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Bruce Poon-Tip: The giver


Usually in the Women’s Post our profiles focus on amazing women, but every now and then we make an exception by profiling men who go above and beyond in supporting women.

Did you ever have someone in your life who impacted it more than they will ever know?

Over 20 years ago I met Bruce Poon-Tip. We met backstage at an entrepreneurial awards event. As we were waiting to receive our awards,  he told me all about his company GAP (now G-Adventures) He explained that it was a social enterprise set up to do social good by offering adventure travellers the opportunity to explore countries and have a positive impact on the countries doing things like picking up garbage or helping small businesses. He explained it as doing a social good while making high returns for his investors. His concept fascinated me and we kept in touch over the years while he built G-Adventures into the largest adventure travel company in the world.

When I ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2010, he asked me to help with a team-building event at base-camp (his head office ). The event was high energy to say the least.  And I saw why Bruce was such a good leader. He moved around the crowded room with ease, knowing every employee by name (there were hundreds). He had a way of connecting with each of them, inspiring them to move out of their comfort zone, to step forward and step onto the stage. I still remember the way he made them feel – as if standing up and trying your best was all that mattered. I think even the shyest would have stepped onto the stage to dance or sing if he asked them to, heck had he asked me I know I would have!

I hadn’t seen Bruce since 2010 but in 2013 I read his book, Looptail,How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business and was surprised and honoured to see that he had mentioned my help back in 2010 with his team-building event.  In his book he wrote about the struggles he faced launching his business and the people who helped him along the way. I purchased a few dozen copies of his book and have since given it out to dozens of people hoping that I might in a small way help him give back to the world.

The significant impact Bruce had on my life occurred when I reached out to see if I might run a business idea past him.  When we met I told him about my dream to build a social enterprise – Canvas and Cave. It will be an eco-arts centre and hotel in Barbados with the mission to further creative education in the country and build the creative foundations needed to develop entrepreneurs.  I explained how I wanted to prove the concept in Barbados and then duplicate it on other islands that were also struggling to sustain themselves.

Most people in your life will tell you what you can’t do, but Bruce Poon-Tip is the kind of person who will tell you that you can do it.  

He told me that he believed in me and would support my idea. I went home and wrote a note in my journal that began “Bruce shook my hand, he believes in me!”

I wrote about all the ways we might provide another revenue stream for him.  How the experiences we would create for visitors would appeal to his customers who might be looking for unique experiences that didn’t involve as much physical travel.

The confidence Bruce instilled in me ignited my creative side. We needed a way to attract two different demographics – the local community that we hoped to serve at the arts centre, and international travellers staying at the hotel.  I began reaching out to famous artists, writers, actors and musicians with the idea of getting one a week to attend Canvas and Cave to speak or teach. And I think the confidence I exuded caused many of them to agree. The ideas keep coming but it all started with Bruce telling me that he believed in me.

An entrepreneur who is just launching her business needs the trust and support of friends and family who believe in her. The entrepreneurs in Barbados aren’t able to get support from friends and family simply because the culture hasn’t learned to support creativity. With the help of people like Bruce Poon-Tip we will build the creative education the community needs to recognise and empower entrepreneurial ideas. Bruce is a true giver.

TRAVEL: The Darien Gap is no man’s land

By Tania LaCaria

With his backpack strapped on tightly, he traipsed through the humid, overgrown jungle greenery. Careful not to slip on algae-covered boulders, he watched his right foot move in front of his left, never taking his eyes off the ground. Suddenly he felt a jarring shock to his system; he’s thrown to the ground from behind. They pulled his backpack off his arms, tied his wrists, shoved their hands into his pockets and pushed his face into the wet earth. He knew the Darién Gap was a dangerous place, but he was certain he could cross without injury.

Men shouted at him in local tongue, pushing barrels of their machine guns into the back of his head. They wanted his money, his cell phone, and his shoes, but they were careful not to take the GPS he was using – it could lead authorities back to them. As he lay there in his sweat-soaked shorts and soiled t-shirt, he knew he had made a mistake attempting to cross the infamous Darién Gap.

