Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Brewery, distillery tours have come a long way, baby

"Brewery Tour!" Almost as good as "Road Trip!"  (Or better).
Back in my university days, the words "brewery tour!" were like a magic phrase that, translated
loosely into student-ese, meant "free drunk!"

Essentially, that's what they were, at least when I attended the University of New Brunswick.

Part of the reason for that in that particular province was the result of a total ban on any kind of advertising on TV, radio, or print media for any kind of alcohol. So the breweries had to come up with some different schemes to promote and market their products.

For university students, it was great. It meant we got a lot of free stuff - posters, hats, mugs, etc. with beer logos on them. The Schooner Van could always be seen at campus events. Not all the beer was free, but I do recall getting some great deals.
We also got to go on brewery tours.

The first time I went on one of these my freshman year, it was organized by the social committee of our UNB residence, MacKenzie House, back then a men's dorm (now I guess it's co-ed). We signed up, piled into a bus and drove from Fredericton to Saint John, the location of the Moosehead Brewery.

I was a bit surprised. We didn't actually tour the facility; they took us into a hospitality room, showed us a 20 minute film about making beer while drinking it and eating an endless supply of peanuts. The drinking continued for another two hours, then we got back aboard the bus in various states of inebriation and drove back to the campus.

Who wants a Kichesippi Natural Blonde with lunch?
I didn't go on another one until I toured the Granville Island Brewery during a visit to Vancouver in 1988. This really was more of a tour. Guides took us through the facility, and at the end, we got to sample a few of their brews in small glasses. I think I still have the logo beer mug from that trip - but unlike the ones at university, I had to pay for this one.

As I began travel-writing, I found myself on more and more of these: a visit to Columbia Brewery (makers of Kootenay Mountain Ale and Kokanee Lager) in Creston; the Alexander Keith's Brewery in Halifax (where I enjoyed beer pairings during a three-course meal); Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto; Ottawa's own Kichesippi Beer Company; and, most recently a tour of Big Spruce Brewing in Cape Breton.

The last one is a fairly new company, and it's a craft beer, made in small batches at one site. Like the others mentioned above, an actual tour does take place, one where you go behind the scenes at the facility, see how it's made, find out details about its young history, and learn about possible plans for future endeavours.
video
Getting ready to sample a bit of Big Spruce beer.

I'd actually sampled their brews throughout the first week of my fortnight's visit to the island, and it was nice to finally see the place where they were brewed (and sample a few more, as well!)

Let's head for some whisky at Glenora Distillery.
Less than a week later, I was sampling a different kind of product: single malt whisky, at the Glenora Inn & Distillery on Cape Breton. I'd never been to a distillery before. It was a nice visit, we stayed overnight at the inn that's part of the facility, and enjoyed some of their whisky-enhanced meals during supper.

The next day, we were sipping single malt during a tour of the facility, learning about their battle with Scotland over the right to call their product Glen Breton (not Scotch - and Glenora won), and about the nuances of enjoying a single malt with or without water.

By the way, Glenora is not only the first single-malt whisky distillery in Canada, it's the first in North America.

Flash forward a few more weeks and I'm on the opposite coast, enjoying a similar experience at Shelter Point in Vancouver Island's Comox Valley. This distillery is the second single malt producer in Canada, and in fact, it's so new, their first offering of whisky has only been available since the late spring, now.

Time to sip some Shelter Point whisky.
They also distill vodka at the facility - plain and in several flavours.

Yes, I'm really starting to enjoy the pleasures of single malt whiskey.

As for comparing the two...

I'm not copping out, but the fact is, my palate is not refined enough to really determine the difference between one single malt and another (especially when separated by two weeks between tastings.)

I'd drink either in a pinch. Or even if I was not in a pinch.

Needless to say, these tours are certainly different from the ones I experienced during my UNB days. Probably just as well. While there is a certain amount of tolerance for young 20-something drunks staggering around full of beer on campus, I don't know that a group of drunk travel or food-and-drink writers would be as acceptable.

Besides, we have to have somewhat clear heads to shoot photos/videos and write stories.

Now (and even though it's Irish whisky) - hand me that bottle of Writers' Tears.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Island magic never seems to disappoint

How much fruit can an orangutan eat?
So I'm headed off to Vancouver Island for a short
two-day trip today (Thursday) in the Comox area. I hope to see some seals, whales, maybe a dolphin or two, and definitely some sea-going birds (no sea parrots - a.k.a., puffins - on this trip though!) with Vancouver Island Marine Tours and Adventures.

