Why I Vacation.

Vacation is today’s big bad wolf.

That’s right. Millions of people are frightened of taking time off from work. Why? They dread the pile of work awaiting them when they return and no one else can do what they do at the office. This is, essentially, a ‘martyr’ complex, believing that they’re the only ones who can do their jobs.

This is my definition of insanity. There is a certain amount of ego in this thought process. The world does not stop revolving because you’re not at work. Yes, someone else does know how to do your job. That’s called cross-training. Of course they don’t do it “your way” but the job still gets done.

There are many companies with a “use it or lose it” policy in place when it comes to vacation time. Many would prefer you to take time off while others buckle when pushed to pay out that time. Your employers want you to take some personal time. It’s healthy.

Benefits of vacation:
– Better physical health
– More productivity
– Closer family relationships
– Newer perspectives
– Increased mental power
– Lower chance of burn out
– Improved mental health

Now that you know the science behind it, here’s my reasoning. Up until eight years ago I had never taken a vacation. I had also become stagnant. I gained weight, became complacent and was no longer satisfied by activities I once enjoyed. I had all the signs of depression and burn out. It was for these reasons that I finally took my first vacation. I was already in my thirties. I have only one regret… I wish I had taken a vacation sooner. It would have spared me a lot of mental anguish.

After the constant communication, collaboration & negotiation, finally the timing was perfect. Schedules were cleared and the stars aligned. That first vacation was the breath of fresh air my soul so desperately needed.

I’m not one for the details and I certainly don’t need to know everything. The planning part I can completely do without. But everything else is pure joy. Whether you’re flying or road tripping, the process gets smoother each time. We’re like a well oiled machine now. I enjoy watching the scenery change as we make our way to our destination.

Everything is fresh and new when you’re on vacation. Even the people are nicer. It just occurred to me that they’re nicer because maybe they’re on vacation too. The process of de stressing and recharging your battery is as simple as showing up. Maybe all you need is a good hike in a national park. Perhaps a massage is in order. Lounging poolside is the key for some individuals. Some people find searching for knick knacks in gift shops a thrill. I honestly don’t care what it is that you do, just so long as you do it.

In fact, you don’t even have to go anywhere to enjoy a vacation. I’m a big fan of the “Staycation”. It does the soul wonders to turn off all of your electronics, unplug and relax in the comfort of “Porta My Yarda”. It can be as easy as not having to answer to the alarm clock in the morning and waking up on your own, naturally. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to feel re-energized.

I don’t know why North Americans find excuses for why they shouldn’t go on vacation or why they don’t deserve one. The daily grind can really chew you up. Some european countries have a mandatory thirty days off. You’re not allowed to work for thirty consecutive days. We could learn a lot from their laid back lifestyle.

Why do we, as a society, feel the need to punish ourselves for all our hard work? Shouldn’t we reward ourselves with time off? Why do some of us feel undeserving while others overindulge?

I vacation because I owe it to myself to live a happy, stress free life. I owe it to myself to get out there and see new things. I like the adventure. Each trip is filled with spontaneity. We’re not meant to stay in one place. We’re drawn to new surroundings. I can’t imagine living my life any other way.

Life is meant to be experienced.

– Jade

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Utah is BEAUTIFUL

Crows at sunset

Devon atop Double Arch

Windows section of Arches

Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Face-timing in Arches National Park :)
Face-timing in Arches National Park 🙂

Sandstone

Double Arch

dead wood

Trust your Journey

Overlook at Mesa arch
Overlook at Mesa arch

Arches national park

Big rocks :)

on the way to the LaSal mountains
on the way to the LaSal mountains

Oohwah Lake

trekker

Squirrel friend

lookout at Canyonlands National Park
lookout at Canyonlands National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park

Balanced Rock @ sunset

Antelope island
Antelope island
Hidden arches on 13 mile hike
Hidden arches on 13 mile hike
Storms over the Colorado River
Storms over the Colorado River

Salt Lake city and the mighty mighty Bison

The vegan buffalo sandwich!
The vegan buffalo sandwich!
Yes, I drove to Salt Lake city for a sandwich, don’t judge me. It wasn’t the only reason, I LOVE SLC. The town, the people, even the religion going on in the city. 🙂 I still didn’t really have a destination for my trip so I decided to spend a few days around the SLC area and go camping up at Antelope Island. It was so peaceful.

I got in around 2pm, got my sandwich(es) and made camp. I set off to explore the island some more and was met by these two very lovely students from BYU. We talked roadtrips. I told them the best places to see the bison on the island and soon we parted ways.

