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One Major Life Lesson Learned Through Travel

365 days. 9 countries. Countless experiences. Our life over the past year has been a dream fulfilled for both of us.

We can hardly believe how fast time has flown! It seems like just yesterday we were finding ways to save money, packing up and selling off our things, and getting ready to leave! If you’ve been following you know that this past year has brought us some incredibly exciting moments.

We’ve also been pretty honest about the difficulties of the travel lifestyle. It hasn’t been twelve months of sunsets, smiles and beautiful beaches, although we love posting those to our social media channels! It’s been hard work, at times stressful and uncertain, and we’ve had to learn how to navigate a completely different culture every few months while learning the ins and outs of being a digital nomad.

But would we change one second of the last year? Absolutely not! We’ve followed our dreams and are living life to the fullest and we’ve learned a heck of a lot along the way.

1 Major Lesson We’ve Learned After 1 Year of Travel

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We’ve also done and seen so much in just one year. We’ve learned to Scuba Dive in Koh Tao, fulfilled a lifelong dream of seeing elephants in Thailand up close, climbed the Great Wall, tried a boatload of amazing food, watched amazing sunsets in Thailand, spent Chinese New Year with a family in Taiwan, visited one of the world’s newest “Smart Cities”, and so many more moments we haven’t written about, during each day of the past year of travel.

And throughout it all we’ve sure learned a lot. We’ve learned about ourselves, each other, and other cultures. But there’s one major life lesson learned through travel. Something that we hope everyone learns, no matter what their life goals are or what dreams they have. It is one simple, three-word concept…ready?

The Major Life Lesson Learned Through Travel

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IT. IS. POSSIBLE.

And we don’t just mean travel or what we do, though that is also possible: If we do it, so can you. What we mean is that however you envision your dream life, chances are there are choices and steps you can make to get closer to, and even achieve, that life.

For every person we talk to who says they wish they could do something different, who wish they had a different job or lifestyle, had more vacation time or time with family or who wish they had different opportunities, we’ve met at least one other person who has made changes or choices that have led them closer to fulfilling their dreams and living a life that makes them happy.

We’re not saying everyone has equal opportunities. They don’t. But the majority of time the people who are telling us we are lucky or that they wish they could do what we do or make changes in their own life, are people who have similar opportunities as us. They’ve had a similar upbringing, similar socio-economic status, similar choices to make and are in similar places in life as we were just a short year or so ago.

We’re not trying to preach here. Instead we’re trying to inspire and motivate others, especially those who continually tell us they wish they could do what we did and follow their dreams. It. Is. Possible.

The How of It All

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How?

This is also a simple three-word concept: Make. The. Choice.

It’s really very simple when you boil it all down to the fact that it is a choice. It’s a choice between continuing on the path you’re currently following and making the choice to step off of it. It’s not always easy, you often have to work hard for the other path and it often means sacrifice and change but if you really want what that alternate path has to offer, if you’re really not happy with the road you’re walking now and believe happiness lies down another trail… Make. The. Choice.

We sacrificed, and are still sacrificing. We made huge changes to who we were, how we lived and what we had. We work harder than we’ve ever worked before but oddly enough, we are also the happiest we’ve ever been. This is the life we dreamed of and it’s the life we’re still working hard to make for ourselves. All it took was for us to make the decision to just do it and to just do it now. We had to just Make. The. Choice.

A Motto To Live By

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Through all of the decision-making and life-changing, we found a motto to live our lives by and stuck to it. This time, it’s just a simple four-word concept:

Live. Life. Without. Limits.

To us this means not putting restrictions on the dreams we have, not limiting ourselves to what we feel we “should” be doing or what society dictates as the standard and norm for our age and demographic: a 9-to-5 job, a house and mortgage, 2 weeks vacation a year, a dog and kids. Perhaps this is your dream. If it is, that’s great! But for us, it’s not the future we look to build and so we’ve chosen to seek out our own path in order to follow our dreams. We’ve decided it is possible and made the choice and now we live our lives without limits.

 

Yep, it’s been one heck of a year and we can’t wait to see what the next one has in store for us: more lessons, more memories and more dreams fulfilled.

