I am overwhelmed by the enormous support and encouragement I have received following the publication of the story of our big move to NZ. Thank you, dear readers!
Last week, we had the immense pleasure of visiting the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. As a devoted fan of Tolkien, this excursion was at the top of my list, and I was not the only one who returned home elated that day. Read on…
Tranquility reigns in the Shire. A hushed spell blankets all visitors to the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata as they cross the green pastures on a bus that transports us to Middle Earth. To walk through the hobbit countryside is to slip, unnoticed, down a rabbit hole, only to find ourselves standing at the bottom of the hill, gazing past charming vegetable patches toward Bilbo — and later Frodo — Baggins’s house, the one with the emerald door left just ajar, a plump pumpkin near it, and a sign that almost shouts, “No admittance, except on party business.” The signs serves its purpose; the stairs leading up to the front entrance beckon forth and the open door lures me in to take a peek. Our tour guide assures us that there is nothing to see inside, but I refuse to believe him. In my mind’s eye, I’m already sprinting up the stairs, then gingerly pushing open the door to step into the warm wooden interior, calling out to Bilbo — or perhaps this is Frodo’s house at this point. Oh, wait a minute. I see, they have deserted their beloved abodes in favour of reluctant adventure.
The neighbourhood is sleepy this morning. Perhaps the neighbours conspired to take their elevenses at the Green Dragon pub by the water, the ideal spot to sip some ale or cider while keeping a close eye on the spectacular hillside village and their humble and dizzyingly charming abodes. Meanwhile, the golden butterflies and bubbly buzzing bees are in charge. They circle the sensible hobbit-sized clothes drying on the washing line outside the homes, taking care not to fly quite too close. A few daredevils among them wait for a swift gust of wind before dashing in-between the legs of a pair of trousers. Do you hear their zesty laughter as they buzz past, filled with cheeky enthusiasm for having escaped danger? Before long, they reluctantly return to work, seeking pretty puffs of pollen.
A monarch butterfly alights on a crimson daisy in Sam Gamgee’s tender garden, whereupon it eavesdropped on the conversations of the visitors with mobile phones and fancy cameras in hand.
‘”I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”*’ quotes one man, and the others smile surreptitiously.
I follow the sign toward The Green Dragon, past the waterwheel and across the bridge, guided by the cheerful sounds of folk music and — why yes, I can almost hear them — the barely audible rhythmic stomping of hobbit feet upon wooden tables as they dance the jig. Walking into the cosy pub, I almost expect to be greeted solemnly by Gandalf, seated by the toasty fireplace, sipping Sackville Cider in-between drags from his pipe that send lazy swirls into the air. The fire is much too warm and I step out into the noonday sun to enjoy my own drink while swatting away thirsty, annoying wasps. They should take lessons from the chummy bees that somehow figured out the right idea of work-life balance, having learned from the locals who will soon go off to enjoy a bit of siesta, feeling fortified following their tea that turned into a lunch.
Following our tour guide back to the bus, feeling somewhat lightheaded, it occurs to me that perhaps I, too, require something more in my belly than a mug of beer. Yet, I do so wish that I could simply lie down in the grass, in the shade of the party tree, and continue to daydream of hobbits, dwarves, wizards, and elves until my eyelids should become heavy and the magic will continue to weave its tapestry. Wistfully, I walk away, making a silent promise to myself to continue to explore my fantasies, to re-read beloved books, and to make space for everyday magic in my life, even if the most exciting event of my day is hanging out the washing to the buzzing song of the bees in a nearby floriferous bush.
* Quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King.
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After 11 days of sunshine, today is our first rainy day in NZ. I see this as an invitation to slow down the pace following our week-long sightseeing adventures, to stay close to home and take care of a few mundane but nonetheless important housekeeping duties. After all, adventure must be balanced with everyday discipline.
Here are a few of my favourite moments from the past week:
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. ~ Anonymous
Those of you who follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook likely already know that the Wanderlust Family has moved from Canada to New Zealand. Many of you have been waiting to hear the full story of our move, and although it is comprised of many chapters that I will most definitely write over the next few months, today, I share with you the prologue.
