Why I Hate Your Hating

Different people come from different backgrounds. My life experience has been different from yours. This is a simple concept, but I feel the vital sub-points of it get missed all too frequently in common human interaction.

One vital sub-point being this: My entire belief system and moral compass have been shaped by the summation of my experiences; my actions and the world’s reactions to them, the people I have kept or found around me, my family, my education (or lack thereof) . . .the list goes on and on. Your beliefs and morality have been likewise shaped. So when you and I collide in the world, as people often do, and find ourselves with beliefs antithesis to one another, we have a choice: We can engage in conversation, and share the reasoning behind our beliefs. I can learn of yours and vice versa, and we can each test the stability of our convictions to see whether they hold up in the light of day.

Or we can call each other ass hats. Continue reading

A Holiday Service Announcement From RTI:

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I do not celebrate Christmas.

This is not news to anyone that has known me for some time but, because I move around a lot, there are some people I’m currently close with who have not known me for some time. This message is for you.

I haven’t celebrated Xmas for a number of years now. I used to be quite (read: very) soap-boxy about my hatred of all things yuletide but throughout the years that fanaticism (like most of my fanaticism) has relaxed to more of a dulled disdain.

Or, in some instances, evolved into a disturbing embrace of holiday iconography.

Embracing the holiday iconography perhaps more than peeps intended me to for an Xmas KitKat party in Köln.

There are facets of holiday celebration I’m more than happy to partake in; the parties and get-togethers and the like. I like spending time with people I like so, really, whatever the excuse – boom hells yeah lets go.

I will not decorate. I feel for the Earth, poor struggling whelp that she is. It does not bring me joy to string sparkly reminders of our diminishing rainforests from one corner of the room to the other.

I don’t do carols. They are terrible and make me want to kill myself. Or at least stab myself in the ears.

But above all else – I don’t do gifts. This is not exclusive to Xmas. I do not do gifts for any calendar occasion. I do do gifts, occasionally. . . just not when I’m supposed to.

This confuses a lot of people. Allow me to explain more fully: Continue reading

Country Lovin’ and I’m Feeling Optimistic This Morning

I love starting my day with a bit of optimism. Enter this wonderful Colbert Report segment entitled People Destroying America which a number of sites have dubbed ‘perhaps the single best segment‘ to ever air on the show.

image via Gawker.com

image via Gawker.com

If you have to watch just one part, hit up 6:51. It’s a big tall glass of YES.

I’m starting to see examples of this sort of heart-warming ‘small town’ tolerance more and more, both online and in meat space. Country folk get a bad rep for being close-minded but, for my money, I think that’s got a lot less to do with being inherently small-minded and way more to do with a simple lack of exposure (I know, not exactly a mind-blowing observation. Whaaat? You need to have positive exposure to something to view it in a positive light? Whoa). But seriously, we miss this point a lot. Continue reading

Catalyst

A short while back, the founder of Australian Girls in Gi (if you’re a woman practicing Jiujitsu in Australia, get in on this awesomeness) posted a before and after (training Brazilian Jiujitsu [BJJ]) pic of herself that prompted a very moving thread in the group’s Facebook forum. In it, a large number of women came forwards with their stories; of how BJJ had helped them in battles against everything from anxiety to overcoming childhood trauma to adult hardships like difficulty conceiving. It was inspiring to have so many women come forth to speak openly about their issues, insecurities and the ways in which they were battling them to create healthier, happier lives for themselves.

Inspirational: She is it.

But a weird thing happened upon reading it. At the same time I felt inspired, I also felt very, very depressed.

Because I tried a couple times to add my own contribution. I’m a big fan of sharing openly the things we typically hold inside, whether that hesitance to share comes from a fear of rejection or social conventions we were raised with and just can’t shake off. But each of these gals, even the ones still in the heart of their issues, came across as success stories whereas I was feeling like I was. . .still failing. Continue reading

And Now, For an Abrupt Change of Plot. . .

5 years ago I made what, at the time, seemed a terribly difficult decision. At the tender age of 25, I had been preparing to leave the sheltered Canadian province of Newfoundland and go traveling overseas with the unequivocal love of my life. Unfortunately, one month prior to departure an ill-timed and particularly heart-wrenching break-up left me with an awkward choice: Should I still board that plane, even though ‘we’ had become just ‘I’? Or should I abandon plans and allow my limping heart time to heal before hurling it halfway across the world, over an ocean and into foreign lands and potentially disastrous situations?

