The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson

I have been reading Mark Manson’s articles on his blog for quite some time. So when I found out he had published a book, I was intrigued. I really like Mark’s style of writing – a no bullsh*t approach to some really key discoveries in life.

Mark makes it very easy to relate (for me anyway) to his life journey and conveys his concepts in a very easy, straightforward way. Throughout this book, I found myself agreeing with so much of what he has written.

Something that really stuck for me was the “Do Something” Principle. I am incredibly vulnerable to procrastination when I am feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start, so this mantra is something I plan to use. It doesn’t matter what, just do something and don’t sit around.

Mark talks about the value of his travel experience in his life and after spending most of my 20s travelling and living overseas, I could totally relate. I am so grateful for all of the amazing experiences I had and I learned so much from travelling the world, but the most important lesson that I learned from absolutely everywhere I have been is that societies all around the world can completely function with very different values. So it doesn’t matter what your values are, someone out there is doing it differently, and that is TOTALLY OK. I think in today’s world, that is often overlooked.

Mark also talks about freedom through commitment. Commitment is not something that has been a focus in my life. Until recently, I had never been in one place or job or relationship for more than two years. And while some might think 2 years is commitment, it pales in comparison to my peers who have been working and living in their ‘places’ for more than 10 years already. I used to think that my lack of commitment made me exciting and adventurous. Recently, I have been going through the journey of realizing that there is a slew of other benefits in committing to things. I has been a really interesting ride and I am constantly learning and experiencing so many things that I would never had had the opportunity to if I hadn’t settled down a little.

Enough rambling: this book was a great read. It was enlightening, I liked the no-nonsense approach Mark takes and I would definitely recommend it.


How to Be Married – Jo Piazza

I picked this book up at an independent book store in BC while trying to kill time on a work trip. It was late at night, I was tired and I found myself in the self-help section…which is not an oddity. I ended up purchasing a few books on relationships, which leads me to believe I needed some perspective.

What drew me to this book was the promise of an evaluation of relationships and marriages across cultures around the world. Self help + cultural stories = I’m in.

Not surprisingly, I loved this book. It was an enlightening read that brought some perspective to relationships for me and I found the cultural differences so intriguing. Each culture Jo examines brings a uniquely different lesson to the table.

I really enjoying reading about the different perspectives from each culture, but the ones that stuck most with me were:

  • Sweden – challenge gender roles
  • Denmark – create a healthy home environment
  • Holland – you are not married to your job
  • Israel – love yourself first
  • India – be thankful
  • Kenya – it takes a village

As Jo Piazza navigates the ins and outs of relationships around the world, you are also taken on her own adventure as a newlywed and the joys and challenges of the first year of marriage. More times than not, I found myself chuckling and relating to her experiences. I found How to Be Married and inspirational read that delivered the most important message of all – no matter what culture, religion or nationality, we all experience similar ups and downs in daily relationships.

Definitely a must read if you are at all into self help and learning more about societal norms of other cultures. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Travel Tuesday: Awra Amba, Ethiopia Part 2

I apologize in advance. This is a long post. But it’s worth it – I promise.

Usually when I travel, I prefer venturing into the unknown, but it always proves to be a challenge. When I was planning my trip to Ethiopia I found a tiny blurb in my friend’s Lonely Planet that went something like this: Awra Amba is a quiet weaving co-operative community that is worth a detour off the beaten path.

Well, say no more. I dragged my new Australian friend with me, as this journey required some hiking and I didn’t want to go it alone. (thanks to Catherine for sharing her pics with me. She took most of the amazing pics below)

Yup. At the bus stop in the middle of nowhere

Yup. At the bus stop in the middle of nowhere

Getting ready for our 5km hike!

Gearing up for our 5km hike!

Our hike was long but offered some amazing scenery

Our hike was long but offered some amazing scenery

Ladies headed to the market

Ladies headed to the market

When we finally arrived, we sat down and took in some of the village. Everyone seemed very happy and busy, except the school kids, who were on break.


