Sunday, February 21, 2016

10 Things For People With Itchy Feet To Do When They CAN'T Travel

Not able to travel? Here are some suggestions on how to stay inspired while stuck at home!

If you are like me, you are addicted to traveling. Your daydreams are all about discovering new places and experiencing everything the world has to offer. Your home decor revolves around fitting in knick-knacks from all corners of the Earth. Your feet are perpetually itching to move.

But life has other plans for you. For me, it was two babies in two years, which meant I had to quit my job and our family moved down to one income. Granted, my husband earned a fantastic promotion, but with his promotion also came a demand for increased work hours on his part. We have responsibilities like never before, and payments constantly depleting our bank account. (Am I complaining? NEVER! I am happier than I have ever been and enjoy *almost* every second with my little ones. Stinky bums and tantrums in the grocery store excluded.)

Yet the dream to travel the world will not fade. I am only on a hiatus from travel, and I vow to return!

So what does a travel-bug-infected dreamer do when NOT able to travel? Here are some fun ideas to keep people like you and me inspired when our itchy feet are tied to the floor!

1. Make future trip itineraries 


I have been spending a ridiculous amount of time planning future trips that I may or may not ever go on. (Shh. Don't tell my husband. He thinks I've been *cleaning the house*. Pfft.) I have detailed and extensive plans for trips to the Amalfi coast, Poland, the Grand Canyon, New Zealand, and the California coast to name a few. They go day-by-day, with sights to see on each day, opening times, admission fees, distances between stops, driving times - you name it! 

My itineraries stop just short of naming exact hotels to stay at, and specific pricing for car rentals and flight plans. But if we ever did select one of these itineraries, I'd have the hotels, flights, and car rentals locked down in a matter of hours. I keep telling myself that having a fun trip pre-organized in this way will make it more likely that we will eventually go.

Planning future trips gives me great joy. Image via.

2. Create trip-specific Pinterest boards


It is easy to go click-crazy when pinning beautiful travel destinations you see on Pinterest. I admittedly have a "Travel Bucket List" board on my Pinterest account where I slam images willy-nilly in a frenzy of "Ooh, I want to go there!" madness. But that board, so full of amazing visuals yet so disorganized, can also make it feel like the world is a huge, overwhelming place and I'll never get to see it all.

To stay inspired and to hold on to that feeling of hope - yes, there is hope that I might be able to see even a portion of my bucket list - I try to spend a little time in the evening, after the kids are asleep, to pick apart my "Travel Bucket List" Pinterest board. I will choose a destination that seems to keep popping up, such as Brazil for example, and combine all of the Brazil photos from the scattered "Travel Bucket List" board onto just a "Brazil" board. This might sound a little OCD, but in the end, it helps me feel like I'm better prepared for the moment when my husband announces, quite out of the blue, "Hey, I bought us two first-class tickets to Brazil. We leave in two weeks."

Some of my more organized travel boards.

3. Work on photo albums or scrapbooks of past trips


Sometimes it is helpful, when you are in the throes of wishing and praying for an all-expenses-paid world trip, to look back on the places you have been lucky enough to visit and just be grateful. Having a little perspective helps to reel me in when I start whining about wanting to begin traveling again. Yes, my travel bucket list remains largely unexplored, but many people would be thrilled to see some of the things I have been able to see. 

I use digital scrapbooking to memorialize my travel photos and memories. I have been trying to use this break in travel to catch up on all my trip albums and to feel thankful for the places I have been.

My scrapbook for our 2013 Mexico trip.

4. Learn a new language for a future trip


I really, really, really want to use my Amalfi coast travel itinerary in the near future. Italy is so gorgeous, and the Amalfi coast is one of Italy's gems in my humble opinion. I'd love to travel there, either with my kids or with just my husband - I don't really care as long as I get there.

But since this trip doesn't look like it is coming to fruition anytime soon - hey, we need a backyard fence more than a trip so my children don't get squished on the road - I will invest a little time in future travel preparations. Learning a new language doesn't happen magically overnight, so if I want to travel to the Amalfi coast within three years time, I should have plenty of opportunities to grasp the basics of Italian. I use a free program called 'busuu' that can be downloaded to your computer, or as an app on your phone. Every few nights, I spend a bit of time learning some new words and phrases. This makes me feel like I really WILL be going to Italy, but I'm not panicked about learning the language quickly, because we all know I won't be going any time soon. Unless that lotto ticket ends up being the winning one!

Learning a new language is time-consuming - be thankful you have a travel break! Image via.

5. Try foreign foods in nearby restaurants


With today's society a veritable cultural melting pot, there are always new restaurants available for you to test out foreign foods. Once Vietnamese food was a strange and scary sounding notion - today I start salivating whenever someone mentions grabbing some for take-out. I actually want some now. 

Before heading to a country, it is always a good idea to educate yourself on its food - both its traditional and modern dishes. Then, if you have restaurants nearby that serve similar cuisine, go try it! Usually the meals here are more Westernized, but you will still get an idea of what suits your palate and what doesn't. On my list to try is the new Ethiopian restaurant which opened in our city - what's on yours?

