I Choose My Life…

IchoosemylifeEveryday we make choices: what to eat, what to wear, where to go. Many times, the most important choice gets none of our attention at all: how to live your life. I used to have a great job that I was super passionate about and really good at (being an environmental educator). Then I decided to try being a classroom teacher and I suppose I was pretty good at it, though I didn’t love it. I was stressed, anxious, and all-consumed by this job. I missed my old life where I was a happier person – even Señor Luma and one of my closest friends missed the “old me” (I used to be happy, vivacious, full of life and enthusiasm).

When I was pregnant with Lumito (#2), I made a conscious choice to change how I was going to live my life… I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and look back to realize that I had been miserable and lived it for other people.

So I did something totally crazy: I quit one is of the most sought-after jobs: a full-time, permanent-with-amazing-pension-and-benefits teaching job with the public school system in Ontario.

But I don’t view it as what I walked away from. I look at it from what I got by leaving. By choosing to leave this job, I chose joy and freedom. When we moved down to Panama, I chose adventure. Now that we are headed off for 3 months if travel through Central America, I choose family.

These days I’m spending less time choosing the little things (my clothes, my breakfast, etc) and more time choosing how I want to live my life.

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Hammering Out Our Travel Itinerary

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It is less than 10 days until we head off and start our exciting adventure of travelling through Central America, before returning to Peterborough, Ontario. I want to share with you our (current) itinerary. (you can click on the above map for a larger version so that you can see the details a bit better).

A) We leave Boquete on March 2 and catch a bus from David to

B) Quepos, Costa Rica. We arrive that day in Manuel Antonio National Park for 4 nights. This park has been high on Señor Luma’s priority list for our travels so we are excited to have a bit of time there. From there we head north and stay somewhere overnight en route to Nicaragua (we’ll find a spot).

C) We arrive in Granada, Nicaragua where we will have 10 days or so to explore the colonial city and the surrounding area.

D) From there we will take a bus to Tegucigalpa (the capital of Honduras) where we will stay a night before catching a flight to

E) Roatan, Honduras (this is now March 21). We have a week booked in Roatan and have managed to rent a condo at the Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel. We are looking forward to hitting the beach, snorkelling, and relaxing at the pool (!!). Señor Luma has also gotten in touch with a lovely resort that has invited all of us to spend a day while he talks retreats with them. On March 28, we are flying from Roatan to

F) Belize City and then heading right over to Caye Caulker where we have 3 nights booked. We are looking forward to one more snorkelling extravaganza before heading inland towards

G) San Ignacio. We have 4 nights booked just before the Guatemalan border and we are excited to begin our introduction to Mayan ruins. On Easter Weekend, we head to

H) Tikal, Guatemala where we will stay 2 nights in Tikal National Park where we can explore the amazing biodiversity of the area as well as the spectacular history of this magical area. From this point on, we have a very loose itinerary (we felt the urgency to get reservations for the first part of our trip since we are travelling to highly touristic areas in high season.After our Tikal reservation, we have about 10 days to get to our final destination in Southern Guatemala for April 15).

I) Once we arrive in Antigua, Guatemala, Lumita and I will take a workshop with Mayan weavers, using the traditional backstrap loom as well as spend a couple of days exploring this beautiful colonial city.

J) On April 15 we arrive at our rental in Santa Cruz la Laguna where we will relax and explore the area for the next 6 weeks (and we hope to host some dear friends from Peterborough for a couple of those weeks!).

On June 2, we fly from Guatemala City to Toronto and we are very excited to return to Ontario at one of the most glorious times of year and have the whole summer to enjoy being back, before school starts up in September

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Snorkelling at Isla Coiba

We have been blessed to do some rather wonderful things while in Panama. A high priority for us has been hitting up the beach (since there are so many close by!). Neither Señor Luma nor I are super crazy beach people (seriously, all that sand just gets EVERYWHERE!). Despite this, we have had some fabulous beach escapes!

manyfishThe most recent was just the other weekend. I’ll be honest here: I love snorkelling. Like giddy-squealing-cause-I-saw-something-colourful, child-like LOVE snorkelling! It doesn’t even have to be great snorkelling for me to love it! Up until this most recent trip, we have had some decent snorkelling opportunities and I have been more than happy with my experiences. But then I heard about Coiba National Park, off the Pacific coast of Panama. The island used to house a prison (up until 2004!!) and is now a marine and national park, preserving the barely-touched-ecosystems (both on land and under water). And the snorkelling and diving around this national park (which is often referred to as “Panama’s Galapagos”) is likely the best in all of Panama. Crystal clear blue waters, lots of impressive marine wildlife (including whale sharks!), and government regulations that keep this spot preserved.