The Darién Gap is not accessible by any road, bus, train or plane for a reason. It is a dangerous place where many curious travelers are left to perish under the thick tropical tree coverage – most of whom end up victims of violent guerilla crimes.

A 48,000 kilometre-long stretch of paved road called the Pan-American Highway will take you all the way through North, Central and South America; except, of course, once you hit the Darién Gap – 321 kilometres of highly dangerous land between south-eastern Panama and north-western Columbia.

The Darién Gap has gained notoriety as a kind of “no-man’s land”. The lack of accessibility should come as a warning to travelers; sure, the Pan-Am highway drops off before the Gap on either end in order to preserve the natural environment, respect the indigenous tribes that live in the Gap and to prevent trafficking of drugs from Columbiainto Panama. The more important reason, however, is that it simply isn’t safe to travel through.

The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia) guerilla group has been present in the Darién Gap for years, and now, they are virtually unbeatable. The horror stories of muggings, kidnappings and murders almost always trace back to the FARC – this dangerous group now seems to “run” the entire Darién Gap on a platform of fear.

Being a traveler that prefers to err on the side of caution, the thought of crossing the Gap has never entered my mind. But that doesn’t mean I cannot empathize with the curiosity travelers share. What does it look like? How much fear-mongering is the media responsible for? How do the villagers live? I suppose these questions will remain unanswered (for myself) for quite some time.

In the meantime, I will re-direct my quest for first-hand worldly knowledge and curiosity elsewhere — preferably to a destination that will not leave my loved ones muttering, “Curiosity killed the cat.”

 

 

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6 holiday traditions from different parts of the world

What does Christmas mean to you? This holiday is celebrated all over the world. For some, it’s all about the brightly lit streets and crowded stores, with people all looking for presents to share with their loved ones, but for others the holiday can be more about tradition or spiritual guidance. The interesting part is that the commonality is family, gift-giving, and myth.

Here are six Christmas customs from around the world:

Japan

In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by many people in the country. There is no Santa Claus. Instead there is Santa Kurohsu. Santa Kurohsu takes after a Buddhist monk in Japanese culture, who would travel to peoples homes to leave gifts and was said to have eyes at the back of his head to observe if children were being naughty. Strangely, the Japanese tend to eat a lot of KFC during the week of Christmas, thanks to clever marketing dating back to the eighties. Their unofficial ‘Christmas cake’ is strawberry shortcake.

Norway

Christmas in Norway is known as Jul and is celebrated on Dec 25. However, the gift-giving is done on Christmas eve. One of the most interesting customs is that all brooms are hidden on Christmas eve. This way, it can’t be stolen for use by evil spirits or witches.

Venezuela

Residents in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, adore Christmas. Venezuela is a predominantly a Catholic country so going to mass on Christmas is necessary, but it’s just the method of getting there that’s odd. Residents in Caracas can be seen roller-blading to church mass in the earl morning hours, and it’s so popular that the roads are often cleared of traffic and a special path is provided. Venezuelan’s celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as the night before Christmas, where families exchange gifts and eat a full christmas dinner.

Italy

Christmas celebrations start eight days before Christmas in Italy, with many families headed to mass. Families offer special Novenas (prayers) and typically gather on Christmas Eve for a midnight celebration. On Christmas eve, no meat is eaten with the exception of a light seafood dish. More importantly, in Italian tradition, children await Befana, a friendly witch that travels to children’s homes to fill their stocking with gifs. This night is known as Epiphany or feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on Jan. 6.

Czech Republic

One of the most interesting Christmas traditions is reserved for single or unmarried women. An unmarried woman must stand with her back facing an open door and throw a shoe over her shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she is to wed within the next 12 months. It also signifies possible love in the new year. In the Czech Republic and other European countries, they also celebrate St Nicholas Day, on Dec. 5, where children wait for St Nicholas to arrive with angels and with devils. The devil might give you a lump of coal while an angel will give you sweets or fruit once a child sings a song or recites a poem for St Nicholas.

