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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!

11 Gifts For Travellers on Your List

 

I’m always looking for new items to make my travels and more convenient, so I thought I would share some of the more convenient things that I take on my trips. If you’re looking for a gift for the traveler on your list, there may be a few items in this list that you want to consider.

11 Gifts For the Traveler on Your List

SpiBelt1. SpiBelt:

I bought one of these for my trip to Costa Rica and found it invaluable. It’s small enough that you can hide it under your clothes without it looking bulky, and it’s big enough to carry your iPhone, credit cards, some cash, and even your passport if you don’t want to carry a bag with you when venturing out for the day. I also found it great for my beach workouts, to hold my iPod so I could listen to music during my workout.

2. Money Belt:

I use my money belt while in transit to keep my travel documents, passport credit cards and extra cash on my person. I’m always extra cautious when in airports, bus stations and train stations of the people around me, and you can never be too careful with your personal documents.

3. Passport Cover:

If you know someone who travels a LOT, this would be a perfect gift! For frequent travellers, their passports get handled a lot and are therefore also at risk of being damaged when putting them in and pulling them out of bags and pockets. A passport cover will help avoid this type of damage.

Vapur Water Bottle

4. Vapur Water Bottle:

This is the perfect travel water bottle! I never travel without mine. It’s folds up to be small and compact when empty and comes with a convenient clip so you can connect it to the outside of any backpack or day bag for easy access while on the go.

5. Britta Water Bottle:

I don’t have one of these yet, but it’s on my wishlist for my next trip. It’s always nice to have good tasting water while traveling, and never a bad idea to filter out any micro particles that may be floating around in any water source. I drank the water almost everywhere in Costa Rice, but I did wish I had one of these for extra filtration. If you buy one as a gift for someone, you may want to also consider including some extra filters.

6. Travel Sheet:

Sometimes when traveling, you can’t avoid ending up in a hostel or hotel that isn’t always the cleanest. For these instances I carry a travel sheet so I can put a barrier between me and any potential germs. It folds up really small, is light weight and easy to pack around. I highly recommend this if you have a backpacker or new traveler on your list who is traveling on a budget. It’s always a score to find a $10 hostel, but sometimes you get what you pay for… Travel sheets are available in single and double size.

7. Apple World Travel Adapter Kit:

A great gift for the Mac user on your list. This kit will elimiate the need for any other power adapter for any Apple products you might be traveling with. It’s designed to work with iPod, iPhone, Apple MagSafe Power Adapters, Portable Power Adapters, and AirPort Express.


Apple Airport Express Basestation8. Apple Airport Express:

It’s not too common that I travel to places that don’t have wifi, but occasionally you end up at hotels that have only a wired connection available. In these cases, I take an Airport Express with me. It’s small and light to pack and very convenient when you don’t want to be limited by a cable. The Airport Express also has the removable plug so you can use your Apple World Travel Adapter Kit with it as well.

9. Apple iPad or iPad Mini:

This is still a wishlist item for me. I’d like to add one to my travel kit for reading e-books, to save space and weight in my pack currently taken up by books. If you don’t have a need to take a laptop with you on your travels, an iPad is a convenient tool for writing emails and doing online research during your trip, as well as uploading photos to Instagram and more. And of course, there are countless useful travel apps you can download on your trip.

10. Canon Powershot G15 Digital Camera:

If there’s one point and shoot camera I would recommend for great photos, it’s this one. I’ve taken this camera with me on a couple of trips now, as an alternative, compact option to my DSLR for day trips that involve adventures like zip lining or waterfall hiking. You can either have full control over the camera settings, or you can pop it on automatic and let it do everything for you. Either way, I’ve always come out with amazing images.

Timbuk2 Small Messenger Bag

11. Timbuk2 Small Messenger Bag:

I LOVE my Timbuk2 bag! I can fit my DSLR and an extra lens, a sarong for the beach or temple visit, and there are inside zipper pockets for my wallet, phone and personal items. AND, my Vapur water bottle clips to the strap no problem. Another thing I love about this bag is that the liner is waterproof, so if I happen to end up in tropical rain, as long as the bag is closed up, my stuff stays dry! This is a great all-purpose bag for life in general, I use mine all the time, not just for travel.

These are all items that I use, love and recommend. If you have any questions about anything, feel free to drop me an email or comment below. If you have other suggestions to add to the list, I’d love to hear about them as well; I’m always looking for ways to make my travels easier and more convenient.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

What’s In My Camera Bag When I Travel

I’ve had a few questions regarding what’s in my camera bag when I travel, so here it is! I try to pack as lightly as possible and take only things that I know I will use, to avoid carrying around too many “just in case” items.

Computer & Camera Gear

Apple iPhone 5:

I always carry my unlocked iPhone with me when I travel. Depending on the trip, I may get a local SIM card at my destination, or I’ll just rely on local wifi. I use my phone on to check reviews for restaurants, hotels and attractions online or on Trip Advisor. And of course for the more fun stuff like quick happy snaps to post to Instagram or Facebook during the trip.