It's certainly not my first trip to the island, and certainly won't be my last.

Thinking about it got me thinking about all the incredible island destinations I've visited. Of course, I just got back from one last week, and I'm wondering why it took me so long to visit Cape Breton Island. Nova Scotia hospitality always seems to shine, and that trip was no exception.

While I've been to many of the "must-do" islands, I've also been to some less renowned islands. But it doesn't seem to matter which category of island I'm on, as they always seem to produce a magical trip with memorable experiences.

So, without further ado, here's my Top List of Island Experiences I've enjoyed through the years, in no particular order.

1. Borneo: hanging out with primates. During a trip to the Malaysian part of the island, I visited not one, but two orangutan sanctuaries, facilities set up to act as a halfway house for re-introducing captive primates back to the wild.

Then I also saw not one, but two completely wild orangutans while cruising up and down the Kinabatangan River on wildlife safaris. While on the island, I also had the chance to see proboscis monkeys along that river as well as at Bako National Park.

2. Hawaii: swimming with sharks, diving with dolphins. In a two week trip to Hawaii, I was able to climb into the shark tank at the Maui Ocean Center and scuba dive with sharks, rays, and some other fish for about an hour. Really cool experience.

Then a week later on the Big Island, I went on an excursion out onto the Pacific Ocean and snorkeled with a pod of wild spinner dolphins. Equally cool.


Let's go hang out with the sharks.

3. Belize: cay-hopping and snorkeling. While this is not an island country, there are plenty of cays along its coast, and my first international trip of any kind (outside of Canada or the USA) involved a five-day paddle out to the barrier reef, camping on various cays along the way. It was also my first time kayaking (I'd been only a canoeist prior to that) and my first time snorkeling. Still one of my best snorkeling experiences anywhere.

Spotted this happy-looking parrot on the Mastic Trail.
4. Cayman Islands: parrot-spotting in the rainforests. There is plenty to do in the water in the Caymans, but also plenty of cool stuff to do on land, especially if you like birds. I got to see a flock of Grand Cayman parrots on the main island's Mastic Trail, then saw a few mated pairs of the very rare Cayman Brac parrots in the forests of the island those birds are named after.

5. Cape Breton Island: puffin tour. There is much more to do on Cape Breton than eating lobster (although it is scrumptious!) One of the main highlights of my tour there was being able to see puffins on Bird Island, with Donelda's Puffin Tours. There were plenty of other birds to see there, as well, but seeing puffins really made my trip.

6. Canary Islands: seeing the rarest of all parrots. During attendance at the 2006 Loro Parque International Parrot Convention, I had the opportunity to tour the private aviary and saw several pairs of Spix's macaws. Up until recently, they were extinct in the wild, and Loro Parque is working to make sure they don't disappear completely. For those unfamiliar, this the species that inspired the Disney movie, Rio.

7. Quadra Island: canoeing the ocean. A small island off the east coast of Vancouver Island near Campbell River, I've visited this island twice. During my visits, I had a chance to canoe in and around Heriot Bay, spotting eagles on the island where we lunched and plenty of seals on the rocks nearby. Oh, and plenty of jellyfish (the kind you want to avoid) floating around on the ocean.

Sunset in the Ten Thousand Islands.
8. Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades National Park, Florida: kayaking in the 'Glades. This series of mangrove islands on the southwest Florida coast are not what most people picture when they think of the Everglades. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, it was more like cay-hopping in Belize, than swamp paddling (which I've also done.) What did we see? What didn't we see, would be more appropriate. We saw ospreys battling overhead, dolphins swimming under our kayaks, sea turtles, egrets, herons, raccoons. Great trip.

9. Vancouver Island: falconer for a day. One of my favourite experiences on Vancouver Island was spent learning about falconry with Pacific Northwest Raptors. And it was all hands-on, working with the birds, experience. We got to walk with them, then fly them, just a wonderful way to spend a day.

10. Joe Island, Joe Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario: canoeing. Another of the "lesser-known" islands (unless you happen to be a regular park paddler) it marked either the start or finish of many a multi-day canoe trip in the park. It created many fond memories that I still treasure - including the time we awoke to find a raccoon unzipping our tent door because it smelled food inside the tent! Glad it wasn't a bear...