Ukraine

The Christmas trees tend to look a lot different in Ukraine, as they are often decorated with artificial spiders and webbing. Instead of the colourful balls and happy tinsel, the tree might look like a scene out of a Halloween tell. However, the story behind this Ukrainian Christmas tradition is rather fascinating. As the tale goes —an old woman was once unable to afford decorations for her tree, but when she woke on Christmas morning, she instead found a spider, who decorated the tree with it’s shimmering web.

Do you have a Christmas tradition or custom you know about? Comment below

The Best Warm Weather Spot in Europe: Lisbon

In the past few years, Portugal has started to top the list of European travel destinations. It’s unique, budget-friendly, has tasty food, great weather, and even better people. When I visited Lisbon for a weekend at the end of April 2018, I was so excited for the warm weather after 4 months in London’s cold, cloudy, and rainy climate. It was one of those solo travel experiences where I was able to explore everything at my own pace, met great people along the way, and really saw why everyone falls in love with Portugal on their visit.

 

I flew from Madrid to the Lisbon and found their public transportation easy to navigate. Lisbon has a unique tram system which is worth experiencing, but most of the sights in the city itself are walkable. I stayed in a youth hostel during my time in Lisbon, and of all the hostels I’ve ever experienced, this is my most highly recommend of them all: Good Morning Lisbon Hostel. It provides a hot breakfast every morning, had the most attentive staff, and featured lots of activities for travelers.

On my first day, I went to Belem Tower is a fortified tower and UNESCO World Heritage Site a little way outside the city. I took the historic tram to get there. Near Belem, I was also able to indulge in a pastel de nata which is an egg tart.

Portugese Egg Tart

This is an absolute must eat when you’re in Portugal, and the line out the door indicated that this, in particular, is the place to eat them.

Cooking class

That evening, I participated in a Portuguese cooking class where I deboned Bacalhau, a local salted codfish, a fascinating experience to say the least. Luckily, the hostel’s nightly happy hour of all-you-can-drink free beer and sangria was shortly after the cooking class.

The next day, I woke up and head on a Sintra day trip. Sintra is a resort town located in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains and possesses a ton of awesome sights. The warm weather made seeing Quinta de Regaleira, Azenhas do Mar, Almoçagema, Adraga Beach, Cabo da Roca, and Pena Palace absolutely divine. The action-packed day left me exhausted, but the opportunity to romp around at the beach isn’t one that you get in every destination. I was thrilled with the richness of Portugal’s countryside in addition to its history and culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the third and final day of my trip, I spent the morning on a walking tour which covered the remaining parts of the city I had yet to see. Free walking tours are one my largest travel hacks and Lisbon certainly didn’t disappoint. Some of the most memorable parts of the tour were the Alfama Neighborhood, Santa Justa Lift, Barrio Alto, Praça do Comércio, and Rua Augusta Arch. The views of the city during the tour were spectacular, and it reminded me of San Francisco, CA with the hills, trams, and large red bridge.

I left Lisbon finally understanding what all the rage was about. Not only did the city have a lot to offer with its gorgeous weather and landscape, expansive history and culture, but the food was also incredible and every person I met was nothing but kind and gracious to me. (Oh and bonus: Lisbon is in fact far less expensive than any of my other favorite spots in Europe!)

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 most beautiful places

It isn’t easy coming up with a list of the most beautiful places in the world that I’ve personally seen. I live in a city surrounded by concrete and tall buildings, and I often miss what mother nature has to offer. So my top 5 places visited are pretty remote, but well worth seeing.

  1. The first beautiful location I would recommend is Blue Lagoon, in Iceland.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

It is full of man-made ponds fed by waters rich in minerals, that many believe can cure certain diseases. In the winter, the hot steam coming from the pond is surrounded by snow and ice, creating a tense atmosphere.

