The Epic Drive Thus Far

Blue is what I've done, Red is still upcoming.

Blue is what I’ve done, Red is still upcoming.

I added it up and since leaving home I’ve spent 296.32$CAN on gas. The mileage, I didn’t track. Did have to stop for an oil change in Winnipeg though.

So far it’s been pretty smooth. No flat tires, no car break-ins, no encounters with unsavory types, no collisions… Knock on wood.

I’ve kept with my main goal of “doing cool things in cool places“, but as far as keeping records, well, let’s just say I update Facebook once in awhile so my mom doesn’t think I’ve died a horrible death. Even with forcing myself to take it easy, I still seem keep running from place to place until I collapse from exhaustion.

On a side note, like all trips I do, I’ve been in constant battle with myself, with, on one side, the urge to see every friend ONE MORE TIME and DO ALL THE THINGS, and on the other, an OMG I JUST NEED A FEW HOURS OF PRIVACY. Don’t let it fool you, travelling alone does not mean travelling lonely. Half the time I’m just looking for excuses to lock myself in a bathroom with a book for an hour so I can do nothing and not feel guilty (Disclosure: I am writing these very lines while locked in a bathroom with my laptop and my phone).

Anyway, back to the happy stuff. A detailed recap of everything I’ve done would be super boring and take forever, but for those who are interested in my adventures, or who are planning this kind of journey themselves, here’s a summery of the places I went, the lodgings I found, the food I ate and the fun things I found to do.

Stop: Edmonton

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Where I stayed: HI-Edmonton Hostel (2 nights), Fannon‘s (1 night)
What I remember eating: Food I brought with me, the yummy ethnic food of Edmonton’s Heritage Festival and an amazing homecooked meal at the Fannon household.
What I did: Heritage Days and went to Fannon’s birthday party.
I stay in Edmonton all the time, so this was mainly to wish Fannon happy birthday (and return the book I borrowed from him – good book by the way. You should read it.) and meet his newborn son, as well as say goodbye to a former coworker who’d helped me out when I first moved here. My stay happily coincided with Edmonton’s Heritage Days, which is one of my favorite events. Each local ethnic community puts up a tent and sells foods and crafts, presents some samples of their culture and just radiates awesomeness. If you’re in Edmonton, Heritage Days is a must-see. On my way out of the city, I also stopped at Ben‘s. After all those hours in WoW challenge modes together, I was glad to finally have the oppertunity to visit him. I did forget my (horse)riding boots at his place, though. Oops.

Stop: Calgary
Where I stayed: HI-Calgary Hostel (1 night)
What I remember eating: Chicken at Boxwood
What I did: Had supper with Voss and Vid
Like Edmonton, I’ve visited Calgary enough times that I was pretty much just there to say hello and goodbye to some friends whom I really don’t get to see enough. If you’re visiting Western Canada, though, stop 3-4 days in Calgary. It has the vibe (and the delicious food!) of any modern city, with some good ol’ fashion cowboy feels. Typically Alberta.

Stop: Regina

The Willow on Wescana.

The Willow on Wescana.

Where I stayed: HI-Regina Hostel (2 nights)
What I remember eating: Soup and bison (or other game…I can’t remember!) burger at the Willow on Wescana.
What I did: Visited the Saskatchewan Legislature Building, rollerbladed in Wescana Centre, explored downtown.
Regina isn’t a very big city and I was satisfied after a full day there. Wescana Centre is really lovely and I was super excited to get to take out my rollerblades. The multipurpose path isn’t maintained QUITE well enough for easy blading, but I did manage to skate around most of the park. The hostel was quiet and cosy and I kinda felt bad for the staff. The place is a little run down, but I don’t think they get nearly enough traffic to have the funds to really renovate. Other than the showers hidden in the basement of the hostel (I swear I was terrified of being assaulted each time I took a shower), I really enjoyed the hostel and wished I could do something to help them.

Stop: Winnipeg

What a great view point!

What a great view point!

