Follow Daria Salamon's Blog By RSS and Email
Follow by RSS feed
OR

follow by email to have Daria's blog updates delivered to your inbox:

Blog Categories
Search This Site
Daria Salamon
Wednesday
Apr222015

How The Heck Do You Pull Off Off A Gap Year of Travel?

 The way I see it, we’re banking experiences. At the end of the day, my happiness is defined by what I’ve seen and done and how those experiences have shaped me, not by the kind of car I drive or the type of countertops I cut my carrots on.



If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question, I’d be able to fund this trip! The ability to pull off a gap year can be pared down to a few key things: values, discipline and risk.

 

Values

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes me happy. My most fulfilling memories and moments in life can always be traced back to people and places. I feel most alive when I’m on some new adventure!

A yearlong trip with my family is something that has been on my brain for a very long time. It is not a whim; it’s a dream, it’s what I value.

Most of my choices over the past few years have been informed by this goal.  I don’t have some bottomless pit of cash so I make decisions that are always driven by that dream. Were there times I wanted to trade in my 10-year-old car for something newer? Did I want to reno my bathroom? Would I like to not get mocked about not having an iPone 13 -- or whatever number they’re at now? Yes, yes and yes! But I’d always ask myself, would these things in any way get me closer to my goal of traveling around the world for a year.  Ten, twenty, forty years from now will a new car or the experiences of a year spent traveling be of more value to me?

Isla and Oskar playing in the surf at sunset with all of the friends they'd made - locals and travellers.

A few years ago we had a lake front cottage lot. We were about to develop the property when my husband said to me, “You know this means our time, energy and money go into this cabin. Travel is on hold for a while.” My heart sunk.

It was a difficult and heartbreaking decision to hand back that property. But nine years later I’ve hiked 11 National Parks from Yellowstone to Yosemite, visited vineyards on Vancouver Island, camped on Cape Breton Island, wandered the streets of Chicago and San Francisco, swam with dolphins, walked with penguins, cruised through Milford Sound, tramped around Costa Rica and Africa…you get the  idea.

Presently, I’m spending the year traveling around the world, writing this blog under the billowing clouds of the South Pacific.

 

"The Trench" - a phenomenal swimming hole in Samoa

Whatever you value most in life, whether it’s a cottage, technology, cars, amassing money, sports or family, – it should become the priority and be the foundation and drive of all your choices.

 

Discipline & Budget.

I’ll be the first to admit, I pretty much suck at self-discipline and budget – so having this trip as a goal has been really good, if a little annoying, for me. 

I get the impression that some people think we’re on some kind of yearlong all- inclusive vacation. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Obviously, the discipline comes when saving for the trip – but it also happens ON the trip too. 

I’ve posted lots of lovely pictures on Instagram,  – but if you look really carefully at the pictures you’ll start to notice that the things we are doing are usually free –not the byproduct of some overpriced tour. Think wildlife watching – seals, penguins, albatross and dolphins, think tramping in rainforests, think swimming in the sea. You will see tents and campsites, rivers, mountains and rustic huts on the ocean. You won’t see expensive boat excursions, swim up bars, bungee jumping, or even lattes in my hand – okay, well, maybe once in a while.

We are on a clear budget – one that I find hard to maintain, one that I’m constantly reminded of by my 8 year old who has been charged with the responsibility of tracking via an iPad app. But it’s more or less working. Unless you are completely loaded, there is no other way to do a trip like this. (Maybe hit up Disneyland or a 4 star all-inclusive for a few weeks instead.)

 

A typical fale in Samoa. Rustic, but the view of the ocean and stars cannot be beat!

 In New Zealand we mostly rocked our tent in state campgrounds along with the odd lodge or B&B; in Samoa and Fiji we’re staying in fales and bures --which are basic huts on the beach.  It is not feasible for anyone, other than Richard Branson, to stay in hotels for an entire year, and quite frankly, who would want to? Kind of boring!

We say no to our kids a lot. We’d be back home after a month if we indulged every go kart ride and chocolate factory tour they come across, the same way we’d be back home if I toured every winery I saw.

Although, we do splurge for the occasional treat – like luging down a mountain in Queenstown, or riding up to the top of the Sky Tower.   Last week, when no one was looking I stole the VISA and booked us into a resort in Samoa for a few nights. I filled up on wine and real coffee (rather than the instant crap they seem to be peddling in all the places we stay)! I hoarded fancy soaps.