2. The next beautiful spot would have to be Haleakala National Park,  on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

Sunrise Haleakala summit

Haleakala attracts 1.5 million visitors every year and with a summit at 10,023 feet attracts “skywatchers” from around the world.  The name Haleakala comes from the Hawaiian language, meaning house of the sun. According to legend, the demi-god of Maui would have kept the sun there to extend the time.

3. I am drawn to warm destinations and the next beautiful location would be St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

The Pitons

The Piton mountains are breathtakingly beautiful with so little built up around them they have a natural majestic  beauty that is well worth seeing.  We rented this beautiful home with a perfect view near Soufrière, Saint Lucia

4. Another beautiful place to visit is the Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, USA.

Native Americans witnessed its formation 7,700 years ago, when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak. It has a remarkable purity: fed by rain and snow, and it is the deepest lake in the USA …and perhaps the most pristine on eart

5. Number 5 on my list is Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is located in Turkey with unique rock formations called “the despair of fairytale chimneys.” Cappadocia is formed by geology and volcanic activity, including weather and erosion, which took place in Islam about 60 million years ago. In 2000, Christians built the first church in one of the unique rocks of the region. And not to be missed is a balloon ride to capture the beautiful views the area offers.

 

 

Havana-na-na-na

In 2017, I spent 5 days in Cuba on a whirlwind vacation with my older brother. The trip was the perfect mix of adventure and culture as I left the United States and ventured to a country far less traveled than popular, warm European destinations.

Arriving in Cuba was part of the adventurous vibe I love in my travel experiences. My flight departed at sunrise from Washington, D.C. with a short layover in Atlanta before moving on to Havana. In Atlanta, I purchased a visa, or “tourist card,” under the “Education: People to People” category at the departure gate and excitedly sat on the airplane waiting for the short flight that I had been told would practically take me back in time. I was ready for the place I had read about—one that is “frozen in time” with the 1950s cars, no internet access, no ATMs or credit cards, and a commercial-free atmosphere.

The first day consisted of a series of trials that I encountered primarily because I have never traveled in an age without cell phones or the internet. After going through customs in the Havana airport, I had the pleasure of my first bartering experience with an airport cab driver. He spoke only enough English to cover for my poor Spanish, but I managed to negotiate a ride to the area of my “casa.” Locals open up their homes and sell bedrooms to tourists looking for an inexpensive place to stay. I found a suitable “casa” on AirBnB but soon found it was nearly impossible to locate with the address provided and the internet connection in Cuba was too poor to message the host.

For the next 7 hours, while waiting for AirBnB’s assistance, I spent time in Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, exploring the sites. Plaza de San Francisco, El Capitolio, and Plaza Vieja were some of my favorites to check out. They were perfect places to see Cuban architecture, as well as people watch, to get a vibe for the city. During dinner, AirBnB managed to connect me with my host, and I was able to make my way to my casa for the evening. The cool air-conditioned room in the back of Maykel’s home was incredible after the warm July weather I had experienced all day.

The next day was an early wake-up call to catch a shared taxi to Trinidad. I spent just a day in the beautiful town located in central Cuba. There’s a ton to do with easy access to the beach, or “la playa,” incredible foliage, and beautiful natural waterfalls. In addition to a cute town with live jazz music, I spent time with a local guide horseback riding to and from the natural waterfall and grabbing beers, or cervezas, on rooftops.

When I headed back to Havana for my last few days, I had a few things still left on my list: take a ride in a 1950s car, drink mojitos at La Floridita, listen to jazz at a local spot, and eat traditional Cuban food. I managed to check everything off the list before hopping back on the plane to D.C.

Cuba isn’t a traditional destination, but if you’re looking for something unique, consider it for your next adventure! The experiential nature of this vacation was unparalleled. I learned more about flexibility in travel during my time in Cuba than I ever have before. Being disconnected from the internet and technology provides real opportunity to seek out a connection with locals and the culture and lives they have built.