Where I stayed: Couch surfed with the best host ever! (3 nights)
What I remember eating: Many dishes at Folklorama! Meiji Sushi, Bodegoes at the Stadium.
What I did: The Brazillian, Japanese and Chinese pavillions at Folklorama, shopping at the Forks, touring St Boniface, seeing a Goldeyes (baseball) game, exclusive tour of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Assiniboine Park/Zoo
The more I get to know Winnipeg, the more I solidify my belief that Winnipeg is Canada’s most underrated city. (Perhaps because I have yet to see its Winterpeg incarnation!) It seems like there’s always something happening and something new to discover around every corner. The hostel I had stayed at last time had changed ownership and didn’t seem like somewhere I wanted to be anymore, so I decided to try my luck at Couch Surfing…. BEST DECISION EVER! My host was just amazing. I stayed with her for 2 days and 3 nights and she made sure I had a safe and action-packed stay in her city. She worked at the Ballet, so I got a free tour, got to meet many of her coworkers (my little girl within was exstatic about meeting professional ballet dancers and my grown up self was delighted to see some behind the scenes magic), including a world renown choreagrapher. She took me to a baseball game, the local market and to the French district (St Boniface). Once again, Winnipeg was a journey highlight. I’m not really one for long term city life, but I think my love affair with Winnipeg could one day extend to the possibility of me settling there for a few years.

Stop: Itasca State Park, Minnesota

So peaceful!

So peaceful!

Where I stayed: HI-Mississipi Headwaters Hostel (1 Night)
What I remember eating: A can of soup I had brought with me.
What I did: Hiked and took lots of pictures.
After the hussle and bussle of cities (and before the hussle and bussle of more cities), I was super happy to turn into Itasca State Park. And while I was expecting some relief, I had no idea how impressed I’d be. I hiked around for a few hours after I got there (saw the starting point of the Mississipi! So cool!), just completely in awe of how beautiful and peaceful it was. And yep, this is coming from the girl who spent the last 3 years hiking Jasper. It’s just a totally different kind of beautiful. After the cliffs and peaks and other Rocky Mountains drama, it was soothing to see Mother Nature take on a more gentle presentation. The hostel was quite exceptional as well. I was the only traveller staying, which was a bonus, but even if the place had been busy, the impeccable rooms, the spacious kitchen, the excellent bathrooms and the lovely manager made me vow to tell everyone about how they should make a trip to Itasca and stay at the hostel.

Stop: Milwaukee

Where I stayed: Oestrus‘ Couch (1 Night)
What I remember eating: Transfer Pizzeria. Stopped at Caleo Coffeehouse in Kenosha on the way out.
What I did: Caught up with the awesome O and hot yoga.
Milwaukee is another underated city, although a few wrong turns can bring you into some odd looking neighbourhoods. This time I wasn’t staying long enough to linger (O had to go kick some Magic ass at Gen Con the next day), but we did go to eat at one her favorite places (just in time for their Foodie Week special too!) and got all caught up on our girl talk. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her! After she went to work the next day, I hit up a local hot yoga place for something to do before heading to Chicago. It was glorious! I did a lot better than expected too. Usually I spend half my Bikram classes on my back, on the verge of consciousness. This time I only got really lightheaded 3 times. No almost puking and no blacking out! (One day I’ll reach the point where my hot yoga goals will be to twist myself into barely human shapes. For now, it is still to get through a class without dizzy spells.) After a refreshing shower, I drove to Kenosha, right on the border, to have lunch, drink coffee and plan my next stop (and enjoy my last hour of not stressing over the possibility of my car getting smashed up by thieves).

