KNOW-MO

It’s funny what happens when you start deciding not to be somewhere. We have all done it. New jobs, cities, hobbies, even nights in armed with tea and binge watching TV happen because we resolve not to do something.

You know what you are missing because you chose not to do it. It doesn’t matter what you are doing instead. From riding your bike with bums you know to selfies or cocktails or selfies featuring cocktails, you know what would be happening IF.
If you were there.

If you decided that the other thing was more important than the thing you are doing now.

But.

It isn’t.

You decided. You have to own it, but it doesn’t make it easy and this is where Know-MO comes in.

Maybe it was your bank account that motivated it. Maybe it was your desire to see the ocean every day, but whatever it was, it was more important than the thing you are kinda missing right now.

I say kinda, because you and I both know that you made a choice. That what is happening right now somewhere else isn’t your jam today.

It isn’t fear of missing out. You have no FOMO. You aren’t afraid. You made a selection based on some type of weighted decision criteria and something else won out.

When I decided to move across the planet I evaluated the pros against the cons. In typical Rory fashion I made a list.

Leave a job I loved in a city I loved with friends I loved for a city I didn’t really know, with a partner I loved to live a life I craved near the ocean with unaccounted for ideas of adventure that I couldn’t yet imagine.

The partner and the ocean weighed more than the job, friends, and city. It was a weird choice. I would have loved to have taken all the amazing things with me, but life is not about what is nice to have.

I chose to give up a life I loved for a life I didn’t know much about. It meant that I would have to accept that things I liked doing in places I claimed as my favs were going to happen without me. It wasn’t FOMO. It was KNOW-MO. I know exactly what I am missing every day.

For the last couple of weeks, I have headed back to visit cities I love, with people I love to hang out and do the things I’ve been knowingly missing and I find myself already thinking about home. I know what I gave up to leave and now I know what I am leaving to visit old homes and already find myself missing home before I have even really been gone.

Each time we leave something we love we make choices. It might be the city we grew up in or a home we selected to make our own, but at the end of the day it is something we knew in exchange for some type of adventure.

I freaking LOVE adventure. I love discovering new places and exploring. A couple of years ago I made a choice to leave what I knew in exchange for what I wanted and a slew of things I didn’t even know I wanted yet.

That is what adventures teach us. That what happens after you step outside your comfort zone might be better or worse than what is inside it. Even more importantly it is about the things we cannot even imagine discovering that begin to appear when we are open to it.

It’s weird to know what you are missing. You have to acknowledge it and move forward.

We talk about FOMO mostly in regard to a night out with your friends  versus a night in with Netflix and comfy pants (you only get to call them yoga pants if you actually do freaking yoga in them…let’s be honest here).

The last few weeks have reminded me that while I don’t consider places like Toronto and Atlanta to be like home anymore they are filled with loving friends, chosen family, and a version of welcome that cannot be adequately described without hugs, tears from laughter, and high fives.

Thank you to everyone who reminded me that I am loved, who went out of their way to renew my welcome, and who took time out of their very busy lives to shuttle me about and help me to arrive everywhere safely. My door is always open to each of you, just remember to bring your passport in order to clear customs en route.

Are we there yet?

The other day I was chatting with a friend about road trips. I love them. Assembling meals from the gas station, scenery, random giant landmarks, debates over the best choice of radio station.

I used to struggle with long trips as I viewed my destination as the goal and the drive to the destination as the cost rather than a part of the experience. Today that is not the case.

A few years ago I went on a road trip in an RV and surrounded by some of my best friends I experienced the journey. I discovered that the trip including late night coffee stops, peeing roadside and trash talking one another for their choice in music, snacks, apparel, etc. was as much a part of the vacation as the things that we stopped to see or do. I have more pictures and fond memories of us in that RV than at any other location and would go on the same adventure again tomorrow (SNCKR’14?).

Along the way I learned things about myself and that somewhere in between here and there is when I truly realized that memories do not require destinations to be made. They happen with every kilometre you cover, so no…. we aren’t there yet, settle in and just enjoy being here right now.

