Category: Travel Momma

From Past to Present: Spirit Animals

Several years ago in the weeks leading up to my wedding, a group of my girlfriends took me to Joshua Tree National Park on a mission to find our “spirit animals.”

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We did yoga, we walked on the magical rocks at night, we breathed, we stargazed, and we meditated in hope that our animal spirits would to come to us. We had varying degrees of success—some of us reported feeling an animal presence, while others spent most of the time giggling. Little did we know (a short while later) that finding your spirit animal would be a trending topic on the web, social media, and even in fashion.

What is a Spirit Animal?

Spirit animals come from several cultures and religions, including Shamanism and First Nation peoples through their ceremony and healing practices.

Shamans believe healing can be achieved by working with our animal allies in the spirit world. The shamanic belief is that everyone has a spirit or power animal, which resides within each individual, adding to his or her power and offering protection from harm. The spirit also lends you the wisdom of its kind. A hawk spirit will give you hawk wisdom, and lend you some of the attributes of a hawk, such as focus and the power to see.

In First Nation’s culture across North America, spirit animals play a similar but slightly different role, focused around a respect for animals. In this culture, when an animal is killed for food, all parts of the animal are used and a prayer or blessing is made to the animal for providing life and comfort.

In modern First Nation’s culture, special recognition is still given to the power of animals, and skins and feathers are worn in ceremonies and dances. It is believed that an animal can appear to give you a certain wisdom, strength, or premonition that something will occur. For example, a hummingbird is said to be a joyful messenger, and when it appears at a time of sorrow or pain, healing will follow.

On a superficial level, the term “spirit animal” has been used in the pop culture world to indicate your desire to be like, or to declare your affinity with, a certain well-known personality. In other words, traditionally you would never hear someone say, “Beyonce is my spirit animal.” But modern culture not only permits it, you can also buy a T-shirt claiming it.

Where is Your Spirit Animal?

The good new is you don’t have to be a shaman to get a spirit animal. The first step is simply believing we all have one—or several—and from there being open to their presence.

Connecting with your sprit animal or calling on an animal spirit for help, wisdom, or power is on a yogic level the ability to connect with your spirit. The word “yoga” means to unite, and this is in essence what we are trying to achieve when we practice, connect with our spirit, and are open to a spiritual presence around us.

How Can You Find Your Spirit Animal?

Contact your local shaman. Sound crazy? It’s not. They are popping up everywhere. Ask your local yoga teacher and do a little Google search for your area. You can also dabble in the plethora of online quizzes available.

Lastly, spend time outdoors in the animal kingdom to connect with nature. It’s amazing how this alone can help you get in touch with your spirit animal. If all else fails, plan your next getaway to Joshua Tree—sleep under the stars and let your animal spirit soar.

By the way, that night under the stars my spirit animal did come to me. It’s a wolf. It’s said that this animal stands for an appetite for freedom and living life powerfully, guided by instincts. I think it’s apt because I have a passion for passion. No matter what I do, this is my mantra: To live full and be present and always, always trust my inner intuition as a guide.

This post appeared on Yoga Anonymous.

Keep Cleaning Clean

Do you really want a home full of chemicals? There’s a cheaper—and cleaner—way.

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Making your own home cleaning products is the latest trend to hit the green kings and queens of the world, but there is nothing new about it. Just ask Grandma: homemade cleaning products have been around a long time. Like all trends, sometimes all you need is to shift your thinking. Once you do, you may be left wondering why you ever purchased chemically laden products in often one-time use containers… for a premium cost. Here’s what you need to know to get started!

Getting Started

Just because you’re making cleaning products at home doesn’t mean they’re safe to eat. Many home cleaning products include borax or sodium borate and washing soda (sodium carbonate). These may both be naturally occurring alkaline mineral salts, but they’re not totally benign. In other words, be sure to label your homemade products correctly and keep out of reach of children and pets just like you would a commercial product.

You will find everything you need in most grocery and health food stores. You can also create washing soda by heating baking soda and getting a bit science-y. The key ingredients will be your vinegar, liquid castile soap, salt, borax, and washing soda.

Start Making!

There is no shortage of DIY home cleaning product recipes on the Internet. Here are some basics to get you started:

Liquid laundry soap:

Use ½ cup per full load 

  • 4 ¼ cups water
  • 1 cup soap granules
  • ½ cup borax
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • 20 drops essential oil (optional)

Add 4 ¼ cups water and soap granules to pot. Heat until diluted. Pour into pail with 25 cups water, borax, and washing soda. Stir until dissolved. Add essential oil. Soap will gel as it cools.

For hard water, add more washing soda. To whiten whites, add ½ cup baking soda to load.

All-Purpose Spray:

For tubs, tiles, counters, microwaves, floors, etc. 

  • 1 gallon hot water
  • ½ cup liquid castile soap
  • 1 tbsp borax
  • 20 drops essential oil (optional)

Combine all ingredients. Pour into spray bottle.

All-Purpose Scour:

A non-abrasive for tubs, tiles, sinks, etc. 

