Reflecting on 2012

Reflection is always important — but the end of the year continually reminds me that I need to pause, reflect and determine how I want to move forward. The past 12 months have been a whirlwind.  I started the year with this quote:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” – League of their Own

… and my word, it hit home. This past year was tough! One thing I know for sure is that you need to be thankful for the hard times in your life, because those are the times when you grow and learn the most.

This year I learned:

  • People are #1. Throughout the year I ended up being in a number of situations where I didn’t feel like people were being treated fairly. One thing I know for sure is that people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. In both my personal and professional life, I believe in ‘lead with heart.’ As leaders, we need to be human. We need to respect people’s feelings, listen and truly treat people like we want to be treated. Choose your friends, boss, clients — and every relationship in your control, wisely. 
  • Transparency is the new marketing. No one is perfect — and I don’t believe that anyone wants to work with or be friends with people who claim to be. First and foremost, we’re all human. People want to deal with real people — and vulnerability is a strength. Be open; allow people to see who you are. Talk about your learnings — and your failures. Admit fault when you’ve made a mistake.
  • Don’t fight change. I cried a lot in September — more tears than I’ve had in years in fact. During periods of change, the only thing you can control is your reaction. Everything happens for a reason and change is inevitable. Accept it for what it is and figure out how you’re going to move forward.
  • Always have a plan b. When you’re headed into uncertainty, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Enough said.
  • Trust your gut. There is a lot to be said for intuition. When you get a feeling that something shady/wrong/sketch — it probably is. Use your head, but trust your gut. Take in all the information, but always remember to look out for you.
  • You have to take care of yourself first. I’m continually guilty of taking care of everyone else, before I take care of me. I’ve been falling into that trap for years with boyfriends, best friends and random people I have met along the way. This year I learned to be put me first {it’s still such an odd thing}. I stopped attending events I didn’t want to go to. I didn’t return phone calls when I didn’t feel like talking. I refused to be the go-to, because I knew it wasn’t in my best interest. A little wisdom from Paul Coehlo, “When you say yes to others, make sure you’re not saying no to yourself.” Don’t apologize for making yourself a priority.
  • Slow down. Life is meant to be lived.

Despite the ups and downs of the year, a lot of good happened. I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, Palm Springs, Whistler, Seattle, New York and Mexico. For the first time in my life, I learned the power of physical strength. I learned to run — completing 15 races — and became a regular at power yoga. I learned the importance of fuelling your body with good and keeping a close eye on your health. I cut out wheat, dairy and now regularly spend time in the kitchen. I truly love cooking and exploring new foods. I met a number of new friends in 2011 and throughout this past year, I focused on developing and strengthening those relationships.

Highlights of the year:

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January

The year started off with a chilly dip in the Pacific Ocean. In 2011, I was blessed to meet a local entrepreneur, Helen. She invited me to the Polar Bear Swim that took place at English Bay. With 2000 people, we charged at the 8 degree ocean. After a few shrieks in the ocean, we were back on the beach shivering and smiling. 1st Polar Bear swim complete!

February

After finding a deal through YVRdeals {and Chris Myden}, I booked a trip to Costa Rica. At the time I had no plan, just needed a little escape. I had met an entrepreneur {all around fabulous woman}, Shannon Ward, a few months earlier — and she would be living in Costa Rica while I was down there. I ended up heading to Santa Teresa and spent 10 days with my her family. The trip was filled with sunshine, surfing and delicious eats. A highlight was taking a raw food cooking course with Joanne at The Healing Cuisine.

March

International Women’s Day took place on March 8th. I was honoured to be included in Networking in Van’s “Women Making a Difference” campaign. On IWD, people all over the world celebrate the achievements of women, inspire other women and reflect on the progress women have made in our communities. There were a number of events that took place in Vancouver and I had the privilege to learn from a few. I’m thankful to have met a ton of female entrepreneurs in Vancouver — and around the world {including Judy, Jill, Heather, Zoe, ChristineKatherine, Erin and more}. Positive role models who are movin’, shakin’ and making a difference in the community.

