I was all set. My suitcase packed and I even took a sleeping pill to ensure that I would get a good eight (or so) hours of sleep prior to the long day of international travel ahead. Exiting the shower, I could already feel the drowsiness set in. Success. But a cursory glance at my phone changed that—several notifications from Air Canada filled my screen notifying me that my flight the following morning was cancelled.
My city ended up getting around 24cm of snow in just over twenty-four hours. With my first flight kaput, I missed out on my connection to Hong Kong and had to postpone my holiday by one day. Admittedly, I was disappointed (and who wouldn't be). Thoughts of lost moments (and lost money) gave me brief anxiety ... but all that dissipated when I checked into my hotel and set sight on the view in my upgraded room. Nothing else seemed to matter. This was priceless.
Ten years ago, my father and I backpacked around mainland China. It was an experience I had idealized in my head but in actuality wasn't fully prepared for; I was exposed to so many different sights, sounds, flavours, experiences and ideologies that mid-way through, I became overwhelmed and quit. I wanted to go home. To appease me, my father instead booked an extended stay at a nice hotel in Chengdu and we remained stationary as "locals" for awhile. It worked but in the end this cost myself the opportunity for total immersion and understanding of difference. I've taken a new approach with subsequent excursions and now embrace being uncomfortable to a certain extent. The growth I've had in the last ten years is proof of that. For instance, I don't think my partner and I would have made it otherwise—he's a doctorate scientist from Kerala and I'm an artist from the Canadian prairies. It's not just a blending of cultures, but of mindsets. We make it work.
In the decade since that trip, there has been much change in my life. I moved to a new city and transitioned from entrepreneurship to a fulfilling career in education. Added to my family and cut ties to other branches of it. Made lifelong friends and kissed unforgettable loves goodbye. I learned to truly live for the moment but also take time to reflect on (and respect) the past lest it haunt me. And then there was the single most important thing to happen in my life: I lost my father, best friend and perennial travel partner.
In a way, this trip marks a bookend for the period. It is a return to a place that kicked my ass ten years ago. It is an acquiesce for it to kick my ass again, if needed. My father would appreciate this. May he be with me in spirit.
And may the next ten years provide as much adventure and evolution to my life. Let's go.
The Oblada boutique is now open. Shop for prints and other merchandise at society6.com/Oblada.
"Everyone was saying I should be happy with how I played and stuff. But, like, I don’t care about that. I want to win."
The quote above is from an article written by Patrik Laine, right-winger for the Winnipeg Jets. The article generated buzz on social media for a number of reasons, including Patrik's self-professed love for my hometown (fuck the haters, Winnipeg is good). But it was the insight into the inner monologue of a professional athlete that has stuck with me. Even though I'm partially allergic to exercise, I relate to it. I also want to win.
My partner learned this recently when we played badminton together for the first time. I hadn't played in eons and forgot most of the rules but that didn't matter. I went in hard. After volleying for a bit, he commented on how I was better than he anticipated. I gave my best "awwww, shucks" face and continued with my strategy of playing to his strengths while blinding him with mine. After all, I'm not there to just look cute while feeding into someone else's ego. I bring my A-game.
I didn't always feel this way though.
I am naturally gifted in sport; probably inheriting the trait from my father who was a formidable athlete in several areas including hockey and baseball. In my youth, I participated in the Canada Fitness Awards which were administered nationally through physical education programs in school. I regularly came out on top for my gender but I recall one relay event in particular in which I received the fastest time for my school overall. I was so proud, as were my female classmates who ecstatically attempted to carry me on their shoulders in a makeshift parade. The boys glowered. These awards meant nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things but the hostility and taunting I received afterwards subconsciously informed me to dial it down. To play in my own sandbox and focus on making friends during this critical developmental time rather than attempt to stand out with exception.
Reading my words back now, I have but one thought: this is some bullshit.
With maturity, I have learned to not let anyone diminish one of my greatest assets: confidence.
I recently had a psychometric assessment of my personality done at work. To no one's surprise, I came out as an extreme type-A, being very purposeful and structured with tremendous attention to detail. But also competitive. Very competitive. In fact, it was the highest rated quality of my persona at 98% (and it was my competitive side that wondered if anyone ranked higher). I did shrink a bit as our team compared notes, wanting to conceal what I initially perceived as a negative trait, but I'm learning to embrace it more openly. This aspect of my personality never stems from a dark place, only one of potential betterment (for myself and, I believe, others). For example, I would never aim to "win at all costs". If my body, mind and accumulated skill level can't get me to succeed on their own, I see it as a means to improve myself, not cheat. This is where the challenge of competition can lead to great things. It can motivate. It can elevate. Beyond sport, picture a world in which the genius of Thomas Edison wasn't feuding with Nikola Tesla. Imagine where we'd be without the duelling technological might of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Being inspired to evolve, rather than simply adapt, is what gives humanity purpose.
It also reminded me of a piece of advice my father once gave me eons ago:
"Don't lower yourself to anyone else's level. Make them rise to yours."
Next up in my vintage-style travel poster series is one of my favourite cities in the world: Tokyo, Japan. I have been fortunate enough to visit it three times in 2009, 2012 and 2015.
Connect with me if interested in purchasing a signed, limited edition print.
Pizza is one of my favourite foods. I would claim that, over the years, I have become somewhat of a pizza aficionado. I have my favourite restaurant for sauce. I have my favourite restaurant for quality – and variety – of toppings. I know the difference between New York, Chicago and authentic Roma styles and regularly indulge in a slice or two (or three ... or four) of each. But in all my years on this planet, I have never made a pizza at home. To be fair, I had no reason to. I didn't know how to cook and it was honestly just easier to wait a few minutes for delivery.
But all that has changed now.
For this weekend, we made a homemade pizza from scratch and it was life-changing.
I combined this Bobby Flay recipe for the dough with this ultimate pizza sauce recipe, along with the freshest mozzarella I could buy, hot pepperoni, white onion and green pepper to make one of the best pizzas I've ever had! Seriously. The dough evolved into a perfectly thin crust that allowed the savoury and robust sauce and fresh-from-the-market toppings to shine through. Cost-wise, this was definitely no $5 Little Caesars take-out. I estimate that it cost $27.50 to make two pies, not including our time and labour.
But I'm not sure I can go back. This was THAT good.
I'm planning to make/freeze dough and sauce in advance so that I can insert this into my regular meal rotation. It's taken awhile but now that I am limiting processed foods to as few as possible, it's only natural that my favourite food gets a fresh makeover.
Next up in my vintage-style travel poster series is Amsterdam, Netherlands, which I visited in 2014 on a very memorable cross-Europe roadtrip with my father who was battling terminal cancer.
Connect with me if interested in purchasing a signed, limited edition print.