well aware that my flight had left without me and I was beyond despair. I collected my luggage and had to go through security again, which was so annoying and such a waste of time.

The first time I went through, the light lit up and the bell chimed in annoyance at my attempt to fool it. I had to remove some items of jewelry. The second time I went through the same thing happened. This time I was ordered to take off my boots. I was exuberantly unrestrained, this was the perfect time to show off my awesome boots, and believe me, by now all eyes were on those beauties!

I bent down to remove the boots and then realized that while on my 13 hour flight, my feet had swelled up slightly and suddenly removing my boots had become impossible. People behind me started to become annoyed at my slowness and started telling me to hurry up but I struggled.

Eventually I sat on the floor trying to pull my awesome boots off but still couldn't get them off. I asked the man behind me to help me out and his look of disgust was all I needed to know he would never lend a hand. I asked the security guards for a hand but they all shook their heads.

It took me about 10 minutes to get the boots off and when I finally cleared security, I couldn't get them back on! My awesome boots became my nightmare boots and I decided to carry them in my hands instead.

I had missed my connecting flight, but apparently this happens all the time, so I was swiftly wait listed for a future plane.

I still have those horrendous boots as a reminder of how not to fly. I've never worn them again though.

My lessons learnt were:

1. There is no need for fresh clothes for every day. A good pair of blue jeans goes a long way.
2. Track-suite pants are excellent when traveling for more than 5 hours.
3. If your shoes aren't comfortable, chances are you won't wear them.
4. Seriously, do you need a fresh blouse/shirt for every day or can you hand wash them?
5. By my calculations, undies are the most important item. They are small, travel well and take up very little room.
6. Large suitcases are such a problem when traveling. Once you get to your destination, don't forget you have to lug that bag with you wherever you go. In Europe, some hotel rooms are so small you'd be lucky to get a suitcase in the elevator - and that's before you've even got to your room!

If your maiden trip is a pleasurable one, chances are you'll be willing to travel again, however if it becomes a nightmare, you are less likely to want to do it again soon. Traveling light is paramount to a successful trip.

Bon Voyage.

~ Vanessa

Friday, August 12, 2011

How are you doing?

When last did you stop to think about how on track you are with your life?  Is this something you regularly do, or hardly ever do?

When we are kids growing up, we always have these childish dreams about what we want to become when we grow up.  My dreams were varied.  Firstly, I wanted to become an airhostess, but I wasn’t tall enough.  Then I considered nursing, but realized that I didn’t really like the thought of cleaning up after someone else.

I considered horticulture, until I worked at a nursery with a German owner who clearly had no regard for people and especially not the people who worked for him!

I had a natural listening ear with a calming temperament (or so many people told me) and with that, decided to study psychology.  Of course this was not easy initially.  I had to confront a whole lot of my own personal demons before I could progress in my studies.  I became angry about opportunities I felt I never had when I was a kid.  I realized that I carried a lot of grudges and hurt from my past and mostly; I realized that before I could develop as an individual I had to forgive people.

I always thought that forgiveness was a religious thing and could never quite figure it out.  I would go through stages where I felt that I was able to forgive someone but then I knew I could never forget the injustice they had caused and would vow to secretly pay them back one day or hope that what goes around, comes around.

After qualifying, I opened up my own private practice and after a while took all my work online – I was one of the first people in Australia to do so and was amazed at how much the online world needed me.  Life was and still is great.

After a number of years, I decided to further my studies and took up an education in Freelance Journalism.  While still studying, I was fortunate enough to purchase my own newspaper business.  Whilst I was never a Rupert Murdock (neither as wealthy nor as ruthless), I loved the business and took it to a new level by cutting costs and increasing sales and then taking the business online.

I did things that I always dreamed of.  I traveled extensively, mostly on my own and loved every minute of it.  I met some fantastic people along the way, and also some not worth mentioning.

Every time I took stock of my life, I was amazed at how far I’d come.  I would always think, “was I really that little girls?” and yes, I was.  I was a little girl with dreams.  I was a little girl on a mission, stopping at nothing to achieve my dreams.  When the road got difficult, I became more determined.

I’ve always forced myself to look back over the past couple of years to take stock of my life and to think of the achievements I’ve made and I’ve always been happy.  I never rest for a single second.  I hardly sleep because my mind is too active, probably planning my next trip or a new adventure.

In the past two years I have published a book; my latest and greatest accomplishment.  I look back and am proud.  A new adventure is waiting for me.  I have no idea what that is yet, but I have every confidence it will be here soon.  I look forward to the challenges and the excitement and I look forward to taking stock again and wondering how I possibly achieved so much in such a short time.

It doesn’t take much to achieve your dreams.  All it takes is determination and perseverance.

When you look back, what were your dreams?  Did you achieve them?  What’s stopping you now?  Don’t you owe it to yourself to do better, go farther and achieve more?

Go on, I dare you… take a step in a positive direction and start achieving your dreams.  You’re never too old to deserve happiness and accomplish greatness; all you need is to take the first step.

~ Vanessa