Catherine and I in the dining area

Catherine and I in the dining area

Our morning started out with a tour around the community with a brief history lesson and explanation of how the weaving cooperative works. We finished our afternoon with a meet and greet with the man behind everything, Zuma. I’ll explain this a little backwards starting with Zumra and his reasoning for starting a community like this:

Zumra grew up, like most Africans, in a household where is mother did all the housework, farming and child rearing while her husband was off working and/or drinking in the bar. His father would get home and demand dinner and not participate in any of the household operations. Zuma grew up questioning this way of life. He envisioned a community of equals. Where men and women pitched in. Since his thinking was very radical for the times, he was ostracized and ended up leaving home at 13 in order to find like minded people. He wandered around Ethiopia for five years and finally decided to return home (unsuccessful in his search) to become a farmer. He started working to provide for those less fortunate, giving away most of what he made – which provided the opportunity to be criticized by family and friends. He took to the road again during the rainy seasons in search of his ideal community – one without discrimination. In 1972 he finally found the group he was looking for and founded the Awra Amba community. His basic principles for this community to be successful were:

– respecting the right to equality of women

– respecting children’s rights

– helping people who are unable to work due to old age and health problems

– avoiding bad speech and bad deeds

– accepting all human beings as brothers and sisters

Sounds spectacular doesn’t it? I’m sure you are asking “Well how does this work – especially in Africa?” Here are some key points on how the community works:

The community is based on two kinds of membership: Community members, these members can be from anywhere as long as they subscribe to the beliefs of the community, and Cooperative members, the members that actually live, work and participate in the community.

There are 13 committees that lead the community. Anywhere from Guest Reception and Lost and found property to Edlerly and Oprhans Care and Security and Education. Each committee plays their own role in ensuring the community operates smoothly. They have a committee that identifies problems, one that resolves complaints and even a hygiene and sanitation committee

For work, women and men partake in the same activities as long as they have the physical strength to do so. Men weave, women farm, there are no restrictions. They select workers for each task based on their specific skills, interests and ability to do the job. Gender and age do not matter. To foster this equality, all salaries for any work done in the community go into a communal pot and is distributed throughout the households, committee funds, library, school, and clinic.

They have schools built in the community for the young kids and the high school age kids go to a nearby town of their choosing. When children are finished high school, they have the option to remain with the community, or seek work elsewhere. The majority of them stay based on the strong foundation and principles the community has to offer.

When it is time for marriage, it only occurs at the full consent of the two parties. Either party is welcome to marry outside the community. Women are not allowed to marry before 19 and men 20 – giving them ample time to finish their education and make the decision to marry on their own. Couples are monogamous (a rarity in a lot of African communities). There is no special celebration after weddings – it is recognized as a paperwork activity. All decisions are made equally. In order to get a divorce you have to go through the Complaint Resolving Committee and they will work to help resolve issues before resorting to a divorce.

I think one of the most crucial foundations of the community is that they all care for one another. The community has something called Lewegen Derash, which is a fund that supports the elderly and those unable to work. On a designated day of the week all money raised from activities done within the community (weaving and spinning) are donated to Lewegen Derash. This fund supports things like providing educational materials for children, provide treatment for sick people who have no money, support people who are unable to work and even to help people from outside the community.

Here are some pics of our tour:

The Library

The Library

Beautiful babies

Beautiful babies

Wee kids in the classroom

Wee kids in the classroom

Our lovely tour guide showing us how they make injera in the community kitchen

Our lovely tour guide showing us how they make injera in the community kitchen

My favourite part of the tour was getting to see the weaving happening. It is utterly astounding and I probably could have watched them for hours:

I wanted to purchase this blanket but they were all sold out...

I wanted to purchase this blanket but they were all sold out…

So I got this one instead!

So I got this one instead!

And this robe...very warm!

And this robe…very warm!

After the tour, we got to meet Zumra and ask him some questions. He was a very interesting man. I think the most intriguing part of his story was that he was fighting hard for a community of peace and equality in an era (1970s) when this was completely unheard of. He has received support from a few other areas in Ethiopia and he knows of one other community that has been inspired by their beliefs and principles, but his dream would be for his community concept to spread around the world!

Catherine and I with Zumra

Catherine and I with Zumra

Sharing photos of Zumra's world

Sharing photos of Zumra’s world

Catherine and I got to spend the night in the village in some newly constructed dormitories. It was a wonderful experience (except for the flea bites I seemed to accumulate) and we were very pleased with the reception and incredibly humbled by the energy, passion and dedication that all community members seemed to posses for their lifestyle. We were escorted (for the whole 5kms) back to the main road by Zumra’s youngest son (he was 19), who was attending University in Bahir Dar (about 2 hours away). He said that he couldn’t wait to find a wife and build a family in Awra Amba one day.

