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Adventure

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

CBC’s Road to the Olympics with the Olympic Spirit Project!

This morning I had my first ever television interview!

It was with Heather Hiscox of Toronto’s CBC News Now morning show, featured on CBC’s Road to the Olympics segment. Because of the 3-hour time difference, my alarm went off at 4:30am to be awake and ready for the 5:20am call. Here’s how it went:

The whole thing went so fast! I’ve been both excited and nervous about this interview for over a week, and waiting for my 5 minutes of fame felt like forever.  I called in via Skype and was on hold and listening to the show (I had no video on my end) for the longest 10 minutes of my life, and then Heather started talking to me and the next thing I knew, it was over.

Overall, I’m happy with how it went, despite a couple of verbal stumbles. After seeing the replay however, there are a few points I’d like to add.

The plan is to spark the Olympic Spirit back home while in Sochi. Those who will be in Sochi are driven to be there by their Olympic Spirit, which I will be there to document. But what I am really aiming to spark is the spirit back  in Canada and beyond! It’s challenging sometimes to get excited about a world event when all you hear about are the controversial issues and security threats. So I hope to spark the spirit in YOU from Sochi through the stories of my experiences and my images.

It’s time to put the focus back where it belongs: on the sports, the athletes and the fans.

I’m not saying that these other issues are not of concern to me, because they are. I am definitely aware of what’s happening and concerned but I’m also prepared to be cautious and safe. It’s not going to stop me from going and supporting our athletes and capturing the true Olympic spirit of the 2014 Winter Games.

I invite YOU to be a part of the excitement as well, through social media where I will be posting the images and stories throughout the experience. I’ll be posting to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as often as connectivity allows, so please be sure to follow along so you don’t miss any of the excitement. And of course, please share the excitement to grow that Olympic Spirit even more! (I will post the final edited images to Flickr as well.)

         

As of today, there are 10 days and 40% remaining to be raised on the Kickstarter.  Please pledge what you can to bring the Spirit to life.

For more information and to check out the great pledge rewards, please visit the The Olympic Spirit Project on Kickstarter.

Pledge your support on Kickstarter

 

Thank you all for the support, and I’d love to hear what you thought of the interview in the comments below!

Announcing the Olympic Spirit Project

As most of you know, I am working to get to Sochi in February to photograph the fan and cultural side of the 2014 Olympics. I launched a fundraising campaign a few weeks back, and have received a lot of feedback that this campaign did not really encompass my passions. I appreciate all of your honest feedback and have as a result created a new project that encompasses my passions for photography and the Olympics and is way more ME!

I’m very excited to share with you, “The Olympic Spirit Project.” – http://bit.ly/spirit2014

The Olympic Spirit Project on Kickstarter

Vancouver 2010 Men's Gold Medal Game

Vancouver 2010 Men's Gold Medal Hockey

 

What Is The Olympic Spirit Project?

I feel that with all the controversy surrounding the 2014 Olympic Games, the Olympic spirit has been somewhat lost. This is unfair to our Canadian athletes as well as their international competitors who have worked HARD to qualify for the biggest competition of their lives. They need our support! This project is geared at reviving the Olympic spirit and putting the attention back where it belongs: On the Athletes!

The goal of the Olympic Spirit Project is to capture images illustrating the Olympic Spirit through the eyes of different cultures from around the globe,  in Sochi during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. I will share some of the images and stories with you from Russia on my blog, and after the Games are over the images will be edited and compiled into a book, which will then be available for sale. The targeted publishing date is September 2014.

 

Vancouver 2010 - Men's Team Pursuit Speed Skating Gold Medal Team
Vancouver 2010 – Men’s Team Pursuit Speed Skating Gold Medal Team

 

Vancouver 2010 - Paralympic Alpine Skiing
Vancouver 2010 – Paralympic Alpine Skiing

 

Vancouver 2010 - Paralympic Medal Ceremony
Vancouver 2010 – Paralympic Medal Ceremony
 

What’s in it for you?

In return for your support, I am offering rewards from a hand written postcard from Russia to the opportunity to experience an official Olympic event with me at the Games. All backers will be acknowledged in the final printed book.