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Exploring Phuket by Motorbike

Finding the ‘Perfect Route’ for Things To Do And See in Phuket

We’ve always said we don’t really use guide books. Sure, Lonely Planet travel guide to China was the reason we spent our first week of full-time travels in Beijing, navigating our own way to The Great Wall, but typically we opt to go with the flow, seek out local advice or ‘Google’ our way as we travel. Very rarely do we bank on published guides or books to direct our travels… until we opened up a Marco Polo guide book. We weren’t really sure what to expect when we were sent the three books for Thailand but when we received them, we were incredibly impressed, particularly by some of the unique features that we’ve yet to come across anywhere else. One of those features inspired an entire day excursion exploring Phuket by motorbike. Marco Polo guide books call it “The Perfect Route” and we couldn’t agree more!

 

Exploring Phuket by Motorbike

exploring phuket by motorbike

We started the day a little later than we had originally planned. It was our intention to wake up early and follow the “perfect route” step by step with all its suggestions for things to do and see in Phuket, which included a recommendation for a great breakfast spot, but as we woke up to a sunny Thailand sky and leisurely went through our morning routine, we decided the most perfect thing about using the guide is the fact that we are on our own time and able to customize it as we please. So, we got ourselves ready, hopped on our motorbike and headed off to one of our favourite restaurants near our hotel where we took another look at the map and the detailed guide over some cashew nut chicken and crispy pork with kale.

Around the Bay of Chalong Phuket: Big Buddha & Wat Chalong

Ao CHalong Phuket by motorbike

With our plans for exploring Phuket by motorbike already modified slightly, we set off to the first stop of the route, The Bay of Chalong.  This natural harbour brings in sailors from all over the world and when we got there, there were many yachts and boats docked. We strolled down the 700m long pier to get a good view of the bay and the boats and take in the fresh air off the water. We’d definitely recommend a stop here, especially if you can make it for breakfast at the lighthouse!

light house phuket

From there, our Marco Polo route took us up to the Big Buddha, a 45m (150ft) tall Buddha statue. There are two things of importance should you head this way. The first being that proper clothing is required, even though you are not entering a temple, and that means the ladies need to cover shoulders and legs. Not to worry though, they do provide shawls to those who don’t have and unfortunately, we weren’t prepared! Feeling like rookies, we walked up to the stand so Carolann could cover herself and shook our heads at our mistake. Since we weren’t planning on visiting a temple, we didn’t even think to bring a wrap!

Big Buddha Phuket Thailand

The second thing to note is that as of October 2015, the grounds are still undergoing some construction (tail end of a larger restoration project). Be sure to check whether the site is  open before heading out there. Though the construction didn’t ruin the experience, we imagine that a visit after completion would be much more pleasant. Construction aside, the view is absolutely incredible. The Big Buddha looks towards the Bay of Chalong and it is one heck of a view!

wat chalong phuket things to see

After making our way back down the mountain from the Big Buddha, we headed a short distance to Wat Chalong, the island’s biggest monastery. Here, we walked through the fairly large and beautiful grounds, taking in the elaborate detail on the buildings, the statues and ornamentation around the property and the peacefulness of the entire space. We even got a bit of a sound show as crackers were being set off in a large clay pot every so often.  It was a great example of the beauty of Thai religious architecture.

wat chalong golden temple thailand

Phuket Town was the next destination on the perfect route. We easily found a parking spot and hopped off to stroll along the streets. Thalang Road and the historic quarter offered quite a few shops and restaurants with a Sino-Portugeuse style. We loved the feel of the area and thought it was almost reminiscent of some parts of Penang, Malaysia – Colonial buildings and remnants of a European settlement.  We definitely feel this is one of the top things to do and see in Phuket for it’s uniqueness and history and with so many restaurants and stores, you’re guaranteed to find something to satisfy both the foodie and the shopper!

Our one tip would be to try and make it in both the day and night. We heard a night time visit means some incredible shots of the streets and buildings without all the parked cars and bikes along the curbs.

phuket town streets exploring phuket by motorbike

Since we were exploring Phuket by motorbike, more time needed to be tacked on for getting around and as we had already had a late start to the day, we decided to customize the route further – something we absolutely love about this route as we’re very much sporadic travellers so if we have some key spots to hit up and the freedom to do as we choose, we’re pretty much in exploration heaven. We skipped the northern parts which took us to some fantastic looking historical and natural sites and headed straight to the next leg of the route along the west coast.

