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Tuesday, 22 March 2016

32 Years and Forever Young

Yesterday was a reminder why I live life spontaneously.

It happened to be my birthday, but it felt like any other day (in fact, I forgot it was my birthday until I checked my FB messages). And like any other day since arriving in the Rockies, I was just happy to be alive, surrounded by the most awe inspiring nature Canada has to offer. Also that morning the most perfect snow I've ever seen was falling - big as gumballs but light as feathers.
Nothing but the sound of my own lively heartbeat
My legs sent a sore reminder of my amazing cross country ski the previous day. At one point on the trail, I suddenly stopped and was instantly overcome by the dead silence of the moment, the trees stark still and staring at me. The only sound that entered my consciousness then was the pounding of my heart... *th*thump* *th*thump*...

And I felt alive. Truly alive.
I ate lunch in front of an audience of snowcaps known as the Valley of Ten Peaks, home to my favourite summer spot, Moraine Lake. I then did the 10 km return leg at a torrid pace, adrenaline fueled by my music, reaching the finish line on a euphoric high. My energy somehow kept up on the 5 minute drive home, as I blasted the music and bounced in my seat, fist pumping along the way.

My sore legs didn't stop me from carving up the hills at Lake Louise Resort, also a 5 minute drive from home in the other direction. It was my fifth time on the hill since arriving here, and I can now proudly conquer the steep, scary black diamond runs, stopping now and then to visit my roommate Brianne at the mid-mountain lodge where she works, or to stare across the valley towards the lake, the grand chateau, and my home.
This is the life
My home would be near the bottom of the picture. And the big white spot? Lake Louise!
While it has been hard finding like-minded people to share activities with, I'm certainly not feeling isolated here. My birthday was filled with the presence of people I care about near and far.

Two friends from Calgary had just stayed overnight, and gave birthday wishes before taking off. I Skyped with family back in Ontario. I unexpectedly got a package in the mail from a dear friend who I adore more than is good for her to know. Wonderful timing, since she didn't even know it was my birthday. And that night, Brianne took me to a gathering of her friends - part of my growing community here - where one of them made sushi for all of us, and then we hit the sauna!

Not a bad birthday for one without a plan, eh?

It's pretty great having a friend in town with an outdoor sauna like this!
Quite steamy on the inside!
Yesterday I turned 32. The Rocky Mountains are comparably older, at 80 million years old. Yet among these steady giants I feel forever young. These mountains have shielded me from the sadness of leaving Vancouver, insulated me from the vagaries of an uncertain future. They have allowed me to remain in the present, reassuring me with their immovable presence, yet surprising me everyday by putting on a slightly different but refreshing face.

Perhaps the most validating feeling of all coming out to Lake Louise has been embracing winter. I have always found it ironic that most Canadians dread winter, yet I counted myself among this bunch (even escaping overseas the past few winters). It's completely understandable as an urban dweller, because winter forces you indoors, reduces streets to big slush puddles, and aggravates already stressful commutes.

Coming out here, I have finally turned the tables on winter. Everyday I wake up staring out at my backyard, looking forward to my next adventure, and wishing the snow won't go away so soon.
Ski touring for the first time - so much powder! If only I knew how to ski in it

Valley of the Ten Peaks, a frozen Moraine Lake lurks at the base of these giants, waiting for Spring

Monday, 7 March 2016

My Emotional Big Bang Theory

spirit - from the latin word spiritus, meaning to breathe


The previous year, and especially the last 5 months spent in Vancouver, has been both a very trying and enlightening period for me.
Me during my spiritual journey in India
I have been through a lot, learned a lot about myself and reached new limits of personal wisdom. This is not to say that I am wise, for my personal wisdom does not apply to most people's lives, but can certainly be helpful to those following similar paths.

My own wisdom consists of a passion to learn and experience as much as I possibly can about life as we know it, and a low tolerance for apathy which hampers growth. This has motivated me to an abundance of new experiences, and justifies the nomadic, if somewhat erratic, path in life I have chosen.

In Vancouver, the aspect of my being which I learned to fully embrace is my emotions. My emotional strength manifested from living in the collective house, and stepped up to tackle the sustained drama over the 5 months I resided there.