Stop: Chicago

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Where I stayed: Wrigley Hostel (3 Nights)
What I remember eating: Chicago Food Planet’s Gold Coast and Old Town Food Tour, Joy Yee’s Noodles, Commonweath Tavern
What I did: Food tour, yeaaaaah!!!!! Explored the Gold Coast and Chinatown. Met up with Team Sport guildies Thespius and Jayme at the Commonweath Tavern, then with Red Tear guildy Noldor at Ravina Park for a picnic on the lawn during Don Giovani.
Oh how I love Chicago. Like Winnipeg, this was a city I’d visited before and promised myself I’d visit again. I walk into stuff while gaping at the architecture. I eat so much I get sick. I learn a shit ton. I bond with people on the train whenever it jolts and we fall into each others laps. I have the best times with old gaming friends. I always say I’d never live in the US (or in a city), but for Chicago…. I could be convinced. This time around, Chicago Food Planet’s affordable food tours were one of the many discoveries I made. If you’re heading to Chicago, check them out! (Ask for Krista as a guide – she’s fantastic! I want to be her friend so bad it’s not even funny.) Another discovery was Ravinia Park. I was looking for a show that was more….calm… than those I normally go to and stumbled upon Don Giovani, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, at Ravinia Park. Then my former guildy Noldor suggested we meet up so I asked if he wanted to come along. And wow! From now on, this is the official grounds of all gaming meetups! It was perfect – the low key atmosphere, the beautiful music, the picnic setting… I highly recommend it. I also got to hang out with some other guildies whose feelings I probably hurt by not letting them know I was in town (I thought they were going to Gen Con! AND I didn’t want to seem like a creepy stalker). More people that I didn’t realize how much I missed them. Talk of fun friendly game nights was had… Gotta put this together, even if I’m overseas for the near future!

Stop: Malabar Farm, Ohio


Where I stayed: HI-Lucas Malabar Hostel (2 Nights)
What I remember eating: The Reuben at the Malabar Farm Restaurant
What I did: Hiked, visited the farm and did some tours.
After all the running around Chicago I did, the pastoral setting of Malabar Farm was a great place to recover. I set personal sleeping records (the hostel beds there are SO comfortable!) and spend my full day there leisurely strolling through the farm grounds (instead of blogging like I was supposed to). The farm has a lot more history than I expected: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there, famous author (and kinda of all-around cool guy) Louis Bromfield lived there and ghost hunters flock to catch a glimpse of Ceely Rose.

And then I tackled the 9 hour drive through the rest of Ohio, Pennsylvania and half of New Jersey. But my adventures that point on are for another update.

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The Epic Journey Begins! (Much more quietly than expected.)

Today is Sunday. I’ve been unemployed since Wednesday and technically homeless since Thursday. (I say “technically” since, as far as homelessness goes, living out of my car and sleeping in hostels is pretty luxurious.)

I had lots of notes about moving out of my apartment and into storage. I had notes about my last day at work. I had notes about the fun times I had at Edmonton’s Heritage Days/Festival.

I had so many notes and blog post ideas, but as the stress of customer service, of performing and of not killing people by accident is replaced by the more mundane stress of booking hostels, complaining that the friends I want to visit don’t answer their emails and hoping that no one breaks into my car, all that’s left is a lot of sleepyness. It took a couple of days to kick in- I suppose a lifetime of being ALL-GO-ALL-THE-TIME takes a while to wear off- but more and more I wonder if I’m an early victim of the zombie apocalypse.

My interactions go like this:

Other person: Hi!
Me: Heeeeeeeeyyyy…..
Other person: How are you?
Me: …sorry….what was thaaaaaaat?
Other person: How are you?
Me: Oh… Gooooooood.
Other person: ….
Me: Oooooh, how about youuuuu?
Other person: Good, thank you! Do you remember me?
Me: *little bit of drool*


Anyway, here’s the general itinerary. I’ve rehearse it so often that even in my zombiness, I can still recite it flawlessly:

Part 1: Driving to Nova Scotia to leave car with parents
– Edmonton
– Calgary
– Regina
– Winnipeg
– Small town in Minnesota
– Milwaukee area and/or Chicago
– Small town in Ohio
– New Jersey
– Sherbrooke/Montreal
– Quebec city
– Miramichi
– Cap Breton

Part 2 – Australia
– Flying from Sydney, Canada to Sydney, Australia (HAHAHAHA)
– Have surfing/ranch camps in September (That’s right, not too old for camp!)
– May or may not work based on whether someone will hire me only for 2-3 months.