 

The kids yucked it up in the infinity pool.

 But I was ready to get back to the fales where we’d been meeting all sorts of interesting people and had unprecedented access to the culture.

 

Risk

Between what we have saved for the trip, renting out our home, and my husband and I both working from the road a little, our goal this year is to break even. (Other than our children’s RESP’s, we won’t be socking a lot of money away this year.)

I’ve met many, many people on the road. But, interestingly, they are often either in their twenties or retired. You don’t meet a lot of people midlife who have decided to pick up and go traveling – especially long term.

Forties are supposed to be your big “earning” years and you’re supposed to be banking money according to the way our society is set up. And then you are supposed to travel when you retire. But the benefit of traveling now is that our mobility and strong sense of adventure has allowed us to see and do many bucket list things; we have been able to pull our children out of the daily routine of life to show them the world.

The way I see it, we’re banking experiences. At the end of the day, my happiness is defined by what I’ve seen and done and how those experiences have shaped me, not by the kind of car I drive or the type of countertops I cut my carrots on.

If we buy a car or a house, or, um, a new pair of full price Fly boots, no one (other than my husband) asks, “hey, how’d you pay for that?” because it’s perfectly acceptable in our world to spend money on material stuff. It’s what our world values.

I think sometimes in life we can get sidetracked, spending time, money and energy on things that aren’t connected to our values.

 
I know of a guy who spent years biking around the world and people would always ask him how he could afford his lifestyle. His response: How do you afford your lifestyle?

So, when people ask me “how can you afford to take a gap year?” I think to myself, how can I afford not to take a gap year?

Wednesday
Apr012015

The Hitches of a Life On the Road

Waterfalls, national parks, beaches, dolphins, glow worms. Mt. Doom Blah. Blah. Blah.

I’ve been posting on InstagramFacebook and Twitter etc. about how great this whole Gap Year adventure has been. But who wants to read about that, right?

What you really want to hear about are the unsavory aspects of picking up and taking life on the road for a year.  Time to offset the amazing adventure with some of the hitches.


      
 

This post is not for the weary or those easily grossed out!

  • I have been washing my underwear in some pretty sketchy places – think art gallery bathrooms and rivers. And yet, there are days when, I swear, you could still get a sourdough starter ball going in my underwear.  I miss my BOSCH washer and dryer. I miss watching Rob using the BOSCH washer and dryer to wash my underwear.

 World of Wearable Art Museum has great displays and bathroom sinks where you can wash your gitch. 

  • There is a smell on my body that, no matter how clean I, or my laundry, are, it never seems to go away. It’s just the peril of the kind of traveling we’re doing. We’re hiking into some pretty remote areas. (The most pristine places on earth are usually only accessible by foot; the second you install a car park somewhere, the beauty gets ruined by drive thru tourism.) This means there are no granite bathrooms with rainwater showers and lemon-ginger soap. If you’re lucky there’s a waterfall or stream you can jump into, otherwise it’s another sponge bath with a pack of baby wipes.

 

  • Our rental car (which we’ve had for the two months we’ve spent in New Zealand) doubles as a laundromat, grocery store, fridge, change room and basement.  We are thinking of holding a garage sale in our car before we leave on Saturday to get rid of all the shit we’ve somehow accumulated. Coffee plungers, duvets, stuffies, books.

 

  • On the topic of the rental car, we are also subjected to nauseating pop hits during all day car rides because our 5 year old deems herself to be an up and coming Taylor Swift. If you try and change the station when you think she’s sleeping, her head bolts upright and she calls you a dirty dumpster ditch mama for daring to deprive her of a One Republic song.

 

  • DECISION OVERLOAD. This is an actual, serious condition. We have to make a dizzying amount of decisions every single day. I used to just have to decide whether I had time to stop for a flat white on my way to work. Which swimming lessons do I enroll the kids in?  Do I feel like a Pinot or a Malbec tonight?  These days it seems like we’ve been faced with 600 fairly important choices – before it’s even lunch. Which route do we take? Where are we staying? How do we fix the Thermarest? Is that in the budget? Do we need a VISA to get into the next country? What? I was supposed to get the VISAS?  Where the f*%k are the swimsuits? How do I get this smell off me?  

  The kids really wanted to go to a waterslide park they found in the guide book. (Note to self: don’t let the little buggers ever get hold of the guide book). Alas, we indulged them because they’ve indulged us and done a LOT of hiking.  They’d rather eat the sourdough in my underwear than do another hike.

