Apparently, I’m a Writer

I leave for my European adventure in less than a week. I’m so excited!

A few people have asked me what I’m actually going to *do* on my travels. Besides just being somewhere else, seeing pretty things, and eating / drinking my face off?

I’ll be writing. A lot.

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The only “spiritual path” Munchie is interested in is the one that leads to her food dish.

You’ve probably heard of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a 12-week program to help you “discover and recover your creative self.” I guess I should probably start telling people that I’m just going to Europe to, like, find and unleash my creative potential?

To my credit, I have completed NaNoWriMo five times. And while certainly an accomplishment, it’s hard to say whether a 50,000-word novel spit out over a 30-day period can be any good. (Spoiler: it can’t. At least, not without heavy revisions.) But given a bit more time and consideration, under Cameron’s expert tutelage, I *might* actually be able to produce something slightly less irksome.

(Hot garbage is a phrase I reserve exclusively for people who slow down in the passing lane, and the five novels I’ve written during NaNoWriMo.)

I’m still drawn to participate in some sort of writing challenge, however… like maybe the CBC Short Story Prize! When I was a kid, I wrote endless short stories. And sure, while some (or realistically most) of them were crap, I like to think I’ve improved a bit since then. I mean, I’d hate to read the Yelp review of the first meals I ever made, too. “The sticks were a tad chewy, but I found the bog water mixed with grass truly inedible.” 

Finally, of course, there’s blogging. A relatively simple and fun way to produce writing intended for the public eye. It’s also a pretty good way of holding myself accountable. And *obviously* I’ve got to satisfy the hunger of my gargantuan readership!

But seriously… thanks to the five of you. 🖐️

-Janice

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Why Catsitting is Awesome

I went on my first solo international trip in June of 2016. I’d spent a lot of time considering ways I could afford this, since at the time I was living on my own and working for a not-for-profit… that is to say, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income.

So, I did what all clever millennial-types do: I turned to Google for help! The search history would probably read something like, “how to travel when you’re broke” or “tricking the universe into throwing you a bone” or “spring break for 30-year-olds.”

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As a Nova Scotian (and Outlander fan), of course I needed to visit Scotland.

As is its wont, Google rendered a million different ideas. Some of the more interesting options for travelling on the cheap were getting a Working Holiday Visa, being an au pair, or WWOOFing. But for me? The most exciting prospect was housesitting.

Here’s how I realized that housesitting was for me:

  1. I was single. This limited what I could afford, but also where I’d feel comfortable travelling and staying on my own. (I’m an independent yet pragmatic woman.)
  2. I didn’t have any money. Free or cheap accommodation was fairly essential.
  3. I hated being a tourist. I mean, I love visiting new places, but I detest doing the tourist song and dance. Living *like a local* as much as I could was the goal for me.
  4. I didn’t enjoy the *travel* part of travelling. Once I’m actually in a place, I have a great time. But the journey itself is often frustrating and always exhausting.
  5. I was kind of obsessed with cats. Refer back to point #1. Now, it’s not that I’m a batty old cat lady, but I certainly appreciate feline companions. 😻

Of all the options I considered, house and catsitting was the most obvious and amazing solution. It offered free accommodation, where you can stay put and really get to know a place, and have some adorable kitty company while you’re there. Purrfect!

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This lap (and look of love mixed with disdain) could be yours!

Interested in housesitting? I can vouch for the awesomeness of Trusted Housesitters. And if you sign up, please use this link (or code RAF28625) to save 20% off a yearly membership. Plus, you’ll kindly gift me a couple free months for referring you. 🤓

With only two weeks until I hop the pond, I’m getting pretty excited for what’s coming up next… including catsitting in Europe and the U.K. So look forward to hearing more on the subject! And please, don’t just sit there, green with envy – try it for yourself.

-Janice

Just Put ‘Em Down

Have you ever tried to pare down all of your worldly possessions so that they’ll fit into a backpack and a suitcase? Yeah, me neither… that is, until recently.

