Head out on the highway…

Today was the last day that I’ll spend in the lower mainland as a resident here. (I wonder if I’m technically still a resident since I’m sleeping in a spare bedroom at a friend’s house and our address has been changed to Ottawa by now…?) The day was spent in preparation for the next 7 days on the road and, since I was driving through Vancouver traffic, a lot of time lost in thought and reflecting on my history here in Vancouver and the changes I’ve been through while a resident in this city.

I came here as a shy 17 year old, starting my first year of university at UBC, and unsure of where the paths of life would take me. I only knew that my future was a blank slate and it was up to me to make it what i wanted it to be.

I’ll call my first decade here the “Greek decade”! I joined a sorority shortly after landing at UBC and devoted my heart and soul to this organization over the next decade (possibly more?!) Alpha Phi formed part of the foundation of who I am today… and I say ‘part of’ only because clearly my personal foundation was formed through my childhood years through my family and the experiences I was exposed to growing up. But much of who I became as an adult was influenced greatly through my experiences with Alpha Phi, as it enhanced my developing leadership skills, business organizational and human management skills, building my self-confidence, values and support system. Many of the women I pledged with remain close friends today. I am forever grateful to the woman who convinced me, when I received my pledge way back when, and when it wasn’t from the group I wanted, to give the group a chance and to accept that offer. Thank you for gifting me an experience of a lifetime… you know who you are! (I hope!)

My second decade would be called “Calm before the storm” as I went through a few serious relationships and ultimately married, moved to the suburbs and started to pursue my goal of motherhood. I started to build a career for myself and a professional reputation in my field of work, building on the skills i’d learned during the Greek decade. While that marriage ultimately failed (cue 3rd decade, coming right up…), I don’t regret getting married or the time spent in that relationship. Again, it helped me along the path of life in becoming who I am and accepting me for who I truly am. It also gave me 2 of my children and all the challenges that go with them! This was the decade of settling into adulthood and being a serious human being. The problem was, there was not a lot of joy in it.

And here I am at the tail end of my third decade in BC, deep in what I will call the “Decade of Chaos”! This past decade has been about change and transitions and embracing these. There is very little focus on me or my skills and attributes but rather it is mostly about my children and how to build them to be the best that they can be. It was during this decade that I left my first marriage, entered into my second, and all that went along with changing relationship status! This is the time of the storm, which can cause anxiety and stress, but without the storm we can’t have the rainbow. And I’ve had a lot of rainbows too!

And ultimately a huge change, an upheaval of sorts, to close out this decade and bring in the next.

3 decades and traces of each of these decades can be found in where I am today, who I am and what I believe in, and also in the decision that we made to leave this city, heading out on the highway, looking for the adventures we may find, and ultimately a better life for us and our family.

Which brought to mind this song

 

Tomorrow we leave. On the Trans-Canada Highway. Heading East.

I pick my children up at noon and we head east.

Our ultimate plan has been altered significantly due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather than bemoaning the change and the lost opportunity, I have been trying to embrace this change and see in it the blessings it has allowed.

Leaving 5 days later is allowing me to:

  • Be better organized in the car: you should have seen my packing job a week ago versus today! Today it all fit in! Last week, it was 2 van loads. So I’ve done a better job organizing, and much has been edited out!
  • Good-byes: I’ve been able to say some final good-byes that I’d have missed a week ago, whether those good-byes were in person or by phone, text, or messenger, I’ve been able to say good-bye. Yes there are some people I regret not seeing in person, but I cannot do it all and that is the reality of it all.
  • Prioritize: What is the priority on our trip? With a shortened timeline, we can’t do the meandering trip we’d originally envisioned and planned for so we’ve had to really think and talk through what is most important on this journey. And so the trip is revised.
  • Stress and anxiety: The extra few days have allowed me to relax and gather myself, and I’m really ready now to pull out of the driveway tomorrow. A week ago I was still teary eyed with each good-bye. I’m ready to go now. I’m ready to start the next chapter. It seems surreal, but I’m ready.