Life Changing Septembers

I find it funny that my very favourite month of the year in Ontario (September) has become my month away from home.  For the last three years my September’s have been filled with life changing adventures, loaded with new ideas, given me new friends and sent me home to Ontario with fresh perspectives on life, work, and who I am.

Twenty Ten

Erin Burrell and Helene Fournier Lower Sackville
Last day of riding 2010 SNKCR

It all began in 2010 when I decided to ride my bike across Canada as a member of the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride (SNKCR).  I joined a group of strangers in Vancouver for a bike ride to raise funds for paediatric cancer causes and to drive awareness.  I had no idea that I would get so much back for my effort.  The group of volunteers and riders (approximately 100 people) come together for an amazing cause and became my family.

SNCKR 2011 Erin and Dan
Volunteers for a Cause

Twenty Eleven

In my quest to pay forward all that I experienced from the 2010 ride, I hopped on the bandwagon as a member of the support crew for SNKCR 2011.  Armed with the knowledge of what the riders were going through and the feeling of how much my volunteers gave to me, I headed across Canada again.  This time it was a different experience.  Many of the people there started as my family and each of the new riders and crew were a welcome addition to our world.

Twenty Twelve

Motivated by the last two years of giving back to my community I made the choice to give back to myself.  Enrolling in the Royal Roads MBA program was a big step for me in helping to move forward as a professional and as a person.  What I was not expecting was that this was another huge adventure.  School has been something I have thought about for quite some time, but not something that I was prepared to commit to.  I was sure that I would learn a lot, but I had no idea I would change as a person.  The program includes two residencies and a bunch of online learning and programs along the way.

I spent the last three weeks in Victoria BC on my first residency engaged in team projects, outstanding classes and absorbing as much content as I possibly could.  During all of this academic learning came a great deal of personal growth.  Being in a safe place to ask the question “how does my action effect another person?” was incredibly empowering.  It helped me to better understand my own choices and to listen before making a judgement about another person.

At least the weather was good for crutches

The Lessons

Each year I have taken a number of personal lessons away from my experiences.  These lessons were not easily earned and in many cases came with many obstacles that I had to overcome before I could get to the lesson at all.

In 2010 I learned how to feel genuine emotion again by learning how to cry after years of thinking that tears were a sign of weakness. I became liberated by understanding that emotion is what makes us whole.  In 2011 I learned that the little things you do for another person can make their lives better in big ways.

This year was the biggest personal lesson so far.  I learned that asking others to help you is sometimes more of a gift to them than to you. Navigating the campus on crutches was hard, but learning that I can ask for help will last a lot longer than a broken leg.

Now I find myself wondering what life changing adventures are ahead of me next September…..The world is full of lessons if you are willing to show up on time for class.

Adventuring New Zealand

For four weeks in Dec 2011-Jan 2012 I travelled around New Zealand in a camper van.

While I did do quite a bit of research in advance of my trip, you can never really know what is going to make or break a trip and I like to have some resources on hand during any adventure.

For this trip I trusted the 2011 Rough Guide NZ-purchased in Canada for pre trip research and lived on the dash for most of the trip and the AA Travel Atlas (yeah I know only my mom uses a travel atlas)-purchased for $25NZD on day one and used every day.  Living without a data plan on my phone meant that I had to actually navigate with the atlas and this one is well designed.  It also includes some cool highlights and was how I discovered things like the Top 10 Parks and Pancake Rocks.

Going into the trip I had a list of must do items and a rough idea of when I wanted to tackle the items.  Most weren’t really that complicated.

I wanted to walk on a black sand beach

I wanted to bungee jump.

I wanted to see penguins in the wild

I wanted to hike

I wanted to ride my bike 

I wanted to get some real New Zealand Merino wool to make a blanket

I wanted to wade in the Tasman Sea

I am not a complex or demanding traveller.  I prefer to be free to discover things I enjoy (flat whites) and to walk away from the things that don’t inspire in me what they might have in others (Moreaki boulders).

I don’t like to have a tight schedule that involves being stressed or rushing to and from places so that means that I don’t travel in big groups or go on a lot of organized tours.

