Reflections From My Year In Happiness

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In honour of the International Day of Happiness this week, I took a little time to reflect on my own Year in Happiness. It is something I thought about a lot this year. A LOT. During the never-ending self-reflection required in writing a memoir, it was unavoidable.

And there is one Lesson in Happiness that stuck out above all else: Stress & Happiness are not mutually exclusive.

Now maybe this is obvious for you, but for me, I had always equated happiness with an absence of stress, and inversely, unhappiness with the presence of stress.

I assumed you could only be happy if you were stress-free. But somehow I had found myself in the confusing state of being happy but still stressed. I was sure I was happy, but then I would wake up in the middle of the night with worries – and then I realized I was failing to recognize the difference between happiness & stress. I realized, it is actually possible to be happy, while still being stressed.

I don’t even remember what triggered this discussion with myself, I just remember at some point last year asking myself are you happy? And the answer was an unequivocal: Yes. Humph. When did that happen? Could I pinpoint a moment in time when something switched for me? It certainly was a switch, for among the reasons I left my corporate career a few years ago, Happiness was very high up on the list.

I can pinpoint the moment I realized I wasn’t happy – It was a beautiful winter’s day, sunny and crisp. I should have been enjoying my day out snowboarding but instead of my usual “Yahhooooo”s as I flew down the hill, I found myself muttering get out of the way ***hole or wrong hill buddy under my breath. I knew something had to change – when the very thing that had always brought me joy could no longer do it for me – I knew I was actually unhappy.

My Happy Place (Usually)

My Happy Place (Usually)

It was a strange realization to come to, it seemed, even to myself, that I must be happy. I had a fantastic job, a wonderful partner, great friends, no financial worries, and I was sailing along in my career but the further along I went, I was seeking out happiness with an ever greater fervour; I played soccer on a team of good friends once a week, climbed with another group of friends twice a week, did dance classes, and went on dream vacations. But it was all form. The substance just wasn’t there. I was piling on fabulousness to make up for the fact that I wasn’t leading the life I was meant to lead. But it just wasn’t working:

I had everything but felt nothing.

I normally have so many passions I can’t find time for them all but during those months I was waking up every day excited by nothing. The same week I came to my snowboard-induced revelation a colleague announced he was leaving our firm, when I asked him why he told me a story about wanting to be able to be present for his family, a story that’s details sounded much too much like my snowboard revelation.

In her book The Happiness Project (Website) Gretchen Rubin says: But doing what you love is itself the reward. And as sometimes dehumanizing as this whole starting-over on a new career path has been – I have to agree. Although I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I became happy, there is no doubt the trigger was following the path I was meant to be on.

Still Life Happiness Aides

Still Life Happiness Aides

I started thinking about this a lot when I was working in Ethiopia, because 2 years after making the decision to leave my corporate career to follow my passion for humanitarian work, somehow, out of nowhere, stress crept back into my life – and it confused the hell out of me.

This is an excerpt from my journal at the time:

On the happiness note though, I can’t say enough about how good for the soul it is to follow your dreams. Yesterday I was listening to the rain pouring down and thinking of how it’s not even dampening my spirits. Even though I just lived through month after month of downpours in Colombia and have months of downpours ahead of me here in Ethiopia still, I have never once this entire year let it dampen my spirits, I have never thought “I’m not happy”. I don’t really know when it happened, but, I’m happy. Though Happiness is not to be confused with stress. Even having found happiness months ago, I am still stressed. Maybe it takes longer to get rid of stress. That is what I am working on now.

So, when did the shift happen? How long after “following my dreams” did happiness kick in? I still don’t know the exact moment the shift happened but I know that I got happy somewhere in Colombia. I’m not sure exactly when but it was about the same time I had Coffee with Jesus (a much-needed road-trip) (Coffee With Jesus Blog Post) and really started to “get” the situation there, and felt useful in my work.

Since then I have been happy but I am far from being stress-free, maybe by the time there’s an International No-Stress Day, I’ll be stress-free.

Until then, Happy is a pretty good place to be.