Part 3- South East Asia
– Spending 2 months in a small village in Thailand
– Then going wherever. Planning ahead is overrated.

Part 4- Returning home
– When I run out of money, get tired of travelling, or government wants me home. Whichever happens first.
– Don’t know where I’m coming home to. Would like to work up North, but we’ll see. Would also like to get into international health.

As usual with my backpacking trips, if you’re reading this, live somewhere along my itinairy and would like to hang out, I love meeting new people. Feel free to get in touch.

(And to those friends who never check their emails, please check your emails, hugs and kisses)

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Crossed off my Rockies Bucket List: HI-Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel

My time in Rockies in running out and I’m racing through each of my free days to get everything done that I wanted to do. This weekend’s tackle was HI-Hilda Creek.

Whenever I drive home from Banff or Lake Louise, I use the outhouse at Parker Ridge. (I affectionately and conveniently call the piece of road just south of Parker Ridge the “toilet bowl” not only because of its proximity to the Parker Ridge Outhouse but also because of it’s build on a down-spiral.) Less than a km north of Parker Ridge, there is a little hostel sign with an arrow and the word “Hilda”. Every time I drive by the “Hilda” sign, I wish I was staying there.

This weekend, I decided to make that wish a reality.

Continue reading

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Because you can never have too many Banff pictures

While Day One was a little rough, Day Two came together wonderfully. I guess it helps when you can actually see the snow! I’m paying for it now (wearing pants is such torture, OMG), but I did manage to ski at pretty much 90% capacity on Monday and Tuesday. Even got a respectable amount of black diamonds and moguls in. Was seriously tempted by some double blacks too (or perhaps it was by the cute Aussie backcountry skiiers…) but I was a good girl (especially since I was skiing alone) and opted to not push myself into situations I might not be able to get out of.

Anyway, since there’s not a whole lot to say and pictures are worth many words, here are some pictures of Days 2 and 3, taken by my shaking, cold hand on my phone:

Early morning on Day 2

Early morning on Day 2

Banff Trip 035

Banff Trip 039

Banff Trip 041

Banff Trip 055

Banff Trip 058

Quick pic at a pit stop on the way home.

And for those who can’t get enough mountain pictures, the full album should be public on Facebook.

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First Day of Skiing with a Spinal Cord Injury.

After a long month of long hours at work coupled with an MS attack that took my lower body out of commission, I’m finally back on the skihill!


Morning in Banff

Morning in Banff

You know, I generally have a pretty positive attitude toward my immune-system eaten spine. The rebelious lower body comes and goes and I know one day it’ll stop working for good. I’m ok with that. I work in health care. Every day I see people, even young people, forced to relearn to live due to spinal cord injuries. For most of them, it was sudden. Their sports, their ambitions, their dancing – bam! Gone in a flash. Me, I’m lucky. I’m super, super lucky: I had the fortune of being warned. And a good, fair warning it was: over 15 years later I’m still making nearly full recoveries after every attack. I’ve had lots of time for dance and gymnastics, skiing and hiking. I have one more trip planned and then I’ll be ready. Of course, the more time the better, but yeah, no regrets.

So I haven’t completely recovered from this attack. I don’t have full use of my legs yet but I figured I’d get back on my skis since, you know, having bought a pass and all. Besides, since moving out here, I’ve always found healing in the mountains. Whether I’m sad, stressed, tired, sickly or just in dire need of exercise, they’ve been there for me. (Mountains are always there for you. You can always find them at the same spot, time after time.) So, I thought, why not turn to them for some physiotherapy as well?

Mother Nature at her finest.

Mother Nature at her finest.

Today was the big first day! As you can see by the pictures, the weather didn’t cooperate much. For the most part, it was snowing and winding hard. They even had to close most of the chairlifs early. But! At least it wasn’t -30 or raining.

The flatlight (for you non-skiiers, flatlight happens when the light isn’t bright enough and you can’t see the snow, not even the snow that’s super close to you) was a little hard to deal with too. Even with goggles supposedly made for bad weather, I was blind. On my first run of the day, I wondered for a moment why I couldn’t go forward. Took a little wiggling around to realize that my skis were, in fact, stuck in a snowdrift as high as my waist.