 When we got to the water park entrance it turned out it was a water park and an amusement park.  The amusement rides doubled the price and our time spent there. Of course, kids being kids, they wanted  to do both. Time-wise, budget-wise we hadn’t planned for it. How much more is it? When are you open  until? Can Shorty Pants Isla even get on half of these rides? 

 I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.  

  The woman at the desk looked at me curiously.

I’m sorry, we’re on this trek around the world, and we have to make so many choices every single day. I’ve hit a wall. I’m sorry. I just don’t know

 I. Just. Can’t. Make. Another. Decision. I looked at her helplessly, while the kids tugged and pleaded at my arms.

  She then handed me four full-access wristbands to the entire park –all for half price.

Have fun, she said.

Turns out she took pity on me and gave us her staff discount. It wasn’t the money— we’ve budgeted for things like this; but we are on the road for a year, so it was having to decide, on the spot, with a huge line of people forming behind me, if we deemed this to be one of the “treat” days.  It is exhausting and daunting to be constantly hit with so many choices on an daily basis.

 

  • So far, from what I can tell, there seem to be no pedicures on this trip? Or estheticians.  (Don’t even get me started on the kinds of places I’ve had to perform self-waxing services. The WOW bathroom stalls were too small.) I can’t tell you how forward I am looking to Southeast Asia – aka – land of cheap massages and piranha pedicures. Sign me up.
  • There is no longer such a thing as “me time”. There is no hockey, or ballet or swimming lessons or 8-hour school day. We are the extra-curricular activities, the education system, the parents, the enforcers, the playmates. It is pretty much game on 24/7.  When the kids go to bed Rob and I get some time to hang out and have a drink which involves planning the next leg of the trip-- also known as what the hell are we doing tomorrow and complain about our kids.  I rarely get moments “alone” inside my head – which some may argue is a good thing. I skulked out of the tent at 5 am just to write this blog post.

Kids doing a little road schooling. Not a bad classroom!

  • I miss my dishwasher, coffee maker, stove, and supply of wine so much that I’m thinking about sending them postcards. 

My kitchen back home that I miss dearly!

  • We have had to work out of the most interesting make-shift kitchens – some have been quaint, outdoor, shared affairs. Other times it’s been two milk crates upholding a piece of particle board where our portable gas burner precariously balances. 

We might be cooking the world’s freshest fish in a torrential downpour, with no shelter. Living out of a cooler, or chilly as they are called here, really loses its appeal after a while! Our cheese and lamb inevitably tastes like cooler water.

 

  • I really miss family and friends. If you’re reading this right now, I am probably talking about you.  It’s that simple.  I’m steeped in adventure, but missing people. But ultimately, I’m lucky enough to have both.

 

  • The views and the constellations have been spectacular, but after two months I am sick to death of living out of a tent. Thank goodness we abandon the nylon hotel and head to the South Pacific in a few days, because if we didn't I would have taken Oskar's scissors and cut it into 600 pieces. Out of the past 60 days, 50 have been spent in a tent and only 10 in lodges and B&Bs. Everytime we drive past a hotel, Oskar longlingly points out the vacancy signs. It's very cute and sad all at the same time. That said, this has been a pretty stellar way to experience gorgeous New Zealand. 

 

The view from the tent, prior to me cutting it up. 

So, a gap year and a trip around the world is a inspiring, life-changing thing to do. I wouldn’t exchange this experience for anything! But, holy shit, it does not come without challenges and sacrifices. I’ve only touched on a few because my daughter is now awake and she’s just drawn a clown mouth on herself with a sharpie marker. Time to kick off another day of adventure. Rock on.

 

DREAMS DON'T WORK UNLESS YOU DO. 

Tuesday
Mar102015

The GAP Year & The Big FEAR


Before I left on this adventure, all I could see was what we were sacrificing. I had yet to see and understand the multitude of experiences we would be gaining.

 


Leaping into the Tasman Sea, first week on the road. 

One Month Ago.

 

“What do you mean you sold the car?” I stare at Rob in disbelief.

“You said to put it on Kijiji?” he replies.

“I didn’t think someone would actually buy it!”

“Well, that’s kind of how Kijiji works.”

This was yet another step in purging our conventional life and preparing for a year on the road.

A woman pulls up in front of our house. As Rob goes out to meet her I call after him, ”Tell her it’s a good car! It was my first new car. Tell her we drove to the West Coast on our honeymoon in that car. We drove to the hospital in that car to give birth to two kids!”