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I’m lucky to be able to store a few things with friends and family. (Some furniture is simply too old and sentimental to part with! And think of all my diaries!) But all I plan to take with me for my near year-long journey? One backpack. And one suitcase.

I recently watched a documentary on minimalism, just to pump myself up for The Great Downsizing. I’ve been working towards a less materialistic life for years now, but actually getting rid of stuff is HARD. Especially for a sentimental and thrifty goon like me. Because yes, when you haven’t got much money, stuff is pretty darn precious.

But, there is a great freedom to be found in letting go, if you can manage it.

Do you struggle with giving stuff away and letting things go? Here are just a few questions that may help you in your own downsizing journey:

(I learned this years ago, but can’t remember where. Let me know if it looks familiar!)

  1. How long have you had the item? Unhelpful in isolation, but read on.
  2. When did you last use it? Not since the Reagan administration? You can toss it.
  3. Are you ever going to use it? Because theoretical usefulness isn’t really a thing.
  4. Does it need fixing or changing? Nobody believes you even own a glue gun.
  5. If you toss it, can you replace it? You can always procure another egg slicer!
  6. Do you need it for tax purposes? Then file it safely, like a responsible human.
  7. What’s the *worst* thing that could happen if you toss it? Apocalypse? No.

Maybe one of the hardest parts of letting go is being real about why you’re holding on to the stuff in the first place. And “How to be Honest with Yourself” is just a bit outside the scope of this blog post. But I have found these questions to be SO helpful, and I hope they may inspire you to do a bit of simplifying in your own life. Because it really does feel liberating.

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Besides the inherent benefits of downsizing, there are so many great things you can do with your stuff! (Does this call for another list? Why not.)

  1. Give to family & friends – you’ll be so popular, and think of the karma!
  2. Give to strangers – kick it to the curb, espesh on Curbside Giveaway Weekend.
  3. Donate to charity – those donation bins aren’t gonna fill themselves.
  4. [Try to] sell – might as well, if you’re short on money and long on time.

There are of course many sensate advantages to a simplified space, but dispersing my possessions has had a profound effect on my headspace too. There’s just more room in my life! I mean, I’ve not gone *full* minimalist… but five pairs of footwear ain’t bad.

What have you been hanging on to for way too long that you’d like to let go?

If it’s your stinky old shoes, believe me – you’re doing no one any favours by clinging to those rank puppies. Do the compassionate thing and just put ’em down.

-Janice

A Place to Start

I am *not* the kind of person to make rash decisions. Especially when it comes to where I live and what I’m doing with my whole damn life. But life, that saucy minx, has a way of throwing you curveballs – and you’ve just gotta do your best to take a swing.

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The biggest “curveball” of the past year is that my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the fall. I took months off work to spend time with him and to help him die at home. After that experience, going back to business as usual just wasn’t an option for me.

The second big (and WAY happier) surprise that came my way in the past year? Matthew Windsor (who took the above photo). This incredible international romance saved my life, interrupting the absolute horror of my dad’s death with genuine moments of peace.

And so, at the age of 34, for the first time in my life, I am setting off on a nomadic adventure as Matt and I spend the next year travelling together. This is the kind of thing that may happen once in a lifetime. So, why not document the hell out of it?

Here are just a few of the nebulous goals I’ve given myself for the year:

  1. Focus my priorities. This trip isn’t about doing what I think I’m “supposed” to do – it’s about giving myself the time and space to clarify what matters most to me. This will likely involve lots of self-care in the form of yoga and ice cream.
  2. Push myself. Like, not off a bridge or anything. But the death of a loved one brings into super sharp focus just how short life truly is. If I want to accomplish something in my lifetime, I’ve gotta commit to doing what I can as soon as I can.
  3. Have fun! Okay, this list would be pretty sad if I didn’t include some cursory mention of fun, that elusive beast. Right now I’ve got tickets for King Lear (fun?), Harry Potter World, and Video Games Live. And I’m open to suggestions!

That feels like a satisfying place to start. But look forward to learning more about downsizing three decades of stuff, house-sitting as an economical and fun way to travel, the figurative and literal pain of a colonoscopy, and all things in between!

-Janice