Throughout this time, I can say with conviction I held the house together, managing combustible personalities and facilitating open communication. I called upon my patience, empathy and listening, skills I gained from past experiences. Meanwhile, I carried out many ongoing responsibilities for the house such as managing the waste (a tall task with Vancouver's standards), furnishing the house and organizing house meetings.

My ongoing faith in the house eventually paid off, as everything I gave to the house, I started getting back in love and positive energy. We started sharing food, laughter, creative energy, and good memories. I proved to myself my level of dedication to community, and learned the strengths and limits of my emotional intelligence. I observed how my vulnerability and faith won the house over, while others' stubbornness and power-over tactics led to tension and, ultimately, their eviction.
Slacklining with Louis
By the end of my time in Vancouver, the house's favourite activity bonded us together, more like a family than just housemates. It also played a key role in my spiritual awakening, like an emotional big bang, opening up new regions of my inner universe.

That activity was, that's right, doing mushrooms.

Though surprised you might be, controlled doses of psychedelic drugs such as mushrooms, acid (LSD) and ayahuasca have been proven in studies to expand the human consciousness and, in many cases, cure addictions and chronic depression.

Of course, they can be used irresponsibly. But the negative impact is given too much focus, leading to misconceptions about psychedelics. The main reason psychedelics are illegal is because they are natural remedies that big pharma cannot control and profit from. Just like marijuana, and the tide is turning for this plant also.

Tripping on mushrooms is an experience impossible to communicate to others who have never done it before - it is also a very individual experience that depends on how you feel and where you are at the time of consumption. All I can share is my own experience - beautiful vivid moving colours, out-of-body feeling of interconnectedness with my surroundings, sudden streaks of creativity, exaltant joy giving way to all out sobbing, and, ultimately, immense gratitude and love for those in my company. The net result is a 4 hour journey that leaves my emotional capacity expanded, my mind forever changed. No wonder why they call it a trip.

And no wonder the discovery of mushrooms and invention of LSD kicked off the hippie era of the 60's.
The house gathering before the mushroom trip

Me after
Brene Brown has famously written and spoken about the lack of vulnerability in our demanding society. As a result women feel like they're never enough, no matter how much they give to the people around them, and men feel pressured to act tough (code for manly) and take charge at all times. This means showing strength and assertiveness while hiding their weaknesses and patience.

I've overcome these social pressures and shamelessly embraced being an emotional man. I am highly introverted, hyper sensitive, yet I long for connection. I'm slow and thoughtful. I love, I cry. I follow my heart yet I'm still figuring things out.

And that's okay. Because I am enough.

I am comfortable with my emotions, and level of sensitivity, and see these traits of mine as strengths. I am vulnerable enough to express my emotions to the right audience. And hopefully that is you. The last bit of wisdom I want to share is this...

Knowledge without experience is simply knowledge, prone to ignorance. Knowledge with experience is true wisdom.

I am blessed with such amazing experiences that validate the footsteps I have taken and bolster me as I move forward into the unknown. Now in Lake Louise, my roommate places her spirituality in the Rocky Mountains in our backyard. I will also draw inspiration from nature's cathedrals and monuments of rock and ice.
Skiing at Lake Louise resort, a 5 minute drive from my home
First time ski touring!

Friday, 4 March 2016

The Mountains Are Calling - My Return to the Rockies

Since I quit my job in Calgary, I have been following my heart, meeting amazing people and finding unique opportunities along the way. Somehow, one of these opportunities have led to my improbable return to a familiar place of beauty and wonder.

Just a few months ago, in December, I Couchsurfed with Brianne in Lake Louise, one of the most beautiful and most visited places in Canada. She made no secret that she loves her lifestyle there, one where she works as a well paid server in a restaurant, and which affords time for her endless climbing adventures. She encouraged me to think about working there too.

Well, her invitation stuck in my mind and we kept in touch about it. I finally pulled the trigger in mid-February, made all the necessary preparations, and drove back across British Columbia, arriving in the Rockies on the last day of February.

Leaving Vancouver was a very tough decision, as explained in my previous blog, but so far the bright snow-capped peaks have smiled upon me, and its hardy inhabitants have welcomed me warmly.