I took off to the other side of the island to catch the sunset. Having been to the island once before, I had a good idea where I was heading. I was told by the park ranger earlier that evening that only four other groups were camping on the island that night… that put the head count at about a dozen people on Antelope Island that night, CRAZY!

Wandering the streets of Antelope Island
Wandering the streets of Antelope Island

I must say watching the sunset from the roof of my car was a highlight of the trip. I pulled over to the side of the road, climbed up onto the roof of my Honda Fit and just laid there taking in everything around me. No phones, no cameras, no distractions.

Bison

Watching the sun setting off in the distance and as I lay there taking in the scene, three bison walked over to my car to sniff it. Remember, I am on the roof sans phone or camera, just watching the sunset. I’m laying flat on the roof of the car so as not to startle the bison, when all of a sudden the three of them move towards the trunk of my
car to give it a sniff (I’m sure they are smelling my dog). I flip over to my stomach ever so calmly so now I am laying the entire length of my car (on the roof). I could have reached out and touched the bison but no, instead I just laid there watching in awe as they sniffed around my car, grunted a few times then wandered off. My heart was RACING. A total Jurassic park moment for me… Cue the music 🙂

After the sun set over the hills, I hopped back into my car and took off for camp. When I ran into those same three bison again, I jumped out of the car and grabbed this photo of them, wished them a peaceful night and back to camp I went. I watched a movie in the car and fell asleep being sure to set my alarm for the sunrise that would be anything but lame. 🙂 Utah, you are one of my favourite states!! 🙂

Sunset on Antelope island
Sunset on Antelope island

– Devon

Bison, Bison, BISON!!!

Bison Traffic Jam

Leaving Crazy Horse we finally made our way to Wind Cave National Park where we would be camping out for the next 3 days. This place is easily up there on my top 5 places to visit. This was the only thing left on our list before we started the drive home. We decided to stay away from Custer State Park. Instead we drove along the outside of Custer Park into Wind Cave. The energy there… it’s something else. So calm, so peaceful. This was the perfect place to spend the next few days. We quickly raced to the visitor centre to ask a few questions before camping out. The rangers are SO nice at Wind Cave, answering all our stupid questions. The park is small and a small highway runs through the park. The park campground was near empty, only 3 other campers the first night. We quickly made a fire and settled in for the night knowing when we got up the next morning we would be seeing the famous bison 🙂 I was like a kid on Christmas, so excited I could barely sleep. Having the owls hoot me to sleep helped.

Bison

The next morning it was go time. I rushed J awake even before the sun fully rose, coffee and toast, check. Now, let’s go hiking. We drove down past the visitor centre not knowing where we would be going. We go up a hill, turn the corner, hang a right at the stop sign and BOOM there they are… The bison. Making their way across the green hills and up across the road to their daily mud baths, then into the Black Hills forest surrounding Wind Cave. Hundreds of them… everywhere!! It was like Antelope Island all over again. I was speechless and near tears. The bison just sauntered around like we weren’t even there, no other cars around us, just Jade and I along with HUNDREDS of these animals. They stopped in front of our car, two came right up to the window. I admit I panicked a bit and rolled up the window while J laughed at me. Once there was a break in the road we drove down a few miles until we accidentally left the park, turning around and re-entering the park we round the corner and BOOM again we are in grid lock with the bison. Can’t say either of us were upset by this. We pulled into a look out and turned off the car and just sat with them, for what seemed like an hour. Mothers and their babies walked past us. The leaders of the group, the big, huge males sniffed our car, they knew we were there to just sit with them, not causing any harm. We watched as they bellowed at other cars and jumped out of the way of some assholes who refused to slow down for them. We just sat with them and gave them our time, and respect.

Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park

I can easily spend all day talking about the bison we encountered on this trip. It was exactly what I needed for my soul. Sitting here, going through all the pictures, I feel a sense of calm wash over me, everything is going to be ok. Weird, those lyrics JUST played in my headphones. I guess it will be ok.

