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Everything Happens for a Reason…

“Everything happens for a reason.” When “shit” happens this is something we tell ourselves and want to believe. Is it true? Who knows? But it is something we cling to because it is somehow comforting and helps get us through the rough patches of life… Ice Hotel, entrance

The last two and a half years I have been through quite the roller coaster. I’ve experienced emotions I never knew existed and have felt them to my core. I think I’ve become guarded and jaded from the experience, but I have learned a lot through it as well, and that is always for the better…

I’ve started to reclaim my independence out of this experience, which I had lost somewhere along the way. This was the first time in a very long while that I did not have a partner and two children to consider in all that I did… It felt so strange at first, that I became somewhat of a hermit and didn’t do much of anything at all for a while. This was me until I recognized that this was very unhealthy and directing me toward depression. So to turn things around, I promised myself that Belize 2009: The Blue Holeif I was invited to do something (no matter what that something was) I would say yes and do it.

Out of this commitment, I have had many incredible experiences. I have slept in the ice hotel in Quebec, started scuba diving again, swam with sharks in the Blue Hole in Belize, went to the Yukon for a day (that’s right, a DAY trip), visited Northern British Columbia, spent a month on Bali, Indonesia, and experienced the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver in a way I never could have imagined! I  have done more traveling in the past 2 years than probably in my entire life and have had experiences that I couldn’t have dreamed up!

Canola fieldsAll I can say is that if things had not happened the way they did, I would never have seen or experienced any of these incredible things, nor would I be taking a 7 week trip to Southeast Asia at the end of this month!

So I reiterate, everything happens for a reason… My previous life feels like exactly that these days, a PREVIOUS life. Almost like a foggy dream. Not to say that I don’t treasure the memories that I collected in those years, because I do. I can honestly say that I had some of the best times of my life in those days. I was happier than I had ever been and had a partner and two beautiful children to share that with. Ubud Wanderings 78 I prefer to remember the good things rather than dwell on how things ended. The roller coaster took me through many things: sadness, pain, heart-break, depression, and all the “fun” things that go along with that. But on the other hand, when you roll it all up into a moment of life, it has made me a stronger person. So whatever the reason that things happened the way they did, it was meant to be. So here I am! Ready for life’s next adventure and whatever comes along with that…

Next stop: Thailand!


A Taste of the Yukon

In the short time I spent on the whirlwind Whitehorse Olympic media day last February, there was much to see and do!    (This post is well overdue….)

The trip started right from the moment we checked in at YVR. The woman handing out the boarding passes was dressed in traditional dress from the gold rush days. She wore this while hosting the flight to Whitehorse with contests and games.

Upon arrival, our media group was ushered to waiting school buses to take us to the local Whitehorse tourism centre, where we were introduced to the Province’s premier, Dennis Fentie, and members of Yukon Tourism. We were also treated to a dance from the Snowshoe Shufflers! Yep, dancers with snowshoes strapped to their feet! They also had past Olympians and Special Olympians present from the local area. I was honoured to personally meet Christine Larsen and she allowed me not only to hold her medal from the Atlanta Games, but to hang it around my neck as well!

Me and Christine Larsen and her silver medal

Christine Larsen's silver medal

Travel Yukon hosted a quick lunch with tastes of various restaurants in the city with traditional loca foods, such as moose, bison, and venison meats! It was all absolutely delicious!

We were then separated into our respective groups, depending on the activity we had previously chosen. The one my partner and I chose to be a part of was the Wildlife Reserve and Hot Springs tour. In between the two, we even stopped at t a local coffee roasting company, Bean North, where they roast organic beans from around the world that are purchased via fair trade.

Bean North Cafe

Bean North Cafe Bean North Cafe

At the wildlife reserve we saw many animals, from reindeer, to mountain goats, mountain sheep, elk, and  deer, to my favourite: a lynx!

Lynx at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Yukon Wildlife Preserve Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

The Takhini Hot Springs were heavenly! We didn’t have a whole lot of time to enjoy them, but in the -20 degree Celsius weather it was a welcome warm up! The great thing about these hot springs was that you did not get that rotten egg sulfur smell that you often do with hot springs. There was no odor at all! Just two big pools of different temperatures to enjoy at your leisure. We were told that if you’re enjoying the hot springs at night, you may be lucky enough to catch a great light show from the arora borealis. Now THAT, I would love to experience!

Takhini Hot Springs

Connected to the hot springs is accommodation in the form of small cabins in the woods. The cabins looked very cozy and a good place to warm up as a nice winter retreat. With snow shoeing and cross-country skiing as daytime activities, and the hot springs to warm up in at the end of the day, you will never get bored at the Takhini Resort!

