The Tropical Canadian

an oxymoronic life of adventure

Luggage gone wild

There are no palm trees in this post. Yes, I’ve just returned from my first trip to the tropics in 2 years (island hopping Dominica, Martinique and Saint Lucia), but before we talk about that I have a little insight about packing. I have always considered myself a good packer – I plan well, make lists, maximize use of space – but for some reason on this trip I lost my mind a little. Not only did I over-pack, but I also over-shopped before the packing ever began. There are lessons here that I hope will help you (and future me) from wrestling a 45 pound suitcase up and down broken sidewalks and from having to leave great souvenirs behind because you just don’t have a way to get them home.

Lesson 1: Take half as much stuff and twice as much money as you think you’ll need

This great advice comes from my Mom, one of of the best travelled (and organized) people I know. In the case of this most recent trip her advice would have been pretty much spot on. Everything from food costs to local transportation cost more than expected in both Martinique and Saint Lucia, and repeated trips to the ATM meant repeated high service charges.

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The journey begins when you buy the ticket

I have been meaning to post for a while, recognizing that the me who started this journey (not just volunteering in Jamaica, but redesigning my life to allow for that and so much more) is still me even in double layers of wool socks and huddled up to my fireplace. I’m still me even though the path I thought I was starting out on in September 2014 has taken a slightly difference route. I’m still that me. But when one takes on a persona as “the Tropical Canadian” it seems important to spend some time in the tropics to keep that persona thawed out. And, well, that hasn’t happened.

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No welcome for Matthew

Filed under “things I can’t do anything about but can’t stop worrying about anyway”: hurricane Matthew, the most severe hurricane to threaten Jamaica in half a decade.

Yesterday Matthew was a class 5 (out of 5). Today it has been downgraded to class 4. That’s still enough wind and water to do severe damage to both the natural environment and human constructions.

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An Isak Dinesen kind of day

Every so often – once or twice a year, I suppose – I get into a mindset that only salt water can heal. On those days I awake with Isak Dinesen’s most famous quote ringing in my ears:

the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

Luckily for me, I live on an island in the Pacific with easy access to rock-hewn beaches and stirring sea breezes.  Continue reading “An Isak Dinesen kind of day”

The quicksand of memory

I’ve just returned from a wonderful week reconnecting to the region I live in. For much of the world the island I call home is a dream destination – rainforest, wide Pacific beaches, quaint communities that have adjusted well to changing economies, wild animals that have disappeared from much of the world. I take it for granted, and this trip was a true gift in reconnecting to how rich life is right here.

And yet … the urge grows every day. The little voices reminding me there is more to life than this piece of granite. The pull to warmer sun, to foreign accents, to learning about myself and the world every time I open the door.

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The temperate Canadian does #LakeWeek

When you brand yourself and your blog ‘The Tropical Canadian’ and then unexpectedly spend a year in the temperate, tepid backwater of Victoria, it’s hard to come up with anything to write that seems topical. Or interesting. The truth is, I’ve been pouting. It’s cold here. Life in Victoria is plain old boring (don’t give me that bullshit that only boring people are bored. I used to use that on my kids. Victoria may be pretty, but it’s an African violet on your grandma’s mantle. Dull, duller, and dullest). Did I mention it’s cold here?

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Lessons in transit

I just found this draft from January 2015. It made me smile with nostalgia:

Several years ago the Jamaican Urban Transit Commission (JUTC) invested heavily in large, modern bright yellow buses and an updated terminal. They are still working out kinks in the system to reduce driver skimming and passenger jumping, but for the most part a JUTC bus ride is a trip in modern convenience.

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See ya, 2015 – don’t let the door hit you on the way out

When a year starts with a magic I couldn’t even dream of, declaring that it was only going to get better from there was just setting myself up for failure. How could any 365 days hope to keep up to welcoming 2015 on the beach in Barbados, blissed out on prosecco and wonder, held fast in the warm arms of a dream, watching fireworks that reflected off Caribbean surf?

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Blended spirits

There was a moment this weekend when my house smelled like the perfect balance of Douglas Fir, sugar cookies and sorrel – a festive Christmas drink* enjoyed throughout the Caribbean, and made from hibiscus flowers and spices. It gave me pause to think how travel helps us learn and grow, even with things as ‘known’ as Christmas.
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