All Levels: Thank-You Postcard from Russia – All backers pledging $10 or more will receive a hand-written Postcard sent from Russia during the Olympic Games.

All Levels: Your Name Featured in the Book – All backers pledging to the project will acknowledged on the Project Contributors page in the final printed book.

$25 Level: 5-pack of postcards featuring images from the project, and a digital copy of the finished book.

$85 Level: A digital copy of the finished book, a signed 5×7 print featuring an image from the project, and a 5-pack of postcards featuring images from the project.

$150 Level: A digital copy of the finished book, 2 signed 8×10 prints featuring images from the project, and a 5-pack of postcards featuring images from the project.

$350 Level: A hard cover copy of the finished book, 10 prints of photos taken of your personal pocket-sized mascot (provided by you) at 10 Russian Olympic landmarks.

$1000 Level: 2 signed hard cover copies if the finished book, a signed 11×14 print featuring an image from the project, 10 prints of photos taken of your personal pocket-sized mascot (provided by you) at 10 Russian Olympic landmarks.

$1500 Level (9 available): 2 signed hard cover copies of the finished book, a (used) official 2014 Olympic event ticket, a signed 11×14 print of an images from the project, 10 prints of photos taken of your personal pocket-sized mascot (provided by you) at 10 Russian Olympic landmarks. (there are

$2000 Level (1 available): A ticket to join me at the 2014 Olympic Men’s and Ladies’ Team Pursuit Speed Skating event on February 21st, 2014 in Sochi Russia (flight, accommodations and related travel expenses not included). You will also receive 2 signed hard cover copies of the finished book, and a signed 11×14 print of an image from the project.

$2000 Level (1 available): A ticket to join me at the 2014 Olympic Women’s Hockey Play-off Semi-Final Game on February 17th, 2014 in Sochi Russia (flight, accommodations and related travel expenses not included). You will also receive 2 signed hard cover copies of the finished book, and a signed 11×14 print of an image from the project.

$2000 Level (1 available): A ticket to join me at the 2014 Olympic Men’s Hockey Play-off Quarter-Final Game on February 19th, 2014 in Sochi Russia (flight, accommodations and related travel expenses not included). You will also receive 2 hard cover copies of the finished book, and a signed 11×14 print of an image from the project.

$2500 Level (1 available): A ticket to join me at the 2014 Olympic Bronze Medal Men’s Hockey Game on February 22nd, 2014 in Sochi Russia (flight, accommodations and related travel expenses not included). You will also receive 2 hard cover copies of the finished book, and a signed 11×14 print of an image from the project.

All Levels: Karma points and huge gratitude from me! : )

How You Can Help

With your support this project will come to life. Click the Kickstarter button below for full project details and for an opportunity to contribute to rebuilding the Olympic Spirit for our athletes in Sochi this coming February.

Pledge your support on Kickstarter

THANK YOU for your support!

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!

Respect Nature!

Steve the Crocodile

This is Steve. Steve lives in Tamarindo. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him several times, and it blows my mind how stupid some people can be when it comes to viewing and photographing wild animals. There were tourists getting dangerously close, and it makes me wonder:

“Are they aware that Steve is a killing machine???”

I mean seriously! He is a crocodile! In the wild! His brain is the size of a pea! All he knows how to do is kill, eat, sleep and sunbathe! This is not a zoo!!!

Warning CrocodileSo some facts about crocodiles:

  • They are DINOSAURS!
  • They have GIANT TEETH!
  • They are PURE MUSCLE!
  • They eat EVERYTHING!!! (Even you!)
  • The jaw of an 18 foot crocodile is more than 5,000 lbf (pound force). To put this in perspective, a great white shark is 670 lbf (source: Wikipedia)
  • they can run up to 17km/hr in short spurts (that’s faster than you!)
  • They WILL kill you!
  • Then the will EAT you!

I kept my distance and let my zoom lens do the rest. Even this made me nervous, especially after seeing how prehistoric he actually looks!

Nature does not discriminate. If you piss off a crocodile, it will not end well for you. You WILL lose! I could just see some crazy Crocodile Dundee situation happening with some of these other people. Wow. (Scroll to 1:52 in the video below video)

Keep your distance. Don’t be stupid. Respect nature!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH_MObR3G54

 

My Heart is Heavy As I Leave Costa Rica

Playa Langosta, Costa Rica

My last walk on the beach at Playa Langosta this morning.