Poutine = Happy Canadian

Poutine = Happy Canadian

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In Defence of the Pole (yes, that Pole)

I watched a video the other day. No, it wasn’t that kind of video, but it was that kind of Pole. And it got me thinking; how can an inanimate object, in this case, a pole, carry so much judgment? There is nothing about a pole itself that is offensive; it’s a metal pole, usually made out of steel or brass. No, it’s not the thing itself, but the context of the pole and pole dancing, that causes people to raise an eyebrow. It is something that if it weren’t for our cultural context could be as innocent as any other creative athletic endeavour, rhythmic gymnastics or even ballet – there are poles (barres) in ballet and no one is appalled by them. Why? Is a vertical pole more offensive than a horizontal one? Obviously it is nothing about the object itself, but the meaning our culture has given it – it is often even referred to as a “stripper pole”. It is the history of the pole dance that offends us, instead of the great stages of the world or paintings by famous artists that arise when we say ballet, pole-dancing traditionally conjures up scenes of seedy bars and strip-clubs for some, subjugation of women for others.

Degas Ballerinas, photo courtesy of Google Images.

Degas Ballerinas, photo courtesy of Google Images.

Comparing pole-dancing to ballet or rhythmic gymnastics? Am I mad? Well I dare you to watch this video and see if in that light, you wouldn’t afford the dancers the same respect as you would those doing any other form of dance. The video that spurred on this post was posted by a former fitness instructor of mine Tara who was such a great instructor and is so fit I figured anything sports-related she posts has to be worth checking out. It is a video of two of her friends (who train at Tantra Fitness ) competing in the 2013 Canadian Pole Fitness Championships. Their routine was an impressive feat of athleticism, equal or beyond that required of many sports. To see this routine, this video as it is, without any outside influences, there would be little question one would give it the respect they would of any sport, the athletes the respect one would for any athlete. But that’s not the way most of us on the outside of the sport see pole-dancing, is it?

I turned on a talk show last week to hear the hosts asking the question; “Is 14 too young to take pole dance lessons?” I have to admit, my initial reaction was “Yes, obviously”. I didn’t think about it again until seeing this routine, removed from cultural sexual references, an athletic and creative routine, with movements similar to many I had practiced as a young gymnast. Seeing it like this made me realize I wasn’t seeing the whole story; I was seeing pole-dancing through a cultural lens instead of seeing its potential on its own. The worst part is, years ago a younger, hipper version of myself had taken pole classes at Flirty Girl Fitness where Tara taught – and yet even having experienced the fitness required and confidence building elements, my initial reaction was still influenced by our cultural context. How could I be blind to the rest of the story? I had even been asked by strangers on more than one occasion what I did to “get my arms” – and enjoyed the surprised look on their faces when I said pole-dancing. But even then, I never considered it as a sport – not that I didn’t think it deserved to be one, the word “sport” just never crossed my mind.

The first time it occurred to me to think of pole dancing as a sport was last week when I saw Rihanna’s “Making Of” her new video “Pour-It-Up”. Now although I criticized elements of it for other reasons in an earlier post, something that struck me from that video was the athleticism of the pole-dancers, and I thought to myself “that really is athletic”.


So when Tara posted this video I thought this is something worth sharing. We all know why pole-dancing gets a bad rap but can we change that? Can we get to a point where collectively we can see it for its athleticism and artistic value? Could exchanging the term pole-dancing for pole-fitness be a starting point ( Canadian Pole Fitness Association )?

While in Vegas a couple years ago I was blown away by the performers in Cirque du Soleil’s KA, particularly by their silk work. The performers worked their way up and down long swathes of silk hanging from the ceiling, twisting and twirling up the material. Those moves are really quite similar to those done on a pole – but not for a second did I, as a member of the audience, ever think of this performance in any other way than exactly what was presented to me by the performer. Although I was already a fit person, those performers showed me how much potential our bodies have, their performance inspired me to take my own yoga and climbing practices to another level. What if pole was given the same chance to inspire, without the “pole-dancing” sub-context?

Photo courtesy of cirquedusoleil.com

Photo courtesy of cirquedusoleil.com

Aerial silk work, photo courtesy of www.aerialtissu.com

Aerial silk work, photo courtesy of http://www.aerialtissu.com

If we can start to see past our cultural lens to the sport itself, maybe we can eventually get to a point where people are not offended at the thought of teenagers taking pole dancing lessons any more than if they wanted to take circus lessons, rhythmic gymnastics lessons, or any other lessons.

Photo courtesy of dominiclacasse.com via Google images.

Photo courtesy of dominiclacasse.com via Google images.