As for my legs…

I have to say, it was a little frustrating to be strugging on runs that I would have flown through normally. Especially since the snow was soft (seriously! It was like light light flour. I desperately wanted to rub my cheek on it. ) and the powder was bountiful. I could picture myself gliding around the moguls, catching the little jumps and digging my edges to carve the semi-steep slopes.

Instead I probably looked like a first timer as I learned to ski all over again.

I’ve been trained to ski mainly with my ankles. It’s hard to convey this to beginners who look down in amazement at the iron bindings firmly clasped around their lower extremities, but my feet are always moving. They feel the ground and they adjust over and over again. But now I have very little control over my ankles. The nerve damage in my feet is a double wammy, making the feeling of pins and needles (very similar to when you stand up after losing circulation in your feet for awhile) quiiiite uncomfortable and masking whatever signals the ground was trying send. Skiing without relying primarily on my feet to read the snow for me was like being 4 years old and discovering long slidy shoes for the first time all over again.

Then, my knees and my hips are still pretty restricted. I don’t use them the same way as I do my ankles, but they’re still supposed to take whatever orders my feet send them. They’re supposed to bend or unbend as needed so that I can flow with the bumps and dives of trails. Muscles that refuse to relax make that usual flexion/extension process a tad more complicated. I felt pretty rigid. In turn, the rigidity forced my weight backwards, causing me to lose my balance a lot. I had a million flashbacks of my ski teachers of yore shouting at me: “Get off the toilet seat! Stop leaning back!”

While I seemed pretty doomed to failure, I got a bit better after the first few runs. It was painful and took a lot of concentration, but I was able to get in a few excellent turns. I mainly stuck to blue (intermediate) runs but I did succeed on a few black diamonds that, I swear, I ended up on completely by accident. I looked a bit stupid, I think, and I was slow, much slower than usual, but thankfully, the flatlight and resulting blindness forced just about everyone to take their time, lest they find themselves falling off a cliff or getting stuck in a snowdrift.

I took an approximately 90 minute break midday to eat lunch and check into my hotel room (staying right on the mountain, yay!). I considered lying down to nap, but I itched with the urge to head back outside for some extra torture. I ended up going on for quite some time, long enough to catch the very last lift up before the center closed for the day.

That last trip was worth it too. The Sunday crowds were gone so I had the hill to myself. And my mountains smiled on me, shining some sun through the storm and giving me a glorious flatlight-free final run.

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Planning the Epic Journey: The Challenges

A lot of people would like to travel. Not everyone, sometimes I meet people who say “it’s great that you love to do this stuff, but it’s not for me”, but a lot of people. And usually they’re accompanied by a list of reasons why not to travel.

Money and safety are ironically the excuses I hear most. Ironically because they must be, in my opinion, the least founded excuses ever. Depending on where you go, you can travel for quite cheap and if you’re trying hard enough, you can cover a good portion of your travel expenses while on the road. Safety is… I dunno, I kind of get the impression that safety is a lie our countries tell us to keep us from spending money abroad. You hear so very little of the millions of women (in “safe countries”) who are abused (and even killed!) by their husbands IN THEIR OWN HOME, yet one tourist is killed in Turkey and suddenly travel is dangerous sport.

But I have my excuses as well. I prefer to think of them as “challenges” and spend a lot of time figuring out how to get around them.

1- Time

This is a reoccurring theme in my writing… I’m obsessed with time. Youth is short, so so so short. Yet somehow, to fit in with society, by the end of one’s youth, one must have:

- an education
– a career
– world traveling experience
– a spouse
– children or an official no-children stance

And as hurried as I’ve been, with time running out, all I accomplished was the education. The hell. How do people do this stuff?

Now I’m working on the career part and the world traveling part, but it’s very hard to fit them in together. You get 2-3 weeks vacation a year, extra time off is hard to negotiate, and at most you can take 10 (14 if you’re lucky) days off in a row. It’s great for the bank account, but you can’t really see the world in that time-frame.