Of course, there are some honourable mentions that didn't quite crack the Top 10:
  • Spirit Island in Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Canada (you can't actually camp there or even land on the island, but it's an inconic Canadian image)
  • Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick (kayaking and hiking adventures)
  • numerous other unnamed islands in Algonquin Provincial Park
So...what are some of YOUR favourite island experiences? Please let us know in the comments.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lobster here, lobster there - a tasty crustacean everywhere

My first whole lobster this trip - served up on the beach.
No doubt those friends and followers who regularly see my posts on my Facebook pages (personal and business) and Twitter are aware of all the lobster I consumed during my two-week stay on  Cape Breton Island the past few weeks.

I believe I ate more lobster during my two weeks there than I had the previous two years. Or maybe even the previous two decades.

And I never enjoyed it more.

I also learned a lot about lobster, too - how to tell males from females, the optimum weight for a tender and tasty crustacean, how to get a lobster to do lobster yoga ("downward facing crustacean" is the best pose), and numerous other interesting tidbits about lobster.

I learned, too, that you can serve it in just about any form, and it will be good: lobster eggs benedict, lobster sauce on halibut, lobster poutine, lobster mac'n'cheese - it's all good.

Funny, I was never really a huge lobster lover. Oh, I'd had it on several occasions and it was good. But for some reason, this time around it just tasted better, in all its renderings.

The first time I had it was in 1979, at a spray camp/airfield in New Brunswick while working for Forest Protection Limited. Once a year, every summer, the company would fly in fresh lobster for the pilots, crews and others stationed there. My work partner Joe kept raving about how good it would be, explaining how the claws were the best part, especially dipped in melted butter.

Well, it was good - but obviously it didn't make a huge impression on me. Later that fall, while broadcasting a football game between the University of Prince Edward Island and the UNB Red Bombers in Charlottetown back to Fredericton on CHSR, I didn't order it for supper that night after the game, even though our meals were completely covered. My dad, a huge seafood fan, couldn't believe it when I told him during our weekly phone calls between Toronto and Fredericton.

After that, I didn't eat it for many years, and when I did, it never seemed to set off taste-gasms in my mouth. (I guess that's because I always seemed to eat it at a Red Lobster in Calgary. Good, but not great.)

That started to change in 2008.

That was the year the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia hosted the annual TMAC conference. The awards dinner that year was a lobster-fest, complete with plastic lobster bibs. Well, that year I threw myself into the festivities with abandon. I ate at least two, maybe three crustaceans. I also remember turning the bib around so it hung down my back like a cape, and declared myself to be "Lobster-Man!" Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!) the photos taken that night cannot be found.

I had finally started to appreciate lobster, it seemed.
The lobster at Doaktown, NB was really fresh.

I enjoyed it again thanks to TMAC during a pre-conference tour in 2012, at O'Donnell's Cottages (since changed to Storeytown Cottages), in Doaktown, NB.

It was the first day of the lobster season, and the catch was as fresh as an inebriated Grade 10 at his first senior prom.

 And that brings us to June, 2016. (It seems I'm destined to only enjoy good lobster every four years...)

It began with the first day of our pre-tours. We were treated to an incredible breakfast of lobster-benedict at the Hearthstone Inn in Sydney. Quite the way to start a tour.

Later that night at the Keltic Lodge in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, I enjoyed a meal of halibut (my favourite fish) served with a lobster ravioli that did cause taste-gasms.

And it just kept getting better.

The next night, we were treated to a lobster boil on the beach, courtesy of Parks Canada and some of the local staff. There, our tour leader - kayaker and paddling musician extraordinaire Angelo Spinazzola - taught us how to really chow down on the treasured crustaceans.

We were not only taught lobster biology, we were serenaded by fiddler-chef Scott Aucoin. 


video
While the lobster cooked, the chef fiddled...

But believe it or not, we had still only just begun...

We really hit the jackpot the second night of the conference proper, (thanks again, in large part to Parks Canada) with a lobster dinner set inside the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Cooked to perfection, served up (to those of us who aren't oenophiles) with ample portions of Fortress Rum and plenty of other good food. (It topped off a perfect day for me, as I'd spent the morning watching sea parrots - a.k.a. puffins - during a three-hour tour. The lobster feast made an A-grade day into an A+ day.)

But wait - there's more...
Lobster kicks poutine up a notch or three.
There was great chowder with lobster in it at the Red Shoe Pub ... ditto at the Castle Rock Country Inn, the final night of our tour.