Apple 13″ Macbook Pro:

Because I do a lot of photography when I travel, I need to download my images on the go. Although I’m drooling over the new MacBook Air, at the moment I’m traveling with my 13″ MacBook Pro. I use an InCase neoprene sleeve, as well as an InCase hardshell casing to protect it from scratches and other potential surface damage. I also use an iSkin ProTouch Keyboard Protector to avoid any unwanted dust or sand (or tiny tropical bugs?) to get in between the keys. And of course I carry the power supply and depending where I’m traveling to, I will also carry the required Apple Travel Adaptors.

External Portable Battery Pack Charger for Smartphones:

If you use your smartphone camera and social media apps as much as I do, your battery probably isn’t going to last as long as you like. So I carry a portable battery charger to recharge my phone on the go, no outlet required.

Nikon D7000 DSLR CameraNikon D7000 16MP Camera:

I recently upgraded from my Nikon D90 to the D7000. Costa Rica was my first trip with this camera and I loved shooting with it. The biggest improvement over the D90 is the low light photography, with the capability to go to 6400 iso, while the D90 was limited to 3200 iso. It shoots amazing HD video as well.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8 Lens:

The 35mm lens is just wide enough to capture environmental shots like landscapes, and have the depth of field needed for portraits and close ups. For travel photography, the fixed focal length forces you to get close to the action, which helps you get over your shyness of shooting in new places. The 1.8 aperture is perfect for catching sharp images in low light conditions. I’ve found that using a prime lens has been great for crafting my photography skills and image framing. I also found, during my travels in Costa Rica, that the 35mm lens was excellent for shooting video.

Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens:

A perfect all-purpose lens. I’ve taken many trips with a downsized kit and  carried only this lens, and have always been happy with its’ versatility. You have the wide angle at 18mm for those landscape shots and then decent zoom ability up to 105mm for those more intimate shots. I love this lens and don’t see it leaving my kit any time soon.

Nikon 70-300mm Zoom Lens:

This is a good lens to have with you if you’re doing nature or sports photography. I used this lens quite a bit while in Costa Rica to shoot wildlife that you either cannot or should not get to close to (eg. crocodiles). I also used this lens a lot during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to shoot the sporting events and caught some amazing images! If you travel with this lens, I recommend also carrying a tripod or monopod, as the more you zoom, the more camera shake becomes an issue.

Canon Powershot G12Canon Powershot G15 Digital Camera:

I always take a point and shoot camera with me when I travel for those crazy adventures (like zipling) that make it difficult to carry a DLSR. I chose the Canon G12. This camera gives you to shoot on full automatic mode, while also allowing you the option to fully control everything manually. It’s a great camera to have for scuba diving as well, in which case you would need to buy an underwater housing for it.

Western Digital 1TB Portable Hard Drive:

It’s always a good idea to back up your images and other data while traveling. For this reason I carry a portable external hard drive with me when I travel. I shoot in RAW format, so storing them in the cloud is not always ideal with such large files and unreliable internet connections. An external drive is always a good alternative.

32GB USB Flash Drive:

I use this to transfer files and images from people I meet along the way. These days most people travel with a small laptop or an iPad and when you have fun experiences with people, it’s always fun to share the images. A USB stick makes that quick, easy and instant, instead of relying on people to send you the images via email later.

Circular Polarizing Filter:

Polarizing filters increase color saturation and decrease reflections. This is one of the only lens filters that (so far) cannot be replicated using digital photo editing. This filter is an indispensable tool that I always keep in my camera bag. They can get fairly expensive, but they are worth every penny!

Joby GorillaPodJoby GorillaPod:

This is a great alternative to carrying around a big bulky tripod. The legs are designed to wrap around and bend, allowing you to attach the tripod securely to almost any surface. It’s small and compact and will fit into your daypack or shoulder bag.

Sandisk SD Memory Cards:

You can never have too many memory cards. Conveniently, both my DSLR and my G12 use the same type of memory cards. I currently have one 32gb card, two 16gb cards and four 8gb cards. I switch them out and download the images to my external hard drive right away, but then I avoid formatting the cards until I need more space, and then I start with the oldest images first. I mark each memory card with a sticker, so I know which order to use them in. This allows for an additional backup, just in case.

Lens Cleaning Cloth:

This goes without saying, but you should always have a clean lens! Carrying a lens cleaning cloth is always a good idea to avoid wiping your lens with your potentially sunscreen or sweat contaminated clothing, which may leave greasy streaks on your lens.

Lens Cleaning Wipes:

I carry a few of these as an alternative to the lens cleaning cloth. They are moist cloths that help remove any oils you may get on your lens. It’s not a bad idea to keep a few around, they’re small and don’t take up much space. I generally use these after any big day trips to ensure my lenses are clean for the next adventure. If you have any questions, please comment below, or feel free to email me.

What must-haves to you carry in your camera bag when you travel?

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! 

The Less I Own, The More I Crave Simplicity

Moving DayBefore my trip to Costa Rica, I moved out of my Vancouver apartment and sold or donated most of my possessions. What I had left, I moved into storage at my parents’ place and I got on the plane and forgot all about it all for five weeks.