J and I went to Wind Cave just for the bison. We were greeted by more prairie dogs, deer, antelope, coyotes etc. all at once. We watched as a coyote stalked the prairie dogs, J telling me we need to let him know he will be eaten but no, this is nature doing it’s thing. The bison walked up and scared the coyote away all while ruining the prairie dog’s home by peeing in it and then rolling around. Prairie dogs have it rough guys. 🙂

View from Camp @ Wind Cave
View from Camp @ Wind Cave

We sat by our campfire just taking in the sights and sounds of Wind Cave. The owls in the forest behind us, the deer roaming the hills while the sun goes down, the crackling fire, the PERFECT rolling clouds and landscape. This was my favourite part of the trip, just sitting at camp with all of nature around us. We often get so side-tracked by life, we don’t get to experience or enjoy this. 3 days in Wind Cave I will remember forever, the bison everyday, greeting us with such delight, the final day we went to go say thank you and goodbye to them. They were doing their morning walk to the forest across the road. Today was a little different, we pulled off to the side of the road and just watched as the mothers and their babies walked up to the car. The babies playing right beside us, jumping and kicking in the air having the time of their lives while we watched. The mothers let this happen, they know, we knew. It was a peaceful moment we will both remember forever.

Mama/Baby

I drove out of Wind Cave extremely relaxed, ready to take on the world. I was commenting to Jade as we made the last uphill decent towards the gates that this trip really changed how I look at things. I then slowed the car through the prairie dog maze and stopped, yelling that there were TWO bison at the top of the hill just standing there. We both looked over and Jade said, “Oh yeah! There they are!”, then got out her camera for when we got to the top of the hill. When we got there, there were no bison to be found… I swear up and down they were there, in a park full of rolling hills and far away forests it’s hard to miss TWO 1500 lb creatures. Were they there?? Or was it another “Jessie” instance?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe it was some of that “Canada Magic” we’ve been told we have. 🙂

– Devon

Memphis Part Deux: GRACELAND!!!

Welcome For as long as I can remember, I have been an Elvis fan. When I was a child, my mum used to tell me stories about her & her sisters staying up past their bedtime to watch Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. In my teens, people started buying me Elvis collectibles for my birthday & Christmas. My mum gave me an Elvis calendar every year. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, I do not live in an Elvis shrine. Devon would kill me! I haven’t been travelling long, I only started vacationing six years ago. A dream trip of mine has always been to go to Memphis, to visit Graceland.

About a year ago, Devon started dropping hints about finally knowing where to take me & that I’d never guess where. She told everybody about it, constantly teasing me by withholding all clues as to the destination. Even my mum told her it was impossible to give me any hints without giving it away. When she finally told me that it was a trip to Memphis to go Graceland, it took all of my energy to not lose it & jump up and down with excitement.

With minimal planning, the only thing that was set in stone were our Graceland tour tickets, everything else was up in the air. Once we made the drive down to Memphis, we were a few days early so we took one day to rest and another to explore the city itself. Then, it was finally time to see the one place I’ve always dreamt of visiting… Graceland. While at dinner the night before, Devon was talking to her friend Lisa and they were trying to figure out why it was called Graceland and not “Lisa-land” seeing how Elvis LOVED his daughter. These two crack me up, but I prayed to the baby jesus Devon would not ask this the day of the tour.

Waking up early, we drove over to the parking lot & walked the pathway to the ticket office. Standing in front of the window, the very nice ladies behind the counter could not locate our reservations. Devon’s name was locked in the system. We had stopped by the ticket booth the day before and changed our tour time from 12:30pm to 9:00am. Devon understood the technical issue & the three ladies assisting her assured her that all would end well. Unable to listen to the conversation, I’ll admit, I panicked a bit. There was a small part of me that thought, “Amazing, we’re here & our tickets are lost. Crap.” If it weren’t for the televisions on the wall playing Elvis concert footage & Devon staying calm and knowing what was happening, I just might have pitched a fit.

Finally, the issue was resolved and we were handed our tickets & VIP passes. The well oiled machine that is Elvis Presley Enterprises was impressive to see in action. We get ushered into groups, then off to a green screen where an employee takes our picture. Back to the group, we’re then led out to another line where they do bag checks. Not having any bags, we once again returned to the group & were then handed our headsets for the audio tour. It was hard not to feel a little bit like cattle with the way the employees move you about. Devon insisted on mooing like a cow while this took place, at least she got a few laughs from others in our group. (Blue hairs LOVE Devon, she must be a Golden Girl at heart.)

We boarded a shuttle, drove across Elvis Presley Boulevard, through the famous music gates & up the long driveway to Graceland. Before the tour, years before, I had already known that Graceland itself is modest in size. Several people on the shuttle remarked that it was smaller than they thought.

Looking up at the mansion

Arriving behind the mansion, just before the groundskeepers garage, we unloaded and walked back around to the front. Taking a few photos of the famous facade, the tour guide started with some information about the property & the house itself. Then she opens the door and says “Welcome to Graceland” & Devon starts humming the Jurassic Park theme behind me and again has people in stitches. Whatever keeps her occupied I guess. You’re left to start a self guided tour with the headset providing you with facts & curios along the way. I must admit, I was a bit nervous that Devon would do or say something to embarrass me but the tour had just started, anything was possible.