Here is the driving plan:

  • Coquitlam to Revelstoke
  • Revelstoke to Drumheller
  • Drumheller for 2 nights
  • Drumheller to Calgary
  • Kids will fly with my sister from Calgary to Ottawa, and I will continue on driving solo so I can do more hours daily in the car!
  • Calgary to Medicine Hat
  • Beyond that? I’m not entirely sure at this point.

A map will be posted here later, when I’ve figured out how to do that! ūüôā

And so, change is afoot and we are ready for it. While change for the past 27 years has been gradual and barely perceptible at the time, sneaking up on me to the point that I didn’t even realize that the changes were happening, we have come upon a moment of great upheaval as our world alters dramatically.

We are ready for the adventures that will come our way on the highway. Just please no flat tires! I don’t want that kind of adventure!

(We will do our best to post from the road, as wifi becomes available!)

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Wasn’t THAT a journey?

Momma T’s journey in Barcelona, on El Camino, and onto Portugal

 

It’s been a rough month¬†here at home, which is why there haven’t been any posts for awhile! There simply hasn’t been enough time for blogging!

There have been some incredible highs and some devastating lows, but through it all we’ve journeyed together as a family and made it to the other side of the mountain… our legs might be shaky and we are pretty tired, but we’ve made it!

This post will be all about Momma T’s journey towards, on, and beyond El Camino in Spain. In looking back at the photos that she sent while she was away, it seems like the journey was about experiencing the culture through good food, good friends, and good spirits!

It was fitting then that before she left, we had a wonderful evening out at Vij’s, a restaurant that we’ve wanted to visit for several years and just never had the time to get there. We are thankful to family who babysat Miss D so that we could have a meal out together.

Momma T left Vancouver on Saturday April 22, traveling via London, England (9 hour flight) and then onto her final destination of Barcelona, Spain. She met her travelling friend A at a restaurant in Heathrow airport and they made the last leg of the journey together.

Day 1 – Barcelona, 14,912 steps

Today they took the subway and then train to find their way to Montserrat, a Benedictine monk mountain retreat about one hour north west of Barcelona.18057018_10155016792106343_1938256115001047943_n (1)

 

Day 2 РBarcelona, 17,644 steps (13.7 km)

Today Tracy and A explored the Barcelona waterfront and were excited to find that there was a Mexican tall ship in the harbour, which was inviting tourists on board to view and have photos taken with the uniformed crew! The two women also visited the Sagrada Familia basilica

After exploring some of the waterfront (and boarding a Mexican tall ship, with military crew present!), we then meandered the streets to the Sagrada Familia basilica, a beautiful Roman Catholic church designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.

The inside of this amazing place of worship is made of  all different stones, and designed so that you feel like you are in a forest, with carvings of a leaf-like ceiling, and then stained glass windows that make you feel like the light is seeping in through the forest walls.

Day 3 – Leaving Barcelona, 17,305 steps (11.6 km)

The weather this morning was rainy and windy, which meant that a planned boat excursion was cancelled. Instead they did some window shopping and visited the Barcelona History Museum on their way to the train station and the 12 hour trip to Sarria where their Camino walk would begin!

Day 4 – Sarria, 12,798 steps (7.9 km)

Momma T and A arrived in Sarria at 9am on a brisk, sunny morning (4 degrees!), after a rough night with just a little sleep on the train. They gathered their things and walked to the hotel. You know the city is behind you when you lie on your bed, wind blowing in, no car motors, and you hear the cock-a-doodle-do of the roosters all afternoon. Welcome to the country-side!

Later that eventing the 10 women that formed their tour group met at the hotel to have an orientation meeting, then we walked to a local restaurant for a great meal. This Camino adventure is about to begin! We got to know each other in the group. There are two (60+) women from Arizona (AKA “the Arizona’s”), Marcia in early 50’s, Momma T and her friend A, and then 5 Hispanic women from LA, who are 60+ years… all the women are fiercely daring and have lots of spunk and life in them.¬†

Day 5 – Sarria to Portomarin, 36,177 steps (25.8 km), 7 hours of walking

Tracy and her friend were excited to finally start their Camino today! The tour guide walked with them for about an hour before leaving them to walk at their own pace.