“Yeah, okay, I’m not telling her that. She doesn’t care.”

“She has to care. She has to take care of the car. I love that car!”

“Do you want to sell the Civic or not?”

“Yes, of course I want to sell the car. We have to. It can’t sit here for a year.”

 

I watch through the window as Rob talks to the woman. I can’t take it. I go outside, tears streaming down my face.

“Are you sure you want to buy this car?” I ask. The woman holds up the money as way of response. I turn to my Honda, openly weeping and address it, “I love you. I’m sorry for selling you. It’s not personal.” I stroke the hood lovingly. “You’ve been such a good car.”  The woman shifts awkwardly beside me. I have officially turned into a Kijiji crazy person.

The next evening, the night before we fly away, it’s a similar story as I had over the keys to our house that we’ve rented out. I love my home and yet I’m handing the keys over to a total stranger. I’m about to say something to him, but I know if I do I’m a goner, I’ll be opening floodgates I will never be able to close. (Besides, I’ve left 12 pages of typed House Notes on the counter - like they’ll give a shit about my prized hydrangeas.)

I turn and walk away, a lump the size of Lake Winnipeg in my throat.

What the hell are we doing? Have I lost my mind? Our house had been a revolving Kijiji door for months as we purged things we don’t use or need anymore. The car is gone, the house is rented. I’ve taken a leave from my job. The kids have been pulled out of school. Saying goodbye to family was still to come.

I felt like I suddenly had no roots and even if we wanted to change our minds about this whole Gap Year business, we couldn’t. I couldn’t help thinking we were making a colossal mistake.

We were trading in all of our security and things we’d spent a lifetime accumulating for a year on the road. This is simply crazy. In planning the year, I’d only ever focused on the romanticism and adventure of it all, now the reality was kicking me in the gut – hard.

Today…

So it’s been one month on the road.  Here are just a few things we’ve experienced on our first stop in New Zealand:

  • hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • swam with jellyfish that don’t sting - and had a jellyfish fight!
  • boated through caves lit by glow worms
  • surfed in the Tasman Sea
  • dug and soaked in thermal pools at Hot Water Beach
  • hiked up to the base of a glacier
  • cruised through Milford Sound
  • tramped through rainforests
  • watched a wild New Zealand bird eat bugs off our shoes
  • pitched and lived in a tent for weeks amidst the Lord of the Rings mountains
  • luged down a mountain in Queenstown

 

 Boating through the glow worm caves

Seeing my kids’ wonder and amazement at so many things has been unparalleled. The amount of decisions we have to make on a daily basis is dizzying. Abandoning the tiresome daily routine has been especially refreshing. I’ve also really started thinking about what I value and what’s truly important in life. People and places. Not things. The trip hasn’t been without challenges (stay tuned for that post), but I can earnestly say best decision ever.

Before I left on this adventure, all I could see was what we were sacrificing. I had yet to see and understand the multitude of experiences we would be gaining.

Bailing out of conventional life is difficult. My car, house, job, kids’ school – these things are serious security that we spend a lifetime building up, things that we are conditioned to protect.

Is selling the car and leaving our house for a year worth it? Hell, yeah! And we still have 11 months to go.

The GAP YEAR should become mandatory. And the government should subsidize it.

 

Oskar (8), Isla Blue (5) Rob and Daria (ages undisclosed) are spending the year traveling around the world. Stay tuned (or better yet subscribe to this blog) for these upcoming posts:

 

  • How the Hell Do You Really Pull Off A Year of Travel?
  • Best and Worst Day on the Road…
  • We Will Eat Our Young
  • Best of Middle Earth

 (I’m also taking Blog Post Requests. Put them into the comments below.)

 

Some sheep and some Southern Alps, New Zealand

If Blogs aren't your thing - here are other ways to find us: 

Some pretty amazing New Zealand pics on Instagram @dariasalamon 

Twitter @DariaSalamon

Facebook: DariaSalamon

Monday
Dec292014

The Sensory Deprivation Chamber: Everyone Should Try This!


I Just spent 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation chamber. “What is that?” you ask. It’s just a pitch black, saltwater coffin that you seal yourself into for an hour and a half. 

Sounds like fun to me.

As instructed by my Float Calm guide, I shower, put in ear plugs, crawl inside the pod that is filled with skin temperature water and pull the door shut.