The joy of contract work is that when you’re done, you’re done. There’s no dramatic quitting or anything like that. Of course you’re leaving: your contract is up. But still, I can go at most for 2 years without working, otherwise I have to redo all my licensing exams (that was traumatic enough the first time – would rather not go through that again), and besides, even with just one year away, I’d forget a lot of important stuff and miss a lot of big changes. So I come back after a year to another contract, and by the time that’s up, it’ll be time to tackle children so that I don’t have to spend my quality retirement years chasing after a toddler.

2- Attachments

About a year ago I was dating this guy and one day, out of the blue, he asked me to choose between the trip and the relationship. (He didn’t actually word it like that, but ultimately that’s what he was asking.)

I was a little bit ticked off because THE WHOLE REASON I agreed to date him in the first place was because he said he was planning to go to Australia too, but that’s beyond the point. The point is, that scene was a physical manifestation of the internal conflict I get whenever I meet someone who doesn’t totally turn me off.

In a long time, I’m leaving for a long time.

It’s not super super hard because I’m not attracted to people very often and the rare people I am attracted to generally aren’t attracted to me. For this, the love lottery plays into my favor. But when the unlikely situation occurs I really connect with someone, the warning flashes through my mind “Remember, you have just the right amount of time to get attached.”

It’s not just about my own heartbreak. I’ve handled that a dozen times before and I can handle it again. Adventures are a great distraction. I just hate to waste someone else’s time and upset their feelings.

Sometimes, well-willing people tell me that I should just have shallow relationships and fool around. Been there, seen it, done it. Outgrown it. I’m super happy on my own and have absolutely nothing to gain from a casual boyfriend. I don’t feel like I have anything to gain from a serious relationship either, but you don’t always choose those things, and every now again, I meet someone who catches my interest and I worry that they’ll distract me from leaving.

Perhaps it’s silly – I think that in order to put up with me, a partner would have to share my lifestyle (or be really really independent) anyway, and I’d be ok with someone willing to join me on one or more legs of my trip. Still, on the rare occasions that seem to have potential, the question always comes up: “This or the trip?

3- Health

I’ve had MS for about 13 years now. Most of the time, I do really well. I was so young when I was diagnosed that I have no idea what my body would be like without MS. I get sleepy a lot. Maybe I’m just a sleepy person. My legs get tingly a lot. Maybe I have oversensitive nerves. I’m terribly absent minded. Maybe I was born that way. I have trouble talking. Maybe I’m just too nervous around people.

I get super angry during bad flareups (do you know how much it sucks to have to put EFFORT into getting to all the way to the bathroom, only to realize that…those…muscles….don’t work anymore?), but for the most part I’ve accepted my fate and even have plenty of ideas on hobbies for my wheelchair-bound days. I’ve always wanted to take singing lessons. And I do have lots of ideas for books I could write.

But one thing that worries me all the time is that I won’t get the chance to see the world the easy way before my immune system eats up too much of my nervous system. I had an MRI last week. It showed some degeneration. Not a whole lot and, thankfully, my spine (which causes like 80% of my problems) was actually pretty stable. It’s still a reminder that my time is limited.

Obviously, I could get hit by a car tomorrow and become quadriplegic long before the MS sets it. I work in healthcare. I know people who’ve been quadriplegic since they were teenagers. You never know. You just never know.

Anyway, the biggest challenge isn’t all the emotional crap I’ve been wasting your time with. The biggest challenge is this:

Betaseron 004

This is one month’s worth of meds. 2000$ worth of temperature sensitive injections. WITH NEEDLES.

In case you don’t really grasp the, um, size of the problem, here’s a picture of ONE MONTH of meds in comparison to my hiking boot:

Betaseron 005

Now imagine fitting 12 OR MORE of these into your tiny backpack and dragging it (and them) across deserts and jungles.


