Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Dare to Live has evolved to the Dare to Go travel blog! With this site as my foundation, I've decided to take my writing in the direction of travel, sharing stories of inspiration from the places I've visited. So.. will you follow me over to my new site? Just click here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dare to do Something a Little Different

When the email arriving in my inbox last August announcing a travel blogger's conference in Toronto the following May, I thought "what the heck, I have no idea where I'll be next May, so I'm signing up!"

Between the day I signed up and the day of the conference, I had made some major changes in my life. In short, I decided to leave my job in corporate communications to go back to school full-time and finish up a degree in communications I started many years ago.  I needed a change - a change of pace and a change of direction and this decision just felt right.

So back to TBEX, " the world's largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, and new media content creators."  As a very part-time travel blogger, I didn't know what to expect. I went as an observer - I wanted to take in the sessions and the travel blogger's vibe.  Here is what I learned from the weekend:
  1. I need a website.  A real one.  I currently blog using blogger, but if I want to get serious about blogging, I need to get clear about and organize what I want my blog to accomplish and create a website with my own domain name.
  2. I'm not sure I am a travel blogger, per se. I love blogging about my experiences in Mexico for example, but I do it because I am passionate about it, not because I'm being paid to do it. I don't think I am comfortable blogging about a destination that has compensated me to say nice things. How can my readers trust that what I am writing about is true if I am being paid to write about a place or experience? Maybe a travel blogger out there can help me make sense of this.
  3. This ties in to my previous point, but when I was focused on how I was going to make money blogging (this topic came up a lot with others too), I felt uninspired to be a part of this. But when I reflected on some of my favourite blog posts and the inspiration behind writing them, I remembered why I write. I write to share stories that will inspire others to live the life they really want to live. I'm not sure how this fits into the travel blogging business.
  4. I was inspired by Trey Ratcliffe's keynote presentation and his passion for travel photography. I now realize money can be made in other ways around travel blogging - we just need to get creative! I appreciated his photographic process as his art. His photos rock!
  5. I was also inspired by Bruce Poon Tip's presentation. He talked about the noble purpose of blogging - inspiring others to travel by bringing them our stories, and opening up the world of different cultures and countries to promote understanding and peace. He stressed the importance of experiencing a country for what it is instead of confining ourselves to all-inclusive travel compounds. What I most enjoyed was his stories about his company, g Adventures and the good they do. I realized that I want to be a part of a company like g Adventures - one that has a noble purpose, when I am finished school - either through something I create on my own, or as part of a company such as g Adventures, or some kind of combination of both.
  6. The social interactions are a big part of TBEX. I was so happy to finally meet Craig from StayAdventurous after knowing him online for about three years. Lunch at the St. Lawrence Market was the perfect place to catch up. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to partake in the parties, but a couple of the other people I met at the sessions were lovely and inspiring. If I decide to attend the next conference in Dublin, I will take advantage of the social opportunities for sure.
So that was my experience. A different outcome than I expected, but really inspiring just the same. I also want to add that it was awesome to be surrounded by a group of people (1300!) who were passionate about what they do. I'm not yet sure exactly where this all fits with me, but I have a feeling travel is going to have a part.  How about you? Did you attend TBEX? I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Week and a Half In

Well, I'm a week and an half into full-time school and I must say, it feels pretty good.  For May and June I'm taking two courses - Non-Verbal Communication and Visual Communication.  Each course is twice a week, so that means I'm driving out to Waterloo three days a week.  Not too shabby.

At the same time, my condo rental is shaping up nicely.  My daughter's bed is up so now we just have to go out and buy the mattress. An Ikea box lays open with the contents staring back at me.  One day it will turn into a shoe rack, I promise.  And the new printer.. well, my daughter will help me get that up and running too. I'm blessed to have a child who enjoys putting things together and figuring out how they work.

The best part of my courses so far is that for Visual Communication, one of my assignments has been to create a blog on Tumblr.  I'm actually going to get graded on creating a blog - how great is that?! If you want to check it out, it's here. I tend to update that blog more regularly than this one at the moment. And the other great thing about all of this is that I feel as though my day-to-day life now has meaning and purpose. It's how I'm 'daring to live' my life right now. And it feels wonderful.

Monday, April 29, 2013

One Week Left!

