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Living the Dream

Thailand’s Songkran Festival

From April 13-15, Thailand celebrates their new year with the Songkran Festival. During these three days, the entire country participates in the biggest water fight in the world.

The throwing of water started as a way to pay respect, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. Over time, this tradition has evolved among young people into a full blown water fight including full on dousing of random passers by. Some also carry a bowl of talc powder mixed with water, which they then smear it on people’s faces and bodies as a blessing for the new year.

Songkran1

My Songkran Experience

A few years ago I was in Thailand for this festival and was not prepared for how crazy it would be. We decided to spend it in Chiang Mai, where the most famous Songkran celebrations are held. Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat with streets that run alongside it, providing a perfect (but dirty) water source for this celebration.

We arrived the day before the festival began so we could prepare. We found our hotel, dropped off our bags and went shopping for water guns. This Minnie Mouse super soaker was my weapon of choice.

Mariska Songkran Weapon

We left the hotel to join the festival the next day and there was a group of kids waiting outside and I immediately got a full bucket of water to the chest! That was how the next three days went from start to finish. For the next three days I would wore the same clothes, still wet from the day before, as there was no point getting my limited supply of clean clothes all soaked.

This went on for three days straight! The Thai people loaded up in trucks with giant barrels of water and drove through the streets spraying water at people. Some got a bit nasty and added ice to their water buckets, which was absolutely shocking when you were doused with it. Most of the Thai people were fairly respectful not to spray water in people’s faces, which was great. It was the Western crowd that tended to take things a bit too far, spraying people in the face or in the ear with a super soaker full of ice water. Not cool.

Overall the festival was an absolute blast! When dusk hit in the evening the water fight would end for the day, and around about nine the next morning it would start up again.

Here is a taste of what those three days were like:

Songkran-4 Songkran-2 Songkran-3 Songkran-5 Songkran-6 Songkran-7 Songkran-8 Songkran-9 Songkran-10 Songkran-11 Songkran-12 Songkran-13 Songkran-14 Songkran-15

 What festivals have you attended while traveling? Share in the comments below.

 

I’m Going to Tobago!

Well… not just yet… but with your help, we can make it happen!

The first step is complete: Application for #60Days in Paradise submitted!!

#TobaGOtime

The Job

If (when!!) I get hired, my job will be to go to the island of Tobago, stay in beautiful hotels, eat fancy food (and sample tasty drinks), do all kinds of awesome activities, learn about the culture, meet the locals, take LOTS of photos and videos of all of it, and then tell you guys (and the rest of Canada) all about it! Oh, and did I mention it would be all expenses paid PLUS salary?! (Whaaaaat?!!!)

I fully agree with my wonderful friend Dave who said I’m “tailor made for this gig!”

So please peruse my application and add your recommendation at the bottom if you think I have what it takes to get this job done!

Where is Tobago?

Tobago is one of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean Sea just outside the hurricane belt. The island lies northeast of Trinidad and southeast of Granada, off the southern coast of Venezuela.

Tobago on Google Maps

What Will I do in Tobago?

With a rich history and a ton of activities and eco-tourism options, there is something for everyone on this beautiful tropical paradise and I want to do it ALL!

  • Scuba Diving, Sailing, Surfing, Wake Boarding, Fishing
  • Hiking, Bird Watching, & Eco-Tourism including one of the Oldest Protected Rainforests in the world
  • Golf, Beaches, Pools & Spas
  • Great Food and Tasty Cocktails (mmm!)
  • Local Art and Music, Jazz Festivals and Local Art

And much much more!  

Tobago Beach

I’ll need your vote between April 21st and May 16th

The application process closes April 4th. A group of travel professionals will then choose the top 10 applicants and then the voting process happens between April 21st and May 16th. Please keep your clicketty/tappetty finger ready to submit your vote! (It’s still unclear if it will be a one-time or daily voting process, but either way I will need YOUR HELP to spread the word.)