There are a few other MS drugs but they either require refrigeration (like that’s going to happen in the jungle) or aren’t covered by my insurance. I did test to see how much a year’s worth of Gilenya (the pill for MS) would be. 36000$. (Yes those are 3 zeros.) Um, yeah. I’ll take the wheelchair.

I talked with Beyer (who makes the meds I take) a few times and there is no travel format available for Betaseron. I could repackage the meds myself (after all, I am a pharmacist and have access to labeling and packaging materials), but a year’s supply would still take up a lot of room of my bags, and there’s no guarantee that border officials will accept pharmacy packaging for injectable drugs. And at 150$ per dose, I’d rather not have my meds confiscated.

I looked around online (I’m not in touch with the MS community. Too depressing.) and found absolutely nothing on long term adventure travel with MS meds. People with MS apparently don’t travel. I did read a blog post about one guy who had MS for years and was excited about a trip with his family to the Grand Canyon (I was very happy for him), but there’s no useful information out there.

My neurologist doesn’t recommend me stopping my meds, but I think the plan will probably be to have a few months supply, since my Australia leg will probably be fairly stationary, and go without for the heavy backpacking part.

It’s kind of sad to say, but I’d rather risking loosing my ability to walk sooner than pass up the opportunity of a lifetime because of med issues.

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Things I want to do on my Epic Journey

When I started planning the Epic Journey, I thought “Every step of the pre-journey will be tracked on my blog!”

Then stuff like gaming, the gaming blog and the Outside World captured my attention more than writing about trip planning. And so, years into planning, I’ve only just started writing about it.

Better late than never, though, so here’s some sharing of random stuff I found in different countries that I think would be very fun into include in my adventures.


UltimateOz’ Outback Ranch Package: If you google anything about Australian arrival packages or ranch work, this always comes up first. I searched around for references and reviews, just because it seemed too good to be true, and everything I found pointed toward it being legit. For the first half of the two week program, they welcome you and show you around Sydney and help you do all the bureaucratic stuff like set up a bank account and taxfile number, deal with mail and stuff like that. Yes, I know it’s all stuff I could do on my own for much cheaper, but you know what? For once in my life, I don’t want to think. I want them to walk me through it, I want to hang out with other travelers and I want my arrival to be as stress-free as possible. I also have a huge budget set aside for splurges that I really want, and I really want this splurge.

During the second week, you get hands-on ranch training and experience. I can’t even begin to say how excited I get when I think of that.

Obviously, I live in Alberta, Canada, and every time I bring this up offline, I get job offers from local farms. And yes, the whole reason I want to do the course (and hopefully work a couple of months on a real cattle ranch – but I’d still do the course even if I decided to not pursue cattle ranch work) is because it’s a skillset I don’t have, and I’m a big believer of using every opportunity to develop new skills. I could, sure, develop those skills here in Canada, but there’s a world of difference between volunteering on a Canadian farm over my weekends in addition to my regular job, and having a blast with other travelers in the hot Australian sun while my mind is free of the burdens of drug insurance companies and angry customers.

More than just developing new skills, I also want to get this kind of experience while I still can. I plan on going into more detail in future posts, but the countdown on my leg use has started. I still do fine most of the time but I lose feeling in them more and more often, and the muscles are getting stubborner and stubborner. Every time the Epic Journey gets delayed, my heart sinks and I worry that my trip will start too late and I won’t meet the physical requirements for a farm experience.

So anyway, the plan is to make sure I have a really fun physical job and take full advantage of my ability to walk and run and lift heavy objects because I won’t be able to much longer.


Volunteering through Andaman Discoveries: I really wanted to do some international volunteer work along the way and my guide book suggested Andaman Discoveries. I looked them up and was impressed by their mentality, their level of organization and how recognized they were in the field of ethical tourism.

There are a lot of opportunities in South East Asia to volunteer in orphanages. I’ve been, though, warned against the darksides of orphanage volunteering. For one, the short term aspect of volunteering is rough on the kids. As soon as they get attached to you, you leave. And secondly, there’ve been reports of orphanages buying children to serve as tourist attractions. (While this may be entirely untrue, as an international adoption hopeful, I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic and it seems that a major reason Canada and the US have banned adoption from certain countries is because families, orphanages and agencies were trying to “sell” children who did not need adopting to Westerners.)