The path was much more hilly than anticipated and T was pretty tired at the end of the day. She is rapidly learning to like Spanish wine… particularly since it is less expensive than pop or even water in many places! And so refreshing midday and with her meal at the end of the walk!

Day 6 – Portomarin to Palas de Rei, 42,241 steps (33.2 km)

Today’s elevation gain was substantial (see photo below) and daunting!

In the words of Momma T:

“Today it was hard to get those muscles going again, but after a light breakfast (smoked meats, cheese, and hard boiled eggs), we were off. By 10:30am we had walked 11km and made a cafe stop for a second breakfast. We weren’t even halfway!! We basically average 4km/hr, depending on the number of hills. I’m very thankful to be using poles, takes some pressure of my knees/legs and builds the strength in my arms too. Saw a couple of churches, and it was a cool, sunny day. At 2:30pm, with about 5km left, it was time for a break and we discovered this amazing “lemon beer” — OMG!! Delicious!!”

Today was an important day as T recognized a dear friend who had passed away in the last year. Before she left on this journey, Mr. H had asked Momma T to take a special stone and his photo of our dear friend and to leave her in a special place on the path, so that “God would help her find her way to heaven.” Today Momma T found that place: an old stone cross beside a centuries old chestnut tree. T spent a few moments in prayer and thinking of our friend and her family. Before leaving on the trip, T had called this family to tell them of Mr. H’s request. Our friend told T that it had been their plan to walk the Camino themselves, before Marlene had taken ill.

 

Day 7 – Palas de Rei to Castaneda, 38,579 steps (26.6 km)

Not exactly the weather forecast that you want to wake up to when doing El Camino…

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And it didn’t get much better! The hikers faced every kind of weather this day: snow, hail, thunder, lightening, rain, and yes, sunshine! What is a hiker to do when facing this? Dress in layers and use socks as mittens in a pinch!

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In the words of “Scaredy Squirrel”… this was NOT part of the plan!

Day 8 – Castenada to ? (TBC), 29,661 steps (20.8 km)

Momma T hit her wall today and had a super hard day of walking. After slogging through 15 km in pain, dragging feet that felt like they were cement blocks and calf muscles that kept seizing up, she took a ride for the final 7 km. She is super disappointed in herself but I believe she has nothing to feel bad about… she made the best decision she could in that moment and truly, the only decision that would preserve her strength for the remainder of the trip. I’m super proud of her! It’s hard to make that decision!

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Photo taken early in the day, while she could still feign a smile!

Day 9: — to Santiago, 31,631 steps (22.6 km)

Knowing that they would be arriving in Santiago today was a good motivating factor on the road. There was a steady climb upwards at one point that stopped just at the boundary of the airport. They then walked around the airport, amazed by the planes taking off and landing right above us.

After they got away from the airport there was a chance to stop of a small bite to eat. Most of the walking at this point was on gravel or paved roads/paths. T put her poles away as they were walking mostly on roads rather than the gravel and the sound of the poles on the road was quite loud, intruding on the sacredness of the journey. Sadly, T didn’t realize the full benefit of of poles until she was much closer to Santiago, when she started to get substantial knee pain. She believes this was due to the pressure on her¬†knee with every steep descent and then climbing up and up… unfortunately the pain has continued well past the end of the trip and will result in several physiotherapy appointments, along with icing every day!

Day 10 – Santiago

Happy Birthday to Miss A, traveling companion of Momma T! Today they enjoyed massages and a lot of relaxation around the village of Santiago.

Day 11 – Santiago to Porto, Portugal

Today, Momma T successfully got her official “Compostela” or certificate, showing that she has completed El Camino. They then travelled just 4 hours via bus to Porto Portugal, finding their AirBNB accommodation and relaxing the remainder of the day.

Day 12 – Porto

Today, T and A took a boat tour of the Douro River.

The Douro River is a major waterway that flows from Spain and across the entire Douro River Valley in the Northern Portuguese countryside. It is known for its quiet tranquility, showcasing Portugal’s stunning river-based cities, from vibrant Pinhao to old world Porto, a city that has been deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 18199395_10155049974346343_2164052668611786299_n

Day 13 – Porto to Sintra, via Lisbon

Today Momma T finally saw a castle,, which she’s desperately wanted to see for years!