In late September 2013, Mr. Wanderlust and I were on a weekend getaway to Goderich and Stratford, Ontario. Earlier in the afternoon, we had enjoyed a peaceful walk on the grounds surrounding the charming, quaint country inn in which we were staying. Following dinner, as we relaxed in our room, we had decided to turn on the television. We never watch TV at home, so this action in itself was highly unusual for us. We had flipped a few channels and settled on HGTV and a fantasy show on which a couple from our neighbourhood in the Toronto area was offered, purely hypothetically, a chance to sell their home and, with the money from the house, purchase a home in one of three different appealing locations in the world. One of the locations was Hawke’s Bay, NZ and simply looking at the shots of the location on TV, we started falling in love. Mr. Wanderlust expressed that he has always dreamed of visiting NZ. Yet, reality check! The couple from Ontario wasn’t actually about to sell their home. If they were to move to a different country, more than just the cost of the home would have to be taken into consideration. What about the cost of living, job prospects, etc.? We dismissed the show due to its fantastical nature, but the universe works in wondrous ways, storing information on some faraway shelves in our subconscious minds.
Several months later, on a -30°C day in Toronto, Mr. Wanderlust and I, in typical Canadian fashion, were commiserating about the frigid winter temperature when I sighed, “You know, people complain about the weather and wonder about why they are living in such a cold place. Well, why don’t we do something about it?” When Mr. Wanderlust asked me where I would want to move, I blurted out, “New Zealand.” Then I laughed, brushed aside the crazy idea, and prepared lunch for the youngest Wanderlust Junior, then put him down for a nap. Several hours later, Mr. Wanderlust approached me with a tentative proposal to move to NZ. He had spent some time researching the major cities in the country, job prospects, housing prices, and the cost of living. After several months of serious contemplation, we decided to put the idea into action.
Ultimately, the temperate climate of the north island was just one small deciding factor for us. Both Mr. Wanderlust and I spent our childhood in three different countries, emigrating twice with our parents. These international moves gifted us a lifelong love of travel, and we travelled extensively together, whenever possible. Perhaps, for that reason, the idea of uprooting our family did not seem intimidating to us. We feel at home anywhere in the world.
Having thoroughly researched NZ, we were attracted to its diverse landscapes and the various opportunities for activities that we love most — camping, hiking, and paddleboarding — and for new ones that we are looking forward to experiencing in the near future. We wanted to move to a smaller city but one in which we would have access to everything that we need and where we would be able to enjoy a slower way of life. For that reason, we chose Tauranga, currently the fifth largest city in NZ. It’s a large enough city that feels like a small town. Frankly, I loved the idea of Wellington, which reminds me of San Francisco, one of my favourite cities. However, as a person of mostly Vata constitution, I do not like the idea of living in a windy location, and Wellington is known for precisely that kind of weather; Toronto was already too windy for me on most days. But there I go talking about the weather again. We wanted to be in a relatively quiet and family-friendly city in which we would have an opportunity to spend plenty of time outdoors. And so, we chose to follow our dream.
We made a timeline for our move and followed through. We knew we wanted to relocate in late 2016 or early 2017 and submitted our initial visa application. We went through the immigration process, arranged everything for our move, sold our house north-east of Toronto, sold many of our furniture pieces and housewares, shipped some 100 boxes of personal belongings and furniture, packed our suitcases with clothes and other essential items that we require for the first three months in NZ (until our shipment arrives), and were on our way.
We have been in Tauranga for a week now and are settling into our new temporary home, exploring our new town and its neighbourhoods, and getting used to a new way of life. I will continue to write about our adventures in NZ, new discoveries, and lessons.
I will publish a second post on a weekly basis, on Saturdays (in NZ) / Fridays (in North America and Europe), featuring a photo journal of weekly highlights, as well as notable links from around the web, related to mindfulness/awareness, literature, travel, and other subjects of interest. There is so much to discover, but I remind myself daily to slow down and savour each new incredible experience.
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I was invited by a friend to take part in a photo challenge on Facebook, the premise of which is to share one nature photograph per day, over a period of seven days. As a general rule, I ignore invitations to participate in challenges and play games on social media, mostly because it is one more task to add to my ‘to do’ list and requires that I visit my social media pages at least once per day to post an update. Yet, I chose to accept this invite. Today marks day 7 of the challenge, and although I will be glad to take a break from social media for the next few days, I gained a few interesting lessons from the experience:
1. Wanderlust reigns.
While searching the hard drive of my computer for nature photos to share, I noticed that my attention gravitated not toward recent photos of beautiful local hiking trails and beaches but older photos taken during my and Mr. Wanderlust’s travels in Germany, France, Austria, Arizona, and other spectacular destinations. I don’t need to analyze this pattern to understand that I long to travel again.