 

Barbados Journal Nov 2018

I now have a rooster. Our gardener brought him to us to protect our hens. But he doesn’t give the normal cock-a-doodle-doo when the sun rises, instead he crows at 3am and it sounds more like err-accck-er- errr.  Although scrawny, he is a proud and ambitious rooster. He is scared of just about everything in the yard, but chases the young hens incessantly and pecks at them if they get too close to his food. I’ve tried to tell him to be gentle with them, but he is consumed with the arrogance and vigour of his youth.

The hens are maturing nicely, no longer cute little chicks they are growing feathers and their own personalities. There is a natural leader I’ve named Delilah, she is always first out of the hen-house in the morning. For fun she chases the mourning doves around the yard, and when the rooster (I’ve named Doug) gets too aggressive with the other hens, she will come to their rescue and get a few good pecks in at him.  The others hens tolerate Delilah because they need a leader, but her exuberance for life upsets their conventionalism.

I bought my first car with a right-hand side steering wheel.  It’s a pea-green Kia Soul and there are only a handful on the island. We discovered that one belongs to the math teacher at our kids school .   We call him Captain Holt because he reminds us of the character on the t.v. show Brooklyn99. He likes things just so and always parks his car perfectly between the lines on the tarmac. For some reason my husband and I have had the same desire to park our car directly beside his whenever we come into the school parking lot. They look so cute together and I’m trying to think of ways to amp it up a bit. Thinking of getting them matching outfits, maybe a bow for one and tie for the other. I’m a bit worried I’ll run out of ideas, but the kids are a great help. 

Barbados is filled with so many stories and so much beauty. When you turn a corner you never know what you might find. To date we’ve come across: a huge pit in the middle of the road that was later filled with a mound of rocks; a goat; a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean, a drunken man wielding a machete getting slapped in the head by an old man who took away the large knife and sent him on his way, oh and some adorable puppies.  In the parking lot of the grocery store I stood in awe while watching  the magnificent frigate birds soar and diving into the ocean. 

 

The beauty of the morning sun on a field glistening with dew can take your breath away. And the sunsets that stretch over the sky, painting it shades of red and orange that move over the clouds has become our evening television.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from Toronto politics. The pecking order there reminds me of the hens in my yard – those who challenge the status quo are natural leaders in turbulent times, and they withdraw when times are calm. But there are always predators who circle in the shadows feeding off the droppings. Going 2000 miles away has put things into perspective, from a distance Toronto is much smaller.

The tourists have started to come to the island. The main beach highway is now busy and the grocery store is filled with people wearing bathing suits and flip flops. They seem so incongruous in a country where sleeveless blouses aren’t allowed in government buildings. The radio ads that promote the tourism industry repeatedly telling people that roads, water and yes even the air we breath “is tourism” have, thankfully, stopped. I was hoping the grocery stores might get a bit more consistent in what they offer, one week you can buy lettuce but then it’s gone for the next two.  I haven’t found green beans in 2 weeks but did find some President’s Choice salsa this week. Although with Tostito’s scoops priced at $23.95 a bag, it’ll have to stay in the jar until the local nachos appear on the shelves again.   I’m hoping there might be real cranberry juice instead of the sugar filled juice blends – but I know that might be a stretch.

The art-eco centre boutique hotel project I’m working on is being met with so much support and positive feedback that I was a bit surprised. One large plantation owner offered to give his 400-acre plantation as an investment in the project – but alas it has not ocean views!   I have found that the people here are well educated and want to build their community. Like Canada there is a mix of many cultures and the local Bajans embrace them all. Although people recognize the economic importance of tourism there is a desire to push Barbados beyond being completely dependent on it. 

I’m learning what it is like to be an “expat.” You become part of a community of people all adjusting to a way of life that is quite unique and different than what many are accustomed to. Everything here is slower, and some people let that frustrate them. The rural lifestyle blends into the urban areas – so that you can drive down the main highway  and see a cow feeding in the ditch between the warehouse and the road. Or walk along a busy street among people – and chickens.  Expats choose to be here, and unlike living where you were born that choice inspires more commitment. I’ve also found that expats are in the most part friendly, positive and adventurous people.