Takhini Hot Springs Lodge

Takhini Hot Springs Cabins Takhini Hot Springs Cabins

Takhini Hot Springs Cabins: Group shot

Next, we were taken to the Whitehorse Museum where we had an opportunity try our hands at gold panning, taste some locally brewed beer and attempt the Sour Toe Cocktail. You’ll find more details about interesting cocktail, continent a mummified human toe in this previous post. You can watch a video of me drinking the cocktail on YouTube.

SourToe Cocktail

SourToe Cocktail Drinking my Sourtoe Cocktail in Whitehorse, Yukon

From the museum the media group was taken to our last stop of the trip, the banquet dinner for the Yukon Quest dog sledding race. (http://www.yukonquest.com/) We were invited to partake in the celebration and announcements of the winners of the 2010 Yukon Quest. We had the honour of meeting the winner and speaking with him about the challenges he experienced over the 1,600 km of rough, sometimes hazardous terrain between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska.

Yukon Quest Hans Gatt, winner of Yukon Quest, a 2 week Dog Sledding Race

We had one final surprise at the Whitehorse airport to round off our Yukon experience as we waited to check in and board our chartered flight back to YVR. Cancan dancers! Pretty sure this is not a regular occurrence for travelers to Whitehorse…

Cancan Dancers at the Whitehorse Airport

After a full day of travel and activities, we arrived back in Vancouver around midnight. It was a nice break, but I was happy to jump back into the Olympics craziness the following day.

I’d like to thank Travel Yukon and Canada’s Northern House for inviting me to come along on the Yukon media trip. It was truly amazing to see such a beautiful part of our country. I know I’ll be back again to see and experience all that Yukon has to offer! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that will not be forgotten!

Daily Photo (Video): Roxie’s Snow Angels!

This morning’s snow play in the park! (yes… I’m one of those crazy dog people…)

An Adventure in Belize

After flying into Cancun and spending 5 days relaxing on the Mayan Riviera, it was off to Belize!

This involved a bus from Playa del Carmen to Chetumal in the south of Mexico, about a 3 hour bus ride. From there, another bus took us across the border to Belize. After a stop at the border to clear customs and the $20USD entrance tax, the bus took us to Corozal, where we would take a passenger ferry to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Unfortunately, we had just missed the last boat of the day (there are two per day), so we found ourselves a hotel near the dock, and soon we were headed out and to find ourselves some tasty Belizean 1-Barrel rum cocktails and fresh lobster! Mmm!

The next morning, we caught the 7am ferry across to San Pedro. On the boat we met Jack, an American who owns a house on the island with several suites that he rents out to travelers and vacationers. Chez Caribe! A great place to call home during your stay in San Pedro! There are 3 studio suites and a 3 bedroom suite that makes up the entire top floor of the house. Having no accommodation plan, we checked it out and found our temporary home and a lifelong friend in Jack.

Belize 2009 Belize 2009

Belize 2009

We spent our days in San Pedro, biking around, exploring, eating lobster and drinking rum at the Canucks Bar, swimming and relaxing. But most importantly, and most exciting, we did some DIVING! We took a day trip out to the Blue Hole! It was a 3-dive trip with dives at the Blue Hole, the Aquiarium and Halfmoon Wall, with a lunch break on Halfmoon Caye where we saw loads of red footed boobies. Absolutely amazing! Beautiful clear water, amazing sea life, and an overall amazing experience!

Belize 2009 Belize 2009: The Blue Hole

Belize 2009: The Blue Hole

Belize 2009: Halfmoon Caye Belize 2009: Halfmoon Caye

Belize 2009: Red footed boobies

From Ambergris, we headed to Caye Caulker. We had heard so much about it, so were looking forward to checking it out. Jack volunteered to take us to the island on his boat, the L’il Bus. On the way we did some fishing, saw a beautiful rainbow and outran a storm!

Upon arrival at Caye Caulker, we had one of the locals help us find a place to stay and we ended up at a great place with little cabins right on the beach (the name escapes me). Loved it! The following day we took a photowalk of the island, ate lobster, met some great people, shopped at the local vendors, and drank a whole lot of rum! We planned to stay on the island a few days, but there is a saying, “I spent a week on Caye Caulker one day!” And its pretty accurate! It is a beautiful place, and I’m happy to have visited the island, but after a day and a half, we felt as though we had been there for about a week! So we enjoyed one last night of lobster and coconut rum cocktails and caught the passenger ferry back to San Pedro in the morning.