April

In April, I had the opportunity to speak at 2 events — York University’s ‘Apex Leadership Conference‘ and Simon Fraser University’s ‘Synergy Conference.’ The events were back to back — with one being in Toronto and the other in Surrey. In a matter of 24 hours, I held a workshop and facilitated a panel, flew across the country and held another 2 workshops at Synergy. It was an absolutely exhausting — and totally rewarding weekend. One thing I’ve figured out in the last few years is that education is a core part of who I am. I truly love teaching students and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to facilitate two very engaged groups of students.

photo_1May

May was busy — with a trip to Palm Springs for a me-cation and learning from Richard Branson at a Board of Trade event. A total highlight was my weekend away in Whistler to visit my adopted family, the GossWards. Shannon, Brett and Kaede had moved back to Whistler from Costa Rica — and I wanted to see their lovely faces again. I  had never been to Whistler, so Shannon and Kaede took me up the mountain to do Peak 2 Peak. It was the end of the season, but skiers and boarders were still taking on the remaining snow. Whistler is a beautiful little gem — from taking in the views at Blackcomb to Sushi Village to a little birthday surprise, I feel lucky to have met {and learn from} this wonderful family.

June

On June 2nd, my niece Maddie turned 1 {and I turned 28}! Maddie was born on my birthday in June 2011. Now we’ll be celebrating together forever! On Friday, I had a dinner party at my place {thank you for being the Executive Chef, Dan!} and on Saturday I took the float place over to Salt Spring for a family birthday with Maddie. We had a fun afternoon in the sunshine at Mom’s house — halibut burgers, birthday cake and a very spoiled  1st grandchild!

July

In July, I headed to New York with Marina for the UN Global Partnership Summit. We spent a few days learning from global change makers from the United Nations, Global Poverty Project, ONE Campaign and Pan American Health Organization. A highlight was learning from Gillian Sorensen, Senior Advisor to the UN Foundation — absolutely inspiring few days determining how young leaders can support the UN Millennium Development Goals and create positive change in the community. In addition to the summit, Marina and I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, shopped in SOHO, dined in Little Italy — and I ended the trip with a run through Central Park.

August

Whether taking a pool day, attending a festival or parade, or running the seawall — the month was a busy one!  On August 10th, I completed my first half marathon {holy moly, eh!}. After an adductor injury mid-year, I was forced to take a DNF for a Seattle half marathon — and then I registered for Lululemon’s Seawheeze half marathon in Vancouver. In retrospect, it was my race. Luon, sunshine and running in the city that I love. Reagan and I ran together; finishing in 2:22 {feeling totally good and injury free!}.

photo_2September

Vancouver is one of the best places to live in the world — and I continually remind myself that I’m blessed to live here. Thanks to the team at Vancouver We Love You, my friend, Kate, had the opportunity to use SUP boards throughout the summer. One day in early September, we headed down to Kits Beach for a SUP sesh at sunset. It was a picture perfect night filled with paddling, laughter and trying not to fall into the ocean.

October

TELUS asked me to blog an international event coming to town, We Day. We Day is a day of celebration, inspiration and an opportunity for youth to take action and create change in their communities. I had an absolutely incredible few days with the team at Free the Children and the We Day youth. From meeting Desmond Tutu to learning from Spencer West to documenting the day — the event was a highlight of the year. It was inspiring to watch 18,000+ youth get excited to positively impact their school and community.

November

Running has hugely changed my life. Throughout my running journey, I was continually asked — How did you start running? How do I start running? Can you help me? … After a bit of brainstorming, I launched Runcouver. The goal is to connect all levels of pavement crushers and trail dominators, into one positive, motivating, goal crushing community. In addition to Runcouver, I launched the #RunCrew. The 2012/2013 pilot consists of 10 young women who are committed to striving high and I’ll be coaching them to their 1st half marathon in Summer 2013.

December

The year came to an end with major job change. After almost 2 years consulting, I decided to go back in-house for an amazing opportunity at a growing company. I am now a HR Generalist at Avigilon. I feel blessed to work on a progressive, entrepreneurial team with a down-t0-earth {and wicked smart} leader. My role supports day-to-day global HR operations, with a focus on employee relations, training and development, benefits and compensation and employee experience.  I’m learning a ton and my days are wild busy — both good problems to have. I’ve officially been there a month and I feel like I couldn’t have landed at a better company. It’s awesome to be surrounded by people who truly love what they do.


