Looking Back on 2015

“The greatest adventure you could ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” These are the words of Oprah Winfrey and she could not have said it better. As an old year passes and a new one begins, I can’t help but be captured by her words of wisdom. Like many of us, I find myself reflecting upon what dreams or goals I have realized this past year. I usually do set out some kind of plan or rough road map of where I want to go in any given year. This has become especially important since I have begun travelling again. So when Hubby and I decided to visit Morocco in April, I knew I just had to take a camel trek into the desert.

This dream goes back to 1970 when I saw my first camel in the Negev Desert while backpacking around Israel.  I never got to actually ride one then but always thought it would be a neat thing to do. Unfortunately, the dream was not what I had envisioned and what the guide books had said it would be. My overnight camel trek to the edge of the Saharan Desert turned out to be one of the most gruelling undertakings I have ever experienced. None the less, it was well worth it, and I would do it again if I had the opportunity. You can read more about my adventure in my April post, A Saharan Adventure.

This adventure and the story I had written about it inspired me to reflect upon all the places I have visited and written about in 2015. For the past two years, Word Press has sent me a summary of all my posts to inform me of which ones garnered the most attention. To my surprise my camel story didn’t get as much attention as I thought it would which may have been because I was unable to publish any pictures with it. Who knows? The stories that got the most views and comments were those I wrote while in Cambodia. Phnom Penh Revisited, Escape to Kampot and Battambang – the Heart and Soul of Cambodia were at the top of my reader’s lists.

Even though it has been Thailand I have headed to for the past eight years, it has always been Cambodia, which I have visited three times, that somehow has impacted me the most and definitely helped me to grow in so many ways. I have nothing but complete admiration for the endurance, openness, and basic sweetness of the Cambodian people. Theirs is a story that is worth the telling and is probably why I am so motivated to write about them and the complex history that has shaped them.

After I return home from my winter travels, my focus changes from travel to adjusting to life in the tiny fishing village of Victoria Beach. My posts over the summer and fall have meandered from short trips taken to places nearby or further afield and to learnings in my own life. Two recent posts entitled A Recipe for Ageing and A Moment of Happiness received more response than I thought they ever would since they were about rather weighty topics. However, I should not be surprised as both of them speak to certain aspects of our human condition, a subject that has always interested me and apparently many of my readers.

I have asked myself if I accomplished most of the things I had set out to do last year this time? I certainly did when it came to travelling but not nearly enough in my writing. Somehow life simply gets in the way of doing more of it, and I must confess that my lack of discipline is also to blame. I shall promise myself to not get too worked up about not accomplishing all I intended by simply putting them on the agenda for 2016. There is still time to get really serious about the writing if I could just learn to let some other things go. Ah, but it’s the ‘letting go’ which is the difficult part.

As I said the travel part and where to travel to is the easy bit. I will be fulfilling another travel dream this coming year by going to South America, specifically to Ecuador. For many years I have read about the wonders of this tiny country but I am not talking about a trip to the Galapagos. What intrigues me is why it’s become a sought after haven for ex-pats, for its indigenous culture, and its social systems. It’s also noted for its crafts and markets so I will be searching out these for my small importing business. In March, I will meet up with Hubby in Buenos Aires in Argentina where we will lap up the life of this very cosmopolitan city and perhaps even learn how to tango. I don’t plan to do too much travelling as that becomes very expensive. Instead I am hoping that by staying close to our small rented studio that I will be able to carry out my goal of doing more writing this coming year. Ideas and comments for what I could write on or improve upon are always welcome.

A very Happy New Year to you all!

 Picture Galley for 2015

 

 

Reflecting on Victoria Beach

“It’s not our experiences but how we reflect on them that make us whole”.

These words were quoted by Jane Fonda at a TEDx conference in December 2011. You can hear all of her speech on blog.ted.com/2012/01/04/lifes-third-act-jane-fonda-on-ted-com. Her topic is on the subject of aging. We are living on an average of 30 years longer than our grandparents so how we deal with this is crucial to our happiness. She calls this new life phase “Life’s Third Act”.