So stay tuned and please share with everyone you know (!!) cuz I know we are all imagining ourselves on a tropical beach as we wait for our (short) Canadian summer to arrive. I have selflessly volunteered because one of us should really go do it so that the rest can live vicariously… Hehehe! ; )

Follow Me so you don’t miss a moment of the action:

Facebook – http://facebook.com/mariskarichtersphotography
Twitter – http://twitter.com/mariskar
Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/mariskar
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+MariskaRichters
Tumblr – http://mariskar.tumblr.com
Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariskar
Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/mariskarichters
FourSquare – http://www.foursquare.com/mariskar
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/mariskar/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariskarichters
Vine – https://vine.co/mariskar

Thank you!

Sending big love and gratitude to you all in advance for your vote and support!

With your help I can get to Tobago and share the adventure with Canada and the world! It all starts when you leave your recommendation here!

It’s #TobaGOtime!

 

9 Things I’ve Learned From Solo Travel

My first solo travel adventure was a 3-month backpacking trip around Europe when I was 21. I set my budget goal and worked hard to meet it, and within 6 months I was on a plane. It was the craziest (and scariest) thing I had ever done and it felt invigorating!

Since then, thanks to that experience, I’ve traveled solo all over the world and I’ve learned so much about myself and life through my experiences, and I wanted to share some that with you.

1. Take the Leap!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao-tsu

The first step is always the hardest. Waiting for the perfect timing, or the perfect circumstances, or the perfect travel companion will have you waiting a VERY long time! In the end the initial leap is up to you. Choose your moment and jump! Your choice and the actions that follow will bring all the right things into your life. Once you make the commitment, the rest will fall into place.

Costa Rican Sunset 2013

2. Always trust your gut. Always.

Your intuition is your best friend in life, especially when you’re on the road in unfamiliar territory. It will tell you when something isn’t quite right. When you’re traveling and you don’t speak the language, and you don’t know anybody, your intuition is your best friend. It will keep you out of uncomfortable situations, away from shady characters and hopefully tip you off when someone is trying to rip you off. Trust it! 

When I took that first solo trip to Europe I took a detour to Morocco. When I dismbarked from the ferry I was approached by an 17-year-old kid who offered to tour me around the Tangiers. Despite my insistence that I didn’t need (or want) a guide, he followed me around for two hours while I waited for my bus out of town. I had this uncomfortable feeling and as I went to board the bus he pulled a knife, saying that I owed him money for the “tour.” Whaaaaaat?!! I wasn’t going to pay someone for creepily following me around for 2 hours! Thank goodness the bus driver was nearby! He instructed me to board the bus and he handled my “tour guide.” I’ve trusted that uncomfortable feeling ever since.

Follow your gut instincts

3. You Can Only Truly Count on Yourself.

Everyone is on their own path, and you cannot expect others to understand or follow yours. There are always reasons (excuses?) that stop people from taking that initial leap. If I had waited for others I would have missed out on so many experiences. I’ve learned that I can’t rely on others to fulfill my own dreams. All I can do is believe in myself to create the life that I envision and live it.

4. Fear Is Part of the Deal.

Traveling alone is scary! But my theory is that if you’re not scared you’re doing it wrong. If you’re not scared then you’re not playing a big enough game. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere you’ve never been. It takes a brave person to be able to venture into the unknown, especially on your own. These are the opportunities where you will learn the most about yourself and grow. Don’t let your fears stop you from having an incredible life! Get out of your own way and FACE those fears. You will surprise yourself when you realize there was actually nothing to be afraid of, and you will feel a sense of pride for what you’ve accomplished.

Diving in Thailand

5. I’m Not Running Away!

I always let myself believe that travel was my way of running away from real life. I’ve come to realize that I was never running away from anything, but instead I’ve been running TOWARD a dream! I’m creating an incredible life with every step, every flight and every new place I explore, and new person I meet. I’m seeing the world and experiencing new things and photographing it all! I’m living a life that so many only dream of and I’m so grateful for the choices I’ve made to make it all possible.