2. I love cities with green spaces, and seek nature even in the busiest locales.
While on a weekend trip to NYC a year and half ago, I longed to stroll through Central Park after visiting the Museum of Natural History. In Prague, I loved hiking up Petrin Hill. In Paris, I enjoyed the Jardin du Luxembourg. When we travelled to Las Vegas seven years ago, we spent a day in the busy city, then woke up early the following morning for a two-day road trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. Last year, while visiting Florida, we interspersed visits to the Disney parks with day trips to the beach. That photo of the hummingbird above? Mr. Wanderlust snapped it on the street in San Francisco. It’s safe to say that although we love interesting urban locales, we always seek nature, whether it’s in a park, a forest, the desert, or the seaside. Even in the busiest city, the view of a breathtaking sunset behind the skyscrapers calms me, reminding me to breathe deeper and walk taller while firmly planting my feet on the paved sidewalk.
3. Stepping outside is the quickest, most effective way to recharge.
I enjoy a quiet morning walk on my way home after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school. Although the mornings are crisp and some days can feel cold, that is my opportunity to engage in a moving meditation, setting one foot in front of the other with awareness. I return home feeling recharged and ready to clean the kitchen after breakfast, then plan my work for the day ahead. There is no need to go far to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
4. Social media sometimes has its merits.
I have become disenchanted with a lack of true connection on social media. It is easy to mechanically click ‘like’ on a photo or an update and I do not consider this to be a manner of engagement. Yet, some days, I am pleasantly surprised and delighted when someone takes a few seconds to type a comment, and this is something that I strive to practise, taking time to genuinely engage with others via the online world. This challenge has also served as a valuable opportunity for me to reevaluate the content I share on my social media pages. I am not one to post frequent photos of myself and selfies are not my cup of tea. In the future, I will dedicate my social media accounts to sharing more inspiring content related to beautiful natural landscapes and breathtaking city views, books and words in their many forms, art in its many expressions, and of course, yoga and meditation.
Do you enjoy sharing photos on social media of beautiful places in nature? Do you, perhaps, have an Instagram page dedicated to such art work? If so, I’m curious to take a peek. Please tell me about it in the comments below.
Depending on where in the world you reside, you might already be well into your festivities. I wish you a warm and cosy week of celebrations with your dear ones. I also want to thank you for your support over the past 12 months. Mindful Daydreamer is forever evolving as I continue to learn and mature in my writing and exploration of ideas. I’m grateful to have this platform to share my thoughts and for the support of my loyal readers. I bow to you in deep gratitude.
Happy holidays! I am taking a mini retreat from blogging and social media, but will write again in the early days of 2017. Until then, may we all bask in the quiet peace of these final days of the year before welcoming the new one. Enjoy every moment!
If during the holiday week you have a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and would like to catch up on some reading you might have missed, or re-read a few favourite posts, allow me to share with you the 11 most popular Mindful Daydreamer posts of 2016:
Humming songs about Thumbelina while skipping toward the patch where wild strawberries smirk as they play hide-and-seek.
Running along the rustling golden path laid carefully with delicate cascading leaves.
Stopping to twirl now and then, silver bells of laughter playing with the gossamer leaves of the surrounding trees.
Seeking demure mushrooms that lurk behind the robes of gnomes disguised as tree stumps.
Constructing cosy moss houses for the faeries on the floor of the lush green forest.
Wandering off the path to explore, sometimes discovering surprises both pleasant and fascinatingly spooky.
“Mama, does a witch live in the little cottage in that clearing over there? Do you suppose she’s lonely? The squirrels and birds must keep her company.”
The memories of my childhood days of playing in the pine and maple forests remain strong with me to this day. I seek solace on the winding paths, allowing myself to be guided. I thirst to hear the whisper of the trees, the rustle of the leaves, to dance with the breeze and swaying willows and to stand rooted, attentive to the murmurs of the mysterious life that surrounds me. It always made perfect sense to me that the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien chose to set many of their stories in the forest. The setting has always been enchanting and continues to enthrall.
Several years ago, while visiting Fussen, Bavaria with Mr. Wanderlust, we chose to walk up the misty mountains toward the quietly bewitching Neuschwanstein Castle. The visit brought my fairy tales to life before me, overwhelming my fantasies as I sought to absorb the visit with great gulps, urging the colours, textures, and smells of the castle to remain in my memory without ever fading. The building lured me within and hypnotized me. My affinity toward it is that strong. I listened attentively to the strange stories of King Ludwig II, recounted by our tour guide. Prior to visiting the impeccable castle, I had read the fascinating story behind the Fairy Tale King’s idealistic vision for the perfect dwelling, and his story spoke to me, from one lover of magical storytelling to another. Standing in the lavish rooms of the castle and admiring every carefully planned refined detail, I felt I understood the king’s passion, and I whispered as much to the walls that were silently watching the processions of tourist groups. Those walls tell wonderful Medieval stories with their murals, yet I imagined the secrets they keep to themselves, with all that they have seen and heard over more than the past century.