The real test came after a three-hour whale-watching excursion when we went to the Rusty Anchor


I was waffling between two different dishes that included lobster. Luckily, I managed to convince another writer to order lobster mac-and-cheese, while I ordered lobster poutine - and we switched halfway through so we got some of each.


Mac'n'cheese, already good, gets better with lobster.

Could ordinary dishes like these use lobster and be as good as the other renderings already enjoyed?

Yep. There were multiple taste-gasms, that night. Just picture Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" - except she's eating lobster instead of deli cold cuts.

So, after all this, I can only assume there must be something special about Nova Scotia lobster - especially Cape Breton lobster, since it seems to taste better than any I've ever eaten anywhere else. It could also be the company, or maybe it's the freshness ... but I think there's also a little bit of Cape Breton magic there, as well.

That magic, that special warmth that seems to be everywhere on the island, that alone is good enough to lure me back there again, some day.

Plus I want a whole lobster poutine to myself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Solitude among the woods and waters of Nova Scotia

Splash! 
Morning mist on Mersey River.

There it was again. We had no idea what was making the noise 30 metres from our campsite, and we were not entirely certain we wanted to find out.

"It's probably a bear hunting for frogs," I said, hunkering down deeper in my sleeping bag.

"Bears don't eat frogs!" my companion replied from deep in her own sleeping bag.

"Do too!"

"Do not! Might be a moose, though."

"This isn't moose habitat! It's probably a bear … "

As it turned out, we were both right - sort of.  Later research revealed that black bears do indeed eat frogs. However, it was not a hungry bear on the prowl for the delicacy of frogs' legs. It turned out to be a bird - probably an osprey - diving for fish in Channel Lake's waters.

Channel Lake is part of a chain of waterways in the northwest corner of Kejimkujik National Park. Located in south-central NovaScotia, "Keji" is the only national park in the Maritimes completely surrounded by land, although there is a seaside adjunct apart from the park's main body. 

This 403-square kilometre island of wilderness is home to more than 100 species of birds; mammals such as deer, porcupine, moose - and yes, bear; and a variety of tree species, including oak, maple, hemlock, spruce and pine.
Sunset on Channel Lake

One of the best ways to experience the park is by canoe, on routes north or south of the large lake that gives the park its name. We paddled north of Kejimkujik for five days - partially following the route paddled by Albert Bigelow Paine in his book, The Tent Dwellers - through Big Dam Lake, Frozen Ocean Lake and Channel Lake before paddling back onto the main lake.

Because we paddled the park in early August - peak holiday season - we were surprised that three days passed without sight of another human. 

The first people we did see were two park rangers, performing routine backcountry campsite maintenance.

That's not to say we were lonely. 
Prickly Porky on the move
Porcupines, barred owls, deer and chipmunks visited our campsites. 

Paddling down the quiet waters of Still Brook, LittleRiver and West River, we encountered herons, a painted turtle, frogs, a mother loon and her baby, and a merganser family.

The unexpected solitude was a true gift. 

On our last night on the big lake, a lone loon swam past our Moose Island campsite, wailing her trademark cry, as if to say,"Farewell!" from the wilderness, eliciting a prayer of thanks from my own mouth.

(This story was originally published in the Summer 2001 edition of Ski Canada's Outdoor Guide.)

Post script: There's much more to the park than canoeing. It's also a national historic site, as this video shows.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Music one aspect of travel easy to pack home

The Doghouse Skiffle (jug) Band performs in Borneo.
One element of travel that is almost certain to be a part of any journey is the exposure to new and different kinds of music.

If you are in a foreign country, it's pretty much guaranteed that you will hear music different what you normally hear played at home (although that is changing these days, as our societies become more integrated and increasingly multi-cultural).

However, that can often be the case with domestic travel in North America, as well. The kind of traditional, local music you'll hear in Newfoundland or Saskatchewan will be decidedly different than that of what you may hear in New Mexico or Alabama.

Sometimes, though, you may be surprised at what you hear, abroad.

While we always associate a country's or a region's music with its culture, we may not always hear what we expect - and it can be a bit jarring, at times, albeit in a good way.

For example, a few years ago, I attended the Rainforest Music Festival in Borneo, Malaysia. The festival brings together musicians from all over the world. And while there are some local musicians that play there, it is actually quite a cornucopia of musical styles.

There was a jug band from Great Britain; an acapella singing group from Africa; and a bluegrass band from Oregon.

