Turns out I’ve moved to England!

So, for those of you who don’t know – I (And soon WE) have moved to the UK! Yup!

I know, I know – I loved Austria, I was working on my writing and Camino Wear, everything was going swimmingly…and it was. However, Boots and I had always planned on moving to the UK at some point and slowly, and very selectively I had been looking for work.

And as timing would have it, right in the middle of our Camino Wear campaign I was invited to an interview for an amazing conservation charity. Turned out to be one of the greatest interviews I’ve ever attended and a few days later I was offered a position as the General Manager of their fundraising subsidiary.

The last month flew by as the Camino Wear campaign wrapped up wonderfully, I packed like a mad person and made the move to the South Coast of England the week before last. Boots and the cat will be joining me in a few months.

And I’ve got to say – I am so happy. Being constantly distracted by the beauty that is Austria, I forgot how much I loved the UK. I love the accents, the little pubs, the quaintness of the smaller villages and the vibrancy of the big cities. Having been born here, although we left when I was 6, it’s the closest I feel to being ‘home’, anywhere in the world. And being by the sea…le sigh…I love the ocean and the mountains in equal measure and although I’ve had to give up the mountains, I have the sea at my doorstep (figuratively from home and literally from work), plus there are palm trees! I love me a good palm tree.

And I’m happy to be back at work. It’s been over a year now since I had a ‘proper’ job and although I had reservations about going back into the workforce I have found a place that suits me to a tee. Not only am I working to raise money for protecting our beautiful, natural world, I’m managing a group of people who are engaged, dedicated, welcoming, and hilarious. I think we’re going to have a grand time.

It’s a little tough at the moment – missing Boots and the cat something fierce, and soon packaging and posting all the perks from the Camino Wear campaign, so it’s extra busy-ness along with learning the ropes of a new job, but I’m at peace and excited about the next chapter of my life.

As for this blog – I’m not quite sure what to do with it now. The whole point of it originally was to update friends and family, to talk about travel, adventure and risk taking, and now…I’m just not sure.

I have a few posts planned for the coming weeks about the Indiegogo experience, and lessons learned living in Austria, but post that…

…what will most likely happen is that I’ll be taking a hiatus as I decided if I should continue it, and if so what it should become.

Thank you all for reading, it’s been a blast to write (although infrequently) and we shall see what happens with this little site in the future.

Mucho love.

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(re)Connecting, Crowdfunding and Camino Wear

Hey friends, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, huh? I knew it had been over a month, but when I logged back in and found out that I’d not posted since the beginning of April my jaw dropped.

Oops.

There are two reasons – one purely fun, and one fun but practical!

Purely fun, is that (with the exception of the torrential rain and flooding for more than a week in May) summer has finally arrived! Boots and I have spent most weekends walking up and exploring some of the amazing mountains here. I am in awe of this country. Completely and truly. And feel so incredibly blessed that I am able to spend a piece of my life here. Here are a few faves from recent weeks…

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The fun, but practical reason is that….Boots and I are starting a wee company! Yup! As most of you know, Boots and I met in Spain walking the Camino de Santaigo and that is where we got the inspiration.

What is the idea you ask? It’s called Camino Wear – clothing and accessories that celebrate, and are inspired by Walking, Travel and Adventure.

It’s something that we are really excited and passionate about, but the thing is we just don’t have the cash to start it up yet.

Living in Austria so far has not been the most lucrative. Boots patiently works at his job while my savings diminish (read: disappear) and I try to find piecemeal work online and search for jobs (challenging with my embarrassingly bad German). As much as I gush about living here and walking up mountains and how beautiful it is and ”blah, blah shut-up already’…it’s actually been quite challenging.

But the thing is – we didn’t want NOT having money to stop us from putting Camino Wear into the world, so – we did what any logical self-starting business lacking funds would do and we have launched a campaign on Indiegogo.

And guys – I’m absolutely giddy about it! We’ve only been ‘live’ for four days and we’ve already reached 28% of our goal. We’ve got 27 days left and I’m feeling optimistic that we’ll meet our goal. And if we surpass it? Wow, there’s so much else that we’ll be able to do! More designs, a kick ass online shop, a decent amount of stock that we can actually sell – it would be SO exciting!

It’s also been a lot of work though – from learning how to shoot and edit a video, creating the campaign, trying to personally email every single person I’ve ever met (if you haven’t received an email from me yet, you will!) to reaching out to Camino and travel communities online…I’m learning so much.