Turtle&fishIt is about a 4.5-hour drive from Boquete, so we broke our drive up with some time at our favourite spot in Las Lajas. Upon our arrival at our (seriously basic and no-frills) accommodations, we booked ourselves in for an all-day snorkelling tour to Isla Coiba. We headed off a blindly, knowing nothing about the itinerary for the day or anything about the company – this was EXTREMELY hard for Señor Luma who has an extensive background in tourism and is used to being in control (or at least in the know!). But sometimes you do have to just put all your faith in the belief that it is all going to be fine (cause it was!).

SnorkelswimWe found our group in the morning and loaded in to the boat to head off on our 90-minute ride (from the beach at Santa Catalina – the nearest town) to the island. 90 minutes on a boat passes so much faster than in a car! It helped that we saw a pod of dolphins from the boat!! Upon seeing dolphins for the first time in her life, Lumita announced “This is the BEST snorkelling trip ever!!” (and we hadn’t even go IN the water yet…!). 🙂

Colour-fish We visited 3 beautiful, white sand beaches, and swam in gorgeously crystal blue (the clearest water that I have ever snorkelled in). We saw all kinds of glorious creatures and had such a lovely time! Hands down, the most exciting spotting was seeing 2 whale sharks! The area around Isla Coiba is part of their migration route and it is possible both dive and snorkel with them! On our way back at the end of the tour, we stopped off at a spot where whale sharks are often spotted and hopped in to the water with high hopes… I’ll be honest, I pretty much couldn’t contain myself and we saw the 2 whale sharks… They are extremely docile creatures (even if they are so huge and the word “shark” in their name which makes them sound ferocious) and move nice a slow so they are easy to watch. This was such a huge gift and a lifetime dream for Señor Luma!

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Not the greatest photo of a whale shark we saw (but that is fine because we have got great memories locked in our minds!).

Although they didn’t snorkel, the kids had a wonderful time playing in the shallow water and the sand. It was a great day to be outside and enjoying such a beautiful place!

This was such a wonderful weekend and it certainly has us rather excited for our time snorkelling in Roatan and in the cayes of Belize!

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A Week in Quito

El Panecillo

El Panecillo

At the end of January, I abandoned my family and headed off for a Ladies’ Week with my friend Gayle in Quito, Ecuador. Gayle and I met 15 years ago at an environmental education centre in Minnesota. Gayle is from the UK, but is in Quito for a few months as she conducts her PhD research (on inclusive urban mobility/transportation). Since we were going to be so close to each other, I decided to head down to see her. Señor Luma, Lumita (when she was all of 9 months old!), and I went to Ecuador in May 2007, but we hardly spent any time in Quito so I felt like I was headed there for my first time!

Let me just start by saying that Quito is FABULOUS! Friends of mine had been RAVING about it during (and after!) their time there, and so I was quite excited to have a whole week all to myself with a good friend. And after a year of being together (pretty much all. of. the. time.), it was nice to head off on an adventure, alone!

And while I do love travelling with my family and spending time together, it was so gloriously nice to go away and not have to worry about anybody, other than myself! And to be fully transparent, my family would not have enjoyed all of the wandering around the historic areas of Quito, visiting a basilica, standing around and watching the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace, wandering around the artisan markets, etc… There would have been whining (from the Lumitos) and frustration (from Señor Luma).

Rather than blather on about all I did, why not browse through some of my favourite photos from my week (hover over the images to see the captions).

Such a wonderful trip and so wonderful to spend some fabulous time with a great friend!

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Metalwork in Quito

I recently had a lovely little vacation from my “regular life vacation” here in Panama. At the end of January, I headed down to Quito, Ecuador to spend a week with a good friend (she is living in Quito for 3 months while she conducts her PhD research on transportation in Quito). We had not seen each other for almost 7 years and we had a blast!