After Mr. Wanderlust and I reluctantly left the castle, we took a walk in the darkening Black Forest beneath an overcast autumn sky and the heavy canopy of trees to marvel at the beauty of the swan castle from different angles. I read about the Black Forest in my favourite fairy tale books, and its significance was heightened for me at that moment. I saw what Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty saw on their own walks through the woods to collect mushrooms and berries. Shhh, don’t tell me they are fictional characters. If you have ever walked through those woods, I’m sure you were awed into stillness, allowing magic to weave its way around you, silencing your logical mind, if only for a few moments.
I continue to seek that magic every time I step onto a forest path. I wish to reawaken the enchantment, to bring back to life the fascinating stories of my childhood… If only for a few moments.
Have you ever felt such magic? Tell me about it, perhaps by leaving a comment below.
“In such a dead world, Amélie prefers to dream until she’s old enough to leave home.”
I was planning to write this week’s blog post about the intuitive process I use to make important decision, but this Mindfulness-based practice soon made way for my Daydreamer side. You see, dear reader, at the time of writing the original essay, I was listening to the soundtrack of the movie Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain or simply, Amélie. The waltz on Yann Tiersen’s accordion sent toward me waves of nostalgia that continued to beckon until I finally gave up my attempt to write about the original subject and gave into the temptation to allow my mind to roam (and oh, how my mind loves to roam).
I first saw Amelie in the spring of 2002 with my mom at a local budget movie theatre. I was smitten. I’m still infatuated. In Amélie I found a kindred spirit, and Audrey Tautou quickly became one of my most admired actresses. The shy but remarkably curious and passionate girl on the big screen fascinated me with her daydreams and hilarious fantastical scenarios that she wove in her head, affording her so much more comfort than she finds in the world outside. Yet, she also nudges herself to slowly explore and awaken her inner strength in order to create a real life out of her daydreams, all the while getting an altruistic kick out of helping people in her community in endearing unconventional ways. As an INFP, I was riveted by the screenplay, the dialogue, whimsical quotes, and the even more whimsically charming little flat in which Amélie lives in the Montmartre in Paris, which also happens to be my favourite neighbourhood of the city. As I sat in the dark theatre, with a wide smile on my face, I marvelled at the affinity that I felt toward this fictional character, my long-lost twin. I knew I had to find her.
Almost ten years ago, while on our honeymoon in France, Mr. Wanderlust and I dedicated an entire sunny day in late July to exploring Amélie’s Montmartre. I remain infinitely grateful to Mr. Wanderlust for his patience. After researching the movie locations online and planning our day, we started our visit at the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro station, then visited the little corner grocery stand that transformed into ‘Collignon & Fils’ for the film (that’s me in the photo above, reading the many newspaper clippings that adorn the window of the little shop), visited Cafe des deux moulins where Amélie works, made our way to the Sacré-Coeur basilica, and even unexpectedly spotted, while strolling along rue Pigalle, the adult video shop in which Amélie’s love interest, Nino, is employed. I felt I found her there. I found Amélie.
When the film first made its North American debut, I was in the midst of completing my first year of journalism school. Every day, I second-guessed my choice of the field of study, and felt greatly intimidated by my assignments, which required me to step into a role of a confident extrovert. I went into that field because I enjoyed writing. Yet, each time I was expected to pick up the phone to speak with interview subjects, I wished I could run home and hide under the covers of my bed with a novel in which fascinating people went out into a fascinating world, to do fascinating things. I preferred to hide behind email than to pick up the phone and speak with a live person. Come to think of it, I still do prefer email as a mode of communication; it provides me with plenty of time to gather my thoughts and compose messages that allow me to express myself more eloquently, more carefully.
Amélie reminded me that it’s not enough to daydream and live vicariously though the exciting lives of others. She showed me that I must nudge myself, over and over again, to step outside of my comfort zone, to go out and create life as an active participant. Although I no longer need to remind myself of this message on a regular basis, I remember the shy, terrified girl who hides somewhere within me. From time to time, she wishes she could stay under the covers and not have to deal with the real world in which she lives, with the real people with whom it’s not always easy to get along. And so, over and over, I get up, take a deep breath with a long exhale, and resolve to sprinkle a bit more kindness throughout the world around me as I take sips from my confidence shake. Before long, I walk a little taller along my suburban street, with the sunshine on my face, hearing La valse d’Amélie as it plays somewhere close by. I think I will watch the film again this weekend, for the umpteenth time, to satisfy my nostalgic reminiscence.