The tour itself is pretty cool. You have access to the main entryway & are able to walk through the hallways freely. Each room is lush in colour & very distinct in individual design. Every room is roped off & you have no access to the second floor at all. This was the same when Elvis was alive. It was off limits then to all but a few and out of respect they honour Elvis’ privacy by keeping it that way. On the way down to Memphis, Devon kept telling me how she was going to try and go up to the second floor. Now standing at the foot of the stairs, I was beyond relieved when Devon realized that it was impossible for her to attempt ascending the stairs with all of the tour guides & guards around.

Devon so wanted to run past the rope!
Devon so wanted to run past the rope!

There’s no use of flash photography in Graceland & they use such low, yellow hued lighting that it’s actually quite hard to get good photos. That didn’t stop everyone from furiously clicking away though. I noticed a few minutes into the tour that my headset wasn’t working properly. Devon offered hers to me, she didn’t seem like she was paying much attention to it anyways. She was more interested in people watching and laughing at the tourists. (That’s love.) We stopped at every room, every hallway, every framed picture hung on the walls, taking photos each time. We got to see every cool room available to the public. The living room, the music room, the dining room, the kitchen & the jungle room. Then there’s downstairs. The tv room & the pool room. While standing in the pool room, we marveled at an older southern woman who was very serious when she remarked that Elvis had such style and flare and that she would love to do a room in the same fashion. The pool room’s walls and ceiling are covered in over 300 feet of fabric. The look on Devon’s face said it all. I had to bite my cheek to keep myself from laughing out loud. Devon was egging the lady on saying she SHOULD do it and she was in the design business, she’s seen it done before. That lady quipped to her husband that they would be doing this when they got home. I wonder if she really did it?… Once you’re done inside the mansion the tour moves outside to the back yard.

Fabric EVERYWHERE. Even on the roof.
Fabric EVERYWHERE. Even on the roof.

Grammy Award You get to see Elvis’ car port & Vernon’s office in the garage. There’s the smokehouse that Elvis converted into a firing range & then you walk along a path way to the corrals with his horses (one is an off-spring from Elvis’ original horses and the others are all rescues). From there you go to the trophy room, which is exactly what it sounds like. A large building displaying a massive amount of gold records & many more of Elvis’ numerous awards, including his three Grammy awards. Part of the building also houses some of his more famous outfits, like his wedding suit & several movie suits too. Once done there, you walk down another short path to the racket ball court. Built for $300,000 in the 70s when Elvis took up the sport, it houses a pinball machine & other parlour games. Then there’s a lounge area, where Elvis played two songs on the piano the morning he died. Inside the court itself, it’s been converted into more space for even more awards & recognition as well as some of his famous jumpsuits.

Where Elvis played his last two songs ever.
Where Elvis played his last two songs ever.
Walking out of the racket ball court, you get to stop & take more photos of the the horses in the paddock before making the final walk around the grounds, to the meditation garden & Elvis’ final resting place.

The meditation garden is beautiful. The air is tranquil, there with the marble statue of Jesus & the Italian themed marble fountain. This is the part of the tour that everyone seems to take the longest time getting through. Everybody wants a few minutes of quiet reflection with The King. There is a solemn marker in place for his stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon. He is actually buried in Tupelo, MS, Elvis’ birth place. Next is the grave of his mother, Gladys, whom he adored. Then his dad, Vernon. Then Elvis himself. Finally, his paternal grandmother Minnie Mae, whom he lovingly referred to as Dodger. After spending some time in the meditation garden, we slowly made our way around the side of the house past the swimming pool & down the driveway toward the front of the house again. Along the way, there are memorials & fan art to view. Once done with the tour, you’re then told to go back to where the shuttle let you off so you can be led into a bonus room in the basement.

Spending some time with the King.
Spending some time with the King.