But the greatest thing thus far? It’s been emailing everyone. I have a fair number of facebook friends…many of whom I’m in contact with regularly, the majority with whom I’m not, and a large number of people whom I haven’t spoken to in years. The emails I’m sending aren’t epic, they’re mostly just hello’s (plus a link to the Camino campaign)…but for each one I send I get to spend a moment thinking about why I know that individual and what they’ve meant in my life. And there’s something really special about that.

I’d actually recommend it. I wouldn’t recommend trying to email every single one of them in a week – that’s crazy making and sleep hindering…but why not a few every week, or once a month. You could go alphabetically, by time in your life, completely randomly, by who shows up on your facebook feed…whatever works for you – but I’d say give it a shot, reach out and reconnect.

And now – a final word on the Camino Wear campaign. Reaching (and hopefully surpassing) our goal is going to take a LOT more work and I need your help! What can you do? I’m so glad you asked!

  • If you can financially afford it – contribute a bit. One pound? A thousand? Every single bit helps us get closer to realizing our dream. And we have some really great perks for everyone that does.
  • Share the campaign with folks you know – on facebook, on twitter, in conversation, by personally reaching out to the outdoor/travel/cute-clothing-loving people in your life. The combined group of YOU, know a whole lot more people than singular ME.
  • Give me feedback. Do you have any thoughts about what would make the whole thing better? Things you really like, or really don’t? I’d love to know. Message me – through my blog, through facebook, through Indiegogo or via email if you’ve got my address. I’d love to hear from you!

So really – thank you friends! For reading my blog, for checking out the campaign, for being someone (regardless of how brief our interaction) who has made my world a better place! 🙂

Now – go watch our cheesy video and check out the campaign!

Experiments in Hair.

One advantage of being rather isolated these days is that I’ve been able to try something I’ve always wanted but never had the nerve to do, due to the sheer proximity to other people and having a job where I had to look semi-respectable most days. I’ve joined the No ‘Poo movement (albeit, I’m a little belated to the party).

That’s right, I’ve stopped washing my hair.

I’ve heard numerous stories of people over the years who gave up the Shampoo and Conditioner and after weeks or months of grease were blessed with gorgeous, soft, shiny locks. And oh, how I’ve wanted this. But I’ve just never taken the leap (or the opposite of leap, as you actually STOP doing something, not start….) until now.

And it’s been just over a month.

And is my hair the greatest thing ever now? Nope. Not so much. But is it the worst thing ever? Heavy with grease, smelly and gross? Nope. Not so much either. It’s in this strange in between place that although I don’t love, I’m willing to live with just a little bit longer.

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Pretty cat! Pretty fur!

So, why do this? Aside from the rumoured gorgeous hair affect,  there’s a logic to it that I really like. I was hanging out with the cat the other night and admiring her soft, shiny fur and wondered how it stayed so gorgeous – she obviously doesn’t shampoo.

So, I started Google-ing. The following points really stuck with me:

  • Shampoo is arelatively new product in our history – as in late 1900’s. Generations before us lived without it.
  • It strips away our natural oils, causing us to then produce more oil, which makes our hair greasier, which means we wash more, which makes it greasier, and so on in a vicious cycle.
  • It really is better for the environment. It’s not going to change the world, but it’s less waste and less chemicals being flushed into our water supply.
  • And lastly, it’s my little, personal protest to the beauty industry. I’m sick of being told about all the chemical laden products I have to use to be beautiful, and to get that ‘natural glow’. Natural glow? I’ll show ya ‘natural glow’.

So, one Sunday I got up and didn’t shampoo my hair in the shower, same the next, and the next, and before I knew it, it had been an entire week since I put shampoo in my hair. (note: I do still rinse it under water, massage my scalp and the like to rinse out dust and sweat)

Bad points: It was greasy.

Good points: It didn’t smell (at least, Boots promises me it doesn’t). It was softer. It didn’t tangle as much. It was thicker.

The grease was getting to me though, so I tried the following ‘no ‘poo’ methods.

Egg and Honey shampoo: Mix and egg with a teaspoon of honey in a bit of water. Apply like shampoo and wash out. With cold water. Seriously friends, you don’t want to leave the shower with cooked egg in your hair.

Rooibos Vanilla Tea conditioner:  Make tea. Steep for at least 20 minutes. Put in hair. Let sit. Wash out.

My hair smelt GREAT! But, it became dry and strangely static (think science center electric ball, Toronto peeps) So, I tried the next and most popular method.

Baking soda wash: Mix water and baking soda, rub into your hair and scalp. Wash out.

Apple Cider Vinegar conditioner: Mix a little ACV with water. Put in hair. Let sit. Wash out.

And the results? Still static-y, but much softer, and no smell at all.