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • ½ cup liquid castile soap
  • ½ cup water

Tip: Before switching to this green cleaner, clean up the waxy residue traditional brands leave behind with a 5% rubbing alcohol to water solution.

Glass and Mirror Cleaner:

Wipe with newspaper to avoid streaks

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white vinegar

Combine all ingredients. Pour into spray bottle.

Benefits and Savings

How much money you save will depend on how much you clean. North Americans spend more than $1 billion on household cleaning products annually. These products are purchased to fight germs, streaks, stains, and odors to keep our homes sparkling clean. Making your own cleaning products can produce savings of up to $100 a year. To boot, “sparkling” doesn’t always mean healthy.

The bigger winner when it comes to savings is Mother Nature and your health. Manufacturers are not legally required to warn consumers about safety and environmental hazards associated with chronic, or long-term, exposure to chemical ingredients in household cleaning products. That means nasty stuff often slips through.

Researchers in the U.S. identified 133 unique volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from a small sample of consumer products, including six cleaning products. Each product tested emitted between one and eight chemicals classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws.

Chemicals in cleaning products can also enter our bodies by absorption through the skin or through ingestion of household dust and chemical residues left on dishes and cutlery. And when cleaning products are flushed down the drain, they can have a serious impact on aquatic ecosystems.

In short, homemade cleaning products are cheaper, safer, and cleaner. It may take more elbow grease to get started, but in the end, your home will sparkle with a different kind of shine.

This post was featured on Wanderlust.

The Case for Booking a Solo Yoga Trip

When you travel alone, you open yourself up to a beautiful journey of self-discovery.

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It’s been on your mind for a while, but every time you and your friends are close to booking your yoga retreat trip together, something happens. One of you decides she can’t afford it. Something comes up at one of your jobs. There’s a family issue. The list goes on.

So you are left with two options: wait for your collective lives to align, or take matters into your own hands and book a solo trip.

The idea of traveling alone can be daunting. We generally feel safer in numbers, and even the idea of navigating to the retreat’s location from the airport without a buddy by your side seems intimidating. But not only is a solo retreat possible, it’s also a heavenly invitation to paradise as the cooler fall and winter temperatures set it.

If you are still on the fence as to whether you could travel to a yoga retreat alone, here are five reasons to take the idea off your bucket list and onto your slam dunk list.

You will make friends.

Do you ever travel to a new and exotic place with the goal of not meeting people? Probably not. So why not create space for those friendships by going alone. Yoga retreats offer a built-in, sure-fire way to meet like-minded yogis. And many offer shuttles directly from the airport to their front doors, giving you an immediate opportunity to strike up a conversation.

Other people go alone.

They did it, and so can you. You will find quickly that you are not the only person who made the plunge to travel solo, and that in itself is a reason to connect with other independent adventurers at your retreat. You may be surprised at how your shared solitude bonds you.

Yoga is a solo journey.

It is beautiful to attend classes in a large group, but let’s face it: yoga is a personal journey, not a team sport, so enjoy your time away for your regular social circles and see where your practice takes you.

Friends can inspire but can also distract you.

Have you ever placed your mat next to your friend’s in a yoga class and gotten the giggles every time your eyes connect? Then you will know what I am talking about. Allow your independence to translate to inward focus.

You can come on your own agenda.

Ask anyone who has traveled alone: the freedom of not having to align schedules is worth the courage it takes to head out solo. You don’t have to agree on where to go and when. The only thing you have to coordinate is where to have coffee and catch up when you are back from your amazing trip.

There is no time like now. Here are a few resorts that are offering amazing opportunities to escape the cold this fall. Don’t wait for your crew to sign up. Take the plunge and book your very own solo trip.

The pic is of Ganges river…..The time I went to India on my solo yoga journey.

This was also posted on Wanderlust.

Do Squamish Wanderlust-Style

Just 45 minutes from Whistler, this Canadian town makes for a great pitstop while traveling to or from Wanderlust Whistler.

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Heading to Wanderlust Whistler (July 30–August 3) this week? There are some pretty amazing towns not too far from the resort that are worth checking out on the front or tail end of your travels. One such destination is the town of Squamish, located just 45 minutes south of Whistler and an hour north of Vancouver, via the world-famous Sea to Sky Highway. Home to about 17,000 people, Squamish was recently named by the New York Times as one of 52 places to go in 2015. Rub shoulders with some of the world’s best rock climbers, mountain bikers, kiteboarders, and kayakers in the town’s local pubs, restaurants, and hangouts while taking in the spectacular scenery.

Yoga Vibes

For yogis, there are some beautiful locations to practice. For a mountain top experience, classes are offered at the summit of the Sea to Sky Gondola (call the gondola customer service for times). Take the class and stick around for lunch and try one of the many hikes on offer.

Another option is to experience Squamish’s spectacular waterfront and take a class at the renowned Yoga at the Spit.

Taught by one of the town’s original yogis, Josee Fontaine, the class is held outdoors at Squamish’s windsurfing and kiteboarding take-off point, the Spit. Classes are taught before the wind starts whistling up the Howe Sound. Stick around to watch the windsurfers and kiteboarders set sail.

