Category Archives: travel

Winter hike of Mt Mansfield via Hellbrook Trail

In the parking lot about to head up Route 108 Scenic to the trailhead for our ascent of Mt Mansfield
About to begin hiking Mt Mansfield, with Route 108 Scenic in the background, and Mt Mansfield behind that. L to R: Mark, Sebastien, Vince, Ryan

I recently embarked on my second winter hiking expedition: a tour of Mt Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont, via Hellbrook Trail. This post will focus on trail conditions and required footwear since this was the major challenge of the hike.  If you would like to learn more and be informed about other helpful gear and food preparations, you may find it useful to read an earlier blog post about Ryan’s first-ever winter hike – a lovely experience exploring Cascade and Porter Mountain in the Adirondacks. Continue reading Winter hike of Mt Mansfield via Hellbrook Trail

First solo winter hike in the Adirondacks: Cascade and Porter

There is a sign in the parking lot off of Route 9N indicating which marks the trailhead and provides basic information for visitors to Cascade and Porter Mountains. This is the starting point.
Mountains hiked: Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain, New York, USA
Elevation: 1290m (4232 feet) and 1237m (4058 feet), respectively
Hiking time: 4 hours (round-trip)
Hiking distance: 5.6 miles or 9.0km (round-trip)

Greetings! I am sitting here with a hot tea thinking about how to begin describing my recent winter adventure hiking in the Adirondacks last weekend. The purpose of the trip was to make my first attempt at winter hiking with the objective of having fun :), being healthy, and building up my skills and knowledge for a much more difficult eventual winter-time summit of Mt Washington later this season. So let me give you my trip report: the background, my preparation, my experience, and some photos.  I hope this information can help someone else with their first winter hike! Continue reading First solo winter hike in the Adirondacks: Cascade and Porter

Ingredients for a powerful friendship

Adam in Geneva
Adam Grantzidis (on the right) and I in Geneva – September 2016 – we worked together at the TD Bank in Montreal in their credit card customer service department.

This is my friend Adam Grantzidis – we worked together some years ago and lost touch until we reconnected in Geneva today. Although we only had a couple of hours, there was so much to talk about in a short amount of time.

Although Adam and I have shared vastly different life experiences, there was a strong connection between us as we shared some of the challenges each of us has faced over the years and the lessons we learned from those. There was this distinct feeling of being with a trusted old friend with whom I could share or ask anything. It even felt like I had just seen him yesterday. It made me wonder : How is such a powerful connection possible after so long? Well, I’ll try to answer that question with some reflections on ingredients for a powerful connection and friendship. 😉

Genuine mutual interest
First, Adam and I both had a genuine interest in reconnecting and hearing about all that has happened over the last 15 years. I noticed that he had a sincere curiosity to hear about my news and a great ability to listen. He asked real questions that arrived at the heart of the emotions I was feeling. In turn, I was excited to hear about what he had been up to. This mutual interest helped recall that connection and friendship from so many years ago.

Honesty and authenticity
A second important ingredient is that Adam and I had “give and take” in our conversation. Not only was he willing to share some of the hardships and challenges he has experienced, but he asked me about mine too. Asking questions necessarily means you must also be willing to answer them, and be authentic and open about how you feel. This is what creates a bond of intimacy and a strong human connection. Of course it’s wonderful to share successes and all the good and great things you are proud about.

Being honest in your relationships means avoid hiding how you really feel and being willing to share the experiences that have hurt you, your failures, the memories that cause pain, the thoughts that cause worry and anxiety, the events that left scars on your soul. These are the experiences you might hesitate to tell because you don’t want to burden the conversation. In order to create real intimacy you have to take the risk and face the possibility that someone may reject you or may not react the way you want to hear. When you are willing to face the possibility of disappointment is when you are at your most vulnerable. So when someone asks you that question – ask yourself – are you willing to answer? To really answer from the heart?

Shared values
A third element that comes to mind is the idea of a kindred spirit. Some may call it that “soul connection”. This doesn’t always need to happen but when it does it is awesome. Kindred spirits have shared principles and outlooks on life – a system of values that guides how they operate and make decisions. From my side, this means a willingness to try new things, be open to new ideas and experiences, to take risks, look out and care for others, relate to people on an intimate level, and see the world through a kaleidoscopic perspective.

During our short reunion, Adam and I not only shared all that we had been up to, but exchanged knowing looks and laughs about some of the memorable experiences we have been through. Having a common worldview or philosophy with someone creates an immediate and awesome connection and helps establish a foundation of trust (because you just “get” each other). Of course, establishing trust is possible without this kindred mindset – it may just require a bit more work and emphasis in showing interest and being honest and authentic (refer back to points #1 and #2 above).😉

Investment of time and effort
A final thought – over the years, the unstable and transient nature of my life led me to forget the basic and simple truth that friendship and relationships require time and effort to grow stronger. And this has come at a great personal cost to me. You can have all of the above but you need to invest effort and commitment over time. For many years it was convenient to ignore this in favour of a desire to see the world and be “independent”. And while I value solitude greatly, I wish I had deeper personal connections.