In five days I will end my tenure at my present job.  It's been seven and a half years of joy, frustration and growth, all rolled up into a ball. I started in a dual role - as both the President and CEO's Executive Assistant and a new role in employee communications.  It was a position I took on with excitement and motivation and which eventually led to me becoming the Manager, Communications & Social Media. As I moved along in my career I found I loved the communications field on the employee side - I wanted employees to be happy in their jobs, and I knew that keeping them in the loop was all part of it. The need for better communications between the various offices across Canada was lacking and I was happy to find some solutions. With no budget but gusto, I created an employee newsletter that consisted of an interview with one employee per issue, and a mixture of corporate and fun articles. It involved pulling information from various areas of the company, and last month I created the 55th issue, my last. I also created a book club for the CEO and employees to share together, a quarterly CEO newsletter and regular town hall meetings where the CEO would address the company on progress to date.

A couple of years into the job and social media was getting big. It was something that interested me and I looked for ways in which our company could utilize the tools. It is one of the great things about working here - I was able to create my job to large extent. As one of the first companies in financial services to start using social media to connect to clients and prospects, with the hope of increasing brand awareness, it has been both fun and challenging incorprating the new digital world into a traditional business.

Last summer I was aware that it was time to leave. I had been struggling off and on for a while, but by last August I just knew. Time to say "bye-bye" and move on to my next adventure. And so by January I was working out how I was going to quit my job, sell my house and go back to school full-time to finish up my communications degree by the end of the year. And here I am, 5 days to go until this part is done.

It has been a great ride, and one I will never forget.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nine Years

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind - giving my notice at work, selling my house and moving to a neighbouring city, into the 23rd floor of a gorgeous condo (the views are awesome). What I look forward to most is sitting on my balcony on a summer's night, watching the sunset, glass of wine in hand.

Of course that is just part of this story.  Almost immediately after I finish up at my job I will be headed to school, to finish up a communications degree I started NINE years ago. Going through all of my stuff lately as I pack for the move, I came across that very first university course I took at the University of Toronto. It was an Academic Bridging Course for people who had not continued their education beyond high school. There we all were in that classroom a couple of nights a week, learning how to write essays (which will forever be etched in my mind) and studying the myraid of topics that made up that course on contemporary Canada. My favourites topics were Canada's role in World War 1, Leonard Cohen (I now totally understand his appeal to women), and Quebec's unique perspective on being Canadian. It was such a positive experience that laid the foundation for the next several years of study. I remember at the time being a little discouraged at the long road ahead, but then realized that the nine years would pass anyway, so why not spend the time working towards a goal?

Unfortunately I was unable to continue my studies with the University of Toronto.  I had a young child at the time and I needed to option of studying online.  I found a general degree program at Wildrid Laurier University in Waterloo that could be completed entirely online.  My hope was that by the time I got far enough into the program, I would be able to complete a degree in communications completely online. That didn't happen but I have been able to complete many of the courses online as I pursue the communications degree. I have been able to attend a couple of in-class classes over the past couple of years and in May I will continue that trend as I finish up the degree. 

With two weeks left at my job, the excitement within me is definitely growing.  I can hardly believe that in two weeks I will be unemployed and I can't wait! I'm looking forward to diving into the rest of my courses and feeling my way towards the brand new chapter that will follow.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Finding the Courage to Act

It's been about a month now since I walked into the CEO's office and gave him my notice. Since then, I've sold my house, found a condo to rent, and am on my way towards starting full-time university in May.

What has been so interesting to me is people's reactions to my plans.  Most people have been supportive and are really happy for me, calling me things like "courageous" and "brave." One person even said that I was his hero. All of this feels really great and makes me think I'm on to something really good ahead.

A couple of people have nervously expressed that they hope I know what I'm doing and that I'm making the right decision. I understand where they're coming from.  In fact, I expected more reactions like that than what I got.  I think it we naturally assume the worst outcome of a scary decision and so I expected people would think I was nuts.  I mean, who quits their job with no job to go to, sells their house and plans to go back to school full-time (with people young enough to be my children, I might add)? Believe me, I asked myself the same questions before I really decided I was going to do this.

What has been sad for me is that I am finding that many people want to make their own changes - change a job, a relationship, a living situation - whatever, but too often allow fear to stop them.  "Not everyone is like you" a couple of people have said, meaning that not everyone can act on a decision to change.  Well, I know nobody is like me but that doesn't mean I am so unique in wanting to change something and then doing it. Or am I? One friend told me, "Wow, you just make a decision and then you do it." Again, I'm not getting why that is a novel concept. And I know I may sound unempathetic, but if you are stuck, meaning you know what you want to do, but can't for whatever reason do it, please don't give up. Talk to people, keep looking for answers, do what you need to do to muster the courage to act.