Fiordland NZ

Things I would do again 

Pancake Rocks

I would love to see these at sunrise or sunset.  I found them inspiring and magical in the sunshine, but I anticipate that I may discover more by visiting without a crowd of tourists on Christmas Holiday

Mountain Biking: I did highlight some of the areas that my bike and I got a bit of a work out, but honestly I would ride anywhere in the country.  It is outstanding.  I will post all about MTB NZ in a separate post in the near future.

Drive through Arthur’s Pass

One of the most amazing locations in the country!   In the space of just a couple hours you see ocean and mountain, cross multiple weather systems and more.  The scenery is spectacular…the sand flies (Canadian Black Flies) were awful though.

Te Papa  

The museum is beautiful and you really can’t do it in just one visit.  It also reminded me that access to our history and culture should be free.  People should be able to take their children to these activities at no charge.

Weta Cave: Hell Ya!  nuf’said

We decided that he should keep the fishOne of the coolest exports from New Zealand is the gift of technology to the world of movies.  Weta is famous for participating in such epic movies as District 9 and Lord of the Rings, but it is also the largest producer of realistic looking chainmail for actors to wear in movies and a number of other assorted secrets that I just can’t tell you.

Go!  It is FREE and while tiny I promise it will spark a layer of your imagination in a way not many places can.

Bungee Jumping:

New Zealand
the “bounce”

Kawarau Gorge is a 43 M bungee jump.  Not the largest around, but it was more than large enough to inspire fear in this girl.

Oh.. and do it with AJ Hacket.  The invented bungee jumping as it is done today.  TRUE STORY

Stay in Top 10 Holiday Parks

There is always a place in my heart for a five star hotel, but these are the best of the best when it comes to living the campervan lifestyle.  There are spotless bathrooms -playing music and armed with hair dryers.

They average about $6-10NZD more per night than their competitors but are worth every penny.  The landscaping is lovely, spaces are designed for giant campervans and the staff are willing to go out of their way to support your needs (can you say extension cord?)

An added perk is the fact that almost every one of them offers at least some free WIFI which is pretty few and far between in NZ.

See the penguins!

Yellow eyed penguins are super cute and tiny.  They spend the summer on the south island of New Zealand where the babies are raised until they are strong enough to go to sea and hunt for themselves.  We had to wait for a few hours to see the parents come in from the ocean, but as the babies got hungry they started to pop out of their dens and I can’t tell you how adorable they are.

Visit Fiordland

Glaciers and mountains make good company, but couple them with rushing waterfalls and dense ocean forest and you have a set from a movie.  There is about a 2 hour drive to get into Milford Sound from the last real town (Te Anau) and I could do it everyday for the rest of my life.

Along the way you will see wildlife and hear birds chirping beside rushing streams and waterfalls.  Stay the night and surround yourself with magic.

Things I wouldn’t recommend 

Moreaki Boulders: 

They look cool in pictures and are really quite easy to get to, but I wouldn’t make a special trip.  Unless you have some passion for alien eggs (which is what I think they look like up close), I wouldn’t go out of my way.

On a secondary note I was very saddened by the signs stating that the stream that was feeding into the ocean a few hundred metres down the beach was not safe due to pollution.

Visiting over Christmas Holiday

While taking advantage of Christmas and New Years gave me three extra vacation days I paid a premium for the trip because of the time I was in the country.  On average the campervan ended up costing about $250NZD a day for a service which is worth about $150 in the off season (after Jan 15).  It is also the prime season for campervan parks and they up their rates by as much as $10-20NZD a day during the season as well.

Trying to see everything in less than four weeks.

While attempting to see a large amount while in the country is definitely worth tackling, don’t try to squish everything in at once.  Take time to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Watch a Kea tackle the rubber around your car window (this really happened).  Enjoy a random chat with the locals at a gas station (yup talking to strangers Sorry Mom)

Have a coffee in a proper cup and enjoy it.

Start and end in Auckland

While we had a place to land as a base camp while in Auckland doing both the north and south island can be done more efficiently end to end.  What I also learned along the way is the fact that most tourists that travel one way do so from Auckland to Christchurch.  If you are willing to do the reverse your campervan rental rates will be lower because the rental companies need to get the vans back to Auckland anyway!  You will also save on the abundantly expensive ferry which is about $600NZD round trip for two people and a campervan.