6. Roll With It.

Travel always comes with frustrations and mishaps.  No trip or adventure is ever perfect. The unexpected happens and things will not always go as planned. There’s no point in getting upset when it happens though. Getting upset isn’t going to make it go away, it will only frustrate you and affect your experience and your memories of it.

I’ve had my share of travel mishaps including lost luggage in Russia, food poisoning in Indonesia, and floods delaying trains in Thailand. These things used to stress me out, but I’ve learned to roll with it. Getting upset isn’t going to get my luggage to me any faster, get the food poisoning through my system any quicker, or make the floods clear the tracks any sooner. I’ve learned to adjust my plans and make the best of unexpected situations over which I have no control. And, surprisingly, I’ve found that these adjusted plans tend to make for some amazing adventures and the best travel stories! 

7. You Will Get Lonely, but You’re Never Alone.

Traveling solo isn’t always sunshine and lollipops, and can be lonely at times. Sure, I’ve met some wonderful people along the way, but at the end of the day everyone goes their own way. It can get lonely when you have no one to share the experiences with, no one to have those “remember when” conversations with, and no one to share your meals or a cocktail with. But loneliness comes and goes. When this feeling hits, I remind myself that I’ve chosen to be where I am, to live a dream that inspires and excites me. How many people can honestly say that?

We have so many tools at our fingertips (eg. Skype, Facetime and Facebook) that staying connected while on the road is super easy. I travel with a laptop and an iPhone and most hostels and hotels have free wifi, so when loneliness hits I hit up the internet and the next thing I know I’m enjoying a glass of wine and a laugh with a friend.

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

8. Follow Your Heart.

If you have a sudden inspiration to do something, DO IT! Don’t wait! Set the wheels in motion! Don’t allow yourself to come up with all sorts of reasons (excuses?) not to do it. I’ve had many regrets as a result of those internal conversations talking me out of doing something, usually leading to a lot of “what-ifs” and missed opportunities.

The way I look at it now is that if I’m in an amazing place with a chance to do something that I will likely not have again (like zip-lining through the Costa Rican rainforest, or diving the Blue Hole in Belize, or playing in the river with elephants in Thailand, or hiking a waterfall barefoot in Bali), then I’m going to do it! Who knows if I’ll ever be back in these places for a second chance? If I have the inspiration and opportunity to do something, I do it! It reduces regrets, leaves me with a lot less “what-ifs,” and a lot more wonderful memories and stories.

9. “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can conceive.” ~ Napoleon Hill

My recent trip to Russia proved this to me when I was successful in raising the funds for the trip through a Kickstarter campaign for the Olympic Spirit Project. I raised $7300 in 25 days! It took a lot of work , cold calling and self promotion, but it was all worth it because it got me to Russia for the 2014 Olympics! I have proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. All it takes is the decision and commitment to do it and then put in the effort to make it happen. 

If you have a dream, chase it! You will come up with all sorts of reasons why it won’t work, but you need to focus on the reasons that it WILL work. If you can come up with the idea, and envision yourself making it real, then you can. It’s really that simple. Then you set the wheels in motion and the universe will deliver what you need.

It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it! 

20140317-153007.jpg

 

What lessons have you learned from your travels?

A Message from the Shore of the Black Sea in Russia

I haven’t posted much since I’ve been in Russia, thanks to a nasty flu, so I thought I would record a bit of a wrap-up video before I leave Russia early tomorrow morning. So here’s a little message from the shores of the Black Sea in Russia:

Thank You for Bringing the Olympic Spirit Project to Life!

The last 25 days have been one heck of a ride! WOW!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign, the Olympic Spirit Project went from a dream to becoming a reality!

Thanks to a few last minute contributions and pledge increases, final total on the campaign came to $7290 from 94 project backers!

So I am sending all my backers giant cosmic hugs today, as I say…

“Thank you!” and express my #Gratitude to all of you who backed the project! I’m blown away by your generosity, and would like to reiterate that #PeopleAreAwesome!”

 

Thank You!

#Gratitude#PeopleAreAwesome   

Thanks you you all I’m headed to the #Sochi2014 Winter #Olympics in Russia!!