Finding A Surprise Along the Way

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One of the reasons we love exploring by motorbike is the freedom to come and go as we please. Every time we’ve been in Thailand, we’ve made some incredible finds absolutely at random as we drove along the roads. Driving in Phuket was no different. As we cut across from east to west, we started noticing stands along the road with colourful somethings hanging on display. After the second stand we decided to stop at the next one we saw.

The warm smile that greeted us was typical of the locals we’ve met before in Thailand and after greeting her, we used hand gestures to ask whether the strings of colour in the plastic bags were something we could eat. With a nod of her head she pulled out a packaged of what looked (and ended up being) crepes and proceeded to put some of the stringy coloured bits into the centre before rolling the crepe around them. Offering it to us, we each took a bite. Delicious candy floss-like filling surrounded by semi-sweet thin crepes met our taste buds and created an explosion of flavour. We hadn’t even swallowed that first bite before we were pointing to the bag and indicating we wanted to buy some to take with us. Purchase made, we set the bag on our bike hook and waved goodbye before setting back out again.

The West Coast Beaches of Phuket

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We stopped at Nai Yang beach where we watched a moving sunset on a strip we had virtually to ourselves. A few groups of people tossing a Frisbee, some couples walking along the shore and a few families enjoying the last rays of sunlight were the only others present with us to enjoy the light and colour display as it slowly faded below the horizon. Quietly and reflectively, we continued down the coast to an equally quiet Nai Thon beach. Here we saw food stalls and stands and grabbed some fresh fruit juice.

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By the time we got to the next stop, Surin Beach, we were pretty hungry. With all the open-air restaurants overlooking the beach, we would have had a hard time deciding which one to eat at, especially since our mutual indecisiveness tends to peak when we’re hungry. Fortunately, Marco Polo guides provide lots of insider tips and suggestions.

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We chose to go with the one already listed on the perfect route and try the Catch Beach Club for dinner. After talking about not being able to find many good sushi restaurants in Thailand (though we did find one amazing Japanese restaurant in Koh Samui), we found the Catch Beach Club had absolutely delicious sushi! Added to that, the restaurant had a great, chic atmosphere, a wonderful view of the beach and some nighttime fire entertainment.

Patong – Should You Stay or Should You Go?

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Finally, incredibly satisfied and with our bellies full, we made it to the last stop along the route – Patong Beach. Though Patong is often a divisive location, with some people who love it and others who would never return, we found it one of the top things to do in Phuket, pretty much for that very reason. We wanted to see for ourselves what it was like and what we found was an experience outside of the rest of our travels in Thailand and a great evening overall.

 

We walked down the pedestrian street in Patong and discovered why some people would choose to never come back: crowds of people, busy bars and clubs, handouts for ping pong shows frequently flashed in front of you and all the vice one thinks of travel to Thailand. For us, it was not the Thailand we’ve come to know and love but it is definitely part of the Thailand that draws many people there each year. It was something we were glad to have seen but equally glad to have left behind. Walking away from the pedestrian street was calmer and we found a quaint and friendly cafe to rest for a while and enjoy some milk tea and coffee. Patong may not be for everyone but was a great stop while exploring Phuket by motorbike.

Take Your Time While Exploring Phuket by Motorbike

While the guide gave the suggestion of 2.5 hours driving time and 1 day of exploring, our style of taking photos and videos and generally taking our time would probably make this route best broken up over two days. We were also on motorbike which we knew would slow us down a bit!

If you’re heading to Thailand and looking for some great things to do and see in Phuket or are thinking of exploring Phuket by motorbike, the “Perfect Route” really offers a great taste of all the island has to offer with some amazing tips and suggestions along the way. Take our revised route or the full thing via the guide, it’s really up to you!

 

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Toronto Christmas Market – A Distillery District Winter Wonderland

Toronto Christmas Market – One Of The Top Things to Do in Toronto in the Winter

The holiday season is synonymous with tradition. No matter what you believe in or what holiday you celebrate, for most of us it is a time for family and kindness, reflection and warm wishes. For us, we are immersed in traditions we’ve developed with family, friends and each other. One tradition that we started during the first few months we were dating is a visit to the Toronto Christmas Market.