As I was listening to the latter play, I found it a bit jarring to the senses, almost surreal...I mean, here I was in a jungle in Borneo, listening to Foggy Mountain Breakdown, watching a large number of young Asian people bopping to music from half-a-world away as if they listened to it every day. Not exactly the image I pictured in my mind when I thought about what I might see when I was planning the trip.

I had seen some very good traditional Malaysian dance performances in Kuala Lumpur, a few nights before, so when you combine that with the festival`s musical fare and the music we enjoyed at a traditional Dyak village a few days later, it was certainly a well-rounded trip, musically speaking.

video 
Some soft, quiet music at a Bangkok Hotel.

You would think because Thailand is so close to Malaysia geograpically, Thai music might be the same. While you might some similarities, you'll also find difference, again, depending on what region you're in, as it varies within the country.

Let's get energetic with some mariachi music.
Some of my favourite world music is that of the Andes Mountains of South America. There is something about that sound, something that really draws me into a place of joy whenever I hear it.

I can never get enough of it, and anytime I arrived at an airport in Peru, there seemed to be a Peruvian band with guitar, pan pipes, drums and all the other instruments used to produce the unique Andean song.

Another form of music that is always fun is that of Mexican music.

Whether it comes from a 12-piece mariachi band in a posh Mexican hotel or a simple duo singing from café to café on the beach, it's almost always recognizable and definitely full of energy.

Part of that energy comes from the music itself; but part of it also comes from the fact that it really and encourages participation by the audience.

video 
Shades of Remington Steele, Season 2, Episodes 1-2

Without a doubt though, the music that haunts me most, the sound that has the most mystical appeal for me is that of the Middle East. I have never been to the Middle East, and given some of the safety issues involved in traveling there, I may never visit there - although I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Of course, you don't need to travel there to experience some of their music and the dance that goes along with it. Any number of Middle Eastern restaurants in most major North American cities often present belly dancers for their patrons on weekends, restaurants like Vancouver's Afghan Horseman, Toronto's Anatolia or Calgary's Casbah Restaurant. Still, that's not the same as experiencing it in-country, since a memory of music from another country will often stir more emotions than a memory of music in a restaurant in your hometown.

That's because one of the wonderful things about music you hear when you travel is the fact that when you get back home and hear music from that culture or country again, it transports you right back to that place, it's like you're reliving your trip all over again.

You may end up buying a few CD's of the local music to take home. But whether you take those with you or just return with the memories, it makes for some pretty light extras to the baggage. And these days, with all the extra fees added to carry-ons and checked bags, that's a welcome addition to any traveller's take-homes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fantasy and reality sometimes blend together in much of today's travel

Ready to quaff like Tyrion Lannister
The past few years, there's been a new sort of travel niche forming.

While "literary travel" has been around for quite some time - the practice of visiting real world places where literary events and stories have occurred - the 21st century has seen the rise of what, for lack of a better word, could be called "fantasy travel."

In past years, there were plenty of tours one could take to visit all the places in London where, for example, Sherlock Holmes used to practise the art and science of detection.

You can take a pre-scheduled, all-arranged tour, or just buy a book and use it as a guide, as there are several books that will offer readers a chance to follow in Holmes' footsteps.
This book helps you create your own Holmes tour.

On a wider scale, you can take similar tours with a King Arthur/Camelot theme. You can set them up with a tour company or even design your own, with stops at places like Glastonbury Tor, Tintagel, or Stonehenge, to name but a few.

I myself have done a "literary tour" of sorts, although it does not follow a fictional storyline, per se. A few years ago, I did my own "Papa Hemingway" tour around South Florida and the Keys, with stops that included The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club, Hemingway House, and Ernest's Cafe (now shut down, I understand) to name but a few. Even did a bit of deep-sea fishing.

I was following in the footsteps of the real-life author, though, not one of his books.

While there are many tours designed around visiting the haunts of historical or fictional figures, and plenty of books written to help guide would-be travellers around from place to place, ever since the start of the 21st century it seems people are interested in visiting not only real world places in imaginary stories, they want to go to the real-world locations of fictional places.

It all started with the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Once that first movie came out, tourism and travel interest in New Zealand exploded, with hordes of would-be elves, hobbits, and other fans of the movie descending upon that country located in the southern reaches of the planet to see the places where their beloved movies had actually been shot.

Lots of quaffing going on in these tours
It goes beyond just being in the locations; there are actually numerous tours set up for travellers to take, tours where they can even visit the old movies sets, even walk through Hobbiton.