They travelled by train to Sintra, a picturesque community set in the cooler hillside of Portugal. The cooler climate was attractive to nobility in by gone eras and so there are many castles, beautiful gardens, and extravagant homes to view.

Day 14 – Porto to Lisbon

Momma T said good-bye to her friend A today, but met up with a friend that she’d met earlier in the trip… J! T and J shared the Air BNB accommodation that T had booked and together they took in the tourist sights of the next few days.

T and J started their time in Lisbon with a “Hop On Hop Off” open air bus tour. With T’s knee still bothering her, walking any distance was a challenge. Much time was spent enjoying the local cuisine as she rested comfortably in cafes! They did see some great sights while in Lisbon though including a tile museum, and an art museum.

Day 15 – Lisbon

Final day of the holiday and T said good-bye to J, enjoying some time to just relax in quiet solitude before the long journey home again!

 

Good food along the way:

Momma T enjoyed much of the cuisine in Spain and Portugal, thankfully documenting much of it for us to live vicariously through her!

Here are some of the meals & “tapas” that she experienced… in no particular order!

 

And so we can see that T’s time in Spain and Portugal definitely had more highs than lows, new experiences and friends, and delicious tastes!

… Coming soon:¬†“While you were gone”… tales from the rest of the family while T was traveling! Perhaps not as exotic as castles, boat cruises and pilgrimages, but just as life altering for us all!

 

Finding our Way

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About a year ago, possibly more like 18 months ago, Momma T and I watched a movie one Saturday night called “The Way”, and starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. The movie we watched followed Martin Sheen as he walked a path that his son had planned to walk but unfortunately died before completing it. While walking this path, he travels through some jaw dropping scenery, suffers through extremely difficult circumstances, grieves the son he lost and the difficult relationship they endured while he was still living and ultimately, he undergoes a personal transformation.

Halfway through the movie, T pressed pause and looked at me, saying “I want to do that.”

“That” is El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

El Camino is one of many Christian pilgrimages in the world.Thousands of Christians undertake a pilgrimage every year from their homes, to Santiago de Compostela, walking the “Way of St. James” as it is known in English. Legend has it that the remains of St. James were carried by boat and donkey, from Jerusalem to Northern Spain, where he was buried in what is now known as the city of Santiago de Compostela. Annually more than 200,000 Christians make this same pilgrimage in whole or in part, as a spiritual journey or as a personal challenge.

Today we drove Momma T to the airport where she left on a flight heading to Spain and her own Camino pilgrimage. She is walking the final 120 km of El Camino with her best friend as part of a celebration of a milestone birthday, and with the support of a touring company which will carry the majority of her luggage for her. She will carry only what she needs during the day and not all her food, clothing, sleeping, and cooking equipment! She is also doing some touring of Spain and Portugal while in the region.

The journey seemed simple enough when she began planning for this journey 12 or so months ago… however life has a way of interfering with the best laid plans. As T often will say, “Want to make God laugh? Make plans!”

Despite the obstacles that were in front of us, it was high priority to us that T make this pilgrimage this year. For one thing, it was mostly paid for when everything else came up so there was no reason to NOT go ahead with it, unless we were willing to lose most of the funds that had been put towards it. But more importantly, at least in my mind, is that this was such an amazing opportunity for life changing, transformational, eye-opening, soul searching, personal development… despite all the obstacles and challenges I’ll be facing over the next 19 days there was no way that I would ever consider standing in T’s way to make this happen! I know that she will come back as a stronger, more vibrant, and much revived individual who will be ready to embrace our next journey of life! She deserves this journey and I cannot wait to hear all about it.

And while T is making her journey through Spain, I’ll be walking my own transformational path here at home in Canada! I will have sole responsibility for the care and feeding of three small to medium sized children. Not to mention holding down employment and a half (I’m doing some contract work on the side), packing up a household and preparing us for a cross Canada move in 6 weeks!