Belize 2009: Caye Caulker, Go Slow Belize 2009

Belize 2009

Belize 2009 Belize 2009

Belize 2009

When we got off the boat, we walked right into a tropical rain storm! It was crazy! We were soaked instantly! So we found refuge in the Canucks Bar until the rain stopped and then made our way back to Chez Caribe.

Two more days in San Pedro, and it was time to head back up towards Mexico. Rather than catching the ferry back to the mainland, we decided to check out Belize from the air and took a flight back to Corozal. We were up against another rain storm that day and I actually walked across the tarmac to the plane in my bare feet because there was six inches of water on the ground! A memorable moment indeed! When the rain subsided a bit, we took off and once we cleared the rain clouds, we had an absolutely gorgeous view!

Belize 2009 Belize 2009

Belize 2009

We made it back to Playa del Carmen that day, where we spent our last two nights before heading back to Cancun to catch our flight home. We spent the the time shopping, soaking up our last bit of sun, and enjoying our last few margaritas before heading back to winter in Vancouver!

For more photos from Belize, please visit the set on Flickr.

Daily Photo: Swans in the Mist

This photo was taken in Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island just after Christmas 2009.

For more images from this day, please visit Flickr.

Swans in the Mist

Daily Photo: Child’s Play

A photo from my Children set on Flickr, taken at the Komasket Music Festival last summer.

Children at Play 6

Daily Photo: Winter at Trout Lake

I took these icy photos this morning while walking @Roxidoo at Trout Lake.

For more pics from my morning walk, please visit Flickr.

Trout Lake, Vancouver 11

2010: A Year in Review

Another year gone by, and an epic year it was…

The year started off preparing for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Seeing 2010 on the calendar suddenly made it all a reality and the mad rush to get organized and a site up and filled with content began about a month before the Games actually opened. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of talented folks who teamed up to create the VancouverAccess2010 website. With BCIMC accreditation, we focussed on the fan’s view of the Games and the team of us set out to attend as many events as we possibly could. We photographed and reported on them via this great resource site that we collectively created. Posts were also featured on Canada.com’s VanFans2010 blog.

USA - Norway Olympic Hockey Game

Jasey Jay Anderson, Canadian Gold Medalist Snowboarder

The Gold Medal Party at the Hockey House

The Paralympics was an even more amazing experience for me. With IPC photographer accreditaion, I was able to get up close and personal to shoot the amazing athletes and their inspiring performances in sports ranging from from sledge hockey, to sit skiing, to vision impaired downhill skiing, to curling, to incredibly emotional medal ceremonies! Unbelievable!

Paralympic Alpine Events in Whistler BC

Bronze Medal Sledge Hockey: Canada vs Norway

Paralympic Medal Ceremony in Whistler B.C.

During the Games, I was invited to join a media day trip to Whitehorse, Yukon. Yep, that’s right, a DAY trip to Whitehorse! It was crazy! Caught a 7am flight, toured Whitehorse, met a 2006 silver medalist Olympian, visited  a nature reserve, tasted coffee from a local eco-friendly coffee roasting shop, soaked in some hot springs, drank a Sour Toe Cocktail, and enjoyed a banquet dinner celebrating the annual dog sledding racers. The Yukon is such a beautiful part of our country! I would love to head up there for some summer camping to see what’s under all that snow! I imagine it to be absolutely breathtaking! Another amazing adventurous experience!

Lynx at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Me and Christine Larsen and her silver medal

SourToe Cocktail

When the Games were over, I was caught in the Olympic hangover, felt by much of the city, and many of my colleagues and partners in crime throughout this great world event. This got me thinking what I should do next and I came up with the idea that I wanted to do more traveling…

So, in March, I flew to Austin Texas to shoot a wedding for a friend who was unable to make it, due to a car accident. Never having met the bride or groom, nor having ever spoken to them directly, it was an interesting experience. The couple were amazingly welcoming and we got along instantly. I am happy to now call them friends. Their jewish wedding was held in Houston, so there was a bit of a road trip mixed into the trip (and of course some tasty Texan BBQ!). Unfortunately, there was not much time for site seeing with the short timeline, but I hope to make it back to Texas to see and photograph more of it!

Less than 2 weeks after returning from Austin, I was in flight yet again! This time for a month long adventure to Bali, Indonesia! Wow! It was an amazing month full of culture, food, site seeing, crazy drivers and photography! I spent the majority of my time on the northern side of the Island in Lovina. I spent about a week in Ubud as well. My trip to Ubud included a motorcycle adventure through the rice paddies, a walk through the Monkey Forest, a cooking class, and a Kecak and Fire Dance performance. It was an amazing month indeed, and I came home with gigabytes photos of the trip which can be viewed on Flickr.