My last post was spurred on by witnessing way too much beating-down of women by other women in the media. In it I opined on people taking derogatory terms or concepts and making them their own as a way of empowering themselves (i.e. using derogatory terms, portraying women subjugating women) and said that I found they way it has been done to be a bit short-sighted ( Ladies, can’t we get a little support? ). But this – taking pole-dancing, pushing aside whatever connotations might arise from a cultural context, taking it and embracing it in this way, making it into a sport, an art form, whatever is the most appropriate way of referring to it, as these athletes have – THIS is how it’s done. This is empowering.

Disclosure Note: KA is show in which a performer died during a 2013 performance, however as a result of a harness accident, not related to silks. I decided to include the reference to KA anyway I felt the inspiring performances of the artists themselves should not be forgotten even after this tragic accident. (See CBC News Story )

Ladies, can’t we get a little support?

Everywhere I turn lately it seems that any notion of sisterhood that may have been kicking around has been replaced by criticism. Gone are the days where women can simply blame men for gender inequality. Don’t get me wrong I’m not letting them off the hook, I’m just saying that everywhere I turn lately I see women criticising each other with particular tunnel vision. I’ve watched friends who have been friends for years bickering and not supporting each other (if they’re even speaking). I’ve been the target of it myself this year trying to connect with friends who are at different stages of their lives alluding to my childishness for being bothered by topics that we used to bond over. And most of all, women criticising other women battles are all over the media, even in some of my usual femtastic media go-tos like “Jezebel” where I opened up this morning to read nothing but criticism for Rebel Wilson’s show that premiered last night (Rebel Wilson is Fat on Super Fun Night). Jezebel’s review gave Wilson flack for basing all the jokes around her weight as it wishes for a series that could have a bigger woman star in a series where the humour is not based on her weight – I get it, that would be preferred, but an actual human-sized woman has got herself a sitcom that she not only stars in but also co-produces – that’s got to be worth something.

Today’s media criticism of Wilson was minor compared to the amount of criticism of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In when it came out this spring, article after article, many by women, proclaimed she was blaming women by pointing out things that we do as women that hold us back in our careers. For one, I didn’t get that sense at all when I read the book, and for two – even if that were true, it was an entire opus written by an extremely successful woman full of useful pointers and real-life anecdotes – there is a lot in there to comment on besides that one aspect and further, as difficult as it is for women in the workforce – and I will add that it only seems to get more difficult the older we get – I will happily examine the possibility that I may be in some ways sabotaging myself unknowingly or take some pointers on things that I can do, for myself, to move my career along. With all the obstacles women face, I am happy to take her advice like “don’t leave before you leave” and “sit at the table” without seeing it as blame Check out her Ted Talk on “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”. Maybe it’s just easier to latch one to one aspect of a work we don’t approve of and run with that instead of acknowledging both positives and negatives in a project. Life is hard enough; do we really need to make it harder for each other? Can we just add in even a sprinkle of support with our criticisms?

I’m not saying I don’t criticize or have a negative opinion here and there, but in additional to being constructive, it carries more weight if you acknowledge the positives as well or even provide some alternatives. This is the approach taken by Sinead O’Connor in the open letter to Miley Cyrus she posted on her website today (Huffington Post Article on Letter) – and I assume from the fact that I was unable to open the website due to high-traffic this morning that this approach can garner just as much interest as a purely critical one. In her letter, O’Connor manages to point what in her opinion, is wrong with Cyrus’ current approach while at the same time acknowledging her talent. This is the kind of criticism that helps. My only suggestion to O’Connor was that she could have copied another couple young women in dire need of that letter. Aware of the risk of appearing to do exactly that which I am calling others out for, I am going to comment and hope my good intentions are understood; the others who could benefit from O’Connor’s letter today are two other incredibly talented women who although I am usually a cheerleader for, I was disturbed by their new videos this week; one was Rihanna’s new “Pour It Up”, particularly her comments in the “making of” video; “My b****s twerk on water” Super helpful. Then there was Brittany’s new video for her song entitled “Work B****” which I could barely watch for the objectification elements and was even more saddened by the suggestion today that she herself may not have been comfortable with it (Jezebel Article).

We all get the idea of trying to take a derogatory word, or concept, and making it your own as a method of empowerment, but I just see it as a bit short-sighted; the road to lasting empowerment is to reject the objectification of anyone, and the way to do that is to educate people on what’s wrong with it and rise above it, not to turn around and do it to others. Life is tough enough; can we just try and support each other?

