The Closing Blog

The GK Adventurers return

Hello! We're home.

It is now 3 plus months since we have been back in our lives in Toronto so I figure it’s a good time to check in and check out.

The trip is really a 2 or even 3 year event, not just one. All the preparation and planning, the trip and now, coming back. It turns out that the coming back part of the trip is the one that I am the least prepared for. There are no lists or plans to make, no places to go, no anticipation of anything.

Though this “coming back” phase is the hardest for me, in some ways I think it might also be the most valuable. If I can somehow distill what I have seen and done, figure out what I learned about myself, my people and the world, and then try to understand how that impacts me back in my old/new life then maybe I can find the gold. Requires the thinking, not so much the doing.

The GK Adventurers leaving.


So here goes a small dissertation on the things that have stuck with me since coming back:

Living my dreams

It probably sounds hokey but possibly the most affirming aspect of the trip was that I took the risk and fulfilled a longtime dream. It almost didn’t happen. Not only was it incredibly positive to remind myself that anything is possible, but the kids got to see that too. I have to keep doing this. The question remains at the moment: what is next?

Living in the moment

My friend Linda also recently returned from a sabbatical and likened being away as living in colour and being back as living in black and white. The challenge, as she put it, is to find ways to live in colour in the day to day. This is one of the hardest things for me about coming back. I loved living in the moment. Being back, there are so many distractions! I continue to look for ways to find total in the moment living. This may have to involve climbing things, or going very fast on my bike or playing more hockey or… ?

People are good

We were so lucky to meet wonderful, interesting, kind and generous people. People were so good to us in so many different countries I knew it couldn’t be a coincidence. It was another great lesson for me and for the kids. People really are good.

Coming back was equally awesome. Friends and family seemed extra lovely, or interesting, or funny, or beautiful in ways I hadn’t seen or noticed in so long it was like I was seeing them all for the first time. I was in love with everyone.

So in coming back, I try harder to say hi to people I don’t know, strike up conversations with random strangers and otherwise just be in the world in an authentic, human way. It’s fun.

Education for everyone

I really noticed, especially after we left Europe, how critical a human right it is to have an education. If you cannot read and write you simply cannot participate fully in society. Seems obvious but seeing the lived (and sad) examples of this in so many different parts of the world made it very real for me (again).

In some ways this one is a reminder to return to my own roots and values since literacy of one kind or another has always been with me. I think a volunteer posting is in my 20-year plan (I know, 20 years! It will take me awhile to recover from this trip and I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep). Maybe I will find something sooner. It was good to be reminded of this.

The End

Back in September when I was still post-trip shiny and new and bubbly I wrote on the blog:

“… I am zowie-pop-kerbang high. I wish I could bottle it and take little sips over the next year.”

I have no bottle of post-trip zen juice but I will continue to look for it in my dreams, being in the moment, meeting people old and new and in my work. If I look, I am sure I will find it.

Over and out,


P.S. Pete and the kids and I want to thank everyone one more time for supporting us, following us and being so enthusiastic about our adventure!


been to school

school is great! i had a horrible first day of school but it was great to see my friends and i am really exited to be back home. i am starting to get used to the schedule of middle school and i have made some new friends.

The Ending, and a Beginning

Well, this is it… the last night of my sabbatical year.

Celebrating the end of sabbatical and Hil's birthday

Tomorrow I go back to work at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Tonight I am happily exhausted from a weekend of fun and sun at Sandbanks with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. This group is the enduring legacy of the Kinder Garden and I love being with them and being reminded of how special a thing it was to build our little child care co-op. I am amazed and grateful for the friendships and good times the Garden continues to provide 11 years later.

Living my sabbatical to the last possible moment I am just home from a night out listening to live music at the Horseshoe here in Toronto. The music was so HOT! I do have to work tomorrow though so we called it an early-ish night.

People have been asking if it is weird to be back and my answer is yes, but not in a bad way. I love my life in Toronto. I have family, friends and a job with an organisation that I love. Coming back to my life here is fantastic! I am so, so lucky. But it is also weird because I see everything with a different perspective and clarity. I am worried about going back to work and the day in/day out routine getting me down.

I will post once I have been at work for awhile to officially sign off the blog and close my sabbatical year. In the meantime, the adventure continues!

Back to School – Brazil

Brazil dancing on a Lake Superior beach.

September 4th, 2010

Everyone asks me if I am excited for school. I am, sort of. I want to go back to school to see my friends and I am excited about being in middle school and doing something new. I am not excited because I’m scared about pretty much everything. I know all my fears are irrational so I am having trouble writing this. I am scared but I don’t know about what, specifically. I am looking forward to all the new things, like switching classes and art class.

I have been thinking about this moment pretty much my whole trip and I can’t believe it is actually happening. I think it is going to be OK, I just have to get it over with.