Air Panas Hot Springs, Banjar, Bali 025

Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali 040

Ubud Wanderings 78

Upon returning to Vancouver, mid-May, the city was gearing up for summer. I was excited to do as much camping and music festival-ing as I could! The first camping trip of the season was the first weekend in June, at Golden Ears Park. Always awesome camping there, one of my favourite provincial parks! No cell phone service, great hikes, campfires and of course tasty camping food (and drink)!

My first music festival of the summer was the Vancouver folk fest. I was fortunate enough to get 2 free Lifetimer, all-access passes to the festival from a friend who was unable to use them (thanks Lulu!) and me and a friend enjoyed a weekend of music, sun and family atmosphere at the beach!

Vancouver Folk Festival 2010 16 Vancouver Folk Festival 2010 35

Vancouver Folk Festival 2010 5

Next on the list was a whale watching adventure with my family out of Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island with Ocean Ecoventures Whale Watching. Again, amazing! You will find a full summary of the adventure in this blog post.

Whale Watching 28

Whale Watching 10

Komasket Music Festival in Vernon, during the August long weekend, was the next road trip. Teaming up with @Scales and @Uncleweed for some social media coverage of the event was great fun! Got some great shots, met some great artists (including Fred Penner and the Wailers), and as with most summer music festivals, came home with a sun burn!

Komasket- Bocephus King 23

Delhi2Dublin 53

Later in August, I took a week long trip to my home town of Duncan, on Vancouver Island to spend my birthday with family and friends. Good times had by all with boating/tubing on Lake Cowichan, and floating in the Cowichan River, a day trip to Port Renfrew and Botanical Beach, and no Island visit in summer would be complete without a fresh local crab fest! The perfect birthday it was!

Botanical Beach 2

In the fall, things finally wound down a bit. The last trip of the year was one out to Ucluelet and Tofino, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. I had not been out this way since I was about 12 years old, so I was very excited to go enjoy and photograph the beaches, especially with storm season just setting in! I was not disappinted! We lucked out with beautiful sunny weather the first day, including a gorgeous sunset on Long Beach. And the next day we enjoyed a storm and some great big crashing waves on the rocks in Ucluelet. And of course no trip to Tofino would be complete without a stop at Cathedral Grove and Coombs to see the goats on the roof on the way back!

Long Beach, Vancouver Island 18

Long Beach, Vancouver Island 46

Wikininnish Beach, Vancouver Island 33

In the fall things became quite busy. I moved out of the downtown core at the end of September, to East Van. Although I have always had a dog on a part time basis, in November Roxie came to stay with me full time as @Scales departed for Thailand. I love having her and love that she gets me out rain or shine (or snow!) for two hour-long walks a day! Having started a fulltime position at 80 Elements Entertainment in October, I have fallen back into a full time job routine. Also, I have been shooting weekend events for Estee Lauder. I started doing Bikrams Yoga three times a week in November, which I have become ridiculously addicted to. So the end of the year has found me to be quite busy.

I was happy to spend Christmas on the Island with family and friends and will be spending New Years Even there as well to ring in another (hopefully) adventurous year full of travel and surprises!

Childhood Friends with the New Generation

My new years resolutions are these: Travel more. Photograph more. Build my photography kit. Learn more about social media. Do more Bikrams! More is MORE!

Cheers to 2010 and all of you that I have met and befriended in the past 365 days! You have made an impact, and (whether good or bad) you have helped shape who I am and who I am to become. I thank you and look forward to another amazing year in 2011!

Cheers and Happy New Year!!!

Photo of the Day: The Ice Hotel, Quebec

This photo was taken on my 2009 visit to Quebec’s Ice Hotel. Sleeping in the ice hotel was an amazing experience! If you have the opportunity to do this, I highly recommend it! Details here: http://www.icehotel-canada.com.

You can view the full blog post of the trip, here.

For more photos of the Ice Hotel, please visit the Set on Flickr!

Ice Hotel Entrance

Photo of the Day: Air Panas, Hot Springs in Bali

The Air (water) Panas (hot) hot springs are located in Banjar, on the north side of the island of Bali in Indonesia. The “holy” hot springs are set in the midst of the jungle in a beautifully landscaped tropical garden, close to Lovina Beach, and it consist of three public and one private pool.

For more images of Air Panas, please visit the Set on Flickr!

Air Panas Hot Springs, Banjar, Bali 024