Every Tuesday there is a party at the local rum shop just down the hill from us. We sit by the pool listening to the crickets and whistling frogs, and can hear the music wafting up to us. They play old 70s songs, Rupert Holmes – If you like Pina Colodas, and now John Denver – Take me Home Country Roads. The words make me think about all the roads I have travelled and I realize that home isn’t one place, it is the space that Greg and I create with our family and friends.

Exploring the island gem that is Barbados

When you live in a tropical island paradise that is only 166 square miles, you would think that you would have exhausted most places to go visit and explore, but if you’re me, then that sadly is just not the case.

Contrary to many beliefs I sadly do not get to go to the beach nearly as often as I would like to and I have yet to truly travel around and explore all that Barbados has to offer, in its natural beauty and island charm.

To remedy this, a bunch of friends and myself, one day decided to just hit the road and let the winding roads of the island take us on an adventure. Normally, I get lost in the island easily because I have not traveled around the place enough, only frequenting the same familiar places over and over again.

However, as I learnt on that weekend trip, there are a lot of places around this island that still needs to be discovered, to be explored and the very best way to do it is to do it with friends.

So on that sunny and warm Saturday morning, four of us piled ourselves into a Japanese speaking car and set off for adventure. First place chosen was to St Philip, because there was a famous bar close to a light house that promised amazing food and drinks.

The view was nothing short of breathtaking. The lighthouse itself was a towering round structure and showed signs of its very old age, however, by unanimous decision, were admired only from the outside. None of the crew game enough to try to go inside the ancient contraption.

The views on the cliff were amazing, the sea rollicking bringing forth harsh waves that crashed mightily on the rocks on the very long drop below. It was a freeing experience, being there in the open with the salty sea spray shooting up on the rocks before receding for another attack.

I could actually feel my mind clear and relax, but it brought with it, a real appetite and soon the squad found the restaurant, which was such an out of the way ranch looking place, doused in music with a fired up grill.

I had the best time there with my friends and was even happier with a huge plate of BBQ ribs.

The journey continued with the gang travelling through dirt a road, coming up to what was decided had to be a haunted house.

While the decision was taken to stick to the South of the island, it was so much fun to really take a moment and appreciate the beauty of the island. Sometimes I forget that I’m in an island paradise as the pressures of work and family increase, however, I have to advise anyone, to take a day, no matter where you are and travel around the town or country that you’re in. there is nothing like the feel of the open road, an unhurried atmosphere and good friends to make the whole experience awesome.

 

First time travelling to the Big Apple

I live in beautiful Barbados, literally the land of white pristine sandy beaches, turquoise waters, tropical fruit trees and lots of coconut trees. I live in a country where it is impossible to never see greenery, with hills and pastures stretching for seeming miles, all lush with thick flora, so imagine my shock when I first traveled to New York City for a two week vacation and could not see anything but concrete and insane squirrels.

Green monkey in a tree in Barbados
Green monkey in a tree in Barbados

It was a culture shock for sure, but I was ready for the adventure!

Hopped up on the amazing stories from the TV shows like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, I was beyond excited to get this vacation going. I had plans on shopping and a lot of eating. Now I’m not a ‘travelholic’ and this trip to the Big Apple was something that I had dreamt of, but had not actually considered doing.

While I was excited to go over there and I had of course air marked few places I wanted to go to because I was all about that sales shopping life and had dreamt of running around in huge malls, I also had to make sure I took care of a couple of things.

First time on the train was such an experience!

Now not many of you may have to ever worry whether the bank you use is accessible in another country, or that your credit card may not work, but as it turned out, these were things I had to make sure of and have a plan of attack finances wise.

Sorted all of it and before I knew it I was in the air on my way to the concrete jungle and thus began my sojourn into the world of USA.

I rode my very first train and was freaking out because, it was more or less punctual and people were so casual about the fact that they were on a train going underground, but for me, I was legit in a whole new world. I fell in love with the graffiti, with the characters on every train and the total ease of movement. I became lost in the Museum of Natural History, geeking out about dinosaurs and the cosmos and then could not for the life of me figure out how to leave the building.