“You have to fight through some bad days, to earn the best days of your life.” – Unknown

Officially closing out 2012. To laughter, love and living in 2013.

Finding Peace in Costa Rica

When I think back to when I bought my plane ticket – I can’t actually remember what month it was, let alone what day. Chris over at http://www.yvrdeals.com highlighted a seat sale and I hopped right on it! There is something about Central America that intrigues me and brings me peace.

In December, I counted down the days.

In January, I continued to count but with a grand feeling of excitement.

Finally all became real on February 5th when I was en route to the airport.

Something I have learned about myself over the past couple of years is that I am very high and low. “Regular” day-to-day life is busy. The focus is on working a lot, helping others as much as I can, volunteering in the community, attending events, pushing myself to learn more, keeping track of my new niece and family, learning to run, catching up with friends — and keeping my head above water.

Sometimes stamina will keep me going a month, but other times it’s a week.

When I get to my brink – all I want to do is lay down in silence. I don’t want to talk or even sleep (…I often say “I’m done talking today”)… I just want to enjoy. I curl up in my duvet for as long as it takes to catch my breath and start again.

Every so often I exchange a little R&R in my bedroom for a trip abroad.

My exposure to international travel began when I spent 5 weeks in Europe in 2005 (10 incredible countries!). Before that I had just been to the US and Mexico — which keeps one fairly sheltered!

  • 2005: England, France, Monaco, Italy, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium
  • 2006: Kelowna, Playa del Carmen
  • 2007: Banff, Puerto Vallarta
  • 2008: Dominican

[Note: In late 2008, I finally ended my travel frustration as I figured out how to manipulate my ‘corporate’ 2 weeks vacation into mega time off. Win. :)]

  • 2009: Las Vegas, Germany, Tunisia
  • 2010: Toronto, Niagara Falls, Hawaii, New York, California (San Francisco and Napa Valley), Montana, Japan
  • 2011: Belize, California (from Laguna Beach to LA), Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, Maryland, Virginia

[Note: No I do not own a home. Yes I have a travel bank account instead of a mortgage savings account (much to my banker’s disagreement).]

So, 2012. After this trip to Costa Rica, the hope/plan is a week in Toronto, girls weekend (and a half marathon) in Seattle, Wanderlust in Whistler, the JCI World Congress in Taiwan and 4 weeks in India teaching entrepreneurship.

Just writing that out gets me so amped for what is next.

My soul comes alive when I travel. It allows me to step outside my life and for whatever reason (the good and the bad) all becomes clear.

Travel pushes me out of my comfort zone and allows me to learn so much about the world. When I was young “travel” meant 5* hotels and all-inclusives. Now it means a backpackers hostel and at least one “I think I might die” moment. [Note: I still love a spa day, massage and duvet every so often. :)]

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I had absolutely no expectations of Costa Rica, and very unlike me, I did absolutely no planning. Mom gave me the Lonely Planet for Christmas and I opened it up on the flight to LAX.

I had one destination – Santa Teresa. I had randomly met a terrific (capital T) woman named Shannon in Whistler late last year. Sure enough we know lots of the same people (…thank you Vancouver!) and I met her biz partner, the fab (capital F) Diana last month. Anyways Shannon and her family [badass (capital B) Brett and too cute Kaede] are living in Costa Rica for 3ish months. Sweet life eh? My “plan” was to head to their beach town and go from there.

My “I think I might die” moment of this trip took place in the first 48 hours (kind of the first day still as I had spent the last 24 hrs traveling and that only kind of counts)… I missed my regional flight as we landed late in Liberia. The next flight they could get me on was 2 days later (not an option). I had no idea until I arrived but Santa Teresa is 5 hours by car from Liberia — in other words, a hell of a long way in a developing world. I was told that most people headed to Santa Teresa fly into San Jose… which is considerably closer… :) I was advised not to take the local bus as it would take 10 hours and was very unsafe compared to local buses in Central America. My only option was a taxi… and it would cost me $300 USD. :-/ My driver did not speak English, the car barely worked and my fingers were crossed I would make it down the Nicoya Peninsula. A local tourist guy at the airport gave me his phone number and told me to text him if I ran into any problems. He reinforced that I need to pay attention to the routes the driver is taking and to not let him stop anywhere. He gave me a map and wished me luck. Great and all but I only had cell service the first 2 hours (of which I panicky texted my sister and a few friends telling them where I was headed and what I was wearing).