Try a new dish while waiting for your chance to eat in-country! Image via.

6. Learn to cook an exotic dish


Not everyone lives in an area where culturally-diverse restaurants abound. I grew up in such a place. My little hometown's most exotic meal was served in a Chinese food restaurant that also coincidentally served the best burgers and fries. So I get it. 

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. If you want to experience a country's national dish but don't have an establishment in your area that cooks it, cook it yourself! It may call for some strange ingredients that you don't recognize, and you might have to try a method you've never heard of before (and needed to Google), but you may surprise yourself. 

If you have to wait three years before you travel to the country itself, that will give you tons of time to perfect your cooking skills. Then you can impress the locals with what you know once you arrive!

Learn to cook something exotic so you feel like you are travelling.

7. Read books about life in a distant country


These can be legitimate travel books, such as guidebooks or non-fiction books, but you can also use fiction to inspire your sleeping travel bug. I like to use both - the guidebooks give me a realistic idea of places to visit, things to watch out for, and how much money I might need to bring. The fiction books give me a sense of how a place might 'feel', or what it might have been like at a certain time. 

Historical fictions often romanticize a location, and once you get to where you want to go, you can sink back into your memories of the novel and imagine yourself strolling the same streets. Then be sure to use the guidebook to make sure you are actually on the right street.

Reading can take you anywhere! Image via.

8. Use documentaries to research a country you'd like to visit 


If reading just isn't your bag, baby, then you could try spending a nice evening with a bowl of popcorn and a documentary about traveling. The documentary could be country-specific, teaching you about the customs, the culture, and the history of a place. Videos such as these are extremely helpful in preparing you for a future visit, and although not as detailed as guidebooks, can give you a good idea on what you might get to see and do once there.

I also enjoy a good general travel documentary every now and then. Netflix has a great one called "Departures" which follows two Canadian gentlemen in their 20s as they roam the great, wide world. (I'm always a supporter of my fellow Canucks.) You can add frantically to your own bucket list as you watch them explore some of the more unusual spots on the globe.

9. Watch movies set in a country you'd like to visit


Not everyone is a documentary person, and that's okay. There are plenty of travel-motivating movies out there produced by Hollywood and the like. Alas, not every country on your bucket list will be featured, but there are a surprising amount of destination-related films available. You might not learn one single thing about the country you are viewing except how much you truly want to visit, and that's okay too.

Movies and documentaries can stave off the pain of not traveling for at least two hours. Image via.

10. Connect with other travellers on Facebook and Twitter and share experiences


If you really want to prepare for a future trip, regardless of how soon you will actually be visiting (or if ever), you will want to hear your advice straight from the horse's mouth. Find Twitter channels about or from your destination location, and connect with other Twitter users who can direct you to other useful Twitter users. They can find you almost any information you desire.

Find a Facebook page or group from that country, and ask to join. Then ask all the questions you may have about what to see, how to see it, when to go, what the locals recommend, etc. You might make some valuable friends who can help you out when you do finally choose to make your journey. I myself have been personally and enthusiastically invited to dine by the gentleman who runs a cute cafe I want to visit in Warsaw. Use the power of social media to make your trip daydream a firm reality!

Social media is a great way to connect with the world when not traveling the world.


What else do you adventurers out there do when your adventure opportunities are slow? Share in the comments below!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Making Memory Lane: Digital Scrapbooking with "Mixbook"


Since I began my perpetual maternity leave in January of 2014, I have felt quite out of the loop regarding my old job. My life used to revolve around constant learning: the content I taught my students, pedagogical changes and updates to the education sector, child psychology, advances in technology, etc. There was always something new to soak in. Over the last two years, life has certainly changed. I'm not saying you don't learn new things as a mother - because oh, you do! - it is just a whole different ballgame. (I can read the contents of a diaper like a fortune teller can read tea leaves, and you don't learn that at conferences...)


So I was incredibly excited when I was asked to present a session at a conference hosted by our local school division. I get to reconnect with some of my old colleagues! I get to teach others and guide my peers in their own learning journey! I get to wear something other than yoga pants! Yay!

My session is on how to use an online digital scrapbooking program called "Mixbook" to create vibrant, sleek, high-quality photo albums that take up hardly any room on your bookshelf (unlike all those bulky cardboard binder style photo albums that I'm currently eliminating from my home). I use Mixbook for everything: all of my travel adventures, my family photo albums, and other projects too, like educational books for my kids, recipe books, etc. It is a very handy program and fun to use. (No, I don't work for Mixbook, but at the rate I buy them, they really should be giving me massive discounts...)

The cover of my Iceland Mixbook photo album.

For all the wonderful people who signed up for my session (Hi! Thanks!) here is the Mixbook Tutorial that we are using for the session. It is password protected so that means you actually have to come to the session and see me to get it. (For my blog readers, I might open it up after the sessions are over so you can try your hand at Mixbooking as well.)

Have fun, and happy memory making!