Andaman does have an orphanage volunteering program (which seems like it is ethical, and the volunteer’s role seems to be more that of a guest presenter than a caretaker, which likely much healthier for the kids), they also have a program for children of Burmese Migrants, and a Special Education program. All the programs seem super interesting, but I would love to volunteer with the Special Education program. I worked for years at a summer camp for children on the Austism Spectrum where I discovered that I absolutely adore that clientele. I miss it every day now that I can’t have summer jobs anymore. It would be amazing to have another Special Education experience, this time in an intercultural setting.


Big Brother Mouse: Literacy is my favorite cause, so I was super excited when I stumbled upon Big Brother Mouse. In Laos, many people live in remote areas where books aren’t exactly accessible. And even when books are available, many of them are in foreign languages. Big Brother Mouse works to increase the quantity of books in the Lao language and gets those books to places they wouldn’t normally go. Opportunities to help out mostly involve sponsorship (however! if you have a published book that would be appropriate in Laos and you’re willing to give them the rights to publish it in Lao – let them know! They might be interested and you’d be making a difference in people’s lives!), but something cool you can donate toward are book parties. During book parties, they bring books to a more remote village. There are a lot of fun activities and games, and in the end, they leave enough books behind to start a mini-library. What makes this even better is that if you sponsor a book party, you can attend one in the future. It seems like a great way to support literacy and learn about Lao culture in a really unique setting.

Every time I read the Big Brother Mouse website, I want to learn and master the Lao language, just so that I can help them write and translate books. Hmm, I wonder if I could get my pharmacist credentials in Laos, so that I could stay longer and make myself useful.


In my travel research, the biggest surprise to me was the Philippines. I didn’t know much about the country, other than how it was composed of many islands and their people, I swear, are the bravest people in the world. Even in Northern, Northern Canadian towns that suffer extreme climates that even us Canadians can’t stand, you’ll always find a thriving and cheerful Filipino community.

About a year ago, I started sponsoring a little girl in the Philippines. The organization I do the sponsorship with, Plan Canada, lets you visit your sponsored children. (Mine is really young, so I would probably be more like visiting her family.) So I started doing researching what else I could check out in the Philippines.

Interestingly, there is a lot to do in the Philippines. Plus, tourism there seems to be at its childhood stages, so there is enough infrastructure to make travel simple and interesting, but the country isn’t overrun yet by annoying and perverted tourists.

One thing that caught my eye is WWOOFing opportunities in the Philippines. WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms – basically you get room and board in exchange for volunteering on a farm) is super popular among travelers to Australia and New Zealand, but I was surprised to see hosts in the Philippines. I think it would be a great chance to stay in one place in the Philippines, put my Australian farm skills to use, contribute a little bit to the local economy and get a small feel of daily life in their country.

And more!

Those are the bigger projects I’m interested in, but I would still like to see all the countries listed in my South East Asia guide book. I definitely want to visit temples in Myanmar/Burma and Cambodia (I would like to study religious history in those countries, but I couldn’t find much in terms of short courses so I will probably have to teach myself before I go). I want to take a (or several!) cooking class(es) in Vietnam. I want to visit the wildlife in Indonesia and Malaysia, I want to stay in a Borneo Longhouse. New Zealand has my attention as well and I would love to take a short course on Maori culture and language (all I could find, though, were year long university certificates and, unfortunately, I don’t have enough time for that).

I want to eat lots of food in Singapore (and also want to explore the city/country – I had this massive fascination with Singapore when I was, like, 19, and while the obsession has faded, I definitely want to spend a few days there) and experience Brunei and Timor-Leste, two countries that I had barely even heard of before researching my trip. (I had heard of Timor-Leste slightly, back when I was in high school, because of the unrest at the time, but I haven’t heard much of it since then.) And while I’m probably the only person in the world who doesn’t really care to go to Bali, I figure I should still spend a couple of nights there, just because.

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