Travel Writing

Why I Travel


“Why would anyone leave Cape Breton?”

My ninth grade English teacher tilted his head and stared at me. In his hand, he held the books I would need to continue my studies while my family and I went on a voyage to the Caribbean on our 35-foot sailboat.

I didn’t know how to respond to him. The sailing trip was my parents’ idea, so it wasn’t like I had much say in whether we left or not.

I don’t remember how I responded, but he did hand over the books and my family and I sailed away from Cape Breton.

Why wouldn’t we leave Cape Breton? As much as it was hard to leave school behind (I was a weird kid and liked school), I wanted to go.

I grew up in a family where, even if we didn’t travel much in the sense of going to foreign countries (until we went sailing), we were always going somewhere. Every weekend we went hiking or cross-country skiing. Later, when Dad became passionate about sailing, we would go on sailing trips. This culminated in our voyage to the Caribbean. We sold our house, car and everything that wouldn’t fit on a 35-foot sailboat and took off for almost two years.

Why travel?

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Photo Essays

Photo Essay: Pan Am Games in Toronto

The 17th Pan Am Games wrapped up last night here in Toronto and it was an unexpected success.

There was lots of complaining before the Games began – complaints about the cost, complaints about the HOV lanes and traffic chaos, hotels weren’t getting the room bookings they expected, etc. But complaining is a favourite Toronto pastime – we like to complain about the weather, traffic, transit, taxes, city services, politicians – you name it, we Torontonians like to grouse about it.

And we were all wrong. The Opening Ceremony and fireworks off the CN Tower was a stunning success and, the next day Canadian athletes starting winning medals – a record-setting 217 medals with 78 Gold medals. Canadian athletes didn’t just show up, they showed up to win.

I only attended one event, the final in the Women’s 10 metre synchronized diving event and the final in the Men’s 3m synchro diving event. I watched the Canadian women take Gold and the Canadian men take Silver. I was thrilled to be in the stands with thousands of other spectators, many waving Canadian flags.

The diving and swimming events were at the new Aquatic Centre at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, which is a bit of a hike from my home in downtown Toronto. However, my ticket gave me free TTC fare and everything was very well-organized. There were signs and special announcements in all the stations, along with a small army of Information Guides in blue smocks. Even the police officers directing traffic were cheerful.

The Games ended with an extraordinary fireworks display off the CN Tower. I managed to capture at least a couple of good shots; a personal victory for me as shooting fireworks is actually pretty hard.

Now everyone in Toronto is recovering and resting up because the party starts up again in just under two weeks when the Parapan Am Games begins on August 7.

(Click the above image to view a slide show.)

Armchair Traveller

Sail Away With Me – 5 Memoirs About Sailing Trips


When I was 14 years old, my family sold everything and the four of us (Mom, Dad and my sister Jennifer) moved aboard a 35 foot sailboat. We left Nova Scotia in November 1986 and the impending winter weather chased us down the east coast of the United States. We spent six months cruising the outer island of the Bahamas – the travel brochures don’t lie, it really is that beautiful – before wintering in Florida and then returning to Canada.

That was a basic account of our journey, but of course the trip was so much more. I left as a child and returned as a young adult. Through challenges and hardships, I gained strength and independence that has served me throughout my life. But the trip, was also very hard on my family and the fractures that formed during that time have yet to fully heal.

As I was trying to figure out how to tell my story, I sought out memoirs about sailing trips to see how other authors handled their stories. The best stories convey the personal voyage and the actually sailing trip is the itinerary. Here are five of my favourite sailing memoirs.

Sailing Alone Around the World – Joshua Slocum
Sailing Alone Around the World - Joshua SlocumIn April 1985, Joshua Slocum set sail in a small wooden sloop named Spray and, over the course of three years, sailed alone around the world, becoming the first man to succeed at this feat. It is especially remarkable, as there was no Panama Canal, and Slocum avoided the Suez Canal, making a voyage around the world longer than it is today. Slocum was able to visit islands and areas that had never seen foreigners before and in our super-connected world, this makes me feel rather nostalgic. At the same time, there is an aspect of the timelessness about Slocum’s story. Despite GPS and other technologies, sailing the world’s oceans is just as dangerous and challenging as it has always been.