When I returned from Central America, I began unpacking some of my boxes, and as I unpacked, I wondered WHY I had kept so much stuff. I really don’t need 8 dinner plates, 8 side plates, and 8 bowls; I only two of each (maybe four). I don’t need all these kitchen gadgets that I use once a year; all I need is a wooden spoon, an egg flipper, a can opener and… yes, a corkscrew (hehe). I’ve owned my Cuisinart Food Processor for about 5 years now and have probably used it as many times. WHY was I holding on to it? I love my Cuisinart Blender, but again, why do I need something so big, when a Magic Bullet with just one cup is all I really need for my smoothie pleasure? (And, it’s a lot more portable!)

Then there’s my closet. Wow. So I’ve spent the last year working hard getting fit and am now in the best shape of my life, and have lost weight. As a result, nothing I wore before fits me anymore. So WHY am I holding on to my “fat” clothes? (No, I was never really “fat” but I was definitely bigger and those clothes simply don’t fit anymore.) So again, WHY have I been keeping my old clothes? Just in case I’ll fit into them again? No. Not gonna happen.

So as I’ve unpacked, I’ve purged even more stuff. I have boxes of kitchen stuff, bags of clothes, and more boxes of other random items that I have found some reason/excuse to keep “just in case” I will need them someday.

So now, as I spend some time in the home where I grew up, I see why I’ve held on to so much stuff. I’ve been conditioned to keep stuff. I’m seeing things around the house that have been there since I was a kid. Stuff that has been replaced, in some cases, twice over, but the original (and its two replacements) is still around and was never thrown out. I’ve been conditioned to keep things “just in case.”

Live Simple

Costa Rica was an eye opener for me. It helped me realize and understand that I don’t need much to be happy. The less I own, the simpler life becomes. I went to Costa Rica with a suitcase and a backpack, and still I packed far too much stuff, half of which I didn’t even use.

So the more I realize that I don’t need all this stuff, the more freeing it’s becoming to purge it. The less stuff I own, the more I crave a simple life.

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

 

Staying Fit While Traveling

Staying fit while traveling can be a challenge. It can be tough to get into a routine when your location changes often. While in Costa Rica I’m happy to say that I’ve been getting a workout in almost everyday. My favorite has been the beach workouts. I started doing them every morning while in Tamarindo, either with a local personal trainer or self-led HIIT workouts at the water’s edge.

For the personal training sessions, we used Nick Holt Fitness. We did several amazing TRX suspension training workouts with Nick. He tied the TRX to a tree, and with the jungle on one side and the ocean on the other the view was gorgeous, no matter which way we turned.

We worked out barefoot in the sand with the TRX and used a log for ground work and kettle bells for an added challenge. Nick pushed us HARD and our post-workout dip in the ocean was well deserved. I would recommend him to anyone who wants to maintain regular training while in Tamarindo and surrounding area.

Tamarindo Workout

While traveling around Costa Rica, I continued my beach workouts wherever possible. I would do a 35 minute HIIT workout with a different combination of exercises each time. With the heat and humidity I would do half my workout in the water. It was perfect!

What I love about the HIIT workouts is that you don’t need any equipment, and if you’re doing them on the beach, you don’t even need shoes! All you need is a timer of some kind and music to keep you moving. (I use my iPhone for both.)

All exercises are are completed using your body weight. Some examples of some would be:

  • Squats
  • Lunges (walking or stationary alternating or reverse)
  • Pushups
  • Lizard Crawls (these are fun when you do them on the beach when you see your lizard tracks in the sand)
  • Planks (do them in the water and let the waves pull the sand out from under you for added challenge)
  • Single Arm Alternating Planks
  • Site-ups / Crunches
  • V-sits
  • Burpees (the one everyone loves to hate)

I always include squats and planks in my workouts (cuz who doesn’t want a nice beach bum and killer abs?), and then I mix in a bunch of other exercises, depending on which are I want to focus on. I could add many more to the above list, but these are great if you’re just getting started with HIIT.

I drink a protein shake about an hour before I workout and I always ensure that I’m well hydrated. You should always make sure you drink plenty of water but if you’re traveling in the tropics this is especially important. In warmer climates your body loses a lot more water through sweating, so make sure you are drinking LOTS of water throughout the day. This will ensure that you are well hydrated for your workout as well as for general your health.

While in Costa Rica, I have had several days where I’ve missed my beach workouts, but those days are usually spent exploring which involves a lot of walking and/or hiking, so I get my exercise in other ways. When I returned from Central America I was so hooked on the TRX that I bought one to use at home and I love it!

Travel is no excuse to get lazy!

How do you stay fit while traveling? Please share in the comments below.

To give you a little taste of my workouts, this is my gym in Montezuma:

 

What’s Roxie Doing While I’m in Costa Rica?

Many of you have asked me what’s Roxie is doing while I’m in Costa Rica?”

Well…. THIS! : )

Best dog EVER! 🙂

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

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(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… ; )