And I brush. I brush, and I brush, and I brush my hair to pull the natural oils down from the scalp. And here’s how it’s looking:

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Now, granted I need a haircut (which incidentally I did, myself(!) today but that’s another post when I can upload the photos), but really, it’s not looking so bad if I do say so myself.

Some days are better than others, but on the really bad ones I toss it up in a ponytail and get on with it. But it’s truly getting softer, and shinier, and thicker. I’m going to give it another month, and see where I am at that point.

Would I recommend it? I think so. I’ll let you know in a month. But, if my hair keeps going in the direction I think it’s going, then it’ll be an absolute Hells to the Yes!

 

 

 

 

 

The Hair dryer effect

Where we live, I have recently found out, is subject to rapid weather changes, caused by the föhn wind; otherwise known as the snow eater or hair dryer (yup, you read that right!). Coming up from Italy over the Alps, this warm wind can cause temperature increases of up to 30 degrees! I haven’t experienced that drastic a change yet, but it was 15 degrees yesterday and my yard went from looking like this:

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To this:

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Yup… hello Spring!

However, despite the chirping of birds, and buds beginning to show, this warm wind also has some strange effects. According to Wikipedia, these winds contribute to migraines and psychosis! Yup, this be a crazy-making wind.

I guess that might explain why this past week I’ve been feeling a little more antsy and unsettled than usual. I had initially chalked it up to the disappointment in my German class being cancelled – I had really been looking forward to the lessons, and to making some new friends! Alas, no class due to lack of interest. It seems that everyone in Worgl already speaks German. 😦

But, cancelled class and crazy-wind aside, it is spectacular here and what better way to cheer oneself up than going for a walk amongst the beautiful countryside. I’ve actually been…jogging(!) this week as well. Twice! I’ve never been much of a runner, nor do I know if I’ll keep it up, but running through forests, up and down hills is WAY more fun than it ever was in the city (not that I attempted it more than once or twice a year!).

But, if this hair dryer effect causes me to get out of the house more, I say bring it on!

Spam, spam, spam!

Austrian food, specifically Tirolean is delicious! Tirol is a farming region, and back in the day was not a very wealthy one. So, food that is popular today is so because of a long history of using what was available. Milk, cheese, wheat and meat are frequent features in dishes I eat these days. There’s something really lovely about knowing that what you are eating is local, unprocessed and that it is from a people who were creative and resourceful enough to use every little bit of everything little thing that they produced. Knödels…spaetzle…sauerkraut….and fleischkäse!

When I first met Boots in Spain, he talked constantly about fleischkäse, which I had never heard of before. But, on my first visit to Austria in October I was introduced to it, and now upon moving here it’s something we have at least once a week. What is it you ask? Well, it’s a sort-of ‘meatloaf’ according to Wikipedia – finely ground bits of different kinds of meat that are mixed together and then baked in a loaf-shaped dish. When done, it is sliced and usually served on semmel (a lovely, white bread roll) with mustard and pickles. And you can buy it anywhere – supermarkets, delis, gas stations, you name it.

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Well, a few weeks ago, and many fleischkäse semmels eaten, we decided to watch ‘Indien’ one night – a beautiful, funny and heartbreaking Austrian film from 1993. (side note: This movie is So. Very. Worth. Watching) The movie is in German, with English subtitles and in one scene they are talking about fleischkäse. Boots didn’t think that there was an English translation for the word, so I was very surprised when ‘SPAM’ came across the bottom of the screen. Yup, spam. This amazing, delicious, affordable food that I had heard about for months and have been eating for a few months more turns out to be Austria’s answer to spam.

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We asked my mom to send us a tin of proper British spam to compare, but have yet gotten up the nerve to actually do a comparison. Nervous that it’s going to be disgusting, but also nervous that perhaps these two ‘delicacies’ are actually the same in which case, I’ll never be able to look at fleischkäse the same way again!

But regardless, it is delicious – so, if you find yourself in Austria, make your way to the nearest gas station and order away!

And now, I leave you with this:

A belated update of the last two weeks!

Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve written, but I have two fabulous excuses; Michelle and Cara!

Michelle is a dear friend from Ireland, whom Boots and I met on the Camino and she came to visit us at the beginning of February. Although only a few days, we had a fabulous time sledding, bar hopping, walking a little of the Camino and catching up!

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A week later, one of my oldest and dearest friends Cara came to visit for a week. We also went sledding, bar hopping and spent a day exploring Kufstein, one of the older towns in Tirol.