Once again, sorry for the length of this post, but this was probably one of my favourite highlights of my trip to Ethiopia!

Travel Tuesday: Ethiopia Pt. 1

It has almost been two years since I was in Ethiopia. I spent three weeks there traveling around after I was finishing my volunteer placement in Kenya.

I landed in Addis Ababa and was immediately surprised. Ethiopia was very different from what I was expected. It had come a long way from the starving children on those Plan Canada TV asks. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a very poor country, however you could tell that there had been significant improvements – especially in infrastructure.

I ended up at this quiet little hotel (there are no hostels in Ethiopia) a short distance from the airport. It was cheap. The manager was nice and spoke a little English and there were only two cockroaches in my room – you’ll understand the important of this statement further along in this story.

I spent a couple of days checking out the city, getting accustomed to the money and new time and date. They operate on a 12 hour clock that starts at 6am. According to wikipedia:

To convert between the Ethiopian clock and Western clocks, one must add (or subtract) 6 hours to the Western time. For example, 2 AM local Addis Ababa time is called “8 at night” in Ethiopia, while 8 PM is called “2 in the evening”

Confusing enough for you? Well, get this:

The Ethiopian calendar has twelve months of exactly 30 days each plus five or six epagomenal days, which comprise a thirteenth month.

Yeah, that’s right. 13 months! Luckily enough, most Ethiopians understand time and dates of the rest of the world, so I wasn’t too lost.

After a couple of days in Addis, I decided to get on a bus to my first destination – Bahir Dar. The bus left super early in the morning, which involved standing around in the dark and cold waiting for the right bus to show up. I met this woman named Catherine, who I eventually ended up traveling with for most of my journeys.The journey took a full day and we arrived at the bus stage in Bahir Dar, exhausted and dirty and subject to so many hawkers trying to get us to stay at their hotels and overcharge us for taxis and whatnot. Before I get into that, check out these amazing pics from our bus journey:

Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa

Traditional housing

Traditional housing

Family compound

Family compound

Spectacular views as we drove up into the mountains

Spectacular views as we drove up into the mountains

Crossing the Nile River

Crossing the Nile River

So we arrived at the bus stage only to be hounded by thousands of touts trying to get us to take their taxi to their ‘friend’s’ hotel. We picked the most trustworthy guy and got in a tuk tuk with him. We had also met a Dutch girl along the way, who joined us to the hotel. I think we picked something that looked cheap from one of our guidebooks. The hotel was empty and was relatively clean so we settled our stuff in and headed out for a walk to the market.

Very similar to Kenyan markets, but a lot more organized. This was the mattress section.

Very similar to Kenyan markets, but a lot more organized. This was the mattress section.

And indoors you could get any grain you like. As long as it was teff :)

And indoors you could get any grain you like. As long as it was teff 🙂

We took a day trip from Bahir Dar across Lake Tana. The weather wasn’t amazing, but we ventured off to some islands full of monasteries. I borrowed some pics from my friend Catherine:

There was lots of beautiful 'art'

There was lots of beautiful ‘art’

A woman transporting water

A woman transporting water

Enjoying the sun while waiting for our boat to leave

Enjoying the sun while waiting for our boat to leave

The outer 'ring' of the monastery

The outer ‘ring’ of the monastery

The one thing that I really wanted to do (because I’m such a crafty person), is visit a small weaving cooperative called Awra Amba. I feel like this special little place deserves its own blog post, so I’m going to save it for later. All I will say is that it required some hiking and taking nondescript buses to get there, so I am really glad that my new friend Catherine was down for it too – it was definitely off the beaten path!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Ethiopia journey…



2015 Book List

If you have read my Goals/Challenges for 2015, you see that I set a pretty lofty goal of reading 26 books by the end of the year. I found this cool list online that I thought might help me work towards my goal. Some books will check off more than one category, but it should provide some variation to my reading list.