 

#Sochi2014   #Olympics

To seek out and document Olympic Spirit and cheer on Team Canada! #GoCanadaGO!!!!!

 

#GoCanadaGO!

 

I invite you to Follow Me at @mariskar on Twitter and Instagram, and to like the Mariska Richters Photography page on Facebook. Quatchi will also be joining me on the journey, and you can follow him on Twitter at @QuatchiTravels.

 

Follow me: @mariskar   mariskarichters.com   @QuatchiTravels

The Olympic Spirit Project is now officially LIVE, and I’ll #SeeYouInSochi!

 

#SeeYouInSochi

 

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve!”  ~ Napoleon Hill

* Photos courtesy of Pim Richters (Thanks Dad! xo)

Digital Nomads: Goodbye commute, hello world

Back in October, I took the leap of becoming a Digital Nomad and 2014 is the year this becomes a reality.

I watched this video made by oDesk today and it has inspired me once again to believing that it’s all possible.

Digital Nomads: Goodbye commute, hello world

My nomadic adventure began with a month-long trip to Costa Rica at the end of 2013. I had sold and donated all of my things and Costa Rica was the perfect place to unwind and leave my old life behind to be inspired by what life has to offer outside of an office.

I spent the month traveling around the country, exploring, photographing, learning Spanish, eating well and working out. It was truly an amazing five weeks that I often go back to in my mind when I start to have doubts about the path I’ve chosen and it brings renewed confidence.

After my return from Costa Rica, I began work on a new project and after MUCH hard work on the Olympic Spirit Kickstarter campaign, the adventure and travels will continue, thanks to my many generous supporters. In less than a week I fly to Europe, spend a few days with family and then 10 days from today I land in Sochi, Russia to capture the Olympic Spirit as the world celebrates their athletes! I can hardly believe it!

Through this project I will share the Olympic experience with my amazing Kickstarter backers and others through social media and this blog. Once the Games are over, the stories and images will be compiled into a book documenting the Olympic spirit and will be available for sale. I invite you to join me and share in the experience from wherever you are!

Napoleon Hill’s wrote what has become my mantra:

What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

This project is living proof!!

With gratitude,
Mariska

People Are Awesome!

Throughout the Olympic Spirit Project I’ve seen generosity that I never knew existed. People are AWESOME! People I never expected to take an interest in what I’m doing have come out of nowhere and contributed to the project. People I haven’t seen or spoken to in years are supporting me beyond what I would have ever expected. And people I don’t even know are inspired by what I’m doing and have pledged their support and it has blown me away!

Whichever group you fall into, I say to you:

Thank You for being awesome!

 Some Examples of Awesomeness:

A corporate sponsor pledged a completely unexpected contribution to the project. Thank you Brandy’s Whistler!

A reporter from my local paper featured the project in the weekend newspaper.

An associate producer from CBC heard about my story and set up an interview with CBC Toronto’s Heather Hiscox for their CBC’s Road to the Olympics segment.

A group of Canadian volunteers offered me accommodations with their group in Adler, Russia at a cost that was far more reasonable than I was finding on my own.

A friend recommended an amazing travel agent who found me the perfect flights! Coincidentally, she booked all the flights for the Canadian Alpine and Snowboard teams, so I totally lucked out with someone who knows her stuff! (Contact me for her contact info, if you are looking for great service!)

I posted a message in a Facebook photography group this week that I was looking to borrow or rent some gear for the project and within 10 minutes I had a response from someone and had a lens in my hands within an hour!

And what has and continues to be the most amazing, are the people who are sharing the project on their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and in their conversations with words of encouragement. Thank you all for sharing in this ambitious dream which is allowing me to live a life that inspires me! And THANK YOU for sharing the Olympic Spirit and making it a reality for me!

To everyone who has joined me on this adventure:
You are amazing and I am so grateful to have every one of you in my life!

