Hey – It’s been quite a year.
How’s that for an overused opening phrase?
2018 seems to have sacked everyone in some way, shape or form.
I am glad to have said farewell to 2018. Last year tested me in a lot of ways. I typically do not bear emotions or “air my dirty laundry” online, but in the interest of actually being transparent or somewhat authentic, I feel like my personal life is the equivalent of a dumpster fire.
Some massive stress in my TV work life made me question whether or not I could even continue in my current capacity. My creativity has been sacked, micro-managed and ground down. Over the years of 2014-2018, on various projects, extremely long hours were demanded of me to the point of my getting only 2-4 hours of sleep at night while raising young children. I suffered emotional abuse at the hands of “visionaries”.
I can’t even begin to describe how much that sucked and it’s an uphill battle to get my creative mojo back. Lots of time away from the edit suite over the past couple of weeks has been helpful.
I’ve also learned the word no. It’s an incredibly valuable phrase.
Home life is not tranquil either and since I work from home mainly, there’s no “escape” unless I take this laptop to a coffee shop (coming to you from Starbucks right now!). And if I’m in the thick of editing a documentary or episode of reality TV, it’s not exactly possible.
Some of you know, I made the decision to take a self-imposed sabbatical from working in television over the summer and spending time with my children instead. I’m so glad I did. It did wonders for my mental health.
I am welcoming 2019 with open arms
Honestly, I did enjoy many aspects of this past year! First and foremost, I re-discovered my love of pink hair. Specifically, my pink hair. I experimented with a lot of different hair colours at a younger age and I know I liked pink.
Change your life, change your hair colour. Right? Right.
I also spent a lot of time in the gym and taking my health more seriously then just taking my hypothyroid meds and bouncing off on my way. I’m paying attention to what I eat.
I’m not into doing before and after shots in my underwear to post on Instagram for the world to see. Despite my intense love of beer and blue corn nachos with sour cream, the results are in my jaw line and my hella sexy rear end.
The highlights of 2018
To kick off 2018, my family travelled with friends for our annual Caribbean vacation and this time we visited Beaches Negril Resort. We can honestly say that we are completely blown away by the atmosphere, the service, the staff, the experience. Truthfully, it’s EVERYTHING that the Beaches Resorts have to offer!
We didn’t feel crowded anywhere. We went at the end of January into the first week of February. There was ample space on the beach, a lot of pool loungers at both Pirate Island and the main pool. It seemed that we never had to wait long to be seated for meals. Nothing ever felt crowded and you never felt like you didn’t have your own space to enjoy yourself.
Winter Camping in Algonquin
From the sunny beaches to the frozen ground, I then partnered with Ontario Parks to bring you the exciting highlights of yurt camping in Mew Lake. I almost thought I was crazy. Almost. Then I had THE BEST TIME.
The air was crisp, but so fresh. My photographer friend, Brian kindly accompanied me and planned out all the meals and I got to do some hiking, cooking and sightseeing. I loved it so much, I’m partnering with Ontario Parks again next month to do it all over again in a different location.
Little Man has discovered a love of downhill skiing and has taken a couple of lessons now at Blue Mountain Resort.
His Dad has said many times that he used to downhill ski himself, so hopefully he takes it up as well and helps foster Little Man’s love. Lessons will be continuing at Ski Dagmar this winter.
I’m only skilled in cross-country skiing and that’s what Miss M would like to try.
At the beginning of May, I attended the Mom 2.0 Summit in Pasadena, California. It was my second time attending the conference and my second time in California. I’ve been reflecting a lot on where to send my time and energy this year and I’ve said I wasn’t going to attend Mom 2.0 this year but I am. It’s such a reunion of friends from all over North America, with a small side of education. I need that time with the women who really get me. And I need solo travel without my children. Boy, do I ever. No disrespect to my flesh and blood, but I am truly a better mother and person when I have had that time away.
Also, I met Taye Diggs and he grabbed my UNFLEXED bicep. It was epically embarrassing. There’s also a string hanging out of the shoulder of my dress. I was a super hot, drunk mess that night that involved getting kicked out of an outside hot tub at the hotel around 3:00 am. A lot of poor judgement was made that night that resulted in a super hungover and terrible plane ride home.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: I’m cursed with foggy weather. As much as I love sunshine, it doesn’t follow me. And I chase after it too. Simply put, I’l have to travel to California again for a real experience.
Miss M Took Up Rugby
If I could picture a sport that my daughter would have taken a liking to, it would have been something like tennis. She’s doing really well with swimming and she could have a competitive future there one day. I was really hoping for her to excel in karate, which was my sport growing up. It wasn’t to be her destiny, however. She gravitated to rugby somehow and fell in love.
This is her, escorting Toronto Wolfpack player Richard Whiting onto the field before a game.