Travel Like It’s 2012…

Although physically, I have barely left my home office this summer, I have travelled the world in my mind, re-living adventure after adventure as I write my book. I thought you might want to join me in some armchair travel so I’ve pulled out a favourite story from last summer that I’ve been re-working for an upcoming conference. Join me, let’s travel like it’s 2012…

Lake Wenche

Just Another Day in Paradise…When An AK-47 No Longer Makes You React

This was not the first time I had found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was not even the first time I had found myself face to face with an assault weapon. It was, however, the first time I realized I had to trust my own intuition above everyone else’s.

After two months working with refugees in Addis Ababa, I was in dire need of a break. What had started out as a weekend getaway had quickly turned into more than I had bargained for. My first trip into the Ethiopian countryside had turned out to be a real adventure, complete with a questionable driver, bleating goats and a couple of AK-47s. Having been out of Africa for almost a decade, it was a fitting re-introduction to the continent.

I was off on a road trip to the Negash Lodge with two new foreign friends Jana and Peter, and our Ethiopian friend, Yonas. The lodge is near Lake Wenche, a volcanic lake only a few hours outside of Addis. It was Peter’s idea to make it a “road trip”. He had lived in Ethiopia for two years and was comfortable on the roads.

But the night before our departure, Peter was having second thoughts about taking his company car on our Ethiopian road trip. It was a Toyota Forerunner and in relatively good condition for its five years but he just didn’t want to risk taking it on the mountain roads. We decided to rent a car that was guaranteed to be reliable. We all had a laugh when our reliable car arrived. It was also a Toyota, but more than twenty years old, on its last legs and in much worse condition than the car we had left behind. That was not the only surprise that morning. The other thing we didn’t know was that the car came with a mandatory driver, Birhanu.

I have run into many colourful drivers during my travels. There was Captain Red Hat, my boat captain on Lake Titicaca who vehemently denied stealing my alpaca sweater although it peaked out from underneath his coat as he stood proclaiming his innocence. Then there was my Mongolian driver who had such a fondness for me that our group eventually referred to him as my Mongolian boyfriend. After this weekend Birhanu has also earned himself a spot on my list of memorable drivers.

I have had many experiences travelling in groups where there were complaints about the excessive speed of the hired driver, or often a driver`s intoxication, but unsafe and excessively slow was a new experience for me. Birhanu would slow down to a crawl and honk fifteen times when a goat appeared on the road two hundred metres ahead. That’s a nice change, I would think…until he started passing trucks on winding roads in the dark despite oncoming headlights.

Thanks to Birhanu`s impeccable driving skills we reached our destination much too late to do the hike we had planned for Day 1 of our mini-adventure. Instead we had a leisurely lunch in the treetop restaurant of the lodge and recovered from our slow but harrowing drive. We then headed to the pool fed by natural springs. Peter was smart and jumped right in. By the time I was ready for a dip it was too late, a local man had decided to hack up every last bit of phlegm in his lungs and spit it into the pool. Needless to say I did not experience the natural spring-fed pool that day.

Negash Lodge

The locals seemed just as confused by our behavior; lying out baking in the sun was unfathomable on its own but spending hours beside each other, not talking, just quietly reading books… what is wrong with these farenjis (foreigners)? Nothing was wrong, we were just enthralled with the lives of Ghosh, Hema, and the rest of the characters in Cutting for Stone, an epic novel set in Ethiopia that was well worth the confused stares from the locals.

At sunset we sat on the porch with glasses of Amarula watching the monkeys and finishing our books. As invested in the final pages of the story as I was, my mind kept wandering, thinking how similar this scene was to one more than fifteen years before, sitting in Kruger National Park in South Africa with my mother at the end of my year as an exchange student. I couldn’t help but think of all the things that have happened to bring me back full circle, to Africa, fifteen years on.

Baboon

The next morning we were raring to go on our hike, the big event. I didn’t know much about the hike, I was so happy to have made some friends and have a chance to take a trip, I probably would have gone anywhere for the weekend. I had no idea of the beauty that was to come. For me, the drive from our lodge to the lake was the most memorable part of the day (okay that and the Ak-47s). We were only 160 kilometres outside of Addis but one hundred years away. We passed through little villages that seemed to transcend culture and time. The dwellings, the faces, and even the languages changed.

Donkeys

family

The hike was almost as spectacular, with lush greens surrounding a lake inside an extinct volcano. We met many villagers on their way to market and others on their way back from church. We crossed the basin of the valley by waterfalls, goats, and giggling children who followed us for sections of the path. Then we took a small boat to an Orthodox monastery on an island in the middle of the lake. Finally, we arranged for horses to take us up the final steep section of the hike.