I wonder what the world would be like if everyone acted on their decisions?  Not on every whim or emotional urge, but once something is thought out and decided, what if everyone just went for it?

How great would that be.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Little Shop with Heart - and Tequila!

Wandering down Calle Corazon just off 5th Avenue one night after dinner in Playa del Carmen, my sister and I walked to the end of the little street, and crossed over calle 14 to Maya Notes. I think it may have been the beautiful handmade journals that first grabbed my attention, and I knew that one would make the perfect gift to take home to my daughter.

What i loved about this cute little store was that everything inside had been lovingly handmade by members of one family. The woman who greeted us, ARI, pointed out the various gifts her family had made, such as the bottle cap necklaces crafted by her 14 year old son.

Everything heart-shaped was made by her grandfather (I thought there must be a story there), including the glass-blown heart mobiles.

I'm not usually a fan of things heart shaped, but perhaps because I was feeling a little sad with a broken heart myself, there was something about being surrounded by all those happy hearts that felt good. I purchased a beautiful heart bracelet with upcoming Valentines day in mind, and I have worn it many times (pictured below, next to the journal I also purchased).

Maya Notes made me think of my family and how all of us are creative in our own way - my mother is a talented watercolour artist, my brother paints in oils, I make soap, my daughter is experimenting with painting, sketching and sewing and her Nana is an amazing cook and seamstress. I dreamed a little bit about how cool it would be to have a store filled with each family member's creations. ARI has turned her dreams into reality.

I chose a journal for my daughter, handmade by ARI herself using mostly recycled papers. The cover was embellished with a wooden Mayan symbol that she told me represented love and family. So fitting.

After looking around some more and chit-chatting with ARI, she pulled out a bottle from behind the counter and offered us some tequila, a big smile on her face (when's the last time you've been offered a shot of tequila while shopping?). My sister hesitated, but thank god she had me there to say "yes please!" And together the three of us shared some cheer.

You can see more of ARI and Maya Notes here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A New Chapter

Today was the day. On the train into work this morning my tummy was in knots, because today was going to be the day I would tell my boss that I was resigning, after seven years of being with the company.

The conversation was difficult, but it had to be done, and now it's over and this is all become so much more real! No more keeping this secret, the whole world can know now that I am leaving!

The past seven years have been a rollercoaster ride - on both a personal and professional level. Such highs and a few lows, with lots of learning in between.

The day came when I knew it was time to leave, to jump ship, to move on. I figured out a plan, and now the plan is unfolding before my eyes. A friend recently said to me, "Wow, you just decide you're going to do something and then you do it!" Yup.

Next week I will list my house for sale, over the next month or so I will be looking for a condo to rent, and on May 6th I will become a full-time student at university.  At the end of December I will finally have my communications degree.

Following that, who knows? I'm comfortable in the uncertainty of it all. I'm a little scared but a lot excited. I plan to attend one, maybe two, travel blogging conferences throughout the summer, and I've been thinking that I may want to finish up my life coach training too. I'm not sure how it's all going to work out, but I do know that I will be doing things that are meaningful to me.

The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dare to Move on

As I look at my blog, I realize I've neglected writing for a few months. What also occurs to me is the design I chose for my background - a paint roller and paint. You see, I have been busy painting my townhouse - first the living room, then the basement and now I am finishing up the former "baby room" which, by the way, has taken three coats to cover the murals I had previously painted when we moved in.
I have lived in this place for over six years, and now I am making it all pretty to sell. I've been cleaning and clearing out clutter every weekend this month and I can finally see the progress.  Almost done.

Moving on can be scary - whether it be from house to house or from love to love lost, but I believe we know within ourselves when the moving on is necessary. Preparing to move from my house to another has been exciting, as it speaks of starting over and of new beginnings and for me it is part of a much bigger plan for my life. Moving on from love to love lost however, has not been as exciting but rather painful and even when it is the right decision, it can be difficult to go through.

Not all decisions to move on feel good, but I believe that within all of us is the sense of whether the decision is a good one or not.. apart from the emotion. The key is to listen to that voice within, that deeper part of yourself that knows what's best.

Trust your heart and dare to move on.