I’m so proud of her, the little person she has become and what she is going to accomplish in this world.
A Return to Saskatoon
In late 2017, I needed to escape for a long weekend and I did to Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Edmonton. Why? To start with, those are places I’ve never spent time in. Also, I was Northern Light chasing. I tried and sadly failed despite having a northern guide. And then I spent a night with a cousin and that was long overdue.
On that initial plane from Toronto to Saskatoon, a guy sat down next to me and chatted my ear off. But he had a story and I love a good story. His story was so good that we have been developing a documentary with a Western Canadian documentary production company. Fingers crossed we get our funding and move forward on this.
Shenandoah is Special
Checking off another hiking milestone in my life is hiking a few trails in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This park is on every hiker’s bucket list.
I hiked far and long over a 3 day weekend and came back blissfully sore and fulfilled from nature. Maybe saw 1% of the park and that’s because of driving south to north on Skyline drive. As always, I feel like I didn’t see enough and I want to go back. Common theme in my life!
Exploring Ontario In The Summer
After the school year ended, my kids and I were lucky enough to take the week off of responsibilities and instead took over my parent’s house in Hastings County. We became beach bums in Prince Edward County, checked out the Tyendinaga Caverns and Caves and paddled the Trent.
It was the best way I would ever envision starting a summer! I was taking a long overdue sabbatical from working in the TV industry in Toronto.
Glamping and Hiking with Ontario Parks
The following week, I partnered again with Ontario Parks and took the kids for a rustic cabin stay in Bonnechere Provincial Park.
We found a beautiful beach, learned that the second week of July is high season for mosquitos, ate Beaver Tails in the town of Killahoe while waiting for a replacement tire for my SUV, hiked the amazing Barron Canyon Trail in Algonquin, paddled the Bonnechere River, slept well, ate well and spent time off the grid as there was very limited cellular service and definitely no wifi.
Family Road Trips Can Bring Out The Absolute Worst In Me
Every summer, my cousins and spouses from my Dad’s side of the family, along with my sister and all our children get together for the annual “Cousins Weekend”. This summer we met for a couple of nights in Blue Mountain. The kids have a blast, it’s a special bond to have with your cousins and we love it. After that, my kids, their father and I decided to head up to Tobermory, Ontario for a couple of days – it’s a place we spent time there together as a family in the past and really enjoyed it. We agreed that there was much more to explore.
On the drive from Blue Mountain to Tobermory, we detoured to Skinner’s Bluff. We went chasing some epic lookouts I had heard of through the hiker’s grapevine. We were not disappointed in the view, but the route to find the secret entrance to the loop to the lookouts stirred up some tension. I don’t like getting lost, I also don’t like not being in control. More on that another time.
We made it to Tobermory in one piece and the next day, scratched off another goal on the “to-see” list and that was The Grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park. Wow! So glad we took the kids to experience that and I hope they remember it.
Getting back to Toronto from Tobermory took an excruciatingly long time. If memory serves, we drove from Tobermory to Lion’s Head. Went out for a hike there and when we left there I think it went off the rails. I went squirley sitting in the passenger seat. Stuck my face into my phone playing mindless games so that I wouldn’t look up and criticize the driver for the next 3 hours. I’m sure it was appreciated.
Foo Fighters Again and Again
Dave Grohl is god. Always has been in my eyes and always will be. My top 10 favourite live music shows include the handful of times I’ve seen the Foo Fighters play – starting all the way back to 1997. I missed out on seeing them in 2015 when they last rolled through Toronto and it broke my heart. Another story for another time. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to see them this year in Toronto either so I arranged to meet an old friend from out west in Chicago to see them perform at Wrigley Field.
Here’s a great and happy ending to the above sob story… I did see them in Toronto in July as well. To make up for missing out on seeing them in 2015, I saw them twice in July! First in Toronto and then in Chicago.
Yes, I am living my best life.
Recuperating in Norfolk County
To close out the summer, the kids and I had the most amazing glamping experience at Long Point Eco Adventures. Tucked away just outside of Port Dover, in Norfolk County, Ontario, with access to great local wine, beer and cuisine. We were hosted by the fabulous Ted with Norfolk Tourism and it was like a red carpet got rolled out everywhere we went. This is a little dangerous for my kids as they are being raised a lot differently than I was!
First of all, I grew up roughing it in a tent, on the ground, without electricity.
Norfolk County is relaxing and it was a nice calm way to wind the kids down after a “go-go” summer. We were busy this week, no doubt about it, but there was “down time” built into the schedule. That time was appreciated greatly.