Upon arriving, I have tentatively roomed with Brianne, and we get along effortlessly. I've been here just 4 days, but she's taken me along on many adventures already, including cross country skiing, indoor rock climbing at the impressive Elevation Place in Canmore, and ice climbing (though I only watched, I'm not ready for this yet).

We took a day trip to Canmore, where I had friendly encounters with the locals in the shops and on the streets. People here have a vitality and calmness about them that only communion with nature can instill, and a humility that only small mountain communities foster. Brianne, who first recruited me to the area, is a shining example.
Cross country skiing with Bri
Bri climbing ice! I only watched
Yesterday I also visited the restaurant I will be working at, The Station, set beside the railroad tracks, in a grand cabin style building. They even have tables in a train car! I met and spoke with the managers. Due to the fickle nature of the food and tourism business along with a highly transient staff, they require an open mind and flexibility of hours. Well, I certainly came here with an open mind, and looking forward to a new experience and challenge in restaurant work.
Image result for the station lake louise
The Station's train car room. Photo from
I will be starting off as a food runner, and working for the next month, after which The Station shuts down for a 5 week period from mid-April, starting back up in mid-May. If I decide to return then, I could be trained as a server.

After moving to Calgary in 2008, I felt love at first sight of the Rocky Mountains. These Rockies made me what I am today, and now I'll be inspired everyday by them. They promise to unleash my spirit and potential, and I intend to be unleashed, and not be held back by distractions. I left all distractions and creature comforts behind in Vancouver, mainly the videogames, to focus on learning and inner growth. Here is my chance to be the best I can be.

If you come out to Lake Louise, you have a place to stay. And if you don't mind paying more than $20 for a meal, come eat at the Station. Until then, happy adventuring!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

A Heartfelt Goodbye to Vancouver

In my final moments before leaving Vancouver, as I was packing the last of my things in my collective house, a weird feeling came over me. It was a sort of gloomy anticipation, and I couldn't shake it. I knew then, that I would be sad to leave.

About an hour later, when my car was packed with all my worldly possessions and ready to go, the housemates all gathered around the front door of the house. My lips quivered, and I couldn't muster any words. A few tears escaped, and I choked, trying to hold more back, as I gave Fraser a big hug. Next came Taylor, Yasmim, Pete, Annik, Louis and, finally, Tyler.
Shiny crotch, Fraser!
Despite all that the house has been through, by the end of my time there, we felt like a family, and it was difficult to leave them behind. Over the 5 months since it started (I was there on day 1), one person left, and two others were forced out, due to poor fit and unnecessary drama. The bad apples were replaced by fresh energetic faces and, slowly, the house found new harmony.
Dumpster diving is twice the fun with more people!
By the final month, while some tension still hung in the air, the house became a safe and happy place. People were sharing food and laughs, watching movies and hanging out together. And in the final weeks, it was a magical time. I proved myself as a glue guy in our collective house. What I gave to the house, I received in kind. I brewed beer, ginger ale and kombucha, made sauerkraut and tidied with obsessive and compulsive fury. The house inspired me to creative pursuits such as learning guitar and slacklining. 
Photo credit: mushrooms
Despite the good times, the drama eventually wore on me and, due to the transient nature of the house, I felt ready to move on. Forces outside our four walls played a part in my decision. I love Vancouver, and it appealed boldly to my conscience to stay. It's a fun and interesting place, and I made some good friends outside the house. The mountains along the north shore constantly took my breath away. Vancouver is certainly one of a kind.

But the travails of the big city wore me down. The endless job opportunities seemed like a mirage, as few employers ever replied to my applications. Soaring house and rent prices were unrealistic and oppressive. The rain was relentless and, otherwise, grey skies depressing. As a saving grace, my friend's friend, my boss, and I developed a good working relationship. But we both knew it was unsustainable as a primary income and, thus, a temporary situation.

Despite staying only 5 months, it was a very meaningful time, and just another part of my journey and growth towards becoming a complete human being.
My Vancouver family.

Yet, as the door closes on Vancouver, a multitude of doors are opening before me as Spring solstice (and my birthday) peaks around the corner, and I, along with the pristine Canadian forests and mountains, awake from our slumber. Adventure awaits!