Sledding here is unlike any sledding I’ve done before. Growing up in Toronto, Riverdale park and Trinity Belwoods were the places to go, where hills were small enough that you could walk up, and small enough that you would sled down in less than a minute. Not here! In Wörgl, there is a small mountain called the Möslam – on a good day it takes about an hour to walk up, longer with a wooden sled on your back and snow under your feet! At the top is a gorgeous little restaurant serving typical Tirolean food, and most excitingly Krautinger – an alcohol made of turnips that is a specialty of one little valley here in Tirol. It’s absolutely terrible, the smell reminiscent of dirty socks, but it’s a Tirolean delicacy, and apparently great for your health! Despite the smell, it’s a must-try for anyone visiting this region!

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After a filling meal, a beer, and a shot of Krautinger, it’s time to sled down – for a full ten minutes! And that’s going pretty fast! The first time I went with Boots and Michelle, we went down in the dark, headlights being the only thing to light our way. Slightly terrifying, but less so as you can’t actually see the sharp drops as you turn each corner. Cara and I went in the afternoon, and I must say – being able to see how steep the drops were was nerve-racking and the cause of a couple of spills for me, when my turns weren’t quick enough! Amazing, amazing fun though!

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Kufstein was another delight, in particular Romerhof Lane, which looks like something straight out of a Disney movie! 

And the fortress, which is centuries old, complete with towers and creepy underground tunnels!

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Exploration aside though, it was wonderful having these two, dear visitors this month and just spending time together!

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In other news, we got a laundry machine – no more washing things by hand in the bathtub, woohoo! Turns out laundry mats are non-existent where we live…After months of washing things by hand, I will never take laundry machines for granted ever again! We also got a vacuum. Yup, excited about vacuums and laundry machines, who am I becoming!

The other addition to our home was quite by accident. We seem to have been adopted by a cat! She showed up just over a week a go, prancing through our door one evening and settling herself on our couch. She now spends about 20 hours a day here and we are both completely in love with her. We keep saying that we don’t actually have a cat, but the purchasing of cat food, and probably a littler box this week say otherwise….oops!

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And lastly, I enrolled in a German class! I start at the beginning of March – woot!

Camino amigos

For those of you who don’t know, I walked the Camino de Santiago in June 2012. I plan on writing more about it, but suffice to say for now it was a life changing experience in more ways than one.

My DSCF9422experience on the Camino has been on my mind a lot recently, partially due to where we are living. Our wee village is actually ON the Austrian Camino route. Before starting the pilgrimage I was unaware that many people actually start from their front doors, all across Europe. I recently heard of someone who began in Estonia(!). What luck that of all the places, in all of Austria, where we ended up is a stones’ throw from the actual path.

Walking past yellow arrows and shells is now a daily occurrence, and a daily reminder of all the wonderful things that I learned en-route.

The Camino brought many things to my life; healing, clarity, confidence, a reminder of what was important to me, new love…but what I wasn’t anticipating were the friendships that developed on this journey.

Meeting people was the last thing on my mind when I took my first few steps toward Santiago. I was struggling with a lot of things in my life at the time and believed that what I needed was time alone to process, to think and perhaps to even pray. Drinks, laughs and daily conversation were at the bottom of the list of things that I thought I needed.

Was I ever wrong.

Meeting people on the pilgrimage was different than anything I have ever experienced before at home, or even on previous travels. There was an openness and an honesty that was refreshing, albeit a little surprising. People walk the Camino for a myriad of reasons, but there is an underlying core that ties everyone together. Regardless of the reason for partaking on this journey, it takes a certain madness to decide to leave your ‘regular’ life behind for a month or more to walk across an entire country. There was a courage, a tenacity, an openness and a searching that tied together everyone I encountered on the trail. Unlike at home, within twenty minutes people were sharing more about their lives than most of my friends at home had in the first year of knowing them.

These conversations provided me with more insight and perspective than all the time spent walking alone/thinking/journaling tied together. Snapping out of my narcissistic mindset, truly listening to others and honestly sharing allowed my brain and heart to work through problems far quicker than if I had just spent each day walking alone with the mad flurry of thoughts in my brain. I laughed, I cried, I learned and I healed.

And I remembered how to be grateful. It’s easy sometimes, particularly when going through a hard time to hibernate and withdraw. But I’d say that the best answer to being down is to reach out. We’re social creatures, and caring for others and letting them care for us doesn’t just make our hearts happy, it also makes us healthier. I read a study recently that said social isolation was as bad for you as being an alcoholic, or smoking 15 cigarettes a day! http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/24/health-relationships-longevity-forbes-woman-well-being-social-isolation.html
Guess who’s feeling better about her smoking addiction. Yup.

But I digress. To all those I met on the Camino, I just want to say THANKS! Those I met briefly, those who came and went along the way and those who have now become dear friends – my life is better for having met you all.

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