I will update this after I have actually started school again.

Back to School Esker

Esker with his cousin Bintou.

September 6th, 2010

I start middle school tomorrow! I am really excited to see all my friends and go back to school. I found that when you are in school you want to get out but when you are out of school you want to go back. I loved the trip and I know that I will have the memories of this trip forever. See everybody at school!

I will post again tomorrow once I have actually gone to school.


Abel standing tall amongst California's Redwoods.

Abel is the name that we have given our car. 1992 Toyota Camry Wagon. Bought used in 2001 with 160 000km on it. Between our trip to California and back this year, plus all the back and forths to Oakhill over the decade, we have managed to list Abel’s odometre at 368 000km! What an achievement.

Oh, poor Abel. Not quite as agile as Victoire von Scenic, our dubbed French Renault car that we rented last fall in Europe. Abel is the slow, smelly, methodical soldier marching through those mountain passes in BC and across the Prairies without too many complaints spare the loud rumbling from it’s belly and the modest thirst for motor oil. Victoire, the diesel burning speedster that would cover 1200 highway km’s on a full tank of fuel. 550Kms is all Abel can give on a full tank… well, we can’t fill Abel all the way to the top…

Crossing the Kootenay Pass was Abel's toughest test.

Victoire, with Mp3 hookups, air conditioning, cruise control, storage departments; Abel with loads of storage… the radio did work, the air conditioning did work, the cruise control did… you get the point.

In January we picked up Abel in Toronto and drove to California, driving along the famous Chicago to LA road. Interstate highway system has replaced the slower, more urban Route 66 but we got to drive by all the towns and cities that were made famous by the song. Abel preformed marvelously on the 4400km journey. Overheating from a worn radiator cap slowed us down in Kingman, Arizona, but only for a few hours of our 4.5 day journey. It took French photo radar to slow Victoire down, but that was only to keep us under the posted speed limit of 130kph!

Rescuing Abel from 5 months of LA storage.

Stored under the hot sun in Los Angeles for 4.5 months rusted out Abel’s power steering coil which was inexpensively jerryrigged with the help of a couple hose clamps and some high pressure rubber hose. “How many km’s is the drive back to Toronto for you?” asked the nifty mechanic around the corner from MacDuff’s house in LA. “Oh, likely Ten thousand” said I. “Hmm, I think it will do 10 000”, was his reply.

Day 01 out of LA, packed to the rafters.

On the second day of trip out of LA we were forced to stop and buy a Thule for the roof of Abel. We managed to get all of our stuff into the car (lots of added bagage from our 5 month tour of Brasil and Honduras) but if we were planning to eat during the upcoming 8 week camping trip, we were going to need more space in the car. At the present, there was an impervious wall between the kids in the back seat! Thus, Abel was burdened with the somewhat aerodynamic rooftop load of the Thule. Victoire, hiding all our cargo under the hatchback flap and amongst the sliding storage compartments that were under every seat.

Sadly, we are in the market to buy a new car and will have to replace Abel. Currently, Abel is sporting new tires (a discovered alignment problem last week in Peterborough had Abel’s front tires down to the steel belts!), a fancy roof rack (courtessy of the Thule) and ½ a tank of gas. At $0.99 a litre for gas, I’m taking any offers above $50!

Thanks Abel, from all the GK’s.

Home Again – Ottawa

Cousins: Cleo, Bintou, Brazil, Simon, Esker + Cullen at Martha's house in Ottawa.

Ottawa is my home town so coming back here sometimes makes me feel like a naughty teenager. As you may imagine, this is good and bad, depending on your view of things. In this case, I spent my first weekend suffering from inertia. I wanted to go back to bed with a good book. Given I have been on vacation for a year that seemed just wrong. The worst part was that the lovely filter through which I have been viewing the world since my trip started to slide. The filter gives me a fresh, sharp, in the moment and very chilled out perspective. I love the filter and fear that it may not last too long.

The 10 days we spent in Ottawa were filled with love and lots of cooking. It was a (mostly) joyous procession of family, friends and COUSINS (not mine, the kids). My step-mum Martha’s house and yard (BLESS HER!) were filled with kids playing all kinds of wild games that I knew nothing about. I cooked and visited, and cooked more.

The grand finale of our visit was my mum’s 70th birthday weekend. I am very pleased to report that at 70 my mum is better than ever: so happy, healthy and beautiful. She does have a rather serious photography habit but as habits go, it could be worse. It was delightful to meet her newer photography friends and her older (not old!) friends I grew up with.

Seeing people again is incredibly refreshing. Add in the travel zen filter thingy I mentioned earlier and I am zowie-pop-kerbang high. I wish I could bottle it and take little sips over the next year.