And let’s talk food. My first deep dish pizza, my first time at an IHOP and saw the massive amount of pancakes they offered. The drinks that I was incapable of finishing!

It was like going to a new world!

I went out a lot. I don’t think I even spent one day in my hotel room. One of my friends made sure that i experienced authentic Chinese food and Japanese food. I took a bus for the longest bus ride of my life- a whole two hours and ended up in a mall that as you can imagine I also for one heart stopping moment was sure I was stuck in because I could not find my way back to the ground floor. It seemed to go on forever!

I was able to see my friends going about their daily lives and explore different parts of New York, all culminating for me in Brooklyn, where I went to an art party and ended up ‘palancing’ ( a Trinidadian dance) with over a hundred people on the main floor of the art museum.

My time in the Big Apple was exactly what I thought it would be: awesome, inspiring and eye-opening.

I came back to Barbados full of ideas, but also with a very real appreciation for how calm and slow paced life really is on the island and how much I also enjoy that.

Barbados Journal Oct 2018

I have spent the past month learning a great deal about Barbados, and myself. This month I discovered that selecting “allow dirt roads” on your GPS is a big mistake in Barbados.

It all came about on a beautiful sunny morning. I was driving the kids to school and a house fire on the main road had traffic backed up for miles. It gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the island and I’d grown fond of discovering new sights around every turn.

On a small island like Barbados one would think it hard to get lost… but the island is filled with roads and cart paths that run over all kinds of terrain. And in the wet season (September to November) they fill with mud and clay. The problem is that the cart paths show up on GPS apps as dirt roads, even when they are little more than tractor paths through banana fields. Combine this with a glorious sunny morning, an open road in front of you, and the kids singing “Country Roads” in the back seat and it’s easy to feel invincible.

As I drove along the heavily pot-holed pavement, the road turned into a dirt cart path, and I didn’t listen to that small voice in my head whispering – ‘STOP!’. The view was amazing; we were driving along the edge of a mountain with a steep cliff edge to our left and the mountain rising up on our right.

It had rained the night before and I began to worry when the car started sliding. The road was narrow and the drop steep. My knuckles turned white as I gripped the wheel. The car rounded a corner and I could see that a few meters ahead the steep cliff turned into a gently sloping hill, but the car starting sliding towards the edge of the cliff just as I rounded the corner, and I nervously gunned it along the path praying we’d make it to the hill. Luckily we got there and I thought about turning around but didn’t want to face that slippery corner again. So I kept going and drove the car straight into almost 3 feet of clay that had filled a dip in the cart path.

I looked down at my silk pants, white top and high heels and realized I might not make it to my morning meeting and the kids would miss school.

My son and I put sticks and branches under the tires and after about an hour of trying we rocked the car out of the big mud pit (with half of it all over us). I found a small promontory to turn the car around and slowly headed back to the main road. Getting out of the mud was satisfying, but I was taking it too slow and became stuck again. This time we were on an upward slope and there was no way that my son and I could rock the car out. Luckily some men had arrived to work in the fields and immediately offered to help. They easily pushed the car out and around the corner to the paved road.

The whole time this fiasco was going on my daughter was sitting in the back seat, taking picture and pointing out how beautiful the view was. When finally arrived back at the main road she commented “Mum you always find a way to make a perfectly ordinary day turn into an adventure.” And that is how I hope they view every stupid thing that I do!

I have noticed that I am beginning to lose some of the terribly selfish driving habits I picked up in Toronto. Here ‘Bajans’ drive slow and easy, if they see a car wanting to cross the highway, they will stop to let them pass. They are kind. It’s unsettling if you’re from Toronto and driving far too quickly behind them, but over time you slow down and start to realize that being kind, and offering that public gesture, is important. I used to think that people are drawn to Barbados because of the slow pace, but I realize there is much more to it. The people here have grace and they cherish it. I hope a little of that grace rubs off on me.

Barbados is a beautiful country but it is the people that make it a terrific place to live.