My heart is heavy as I sit at the departure gate of the Liberia airport. Costa Rica has captured my heart and made me feel at home. I feel as though I’m leaving a piece of myself behind as I prepare to go from a month straight of 30C in this amazing place back to zero degrees in Vancouver.

I mean seriously, I have to put on PANTS! That is just insanity! I haven’t worn pants in over a month! And socks and shoes? Whaaaat?! No gracias!

My mind, body and soul are all connected to this place and as I get closer to flight time, they are all resisting the reality of leaving.

Yes, I will get on the plane, but I am already planning my return as soon as possible. And if I play things right, it will be more permanent. This place has become home. I have fallen in all-encompassed love with Costa Rica. The culture, the people, the language, the food, the beaches, the lifestyle. I’m in love, Love, LOVE!!!

Pura Vida! It’s go time!

Releasing Baby Turtles in Montezuma

Yesterday I was walking along the beach here, in Montezuma, Costa Rica, and I came upon a turtle hatchery just as they were hatching baby turtles! This was not a tour, or a tourist attraction, just a hatchery doing their conservation work.

There was a handful of people hanging around as they pulled the baby turtles from their sandy birth hole, and we were given the opportunity to hold them.

All I can say is that this was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and done.

Baby turtles in Montezuma

Baby turtles in Montezuma

20131117-073508.jpg

 

 

20131117-073517.jpg

 

(more images to follow)

10 Days in Tamarindo

I’m in Costa Rica!

I spent my first 10 days in Tamarindo with a friend. I used the time to unwind and release any remaining stresses of city and office life and create a routine to take and appreciate each new day as it comes.

My days have looked like this:

Wake up between 6-6:30am. Get up, drink a cup of coffee and a fruit shake before heading to the gym for a workout.
My gym looks like this:

20131116-160555.jpg

After an amazing HIIT workout (either on our own, or with Nick Holt Fitness) in the sun and sand, take a dip in the ocean to cool off and head home for a shower and tasty breakfast of eggs and bacon, with fresh local fruit and veggies. Then spend the day doing some work, maybe a photowalk, an afternoon snack of tacos and a cerveza (or two?) at Kahiki (total cost $6), or a stop at El Pescador for one (or four?) of their ridiculously delicious piña coladas, or one of the other beach bars for a refreshing glass of sangria.

20131116-162223.jpg     20131116-162210.jpg

Sometimes our friend “Steve” makes an appearance in the estuary next door, we’ve seen him quite a few times. Apparently he has a couple of friends that live there with him as well. Steve looks like this:

20131116-160644.jpg

If we haven’t (accidentally?) been sucked in to the awesomeness of sangria happy hour, we may head home for a dip in the pool and a nap before going to a 5pm Spanish class. After class, its home to cook a deliciously healthy dinner with all fresh ingredients and, of course, a cocktail or two (cuz really, whynot?)

By the time 10pm rolls around there’s not much fuel left in the tank and it’s time for bed.

Sleep. Repeat.

Yup, they were rough days in Tamarindo… I’m dreading my return there toward the end of my trip… ; )

Steve the Crocodile!

Costa Rica has all kinds of wildlife. So far I’ve seen some beautiful birds, howler monkeys, an iguana, squirrels, geckos, all sorts of bugs, and the most amazing thing I’ve seen is a CROCODILE!!!

Before coming here, I had heard that there are crocodiles in the estuary in Tamarindo. There was even an attack in the bay off the beach here last week. But I never thought that it would be so easy to see a crocodile and there we were, taking a stroll on the beach, and as we walked through the small stream from the estuary into the ocean, we looked over and saw this guy:

Costa Rica Crocodile

He was probably about five feet long, nose to tail. I was about 20 feet away when I took this photo, and I was not about to get any closer. Crocodiles can run up to 17km/hour, and you can see here that he’s got some pretty big teeth. I was thinking it might be nice to keep my arms and legs, so I kept my distance. Next time I go for a stroll I’ll be sure to bring along my zoom lens!