Valley

Girl

Being on horseback gave us an intimate view as we passed over the fences of each village along the way. We passed one thatched house where a lady was sobbing and covering her face, wailing in her yard. We were told a six year old child had just died from an unknown sickness, ten minutes before. There is a medical clinic in Ambo, only five kilometres, but a world away.

At the end of our hike we decided to reward ourselves with some cold drinks at a local watering hole. After a few minutes a group of about forty men showed up and stood directly behind us. I turned around to find a man wearing traditional robes but as an accessory, had an AK-47 lying flat across his arms about a foot from where I was sitting. You know you`ve been away from home for a long time when the sight of an AK-47 in the hands of a robed man does not make you run. It did put me on alert, but not enough to leave behind my Coca-Cola.

Jana continued to tell a story she`d been in the middle of while Yonas and I began stealthily surveying the situation. Something was up. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with us but we were definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. The air around us seemed to crackle with tension. I mouthed “I think we should go” to Yonas. Jana later told me she had noticed our scheming but thought it better to keep telling the story, as if nothing was going on.

At that moment, Peter arrived back from his search for a bathroom. Having missed the dramatic arrival of the forty newcomers, he was completely oblivious to what was transpiring. He later told us he had assumed they were just there to party. That may actually have been a fair assessment, I’m just not sure we wanted to stick around for their party.

Behind us, things were getting tense and it was clear to me things were about to get physical. At this point I revisited the AK-47 issue and tried to make some NOW eyes at Peter who remained completely oblivious. I got up anyway, hoping he would catch on. I walked with purpose directly to the car. Thankfully, Jana and Peter were right on my heels, with Yonas close behind.

This time Birhanu was on the ball and got us out of there in a hurry. As we drove away Yonas told us that just before we got up to leave, one man had asked why we were there and another had instructed them to grab some stones. Apparently, it was a clash between the local Oromo peoples and the Tigray peoples, who largely control the wealth in the area. It had nothing to do with us but we were very close to really being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As Cutting for Stone’s Ghosh said of life in pre-revolution Ethiopia, just another day in paradise.

children

To Nadaam and Beyond: Mongolia’s Festival of 3 Manly Games

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Yesterday marked the beginning of the 22nd annual Nadaam Festival in Mongolia. Six years ago this festival marked the beginning of one of the great adventures of my life.

Coming to the end of 3 longs years of law school I was in serious need of some adventure (and fresh air) before entering the next stage of my legal confinement.

View over the steppes, somewhere in Mongolia.

View over the steppes, somewhere in Mongolia.

Why Mongolia? First of all, I was convinced the vast steppes of the Mongolian plateau would provide me with the sense of freedom required after spending three years tied to a library chair in Ludlow Hall (my beloved law school). Secondly, I had recently spent hours putting off studying by watching the Long Way Round a documentary series that chronicles the antics of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman as they travel around the world, the long way round (east) on motorbikes – including through Mongolia. My brother had recently bought me the series as a gift. I had mistakenly assumed he did this in order to spend hours watching motorbike-related television but quickly understood it was actually a move to encourage my dream of visiting Mongolia. Thirdly, I had recently made the decision that I would start visiting destinations at times that worked best for their schedules – not only my own (a lesson I had learned after various rain-filled dive and climbing trips). It just so happened that I had exactly one month off before my new job and that month was July, perfect timing for the Nadaam Festival.

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And so it was decided, before heading to my new job high in the office towers of Bay Street – I would head to the sporting grounds of Ulaanbaatar.

Every July, the Nadaam is celebrated all over Mongolia. However, people travel from all corners of the country to participate in the main festivities in the capital, Ulanbaatar (UB). The Nadaam started two days after I arrived in UB and I had a full access pass to the events – the perfect way to begin my Mongolian adventure. The Nadaam is akin to the Olympics for the nomads of Mongolia, and includes all the ceremony and media coverage one would expect of such a grand event. I was surprised to see huge screens broadcasting the events all over the city. I was even further impressed when I returned to my hotel to learn I could watch replays and commentaries of the day’s events before turning in for the night.