While there are many things to do in the Distillery District year round, the Toronto Christmas Market is definitely one of the top things to do in Toronto in the winter and always one of our favourites. If you’re visiting Toronto, or are already in the area and looking for something to do as the weather turns colder, here’s what you can expect to find when visiting the Toronto Christmas Market.

Street Vendors & Shops

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The streets at the market are lined with European-style wood cabins selling a variety of different products for purchase by the people strolling by them.

Christmas market Toronto 2015

You’ll find chocolate, stuffed animals, Christmas decorations, jams and other goods, meats and breads, handicrafts and knit products, and so much more.  Each year the local artisans, entrepreneurs and businesses set up shop and impress us with what they have to offer.

Toronto Christmas Market ornaments

Not only can you purchase goods at one of the many cabins, the shops that are permanent residents of the distillery district are open as well and offer not only an added variety of goods to peruse, but an escape from the cold when needed!

Food & Drink

Eating chimney stax at the Toronto Christmas Market

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The highlight of our travels usually comes down to our culinary experience and our visits to the Toronto Christmas Market are no exception. Schnitzel and sausages, poutine and sandwiches, fudge and donuts, hot chocolate and Gluhwein (mulled wine) and various other tasty treats are available for purchase throughout the market at the stalls that are set up. Added to that, the local shops also include cafes and restaurants where you can find some more amazing food and drink as you explore the market.

Chimney stax toronto christmas market

Chimney Stax Toronto chimney stax baking co toronto christmas market

 

 

 

This year, we were excited to see one of the Toronto food trucks represented at one of the cabins. Chimney Stax Baking Co. is a food truck we’ve been trying to hunt down so when we heard it would be at the Christmas Market, we bee-lined it to the stand to purchase one of their amazing looking treats – cylindrical baked dough rolled in a variety of toppings and filled with a variety of options. We went for the one just rolled in sugar and were left speechless over just how good it was. We will definitely be hunting this truck down again to try more of the flavours available.

Activities and Entertainment

Toronto Christmas Market

The decorations and lights create such a festive and enchanting atmosphere and the activities and entertainment throughout the weeks of the Toronto Christmas Market only add to the holiday cheer. Carolers and dancers on stage, rides for the children, a 50+ foot Christmas tree, Santa Claus and Rudolph, and regular contests, events and holiday fun can be found throughout the weeks of the Toronto Christmas Market.

Toronto Christmas market crowds

There’s always something different going on so it’s good to check the schedule and see what’s happening. We happened to visit this year on ‘Red Nose Weekend’ which meant we got a red nose and got to see Rudolph roaming around the market!

A Festive Atmosphere

Toronto Christmas market sign  TOronto CHristmas Market santa

As we approach the entrance and look up at the lit sign that reads “Toronto Christmas Market” we always feel a small rush of excitement. The warmth of familiarity washes over us. This is our home. This is something that is rooted much deeper than a superficial glance or fleeting moment. It is tied to strong memories of good times and emotional connections with loved ones. Each year that we walk the brick-paved streets of the Distillery District in Toronto, we marvel at the transformation that has taken place to turn this area into a magical Christmas wonderland.

Toronto Christmas Market Snowman

With the sounds of Christmas carols and laughter in the background, we inevitably grab some hot chocolate to warm ourselves from the cold and usually find something ridiculously delicious to eat from one of the vendors. We stroll along the streets, enjoying the activities and holiday spirit and relish the time we have to soak up the warmth of the festive atmosphere. At the Toronto Christmas Market, we forget the hustle and bustle of the city streets beyond and find some time to really enjoy the holiday season

Getting There and More Information

Toronto Christmas market 2015

Hours & Admission:

Toronto Christmas Market 2016 runs Nov 18 – Dec 22.

Open Tuesday to Thursdays, 12pm – 9pm – FREE Admission

Open Fridays, 12pm – 10pm – FREE Admission before 5:00pm

Open Saturdays (10am – 10pm) and Sundays (10am – 9pm) – Cost: $6.00

Mondays: CLOSED

 

Getting There

The Toronto Christmas Market provides detailed directions, parking options and methods of transportation

 

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What to do and see at the Toronto Christmas Market pinToronto Christmas Market 2016 pin