So, 14 years later my path crosses again with this old soul, and little has changed – still the warm and tender smile, a genuine curiosity and compassion for others, and a desire for adventure that burns strong. The years go by but it is like time never passed.

Thanks Adam, for reminding me of the power and potential of a true and strong human connection, and some of the important ingredients for building a powerful friendship.

Talk to you soon buddy.

Do you have any reflections to share on what’s made your friendships stronger? Please comment below. :)  Click here to read more reflections on Live Passionately.

Solo hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2015/jul/19/trekking-tour-du-mont-blanc-the-alps#img-1
A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian

A few days ago I posted a National Geographic article about great long distance hiking trails in different parts of the world. The first one on the list – hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc – caught my eye and I decided to book the trip! Continue reading Solo hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Eating the mezcal worm in Mexico

Thank you everyone for all of the birthday wishes coming in. There is no better timing for your love. (cheesy?) The last 18 months have been painful for me physically and emotionally and at times I felt weak, lost, broken, and unsure where my life was headed. There have been so many people who have supported me in my journey. I’m not completely through it yet but things are starting to look up. I decided to move back to my hometown in Canada and I have a new job with a great company doing inspiring and fun social projects all over the world. The stars aligned and I am in Mexico for my birthday, investigating how to get more and better quality water to people in vulnerable situations. In order to draw a line between the past and present, I decided to seize the day and finally eat the famous mezcal worm. In fact, I ate two at the same time. Here you go. And thank you. Much love.

Great egret in South Carolina wetlands

20141025-huntington-egretA great egret (aka a great white heron) is perched atop a ‘rice trunk’ while taking in the sun as it sets over a marsh in the coastal wetlands of South Carolina. A rice trunk is a gravity-flow mechanism that uses tidal energy to transfer water from one place to another. It was used in the 17th century for rice farming; today they are typically used to create ideal habitats for birds that thrive in wetland ecosystems

Community-building in North Carolina

Please have a look at this photo for a moment…

This is an example of community-building happening in the town of Chapel Hill, in the US state of North Carolina. A local church and a community center organized a block party for neighborhood residents to get to know each other.

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Chapel Hill is a rapidly growing college town and that brings with it a lot of benefits but also some disadvantages. Property prices have risen as developers gentrify the neighborhood to offer student housing. But this has caused problems for some longtime locals, whose property taxes have become unaffordable, since their household income has not changed.

The block party provided an opportunity to create ties. Kids are playing games, students are dancing, people are practicing handicrafts, and folks are eating, drinking and laughing. We are connecting with each other.

Hopefully in some small way this will help us to better understand each other’s perspective on what “prosperity” and “progress” really means for our community and how people are affected in different ways by development.

What’s your vision for the community where you live? Does it match what others see too?

A sweet and simple thank you from a girl who survived a brain tumour.

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Thank you note from the little girl Grace in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Impoverished Children http://www.impoverishedchildren.com

Pleased to share with you this thank you note from the little girl Grace in Kenya who was diagnosed with a brain tumour earlier this year. When funds were short to pay for medical care, a small group of people came together via Facebook to raise the money she needed. She subsequently underwent brain surgery and has recovered. Here she is, back at her school in Nairobi, with a message in her own words. That’s her with her mother and the school’s principal Catherine Whiting.Isn’t she cute? This great story reminds me of that quote from Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

 

In the place where I was most happy, I believe I also learned how to be more grateful. This has had an incredible impact on my life.

I believe it was while I lived in Malawi that I finally learned how to look for, find, and appreciate the little things in life, instead of just accidentally stumbling upon them. There was something I discovered in the Malawian people that filled me with joy – happiness, a satisfaction, an interest in others, deep echoing laughs, and beautiful smiles. I saw that they had genuine interest in the well-being of others. The place was not always a barrel of laughs for me – work didn’t always go smoothly, I sometimes had trouble finding diabetic-friendly foods, the power and/or the water would go out about once a day – but it taught me to be more resilient, helped me learn to live with less, and most of all, that I could find wonder and awesomeness in these incredible little moments during the day. In every day of my life now and frequently during those days, I find myself feeling grateful for the things that happen around me. The smile from a homeless man on the street, the succulent taste of a juicy red apple, and the glorious green of the leaves on the trees as summer approaches. This is what carpe diem means to me.