  • A book with more than 500 pages
  • A classic romance
  • A book that became a movie
  • A book published this year
  • A book with a number in the title
  • A book written by someone under 30
  • A book with nonhuman characters
  • A funny book
  • A book by a female author
  • A mystery or thriller
  • A book with a one-word title
  • A book of short stories
  • A book set in a different country
  • A nonfiction book
  • A popular author’s first book
  • A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
  • A book a friend recommended
  • A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
  • A book based on a true story
  • A book at the bottom of your to-read list
  • A book your mom loves
  • A book that scares you
  • A book more than 100 years old
  • A book based entirely on its cover
  • A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
  • A memoir
  • A book you can finish in a day
  • A book with antonyms in the title
  • A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
  • A book that came out the year you were born
  • A book with bad reviews
  • A trilogy
  • A book from your childhood
  • A book with a love triangle
  • A book set in the future
  • A book set in high school
  • A book with a color in the title
  • A book that made you cry
  • A book with magic
  • A graphic novel
  • A book by an author you’ve never read before
  • A book you own but have never read
  • A book that takes place in your hometown
  • A book that was originally written in a different language
  • A book set during Christmas
  • A book written by an author with your same initials
  • A play
  • A banned book
  • A book based on or turned into a TV show
  • A book you started but never finished

Goals/Challenges for 2015

I already created this post once – and it disappeared. I can only take that to mean that the following list is not meant to be. Alas, I will try again. I have put together a list of things that I would like to accomplish in 2015:

Creative projects:

  • Finish all current projects. This might not seem huge, but I am a MasterProcrastinator and have the attention span of aknat. I start A LOT of projects but finish few. 2015 is the year of changing this. You may not believe me,so I have outlined a couple of examples:
    • Cross stitch project started likely over 10 years ago
    • Icelandic sweater (from wool purchased in Iceland in 2011) which now only resembles a tube top
    • African print shorts (started in 2013) that are currently two sizes too big
    • This list goes on, I promise
  • Utilize all of the yarn and fabric in my apartment. It’s a lot. Trust me.
  • Launch two new product lines for my online shop
  • Finish my online travel writing course. Yeah, you know, the one that I enrolled in in 2012. It even has its own home on this website. They have since re-designed the course, so I’m started back at chapter one. Go me!

New projects:

  • Build frames and canvas stretchers for all my artwork. Much cheaper than having a professional do it and you can learn anything from the internet these days
  • Create my own beauty products (I’m talking toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, lotion, etc.) Once again, the internet is magic
  • Build a terrarium. So retro, so me. This guy is my hero.
  • Plant/grow my own veggies and herbs. I have already started growing things from kitchen scraps. Who knew this was possible! Shut the front door!
  • Read 26 books

Lifestyle projects:

  • Pay off debt. Volunteering for two years, traveling for over 8 years and refurnishing a new apartment really takes a toll on the old pocketbook.
  • Run 5 races this year. I’ll plan to do two 5Ks, two 10Ks and one 15/18K. Once the temperature gets above zero again…
  • Stick to my diet. (I’ve got IBS yo!) I was doing REALLY well. Then Christmas slapped me in the face. I’ll get back on track this year!
  • Join some sports. I’ve already signed up for soccer and curling and I have every intention of trying out for a competitive slo-pitch team.
  • Meet new people. I’m a hermit. I have often spent a weekend indoors knitting for 72 hours. I need to get out and meet some new people. Or else I will likely die alone. Alone, but warm from all the afgans I will have completed. 🙂


Happy New Year!!

Plus two weeks…

Yeah I’m a little late on the mandatory Happy New Year blog post. I guess I have been too busy reading everyone else’s posts on the past year and what’s to come this year.

I have always been a little baffled why people wait until January 1st every year to make changes in their life – because, well…There’s no time like the present. Right? [pot calling the kettle black, I know]. I think we all get so busy and consumed in so many things that we forget what the big picture is all about. I would love to think of myself as the type of person who works consistently year round to become more of the person I want to be. [I am a firm believer that everyone, I don’t care who you are, always has room to improve in some facet of their life.] But, I’m not. I have good intention, but there is always something better on Netflix.

So, because I’m a champ procrastinator (I’m 13 days late on this) and I LOVE taking on more than I can handle (you will understand when you see my list), I have created some Goals and Challenges for 2015. I feel like these lists are overrated, but I took some time over the past few weeks to figure out where I’d like to be in December this year and how I get there exactly – in all areas of my life! I feel like a lot of these are carrying over from last year, but last year was a BIG one and things got kind of insane.

Uh – yeah. Just a small list. It should keep me busy and hopefully I won’t be too lazy to blog about a few of them. I think if I accomplish 50% of them, I’ll be happy. I’ve made a lot of posts about things I’d like to do…remember Travel Tuesdays? and have a hard time following through. Well, I need you guys (my readers – all 5 of you) to hold me accountable…

That being said, I should probably write a Travel Tuesday.