My First Official Travel Blogger’s Conference
It’s taken me a couple years of testing the waters, I’ve contributed to many other sites and pages. There has been hustling and learning, but I definitely know where in the writing and influencer world where my strength lies. I’ve had a few posts in the parenting realm that have taken off and gained a lot of traction. However, the posts that time after time have the most readers, the most engagement, the most shares are all travel related.
So, I went to TBEX – a travel blogger’s conference in September in Corning New York. This was also my first time visiting the Finger Lakes region of New York in my life. That’s really crazy because I live so close to there. I spend so much of my life travelling far and wide while some of the coolest places I have been are within a 4-5 hour drive of my front door. That is mind-blowing.
What was more mind blowing was learning from some of the top in the industry. Their methods and tricks and making friends with those I could only admire online before. We brainstormed together, discussed trends, the business, tips and tricks, laughed over meals, drinks and cab rides. It was incredibly inspirational!
But the topping on the cake? I went there with friends from Toronto – Chris from Rudderless Travel, Chris from Traveling Mitch, Kevin from Wandering Wagars, split a hotel room with Danielle from The Thought Card, hung with Jason of One Good Dad and Brianna from The Casual Travelist and had a blast. To kick off the conference, we were treated to a wine tour, a party at Watkins Glen race track, then the conference, hanging out in Corning, had one of the best most gorgeous hikes ever in Watkins Glen State Park and the venue – The Corning Museum of Glass? How cool!
Social MedIa On The Sand
One of my most favourite family vacations has been taken at a Beaches Resorts location. Did you read above? Not to beat you over the head with it, but I’ve been to Beaches Turks and Caicos and Beaches Negril. There’s going to be a fourth location breaking ground soon in Barbados. I simply cannot wait to take my children there when it does.
Aside from loving the environment I was in, I was at Social Media On The Sand – an invitational-only conference for the top influencers in the family travel world. It was like I hit the jackpot when I was invited, couldn’t believe it! I had so many friends there that I had met in both the online and offline worlds. It was THE BEST WEEK. Huh, it sounds like every trip I went on, I had the best week. Yep, I did.
It was such a blast hanging out with those friends! Sometimes time away from home is good. We also had the experience of spending a morning helping to rebuild an elementary school that was ravaged by Hurricane Irma. This was one of the most impactful experiences I have ever had. You can see the video on Youtube here.
Everyone there was spoiled by the brands who sponsored the conference. I ate well, I drank a lot, I got the right amount of vitamin D! I relaxed, I spent time with my sister who came with me to look after Little Man and brought her two boys as well. Also, I experienced SNUBA which is a hybrid between snorkelling and scuba diving, sailed into the sunset on a catamaran and got sand everywhere. Time well spent!
As I look back on the last almost 3,000 words, I realize I didn’t even get to all the amazing hikes, music festivals and outside excursions we had around Ontario! There are still a few hikes I have yet to write up about for this site.
I don’t set or make resolutions for the year to come. The reason is I have done so in the past and have let myself down many, many times. Instead, I try to focus on my intentions and what I can try to do better this year than last year. How can I work smarter and not harder?
One of the things I am going to aim to do is try to be more timely with my videos and posts. I need to write my assignments or edit the videos while I am still on a “high” from the destination. Those posts and videos will be way fresher, better and have more excitement to them!
I have posts lingering in my drafts that are half-written in my brain from 2018. That is not the best place for them. Either I’m going to produce a helluva lot of content over January and February of this year to make up for it or I’m going to scrap them and start brand new.
And I got a drone for Christmas. Hopefully, I don’t fly it into a tree my first time out!
Where am I going this year?
If you know me, you know I simply cannot function in life unless I have a trip planned and booked in the future. This is the exciting part – I have a few things lined up already and it’s only January 4th!
I’m taking my annual vacation with family and friends at Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos at the end of this month.
I’ll be yurt camping again – in MacGregor Point Provincial Park next month.
My daughter will be turning 10 this year. We are going on very special birthday trip that will see us visit Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseilles, Cannes, Milan and Paris.
I will be in Montana for TBEX and I look forward to hiking (surprise!)! Hopefully I’ll hop on a horse again and learning so much more about the travel writing business.
What else does 2019 hold for me?
Before anything, more fun time with my kids. Not scheduled or dictated time. Free spirited, led by them, fun time. Less of allowing ego-maniacs to monopolize my time. Yes, I’ll be back to working in the TV industry as of next week, but on my terms now. I will not ever work until 2:00 am again unless it’s on my stuff.
For the first time ever in my life, I am truly in control of my time and energy. I have an couple exciting business prospects in front of me that I didn’t foresee this time last year. I’m really jazzed about this!
I’ll be focusing on the content I am creating, not what someone else wants me to create for them. It’s liberating and I can’t wait to share it all with you! With that, I am welcoming 2019 and bidding a fond farewell to 2018. Don’t let the door hit you in the way out.