An Embarrassment of Mangoes – Ann Vanderhoof

An Embarrassment of Mangoes - Ann VanderhoofIn the mid-90s, Ann and her husband Steve rented out their house in Toronto, moved aboard their 42-foot sailboat and spent two years sailing throughout the Caribbean. Ann is passionate about food, so their voyage was as much discovering new tastes and dishes, as it was about exploring the islands. Each chapter ends with a selection of recipes featuring Caribbean ingredients, including fish, coconut and nutmeg. This made me feel a little wistful, as my sailing adventure wasn’t so culinary. While we did enjoy fresh lobster, grouper, pineapple and mangoes, my mother hates to cook and didn’t enjoy the challenge of trying to prepare a meal on the two burner stove in our galley. My father also preferred meat and potatoes, so there’s that.

Love With A Chance of Drowning – Torre DeRoche

DeRocheAt the opening of this memoir, Torre DeRoche is an Australian woman living in San Francisco when she falls in love with a man who just happens to have a small sailboat and a dream of going sailing. Rather than lose the love of her life, she goes with him on a voyage through the south Pacific. She is not a natural sailor and spends most of their open ocean sailing severally seasick. Sailing for weeks at a time across the open ocean is hard and Torre doesn’t sugarcoat the strain this puts on the boat and her relationship with her boyfriend. Fortunately, their love stays afloat and the voyage comes to a happy ending.

My Old Man and the Sea – David and Daniel Hays

HaysIn the early 80s, this father and son team built a small wooden sailboat and sailed around Cape Horn (the southern tip of South America). Along the way they stopped in the Galapagos and the Falkland Islands, but their story is more about resilience and strength of this father-son relationship. The book is out of print, but it is very well written, so it is worth looking for it at the library or searching out a used copy.

Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meaning – Jonathan Raban

RabanI must confess I have just starting reading this book, but the writing is exceptional, so I had to include it in this list. The author sails the challenging waters of the Inside Passage from Puget Sound, Washington to Juneau, Alaska. He set out to decode the many riddles and meanings of the sea; but the sea has other ideas and Raban finds himself in more ominously personal waters.


“I am afraid of the sea. I fear the brushfire crackle of the breaking wave as it topples into foam; the inward suck of the tidal whirlpool; the loom of a big ocean swell, sinister and dark, in windless calm; the rip, the eddy, the race; the sheer abyssal depth of the water, as one floats like a trustful beetle on the surface tension.” Jonathan Raban

Have you read any sailing-related travel memoirs? If, so I’d love to hear your recommendations. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

* These are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase you’ll get a great read and Amazon will give me a bit of money. I buy all of the books I recommend and am not paid for book reviews.

Everything You Can Imagine is Real


“Everything you can imagine is real.” Pablo Picasso

I’m a sucker for an inspiring quote and a beautiful imagine for my laptop computer.

I came across this quote today and thought it was fitting, as I’m in the midst of re-establishing myself as a travel writer and photographer. If you can imagine the life you want, you can make it real. Pablo Picasso was one of the most original artists of modern times and was responsible for creating several major art styles, including Cubism. His vision was extraordinary.

Click Here to Download the Desktop Wallpaper



How to Find and Follow Your Passion


Just over three years ago, I quit my job in communications and marketing. Much to my mother’s dismay, I let go of the security of a full-time job and benefits to begin figuring out a new way to live my life.

I knew what I didn’t want – another career-track, full-time job. I’ve been laid off from full-time employment not once, not twice, but three times in a row. One minute my boss is telling me I’m a valuable member of the team and the next – poof! I’m redundant.

While I was still working full-time, and spending the equivalent of a full day a week commuting to the office, I became obsessed with this idea:

What if I could create a life I didn’t need to take a vacation from?

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