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Screens depicting Nadaam events over the streets of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Screens depicting Nadaam events over the streets of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

The evening before the festival began, UB was abuzz with excitement as men in Genghis Khan era uniforms paraded through the streets on horseback (excuse the cliché, it is true). The opening ceremonies the following day are still to this day, the greatest mix of old and new cultural elements that I have ever seen in a single event. There were traditional songs from the 13th century on one end of the spectrum and an appearance from Mongolia’s biggest Hip-Hop Star (who knew?) on the other. There were hundreds of women racing by on horseback and men doing traditional dances. As an aside, it was the first time I felt a sense of equality of the sexes here, a feeling that remained with me throughout my stay. It is one of the very few places I have travelled where I had a sense that even if the genders had separate roles they were equally valued within the society.

Spectators during the opening ceremonies of the Nadaam Festival. (Photo courtesy of one of my American-Mongolian travel family members).

Spectators during the opening ceremonies of the Nadaam Festival. (Photo courtesy of one of my American-Mongolian travel family members).

Arrival of Mongolian Hip Hop Star by motorbike.

Arrival of Mongolian Hip Hop Star by motorbike.

Later that day we headed out to the steppes for the horseraces. It was a 25km race with jockeys ranging from 5-15 years old. Some of them had very official-looking uniforms that included bike helmets while others rode bareback and shoeless. Although parents in my country may not let kids of this age out of their sight, for these parents it was pure pride at having your child race the prestigious Nadaam.

Some of the little jockeys before the race.

Some of the little jockeys before the race.

Young riders arriving.

Young riders arriving.

Racers coming in.

Racers coming in.

Spectators at the races

Spectators at the races

Nadaam is traditionally a celebration of Mongolia’s “3 Manly Games”; wrestling, horseracing, and archery (Women participate in all but the wrestling). The year I visited they introduced a 4th Manly Game: Ankle-Bone Shooting. Teams from all over Mongolia participated in this traditional game of players flicking pieces of reindeer horn across the room at the ankle bones of goats, attempting to hit certain targets for the most points. The most interesting part wasn’t the flicking capabilities of the players at all, but the serious heckling by the other teams.

From the ankle-bone shooting tents we headed to the archery pavilion. One of the most memorable events for me was the women’s archery competition. The sight of these tall, elegant women in elaborate ceremonial robes shooting their arrows with absolute precision and focus during the archery competition still comes to my mind when people talk about “women and sport”.

The final day of Nadaam was the highlight of the festival – the much anticipated wrestling competition. This is not wrestling as we know it in the west. These are men of all sizes dressed in outfits of one size – small. They wrestle opponent after opponent on a large field while countless other pairs do the same around them.

Coaches and Wrestlers prepare for the games.

Coaches and Wrestlers prepare for the games.

Wrestlers preparing to go on.

Wrestlers preparing to go on.

Wrestling matches, Nadaam.

Wrestling matches, Nadaam.

At the end of each round the participants perform an “Eagle Dance” around their opponent, said to come from centuries-old shamanic traditions. [Note that Charley Boorman does a particularly entertaining version of the Eagle Dance in the Long Way Round]. In recent times, winning wrestlers from the Nadaam have gained great popularity in Mongolia, often becoming politicians.

Some fine Eagle Dancing.

Some fine Eagle Dancing.

The closing ceremonies were somewhat somber in comparison to the celebratory feel of the opening ceremonies only 3 days before. What stood out for me was a traditional throat singing performance that featured sounds of such depth it was hard to believe they were of this world, let alone from the humans standing in front of me.

After three days of this showcase of Mongolian culture one word came to my mind: WILD. It was an adjective that I would use over and over again in the coming weeks, not for lack of vocabulary but because there was no better way to describe any of it.

So that was my Nadaam. A wild beginning to what would be one of the great adventures of my life as I spent the following weeks travelling across the steppes of Mongolia, staying with nomadic families, making new friends, and even experiencing a traditional shamanic ceremony in the north of the country. A wild beginning to my little adventure that I like to call To Nadaam and Beyond!

Arriving at Nadaam.

Arriving at Nadaam.

Spectators at Nadaam.

Spectators at Nadaam.

Camps set up at the horseracing site.

Camps set up at the horseracing site.

Arguably the burliest of the Nadaam wrestlers.

Arguably the burliest of the Nadaam wrestlers.

TBEX and Twitter, A Coming out of Sorts

This week I am leaving the comfort of my online space to break out into the live world of travel writing/blogging for the first time! A coming out of sorts!

Over the next few days I will be attending my first conference as a Blogger; the TBEX Conference on the future of travel media, being held right here in Toronto (coincidence or universe at work?).

In addition to the live-world of travel writers, I joined another world this week…the twittersphere. Follow me @adventuresinlaw !

Join me at TBEX