Perhaps my journey is not as ‘sexy’ as T’s El Camino de Santiago journey, but I have no doubt that it too will be transformational, life changing, eye-opening and full of soul searching and personal development opportunities!!! Much like T, at the end of it I will be able to look back with pride and say “I survived!” and “I did that!”

Of course, I should probably get a full night’s sleep!

Before I go, here is T’s itinerary so you can follow along:

April 23 – Arrive Barcelona, Tour the city

April 26 РTaking overnight train to Sarria, meeting Tour company there

April 28 – Walk from Sarria to Portomarin (23 km)

April 29 – Walk from Portomarin to Palas de Rei (25 km)

April 30 – Walk from Palas de Rei to Arzua (29 km)

May 1 – Walk from Arzua to Arca (20 km)

May 2 – Walk from Arca to Santiago de Compostela (19 km)

May 3 – Tour Santiago de Compostela

May 4 – Travel to Porto, Portugal

May 5 – River boar and train tour in Porto, Portugal

May 6 – Travel to Sintra, Portugal

May 7 – Travel to Lisbon, Portugal

May 8, 9 – Tour Lisbon

May 10 – Fly home!!!

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Moving on…

In 1989 I moved from Ottawa to Vancouver to attend school at UBC. I was following a hope and a dream, for a new life and a new vision and a new me.

I recall vividly standing on Spanish Banks Beach, shortly after arriving in Vancouver with my mother. It was Labour Day weekend and a glorious fall day like only Vancouver can do: sunny, slight breeze, warm but not hot. I stood there in absolute glee that I could touch the Pacific ocean and see snow-capped mountains, and I could visit them both on the same day. I felt such excitement about my future at that moment and I think I knew in my heart of hearts that I would find my heart and soul in Vancouver.

My mother has told me, years later, that on this day she knew I would be moving to Vancouver. I didn’t know it yet, but she did. But by 1992 I had made Vancouver my permanent home and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

I’ve lived all over the Metro Vancouver region, from Point Grey to Cloverdale, South Vancouver to East Vancouver, Kerrisdale to Kitsilano, South Delta to North Burnaby… I love the diversity of this town, how the Skytrain can take you over neighbourhoods and businesses that you would never know existed if you were just driving a car, how passionate people are about the environment, recycling, and biking. I love how so many international flights transit through Vancouver and I can meet friends at the airport for a coffee on their way to Australia or Asia or Alaska. I love how the mountains and ocean frame our city views and can orient you to the compass points, no matter where you are in the city. I love our arts & culture and how we attract such a wide variety of artists with such wide artistic views. Mostly I love the ocean and the mountain views… they give me a deep sense of peace and calm.

But there is a lot that I don’t love about this city. I am tired of the traffic, the bridges, the tolls. I’m tired of the hustling and bustling and constantly scrambling to get ahead. I’m tired of the rent prices and the knowledge that I will never be able to afford a family home in anywhere but the far far reaches of the Fraser Valley. I hate how far away my friends are flung, even if we have the same city address, we are always far away from each other geographically and psychologically, and this separates us from all our supports. We hate having to drive everywhere, even a visit to the local grocery store requires a 4 minute drive from home. We are tired of the struggle to stay afloat financially & emotionally, fighting for everything we get.

And so, 27 years after leaving Ottawa,¬†we have decided to leave Metro Vancouver and return “home.”

Today we sign a one year lease on a home in Kanata with the hope of buying our own home after living there for a year.

We are gathering moving company quotes, setting up utilities in our new home, and securing employment details. We are also planning going away parties and yes, setting up this blog is part of it, in order to help our family stay in touch with the friends we have made in Vancouver.

Our plans…

  • Momma T and Miss D will fly from YVR to YOW around May 25.
  • T, H, and me (Mommy P) will pull out of the driveway on the morning of May 27th, driving across Canada and updating this blog as we go (and as wifi is available!). Our plan is TBD at this point… but we will be camping and hope to visit Yoho & Banff National Parks, and Dinosaur Provincial Park. Besides that? We have nothing planned at this point in time! Arriving in Ottawa week of June 12, 2017!

So stay tuned for details about all of these things but as of the week of May 22… we are outta here!