A tour guide opens the door to the bonus basement room and you’re immediately taken back in time to the late 60s/early 70s. This is a special exhibit designed by Lisa Marie, essentially, her father through her eyes. The dated yellow & white wall paper once adorned the walls of her nursery. Her crib & several other mementos from her birth & childhood are set up around the room along with some of Lisa’s favourite items of her Dad’s. She had his personal office brought down into the room and reassembled, as well as his wardrobe. Normally you wouldn’t have access to these things as they’re from the second floor and very much off limits. Walking around the rest of the mansion, you do get the feeling that a presence is around. You can feel an energy in the air. Looking through each display & room, you can see his taste in decor & style. And while the jumpsuits are beautiful, you also understand that they are costumes (Devon tried in vein to buy me one to walk the dog in, I was not amused). However, walking through the bonus room you feel something different. You’re viewing his wardrobe, things he wore every day. You’re looking at his personal tote that never left his side when traveling. You get to take pictures of his personal books that he took everywhere. This is definitely the most personal room. One could even argue that it’s as close to viewing his bedroom as you can get. I’m glad that they leave this bonus room for last. Shoes

It’s a good note to leave Graceland on.

Walking back out of the room you’re left in the covered carport where there is water, fans & chairs set up for you to wait in while a shuttle comes up to get you. Once on the shuttle, they take a quick tour of the back forty of the property. Explaining along the way the groundskeeping, some of the equipment, the horses, stables, the extra out buildings & a gate that Elvis used to use as a means of leaving the property in a big black panel van so as to go unnoticed.

The shuttle turns around and starts its way back down the long driveway toward the music gate. After crossing Elvis Presley Boulevard, the tour concludes. From there you continue onto six other exhibits on your own speed.

I am still incredibly shocked that Devon didn’t do or say anything to embarrass me or herself too much. I don’t know how she managed to make it through without a peep. One could argue that she even enjoyed herself. Right before we left for Memphis I had a friend, who we will call “Blanche”, dare me to wear a princess tiara made of Duct Tape outside the gates of Graceland… Challenge accepted!!

Come on Jade, smile :)
Come on Jade, smile 🙂

I could continue on with the remainder of awesomeness, but I really feel like I should keep this to myself in the hope that you’ll be intrigued enough to make the trek out to Tennessee and take the tour yourself. Whether you are an Elvis fan or not, Graceland is one of the most fascinating homes in the world. Everybody should see it up close at least once in their life.

Douchepants in Memphis :)  *walking in memphis*
Douchepants in Memphis 🙂
*walking in memphis*

I did… And it was the most amazing day.

So thank ya, Devon. Uh, thankyouverymuch. 😉

– Jade

Home.

(hōm) n. – A place where one lives; a residence. / An environment offering security and happiness.

Home is where you lay your head at night. Home is where you feel safe and secure in all that is around you.

Describe home. Smelly Car and Merrick Butte.

Is it where you hang your hat at night? Is it where you keep your belongings? Is it a physical place? Or a feeling?? I’ve been struggling for awhile trying to figure out what home is. At this very moment, I haven’t a fucking clue where or what “home” is. I just know where I am is not home. Where I live, apartment and city, is not my home. I don’t feel this is the place for me. I don’t know if I ever have.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.”
― Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate

I definitely think that home IS where you place your head at night and where you surround yourself with comforts but I think that place is constantly changing, as we humans are. It is that tranquility and peace that envelopes you and makes you feel safe. THAT is home.

It doesn’t matter if your home happens to be a manse or a lean-to. If that’s your ideal, awesome. I’m happy in a barn or a tent. My favourite place to stay on the road is my car. I can feel at ease in your giant oversized, second mortgaged ideal but I prefer the cozy feeling of a cabin or a tiny a-frame tree fort.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
― Gary Snyder

Desert roadSo what do you do when you don’t feel like you have a home?? I have an apartment. It’s a great place: amazing views, stunning floors, spacious. It’s where I keep my belongings (not many might I add) but it doesn’t feel like my home. My home is the road. It’s as though I am returning by instinct to my territory after leaving it… my home… the road. I NEED to be there.

Each day I wake on the road, open to new possibilities and each night, I lay my head on a pillow (mine from my apartment) and I am once again home. Home, for me, is internal. When I am at peace with myself, I am home. I am most at peace on the road.

“Where thou art, that is home.”
― Emily Dickinson

-Devon

Mother Nature.

Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to come clean.

FlowersI can’t speak for everybody but for me there is nothing more therapeutic than getting into the garden and working with the plants. You could be having the shittiest of days, carrying all kinds of stress and the minute you put your hands into that soil, all is forgiven/forgotten. The soul connects with its roots and for a few hours and nothing else matters.

Mother Nature is such a powerful friend. She is there whenever we need her. We stroll about enjoying all that she has to offer, take pictures when she strikes a pose, camp in all her glory for days/weeks on end. Yet we as humans destroy her and she holds no grudges…

Have you sat with her lately and given thanks?
Kale

Mint and Kale

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” — Albert Einstein

– Devon