With gratitude,
Mariska

8 Things I’ve Learned in the Last 8 Days

Last Tuesday I launched my Olympic Spirit Project Kickstarter campaign, and the past week has been a wild ride! I launched the campaign on January 14th and now 8 days later, thanks to so many incredible people, I have raised 37% of the funding goal, got one corporate sponsor on board (so far), have a local newspaper article coming out this week, and have an interview booked with CBC Toronto for next week!

Throughout this crazy journey, I’ve learned a LOT, and I wanted to share some of those things with you.

8 Things I’ve Learned in the Last 8 Days:

1. I have incredible friends and family.

I’m so grateful to all of you, who have stepped up to support me and this project. (I already knew you were all amazing, but just had to tell you again!) You have all been so generous with your pledges and sharing the project around and your support has me feeling confident that I will reach my goal of publishing an inspiring book!

2. How to craft a Kickstarter campaign.

Crowdfunding is a new experience for me. There is definitely an art to crafting a good crowdfunding campaign. I’ve done a lot of research and have learned and applied so much, and am continuing to learn as this experience continues.

3. How to promote a Kickstarter campaign.

I’m pretty good with social media, but things change dramatically when you are asking people to put their money into something. I’ve learned a lot about how to craft my emails, tweets, blogs and other social media posts to have the most impact on the reader and inspire them to get involved. This is an ongoing learning process, and I have by no means mastered it, but I’m a lot farther along than I was a week ago.

4. How to create a crowdfunding video.

My video is still in progress, but I’ve learned that it’s harder than it looks. As a photographer, I tend to be more comfortable behind the camera, so talking on camera will be new for me and will I’m sure require many takes before I get it right. Writing a good script and planning your message is key. I’ve had a lot of help  and feedback from the people around me and I am so grateful for your honest feedback and comments to help make my first ever video!

5. How to reach out to the media.

This week I secured two media outlets to tell my story. The Olympic Spirit Project will be featured in my hometown’s local newspaper this Friday, and then next week I will be doing a live interview with CBC Toronto’s Heather Hiscox. This has been the first time I’ve ever approached media on anything and will be my first television appearance. I’m pretty proud of the results so far, and I’ll admit that I’m a bit nervous about the live interview…

 6. It’s all about ACTION!

I tend to get in my own way, and make excuses for why things are not progressing. Because this project has such a short timeline, the past week has been all about ACTION! And I’m seeing incredible results! I’ve realized that “done is better than perfect,” and it has made me so much more productive. You can always tweak things later, but if you don’t get it out there, no one will ever know what you’re up to and you will never move forward.

7. I really CAN work from anywhere.

It’s been a challenge to get my message out to people primarily over the web. I’m currently living in my small hometown of Duncan, BC, and it is a very different experience after the hustle and bustle of life in Vancouver. I don’t know many people here, so the in-person conversations have been mostly with the Safeway cashier and the barista. But, I’m managing to do it! The online impact of this project has brought me one step closer to location independence and have made me so much more confidence that I will soon be location independent and living a life that I love.

8. What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

This is my new favourite quote and words to live by from Napoleon Hill’s, Think and Grow Rich. I’ve been using the mantra, “Thoughts become things,” for a while now, but this one from Napoleon Hill is so much more inspiring to me. I thought it, I believed it, and now it is becoming a reality. I’ve just proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to! It’s an incredible feeling!

 

So there it is! It’s been a huge learning curve for me this past week and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon! I’m so excited to see what the next month brings to both me and this project! I’m on a roll and don’t intend on stopping!

What are some of the things you’ve learned and accomplished in the past week? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

And remember…

Napoleon Hill Quote

© 2013 Mariska Richters – Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica

 

 

Reflecting on 2013

With the new year quickly approaching, I’ve spent some time in the past few days reflecting on 2013:

Richters Family ReunionI welcomed 2013 with good friends and a fun night out.

In February, I purchased my #Sochi2014 Olympics tickets and committed to a crazy adventure.

In March I fell in love (again) as our family welcomed my niece into the world. She is adorably beautiful and the love I feel every moment I spend with her fills me with joy.