It was a very long drive. I was exhausted from my 24 hours of travel and my eyes kept on fading in the last 2 hours. The driver was a nice young guy and (I could tell) he knew I was scared he was going to rape and kill me. He offered many times to stop and I politely declined. The last 3 hours of roads were brutal bad – dirt roads full of pot holes, bumps and not so much fun.

But eventually we made it to Santa Teresa!!

First impression was — Why the hell did I come here? This is not paradise. I arrived at night and the town was a dusty dirty mess. The dirt road creates a lot of dust (it’ll all be washed away when the rain comes in a few months!). If you’re planning a visit (and renting a ATV), bring a bandana or dust mask to cover your nose/mouth. Shannon and I chatted about the nasty road and she made a good point… If the road wasn’t dirt, then Santa Teresa would be LOADED with tourists. The dirt road keeps them away…. Ah, dirt. Love dirt. Love dust.

I could continue to write for days on every detail of the trip but instead, a few of the highlights:

  • Morning runs at Playa Santa Teresa (by the way, running on the beach sucks hardcore)
  • Daily smoothie goodness (banana, guava, soy was my fave!)
  • Learning to surf at Playa Hermosa
  • Ice cream everyday (mainly consumed to-die-for Trits but also loved the choco mint mmmmm)
  • Raw food classes with Joanne
  • Breathtaking views and the infinity pool at XXX < cannot remember what it’s called :)
  • Sunsets, sand castles and tacos with my adoptive family
  • Evening hammock sessions at Casa Zen with the boys
  • Sleeping more than 5 hours… most of the trip I slept 8 hours :)

Santa Teresa is a special place. The beachesand sunsets are absolutely stunning, but the town has some charm too. There ended up being a lot of stress from back home throughout the trip but — still, Santa Teresa calmed me. On the last day, badass Brett told me that I looked more relaxed than when I arrived. Well thank goodness haha.

It’s been years since I bunk bed travelled (I usually opt for the $20 private room over the $8-10 shared dorm). I am someone who loves my space (sorry Casey, Luke, Julie, Jake and Nate). On the second to last day, I was done.


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In order to avoid the 5 hour taxi back to Liberia, I decided to take a regional flight. Sansa Air took me from Tambor to San Jose and then San Jose to Liberia. Breathtaking views on both flights. I’ve been feeling ick the past few days (and also threw up on my 2nd flight)… so when I landed in Liberia I decided to end hostel life early and head to a hotel for the night. I had a hot shower (no more cold!!), room service and slept in a kind sized bed with down duvet. This morning I blow dryed my hair and put on shoes, jeans & mascara! Perfection.

As much as I love travel, I also love home and the routine that comes with day-to-day life. I’m on my flight from Liberia to Miami (then Dallas Fort-Worth) — and honestly so excited to get back to Vancouver. I’m looking forward catching up with my clients, seeing my friends and sleeping in my own bed. I thought I was getting in at 11pm but I actually get in at 8:30pm. Once I get home, I’m heading straight to the grocery store. I can’t wait to put all I learned from Joanne at The Healing Cuisine into action.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be back to work. It’ll be a busy week catching up on client work, plus Forum for Women Entrepreneurs‘ Sparkle Gala, JCI Vancouver’s launch party, Pink Tank Group’s NextGen panel and CKNW’s Pink Shirt Day Ladies Luncheon.

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2 weeks in Costa Rica was just what I needed. It allowed me to breathe [and cough… damn dust. ;)]

I’m very grateful that I am able to see the world and spend time with those who continually expand my mind.

A big thank you to Shannon, Brett and Kaede forthe laughs and love.

PS – Travel Wish List (in no particular order): Panama, Brazil, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Colorado & New Orleans in the USA. … yep, pretty much everywhere. :)