We spent most of our time wandering around the streets of Quito. While participating in a walking tour of the old city of Quito, we popped in to the workshop of Germán Campos Alarcón, a metalsmith, specializing in forging (hammering and such). Naturally, I was drawn to his work and was thrilled to discover that he offered workshops! I scheduled a 3-hour workshop with him during a time that my friend had a meeting regarding her PhD research.

On the day and time of my scheduled workshop, I headed off (with dictionary in hand – well, the Spanish dictionary app on my phone!) to meet up with Germán in his studio in La Ronda (a lovely, historical pedestrian area of the old town of Quito). My Spanish is relatively decent (I can talk the ear off anyone – as long as they don’t mind LOTS of grammatical mistakes!), but my knowledge of metalsmithing vocab is less than nil. But that has never stopped me!

In the 3 hour workshop, we worked on a pendant and a ring, both made out of brass. It took a bit of time to get a flow going, but once I started to get a feel as to how to move the dapping tools and how to have a light touch (despite that you are hammering the heck out of metal!!), it all started to make sense and come together!

I loved the time with I spent with Germán. First off, I was thrilled to see that his work surface was as creatively cluttered as mine and I felt right at home digging through the mountains of tools, looking for the specific one I needed! 😉 Many of the tools he uses for the shaping are created by him, as he needs them: nails forged and hammered to make the shapes he needs – nothing too fancy.

I really loved learning some new techniques and am excited to play around in my studio – who knows, perhaps some future Luma jewellery will be inspired by Germán and his fabulous work!

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Bienvenido 2015!

And with that, the calendar page turns, offering up a new year…

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And what ARE you going to do to make it so super amazing?

Here’s what I hope to do:

  • Wrap up our year of living in Panama by ticking off a couple of destinations on the Travel Wish List (snorkeling at Isla Coiba in the Pacific, visiting Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean).
  • Spend 4 months traveling through Central America with Familia Luma (a few weeks in Costa Rica, a week in Nicaragua, a week in Roatan (Honduras), and 2 glorious months in the highlands of Guatemala).
  • Successfully home school Lumita (and remind her of all of the French she has forgotten) and prepare Lumito for FULL TIME FRENCH school in September (while galavanting around Central America.
  • Make our house in Peterborough a home for all of us!
  • Participate in at least 3 craft shows once I am back in Ontario (we return at the end of June) and get back in to the swing of the maker life!
  • Run the Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon in October with my new running group (made up entirely of other awesome makers!).

I am confident that some things will get added to the list over the next 12 months…

Wishing you all the best adventures for 2015!

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Isla Palenque – Heaven off the Panama Pacific Coast!

Sometimes, you find a place so darned spectacular that you can’t believe that you are really there… That was the case on our recent trip to Isla Palenque, a private island resort in the island archipelago on the Pacific side of Panama. Let me share a little backstory to explain how we ended up there.

Before moving to Canada 12 years ago, Señor Luma worked as an ecotourism bird guide throughout Venezuela. Tourism was his love and his life – of course now those titles belong to me and the kids! 😉 While living in Canada, he became interested in health, nutrition, and wellness as a way to heal his own chronic health issues. Eventually, he started working as a personal trainer and nutritionist, helping other folks get their health on track. But the pull of tourism continued to tug at him until finally, we decided to bring our family down to Panama so that he could follow his dream of setting up wellness tours and retreats.

He has spent the past months since we arrived here visiting possible accommodations, checking out areas and locations, and working on his website and tour itineraries. Recently, he contacted the owner at Isla Palenque and presented his ideas and plans. The 2 met a few days later for a tour of the island and to discuss bringing the tours to this spectacular island and hotel. The meeting went so well, that our whole family was invited to stay on the island and experience its magic.

Fast-forward a few weeks later and our little Familia Luma was en route to this little piece of heaven. And heaven it was!!

The Lumitos and I spent our time either at the beach or at the pool (seriously – could life get ANY BETTER for a 3.5 and 7 year old?!). Meanwhile, Señor Luma explored the island, taking part in some of the fabulous tours that are offered. He was also busy taking lots of photos and videos to use for promoting the tours.

If you want to know more about what he is up to, why not head on over to his website, watch the video he made about the upcoming retreats, or read about his take on our Palenque experience. Be sure to stay in touch if you want to know about his tours – they are going to be AMAZING!!

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