Adventure Awaits

For a different perspective of the Sound, try the three-hour journey on a stand up paddle board from Squamish’s Nexan Beach to Britannia Beach, some 25 kms (~15.5 miles) away. Hook-up with Jeff from the Sea to Sky Adventure Company for a guided experience that also includes rentals and a shuttle back to Squamish from Britannia Beach.

If you are keen to sample the local mountain biking, link up with Jeff and his friends again from the Sea to Sky Adventure Company for rentals and guiding. Or explore on your own, but be sure to get a map or download the app of the extensive local trail network.

Squamish also boasts many lakes. A favorite of locals is Brohm Lake, where smooth flat rocks make for the perfect place to spread out your towel. For a bit more activity, try swimming the length of the lake or hiking the perimeter along the beautiful 7.5 km (~4.7 mile) trail.

Good Eats

If you visit the town on a Saturday be sure to check out the Squamish Farmer’s Market, located downtown. Sample local delights from farmers and craft makers, and be sure to check out the Casa Norte food van. The black bean and sweet potato tacos are my food-combo dream come true.

For brunch or lunch, head north through Squamish’s picturesque Brackendale region to one of the best breakfast spots you will ever experience, Fergies. The plethora of Benedict options is nothing short of amazing.

For dinner check out the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company for delicious upscale pub food and an amazing selection of local craft beer. Or seat yourself on the patio of the Water Shed Bar and Grill. A local favorite for its one-of-kind location on the banks of the Squamish River, The WaterShed Grill serves basic food like burgers and wings. The view will take your breath away, making it the perfect spot to end your visit in Squamish.

The pic is of me and the amazing Taj.

This post was featured on Wanderlust.

Is traveling with a young family even a little bit relaxing? Just a little?

You have kids, you know what I am talking about.

After you spend, way too much time packing… and trying to find the perfect blend of the comforts of home, while not bringing your house with you on vacation… you get in the car, or plane or in our case a combination of driving and ferry riding and convince your children that what you are doing is adventurous and exciting and for their benefit as much as yours….

But then… your active 2 year old, misses her nap and screams like her car seat is on fire. You arrive late in the evening and your 3 month old is off his schedule and he screams like he is on fire. Then you all get to sleep… late… and because so many hotels, resorts etc, have not figured it out to make things dark in the rooms, you all wake up early and suddenly is 11:05am day 1 and you are exhausted…

So is it worth it?

Yes. I believe it is.

For starters, you are instilling the gift of travel in your children… you are teaching them that schedules and routines are comforting and relaxing, but it is great and rewarding to diverge from them… and without diverging from them, you might not experiencing the joy of surfing, snowboarding or things you have come to love. There is a reason I only find time to write when I am away from my home and things that I am “busy” doing when my children sleep – like cleaning the house and doing the laundry.  There is a reason my yoga practice advances while I am on holiday (last night, out of the blue, I pulled into Sirsasana II in my Vinyasa Flow class without ever having done it before*) The reason is traveling leaves you feeling inspired.

You are reminding your children and importantly yourself that you are not a slave to your schedule. Children, like adults can make up sleep at different times. As missing a few hours here and there of sleep is worth it for what you might experience while you are awake.

*that I can remember…

And always when you least expect it, moments like this happen:

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And this:

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And suddenly you are filled with inspiration and a zest for life, you care less about sleeping and more about living.

Tofino x 4

Tofino means a lot of things to our family. It’s our go-to vacation spot. My spiritual hub. Majka’s “beach”.  The place we go as a family and everyone has fun. Also and very importantly, it is the place where my Australian husband can get his much needed surfing fix while we are living in Canada. Its part of the deal – while we live in Canada we go to Tofino often.

We had perfected this holiday as a trio: me, Marty and Majka. But that’s parenting. Once you get one thing figured out – you need to be working on the next challenge.

The Tofino Trio

For us that next challenge comes in the shape of a little baby boy. Our jumpsuit wearing – Taj – now 6 weeks old has made our trio a traveling four.

The Taj.

To summarize the highs of our recent trip as a four:

– Taj slept the three hour journey from the ferry to the Cox Bay Resort.

– I surfed 3 times. I felt like a liberated woman!

– We were complimented while eating at the Shelter on how well behaved our children were. THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED.

To summarize the lows:

– Majka bit Taj

– We can confirm Majka is “high spirited” otherwise known as “crazy”

– We all shared a room and I was so worried Taj would wake up Majka (which he didn’t) I slept with one ear open to monitor the noise.

Lessons learnt:

– Stay in a place with built in laundry facilities. Babies poo a lot.

– Stay in a place that allows you to pass off surfing – as close to the surf spot as possible

– Just go to sleep – deal with the catastrophe when it happens.

Overall – major – major success.

And then there were four.

Road Trip Baby

Majka has always been a lot of great things to me, but a road tripper is not one them. Me and my good friend Andrea’s recent trip with her to Whidbey Island confirmed this.

Our 2 hour drive took us 6 hours with frequent stops and ongoing hysteria from the back seat.

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