Is there a film toward which or a character toward whom you feel an extraordinary affinity? Please leave a comment below, and thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.
Yesterday, we returned from a week-long family vacation in the sunshine of Florida and the Bahamas. This was our first big family vacation. Prior to this, we had enjoyed road trips and cottage getaways in Ontario, so by ‘big vacation’ I mean that this was Wanderlust Juniors’ first time on an airplane. It was also the first time on a cruise ship for all four of us, and we spent a wonderful week together.
We wanted to take our children to Disney World for the out-of-this-world experience. However, I have a very low tolerance for crowds and do not enjoy roller coasters. Although Mr. Wanderlust has a slightly better tolerance for both crowds and rides, we planned our vacation carefully. After hearing excellent reviews of Disney cruise lines and learning about the option to embark on a three-night cruise to the Bahamas, we were sold. We reasoned that if we were to find that we did not enjoy the cruise, at least we would not have had to suffer through it for too long. Nothing to worry about there! The experience turned out to be relaxing and entertaining, and the three days flew by too quickly. At Castaway Cay, a private Disney island in the Bahamas, Mr. Wanderlust got to cross an item off his ‘bucket list’ after feeding stingrays and snorkeling with them. I half joke that he must have been an oceanic creature in one of his past lives, given his passion for aquatic fauna, and he doesn’t rush to correct me.
Following the cruise, we planned to visit two Disney parks. After careful consideration of the various options, we chose to visit Magic Kingdom because we wanted to see the classic, and Hollywood Studios for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones attractions. However, before heading back to Orlando, we drove in our rental car along the coast from Port Canaveral to Barrier Island Sanctuary in Melbourne Beach. Mr. Wanderlust is a cause-related partner of The Sea Turtle Conservancy, located in Gainesville, Florida, and although we were not prepared to drive for a few hours to that location but were in the vicinity of Barrier Island Sanctuary, Mr. Wanderlust wanted to pay a visit to this educational centre to share his passion for ocean life advocacy with Wanderlust Juniors. We learned about the sea turtles that nest on the local beaches, and the potential threats they face. We also explored the local beach and admired the gorgeous green plants that grow on the path that leads from the educational centre to the beach.
On Monday, we visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom and, thanks to a relaxed itinerary and carefully chosen Fast Passes, were able to thoroughly enjoy eight hours at the park, without ever feeling rushed. We allowed Wanderlust Juniors to choose the rides and respected their decision to avoid certain others. We also created many opportunities to rest in the shade while having a snack and drinking water. Packing our own lunches with groceries from the local supermarket was not only a cost-effective but also a healthier alternative to many of the conventional eateries at the park. We left Magic Kingdom feeling tired but happy. We provided Wanderlust Juniors with a choice for the following day: visit Hollywood Studios or drive back to the beach near Port Canaveral. They chose the latter. Like their introvert outdoor adventure-loving parents, they prefer a balance of quiet days outside in nature and several hours spent among fun crowds.
We had a great day at Cocoa Beach and also went on an impromptu walk on a nature trail near Melbourne Beach. We cut our trek short because (a) by the time we arrived on the trail, mosquitoes started to come out in search of a snack, and we did not have bug spray with us. (b) We all were wearing sandals after a day at the beach, as the walk on the trail was a spur-of-the-moment decision. (c) We read in the guest book at the start of the trail that alligators can often be seen near the trail; the sun was starting to set and we did not want to find ourselves on a dark trail with alligators and mosquitoes. Mr. Wanderlust was somewhat saddened at having missed the prospect of coming face-to-face with an alligator, but I suppose that is yet another item to add to his ‘bucket list’ for a future travel adventure.
On our last day in Florida, we visited Hollywood Studios, where the eldest Wanderlust Junior trained to be a Jedi, then battled Seventh Sister. We also watched the Indiana Jones show twice, went on a Star Wars ride, and explored a few other attractions. Once again, we took our time moving through the park, working around our relaxed Fast Pass agenda, and left after dark to head back to our hotel to pack for our return flight.
And that, dear reader, is how the Wanderlusts mindfully enjoy Disney — with beach breaks in-between. We asked Wanderlust Juniors whether they prefer the beach or Disney parks. Their answer? Although they like Disney, they would always rather go to the beach. We couldn’t argue with that.
Have you visited Disney World or Disneyland recently? Do you have any mindful tips to offer to readers who might be planning their own family vacation to the parks in the near future? Please leave a comment below.