I had a bad fall in the spring, and spent the time while I recovered rediscovering myself and my strength. There were some rough days, but  I appreciate every moment of that challenging time.

Nairn Falls, Whistler BCIn July we celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday (any my nephew’s 5th) with a family reunion, including some family who came from Holland.

In August, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, a truly inspiring reminder that life-long love exists.

I spent the summer discovering new places and new experiences. I made a commitment to try something new or go somewhere new at least once a week. It was a great way to discover this beautiful place we live in!

In late summer I regained a friend I thought I had lost, and let go of someone else I had hopes of repairing things with. It was an interesting and freeing breakthrough to realize that some things just aren’t meant to be, and holding on to them only taxes your well-being and emotions.

Tamarindo Beach

In October, I made a huge life choice and purged most of my possessions, moved out of my Vancouver apartment, put the stuff I had remaining into storage, and booked a plane ticket!

In November, I got on that plane to Costa Rica to begin a new life adventure focused on freedom and living my life for me, living a life I love!

I returned from Costa Rica in December with a new outlook of what I want life to look like. (It does not include a daily commute to a 9-5 job in a cubicle.)

I joined a gym in 2013, and worked my butt off to get into the best shape of my life. I had a few injuries throughout the year, which set me back, and stopped me from achieving my one fitness goal of the year (to run a half marathon), but it felt amazing to feel what my body is capable of with a little push and determination.

I’ve spent December planning my upcoming travels and adventures in Europe and Russia and cannot wait to tell you all about it as it happens!

Whistler Olympic Rings

I launched a fundraising campaign with a team of journalists, to help us get to Russia to report on the fan and cultural experience of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. See the campaign at bit.ly/TheRealSochi.

It has been an incredible year with tons of personal growth and life changes. I’m so excited to see what 2014 will bring in the months ahead! I look forward sharing my photos and experiences with you along the way and hope to inspire more of you to live a life that you truly love!

What are some of the great things that you experienced in 2013? And what are your aspirations for 2014?

The past has brought me great things, it has made me who I am. And the future is a clean slate and can bring me anything I want! Step one is to visualize it, and step two is to take the actions to make it happen!

Much love to you all for the year ahead! Live a Life You LOVE!

The Tropical Hangover

The Tropical Hangover…

I’m feeling it. I’m feeling it baaaaad!

It’s been a week since I spent my last full day in Costa Rica. I started that morning like every other morning: on the beach with a kickass workout. After my workout tho, I had a bit of an emotional moment while cooling off with a swim. I stood there, water waist high, and looked out at the ocean. I closed my eyes, breathed in the tropical air, listened to the waves and tried to imprint that moment into my mind.

I didn’t want to leave.

Costa Rica Sunset in Tamarindo

My time in Costa Rica had an impact on me that I did not expect. I’ve done a good amount of traveling over the years, and of all the places I’ve been, I’ve never felt at home like I did in Costa Rica. It seems I’m not the only one with this feeling. In Tamarindo, where I spent about half of my time, there are a ton of expats. People who have realized that a simpler life is where their happiness lives. Most have sold their homes and possessions and transplanted their lives to this beautiful paradise.

You don’t need much to be happy. This became abundantly clear during my time there. I left Canada with one suitcase and a backpack for my camera gear. I probably only used about half of the stuff I packed. I could have packed carry-on luggage and had everything I needed. This really showed me that I don’t need much to be completely satisfied in life. Some of my must haves: sun, beach, heat, fresh foods, and daily workouts. All of these things are provided by the location and cannot be packed in a suitcase! Everything else can be bought when I get there.

I returned to Vancouver last week to -10 degrees celsius. My body is still in shock a week later. The cold dry air is sucking the tan right out of my skin and has me moisturizing at least twice a day. All I can think about is getting back to that life where I spent my days in shorts and tank top, or some days I wore nothing but my bikini all day! Now, I have to layer up just to take out the garbage. “No me gusta!”

So now my only thought is:

“Get back there as soon as possible!”

Time to get my ducks in a row and make that happen! But first: The Olympics!