Holy fuck! It’s pitch black in here. Darker than anything I’ve ever experienced. (Well, other than that bat cave in South Dakota.)

I am going to die in this thing is my immediate thought. I slap around at the sides of the coffin trying to find the door handle— which I can’t immediately locate. No point screaming, they said it was sound proof. Why do I suddenly feel like I'm in a Steven King novel?

I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m okay with small spaces. I can swim— not that you need to know how because there’s 800 pounds of Epsom salt in the tank so you have no choice but to float on your back.  I don’t suffer from any anxiety whatsoever.  What the hell is the problem then?

I fling open the door. There are my jeans; the world still exists. I am alive. I climb out, wipe off the stinging saltwater that I’ve managed to splash all over my eyes. I see the blue pool noodle on the shelf. Float Calm Guy mentioned that many people prop the chamber door open with a pool noodle during their first float so there is some light. I specifically remember thinking, what kind of loser needs to use a pool noodle?

The pool noodle scowls at me from the corner. Na Na Na NaNaNa.

Screw you, pool noodle. I’m no baby.

Okay. Here we go again. I give the finger to the pool noodle as I crawl back in. I pull the door shut.

Pitch black. Me vs. The Pod.

I lie there. Try to relax. For half an hour really stupid-ass thoughts have a dance party in my head.

 

 

  • It feels like I’m running out of air.
  • How much time has passed?
  • Should have had a few glasses of wine first.
  • Should have just brought the flask in here.
  • I think my earplugs are leaking.
  • Wonder how much time has passed?
  • Wow, my heart is super loud.
  • This would be crazy if you were high. Hmmm.
  • I wonder if people ever jerk off in these things?
  • Where am I again?

 

 

I read in the brochure that “floating” is supposed to be great for creativity. I think about my novel and decide to spend some quality time with my main character, Ken. I hope he doesn’t notice that I’m naked. God, I hope he’s not naked! He’s not really all that hot. I should make him more attractive.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to work out a problem with conflict in my book for weeks. As I’m floating here in the pitch black, there is nothing else distracting me, nothing else to think about, nothing else to do. I’m entirely focused. The weirdest thing happens – I start to visualize the book and hash out some possible solutions. I can usually get to this point at my computer in my office, but it takes hours.

Maybe I can use this tank as a tax write off?

I mentally work through another article that I’m writing. Whatever I tell my brain to do, it does it. That never happens!

Eventually, after a while, I just let my brain go and don’t think about anything. I arrive at that “between waking and sleeping,” state. It’s hard to describe, maybe like when you’re zoned out, but longer and more intense because no one is jabbing you in the side telling you to snap out of it because you almost rear ended the Toyota in front of you.

We’ve created this multi-tasking, frenzied world. It’s a total luxury for the mind to hang out in an uncluttered, space, abandoning a lot of the meaningless activities we're consumed with. We always seem to need to be posting, scrolling, or liking something or other. I'm liking this! 

The best part of the whole experience is when I get out.  I sit in the lobby sipping lemon ginger tea. I have mental clarity and feel emotionally calm. I often exist in an emotionally charged state, which works for me because it motivates me. But it feels kind of freeing to be neutral (by neutral we mean not screaming at my kids to stop beating the shit out of each other).

As I continue to sip my tea (I really didn’t want to face the -25 degree winter raging on outside) a girl emerges into the lobby. The receptionist asks her how it went and she says okay. He tells her the second and third floats are usually the best because it takes a few times to get used to the whole thing. She throws on her coat; she can’t get out of there fast enough.

This is going to be a different experience for everyone – depending on what’s going on in your life and your head, and how comfortable you are with unplugging and being alone with yourself. (And remember there’s no wine involved in this whole floating thing; something I hope to change).

Even though it initially freaked me out, I’m always going to be in favour of anything that can infuse a little clarity and calm into the chaos of life. My New Years resolution is to unplug, be more present and get back to the basics of life - no better way to do that than by climbing inside the saltwater coffin!

I’ll be coming back. Besides, someone needs to keep that cocky pool noodle in check.

floatcalm.com

 

Monday
Dec082014

We Photobombed Our Kids' Santa Photos

We have drawers full of boring Santa photos, so this year we decided to jump in on the action and do a little photobombing and not tell our kids.

We'll probably go on the naughty list for this. What else is new?

 

 

 

Happy Holidays!!! 

* photos courtesy of Shelmerdine, Winnipeg