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..."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More proof that Vancouver really is for the birds

I spent much of my weekend this past week involved in birding activities.
I spotted this spotted towhee during my "big day" count.

Yeah, I know. That's not really anything new. I spend a lot of my free time birding, or taking adventures that involve some element of seeing or watching wild birds (when I'm not paddling...and the two often intertwine).

However... this time, my activity included my own personal involvement in one of the many events taking place as part of the 2016 Vancouver Bird Week.

This event has been taking place for four years now, and offers activities for all who are interested in birds, whether it's a casual interest, an avid passion, or anywhere in between.

The event has a theme and an official "city bird." This year, the peregrine falcon was the official bird of Vancouver Bird Week. The theme was "Birds in Our Garden."

I first heard of this annual celebration last year, just after it had wrapped up, via social media. This year, I was a bit more prepared, but still was not able to take part in as many activities as I would liked to have done.

The events ran from May 7 to 14, and included bird photography classes (outdoors, of course), guided bird walks in many of the Vancouver city parks and some regional parks in the Metro Vancouver area, birding for beginners workshops, a movie, a book launch, a special birding tour of Howe Sound, and a "big day" of birding, on May 14, which just happened to be International Migratory Bird Day. To take part in this,  participants went out and about, in and around Vancouver and tallied all the different bird species they saw.

 Mallard ducklings on Avalon Pond in Everett Crowley Park, Vancouver.

These tallies were then presented in the Vancouver Public Library's central branch Alice MacKay Room, at the Bird Week Finale ... which also marked the launch of a new book - or rather, a revised edition of The Birder's Guide to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, produced by Nature Vancouver.

Following some speeches and presentations, there were several draws for prizes that included books, bird-friendly coffee, wine, cloth tote bags, and a spotting scope donated very generously by Bird Studies Canada.

Some nice draw prizes were handed out at the finale.
But wait - there's more...

This isn't news, but more of a reminder.

Rob Butler - the man who led the sea safari in Howe Sound - talked about how Vancouver will host the 2018 International Ornithological Congress.

This is a huge "feather in the cap" (pun intended!) not only for the birders here but for the entire city. Vancouver outbid everyone else for this event, which only takes place once every two years. Tokyo was the host this year.

The next one will take place in the summer of 2018.

Before that, though, there will be Vancouver Bird Week, 2017 to look forward to.

Next year, I plan to be much more involved. Because I really do believe Vancouver is for the birds. And that's a good thing.