In the end, it just seemed easier to go. Flights had been booked, visas arranged; momentum was behind me and it would have taken more effort to cancel plans rather than just follow through with them. Still, I deliberated the choice up until the very last moment, having approximately 4 panic attacks in the remaining interim. But in the end, I did board that plane.

Lil’ ol 25 year old me preparing to head off.

Making the decision may have been challenging as all hell but actually leaving my home and job to begin traveling with a broken heart actually turned out to be one of the easier things I’ve done. Continue reading

Reasons to Travel #02 – Life Sampling

best. cocktail. buffet. ever.

NOMS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like buffets. Boxes of mixed chocolates. Appetizer platters. Miniature bottles of alcohol. Packs of tiny, packaged cheeses.

I like variety. I like sampling, and trying new things (sometimes off plates not my own, much to the chagrin of my company). And yeah, sometimes you just want the old favourite, the comfort of the familiar. . . but you’d never have found that favourite to begin with if you hadn’t, at some point, initially tried it. And tastes change – I’m guessing you weren’t a fan of that rich, smokey scotch you now adore so much back when you started drinking. On the flip side, that sugary crap you downed so enthusiastically back in uni might well turn your stomach nowadays.

Maybe you’re someone with a limited palette. Maybe, even at age 35, you’re still more than content with microwaved hot dogs and instant mac-and-cheese for supper 3 nights a week. And that’s cool. . . as long as it’s making you happy. And, just to be clear, if your diet isn’t supplying you with the nutrients you need to maintain energy throughout the day, or is causing you to become so obese that just getting up the stairs to your apartment is a dreaded struggle for you each and every day. . .that’s not making you happy.

It is, as always, about making choices that positively serve you. And it’s difficult to decide what is good for you if you never step out of your comfort zone to sample the other options that are out there. Continue reading

Highlights from a Vagabond’s Motorcycle Wanders of India

It goes without saying that India is a massive country. In 3 months, I got to explore only one strip of it, traveling West to East, sticking largely to the North. I hope to return some day and travel the country more extensively but, for now, here are the highlights from the areas I was fortunate enough to have visited.

In the hills around Uttarkashi. Photo by Peter Philips

Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Budget in India

India is one of the more inexpensive countries on the backpacker circuit. Depending on your habits, tastes and where you travel, you can live pretty effing cheaply in this country for as long as your visa will allow.

[010/366]Money!

Make your Rupees stretch. (Photo credit: rvgpl)

I set my own budget at a projected $1,250 CAD dollars per month (all costs in this section will be listed in Canadian dollars, as this is the currency in which I do my finances), and this wasn’t a difficult goal to stick to. It was in fact generous (as any budget you’re setting for yourself should be to allow for wiggle room and emergencies).

Over the course of 3 months, my total spending in India came to a grand total of $4,350.16. But this includes the approximately $1600.00 purchase of Hrithik, my Royal Enfield motorcycle, from which I regained around $1200.00 when I sold him in Darjeeling.
Given this, my actual loss of finance was more like $3,150.16, or about $1,050.00 per month.

So how’d this break down? Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Guide to Driving in India, part 2 – The Practical Details

India’s a challenge to travel by motorbike, but it’s sure as shit a rewarding one. I particularly loved the high mountain roads in around Rishikesh and Uttarkashi, and the road to Darjeeling. I’d loved to have continued on to tour Sikkim, and heard amazing things about the riding in that area (and on into Nepal) but sickness unfortunately cut my travels short.

Along the road to Uttarkashi.

For an account of the general oddities and challenges you can expect to hit along the way, check out the (largely humorous) Part 1 to this series. But for the more practical nitty gritty, continue reading on.

Getting started

First off, you’re going to need a bike. Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Guide to Travel in India

No doubt, India is a challenging country to navigate. With around 350 different languages and dialects, a swarm of different religions (and sects of religions, and contrasting opinions on how to practice said religions) and a seemingly different culture every time you switch neighborhood, let alone state, it’s hard to come to any solid conclusions of how to do. . .well, anything really.

More than anything else, India is a country of contrasts. If you go looking for the wide-eyed street kids in rags and robed babas with painted faces that occupy so many of our media-fueled impressions of India, you’re sure to find them. You’ll find the insistent street vendors and the cows occupying city streets and the painted rickshaws driving like madmen. But if you look a bit harder you’ll also find a country pulling itself into the modern day, and you’ll find an educated youth, hungry for knowledge of the world outside their own and eager to converse with you about it.

Just one of the many faces waiting to greet you in India. Continue reading