Now that's taken an even bigger step forward since Game of Thrones hit the airwaves on HBO.

That series, now in it's sixth season, has spawned an incredible array of tours and activities all built around the fictional kingdom of Westeros. They are far too numerous to list them here; but there are bus tours and beer tours and trips to Ireland and Iceland, Croatia and Dubrovnik. The possibilities are as endless as Tyrion Lannister's taste for wine and wenches.

The closest I've ever come to experiencing anything like that was the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. But it's just a one-night activity, and if you're in a place like Toronto, it's right there.

On a bit different scale, there are all kinds of James Bond experiences to be had, as well. You can learn to drive like Bond, drink like Bond, there's even a seven-day world tour ultimate James Bond experience. Given the nature of the films, and their penchant for settings all over the world, this too is ripe with possibilities.

There's even a kayak tour in London where you can paddle into Q's secret workshop, for those who like a bit of outdoor adventure thrown into the mix. That's the kind of tour I'd be prone to enjoy. Go for a paddle, then quaff a few Vesper martinis.

video 
Not your Johnny Depp type of pirates
 
Of course, on a lighter level, there are experiences ("rides") based on The Pirates of the Caribbean series.

Seen any pirates around, pal?
I've even been on a "pirate" experience myself, down in Mexico, during a trip to Puerto Vallarta.

(And yes,  I did meet a parrot in Mexico, while waiting at the dock - but it was not part of the pirate ship experience.) 

 That experience was not really related to the movie series at all, but probably benefited from it.

You don't need to go to Disney, though; you can create your own pirate experience in a number of ways and places.

With all these tours, all these options, this all this makes me wonder, is life imitating art...imitating fiction?

Or is fiction imitating life?

I think I'll stop now. I think I hear a Batman-tour calling my name...

Monday, May 23, 2016

Flexibility: just as important in travel as it is in yoga

I got this raven photo only because I was flexible in my plans.
About a month ago, I attended a day-long symposium held by the B.C. Association of Travel Writers.

I go to a great many symposiums and workshops that contain elements of professional development included in their schedules.

These workshops can vary quite a bit in terms of content, from topics like pitching editors, photography, business planning... I've even been to one that included a session on fitness for writers, both on the road and while at home.

And in reference to this post's title, yes, yoga can be a great boon for travel writers - or for that matter, travellers of any ilk.

But the physical malleability required for something like yoga is only one aspect of flexibility.

Emotional-mental flexibility is a quality often overlooked, but vital to develop if you spend any time travelling, especially out of the country, or for that matter, any great distance even within your country, particularly countries as large as Canada or the U.S.

It's overlooked, which is probably why I've never seen a workshop session about the importance of keeping an open mind and not being fazed by unexpected circumstances or detours while travelling.

I was recently reminded of the importance of being flexible with respect to a day-trip I had planned.

My "partner-in-crime," the indefatigable Divine Ms. K. and I planned to go to the Sea-to-Sky Gondola at Squamish, B.C. We'd bought tickets back in December, but hadn't had an opportunity to use them. They expired in April, and we planned to go on/around the 16th of that month. However, the morning of the 13th, she realized she had to make plans to fly out of town for business the very next day.

Rather than wring our hands and bemoan the fact we'd lose the tickets, we just spent an hour or two re-arranging our day and by noon we were off on our local outdoor adventure.

To stay flexible on the fly, try this tome.
We had a great time, too.

Now while it may seem not that big a deal, when you run several businesses as a self-employed couple, it's not always easy to change plans on a moment's notice. But we did it, partially because we've developed the ability to go with the flow and be flexible.

That same attitude can help on more distant, more lengthy journeys, as well. I've had to do it twice in South America, a couple of times in Africa, and on many trips in Canada.

While it may seem like a waste of time to try to teach "travel flexibility" in a workshop setting, as so many take something like that for granted, there are books and other resources that address general flexibility that teach techniques which can be applied to travel.

You can find them by doing an online search. A quick glance on Google showed me "Learn to Roll with the Punches and Dodge Life's Wrenches." There are plenty of books out there devoted to the subject, including one by the Dummies series.

So, there's really no excuse. Being flexible mentally will not only help you be a better traveller, you'll probably handle life a whole lot better, too.

Just keep in mind the words of from "Cowboy in the Jungle," a Jimmy Buffet tune.

"We've gotta roll with the punches,
Learn to play all of our hunches,
Make the best of whatever comes our way..."