There is certainly much ‘food for thought’  in this quotation. Since most of my friends and I are now in the third act of our lives, most of us agree we don’t want to end our lives as our parents and grandparents did. To prevent this, we are experimenting with all types of different experiences, but are we taking the time to reflect upon them? This is the crux of it all, isn’t it?  How can we take our experiences and use them to become a whole person? On hearing this, from Jane, I immediately zeroed in on my travel experiences over the last seven years realizing just how much they have contributed to my own personal growth. This then led to my reflecting on how my life here in Victoria Beach has also contributed to my well-being. In fact, I can take this whole business of experiences and the ability to reflect upon them one step further and include every experience in my life, be they good or bad, as my own personal growth enhancers. I understand more clearly than ever how we can grow so much more from those experiences that are the most challenging rather than those that are the most fun. What makes it all somehow easier is that as we age, we have more wisdom to deal with those challenging ones, the greatest being the ability to deal with aging itself.

Last spring when my husband and I returned from our travels to Victoria Beach, we began to question whether we wanted to stay and keep on living the rural life in an old house in a remote area so far away from our children and grandchildren. We decided to put our house up for sale. Luckily we had only a few nibbles because now after more soul-searching and a closer look at our finances, we have decided to stay here for the time being and enjoy what we have built up over the past eight years. To move back to Ontario would mean having to start all over again which somehow seemed to be taking a step backwards. We realized that by remaining here, we can have the best of two worlds: temperate summers and lovely autumns here and five months of sun in a warm country. So long as we have our health and enough money for airfare to get us to an undeveloped country where the cost of living is less, we can not only escape winter but also experience different cultures.

So what are some of the growth enhancing experiences that I have discovered while living in Victoria Beach? Here are three of them:

1.  The fact that I have unspoiled nature all around me. I can see the great Bay of Fundy from my living room window. I can go for walks along our beautiful road (the oldest in Canada as it boasts of the Habitation in Port Royal founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1604) which takes me through woods and fields where all that reaches my ears are the sounds mother nature and an occasional passing car. I can hear the fog horn in the distance when it’s overcast. I can wake up to the sound of the birds in the morning. I can see the stars and phases of the moon clearly at night. I get a thrill from seeing and hearing the Princess of Acadia, the ferry which goes right past us on its way from Digby to St.John every day. And, yes, I can even learn to like, just a little bit, the sound of the wind whipping around our old house in the late fall and the winter if ever I have to stay here.

Looking out to the Bay of Fundy from Victoria Beach.

Looking out to the Bay of Fundy from Victoria Beach.

Looking across to Digby and the ferry from Victoria Beach.

Looking across to Digby and the ferry from Victoria Beach.

Blossoms on an old apple tree along side of our road.

Blossoms on an old apple tree along side of our road.

2. The most incredible sunsets which are present at all times of the year. I have seen many sunsets  in my travels but none to rival what we get here. Every one of them is unique and always a challenge for my amateur photography skills.

 

Just another incredible sunset at Victoria Beach.

Just another incredible sunset at Victoria Beach.

Victoria Beach - Spring 2014 051

All have their own beauty.

All have their own beauty.

3. Finding a sense of community has to be number three. Victoria Beach has about 50 houses inhabited by locals going back several generations and an increasing number of ‘come from aways’ as the locals like to call us. People from the US, other parts of Canada, Germany, Scotland, and England have come here and fallen in love with what this area has to offer. It took us awhile to feel this ‘sense of community’ but after eight years we have it. We have made friends from all sides both in and around Victoria Beach. When we leave our home for the winter, we have neighbours to keep an eye on things, take in our mail, and water our plants. We know our old house is in good hands. Maybe everyone knows our business, but I have come to realize this is a good thing.

One of the oldest houses in our village.

One of the oldest houses in our village.

Yes, I owe Victoria Beach a great deal. It enriches my soul with its unspoiled nature, its sunsets, its sense of community which goes back more than a hundred years, and its friendly inhabitants. I am glad we have made the decision to stay a little bit longer. It just wasn’t the time to go.