Happiness, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, Travel

First Time Mountain Biking in West Bragg Creek x How to Climb Out of a Funk.


Our family is growing.In my final weeks of maternity leave I have been making sure to focus on some “me” time and schedule some really lovely days while the older kids are in dayhome. As I write this I have a sleepy 3 year old on one arm and a baby army crawling across the rug toward my foot. As this is an in-the-spur of the moment blog post, it is unedited and free-flowing.  So bear with me, I get to the point.

I am pretty motivated to start experiencing some great days not only because it’s the last 6 weeks of leave, but also because I was suffering.

The gift of suffering is that it motivates us to take action.   That’s some Tony Robbins Life Coach stuff right there. 

Like many of you, I was in such a funk this winter.  Even though I LOVE winter, even though I got outside and enjoy winter sports, I found that my mental health really started suffering in late January, I was in the doldrums in February-March and in April I was wondering if I was having a depressive episode. I was exhausted, sore, withdrawn and had zero motivation to do pretty much anything.  I was also experiencing some PTSD symptom recurrence as well as dissociative behaviours.

When you are in a funk it affects everything.  From the way you sleep to the way you talk.  I felt lonely, sad, anxious. I found myself framing things negatively, and my internal stories shifting. I was consumed with a handful of shitty memories of childhood and ruminated on one absent parent. It was just kind of a crap time for me internally.

I decided to start working with a psychologist again biweekly to process some of these tough childhood memories that began bubbling up during this funk, (many of them were memories that I had forgoetten about and was reexperiencing again with renewed intensity.) I also wanted just a glimmer of motivation to climb myself up and out of the doldrums.

Funks aren’t about what you are not doing.

I find that funks are more about why you can’t just get yourself to do what you need to do. 

Part of my internal recalibration process has been recommitting to doing things that make me happy.  I was getting too bogged down in human “doing” versus human “being.”  I was becoming a robotic to-do list champion and felt kind of emotionless and detached.  I would brush off something simple like drawing.  Here’s my brain’s response: “Why would you draw? It doesn’t contribute to anything productive.  It’s useless. And I have laundry to do.”

Sound familiar?

I’d even brush off going for a walk (which I LOVE doing on mat leave) or doing self care things like brush my teeth.  Because when you are in a funk, its like you discount all those things and think “ugh, that’s so cliche, doing something like a walk, or writing on paper,  is NOT going to change my entire internal landscape!” and you just care less about everything.

I KNOW this because I do it in funks. I KNOW this because my students at the University do this in their funks.  Everyone does this!

I hate when you get a pamphlet on mental health and it gives you a checklist of things to do.  We all intuitively know they will help.  The issue is our shitty attitude and that we convince ourselves none of these things are powerful enough to fix things. It’s like your rational brain has been hijacked by pirates that take that pamphlet or list and burn it, cheering.

What confounds me is that following all of those checklists on ” mental health” DOES work. Why do we eye roll and discount the very things that will get you back on track?

Pirates.  Definitely the pirates.

*IF* you commit, you do them, and slowly add more practices, then a month or so later you’re back to loving life. You climb up and out the hole.

Truly, you have to tell yourself to stop listening to everything your brain is saying and JUST DO IT.  Your little pirates will make you want to roll your eyes at the pamphlet and think “ugh, that is so cliche,” and toss it in the recycling.

So, ignoring the pirates, I made a list of things that I know make me feel good.  Even while my shitty mind was like “meh.”

  • I started walking again
  • Sleep in darker and colder room (improve sleep quality)
  • Go to bed earlier, no screens 90 prior to bed
  • Stepped up trail running (best form of mental therapy for me!)
  • Treated myself to some clothes and got my hair done and started doing makeup again.
  • Consciously put time into crafting, drawing and painting.
  • Less time on my iphone (a malfunctioning battery is really helping with this.)
  • Read some books with good energy to them (Wayne Dyer is a great one!)
  • Practicing mindfulness with family *not taking my iphone was crucial for this one*
  • Spent extra time in nature, among other things.

Ignoring my mid, I started DOING THEM.

It took me this long to get to the main point of my blog post…. 

I wanted to write about one of the most powerful things on this list today

One of the best ways to climb up and out is by reconnecting with things you enjoyed as a child. If you make a list of fun things like the above, and one of them has been around since you were a kid, start with that one!

I absolutely, 1000% swear by this.  If you commit to this for 2-3 months you can get back to a place of joy.

Coincidentally, this is also one of the most effective strategies if you are beginning to feel the need to re-discover (or even discover, period) who you are outside of motherhood and partner-hood.  Go back to childhood.

It turns out that, as grownups,

we land not too far from the apple tree of our childhood.

I took to my journal and made a list of all of my favourite things, or things that made me happy as a kid, and there were tons.   It took me a good 10 minutes to get into the flow of it, but then the ideas started coming.  So please, if you do this, be gentle with youself.  It honestly takes a good 10-15 minutes of sitting there, then finally the pipes open and you get ideas.

Flowers in the garden.  Crafts.  Playing in the forest.  Running through puddles.  Drawing.  Climbing trees.  My bmx bike.

Ahh, yes my BMX bike. I really, really, REALLY loved my bike. 

Tapping into that (and the fact I wistfully watch mountain bikers on the trails when I am running)  I decided this was something I would try.

In the spirit of “just do it” I decided that my husband and I would have a date day this week.  I consulted a few mountain biking acquaintances, chose a trail and committed. We dropped those kids off, packed up our shit and went. There were a few “buts” and a few “maybe we a nice paved pathway instead” moments but I tapped into my determination and stubborness (Taurus trait) and committed.


We drove to West Bragg, hopped on our bikes and began the ascent up the bragging rights trail.

Whenever we try something new our ego goes to town. Have you noticed that? 

On the ascent I had to hike my bike up every hill and man oh man, it got started.

You look like such a noob! (I forgot my bike shorts and wore my lulu running crops.)  Those are terrible gear changes (clunking on uphill.)  This is scary (rocky rooty downhills) Or this gem, you don’t belong here, everyone is really good and clearly a fit mountain biker.  What if you fall off ? You can’t afford that with your back.  You’re not in shape to do this. this is probably making your organ prolapse worse.  You won’t make it all the way back. That one came up allloootttt as I hopped off my bike and pushed it uphill, because I was sucking wind like crazy.

So aside from pushing my bike up hill, I was taking each of these ego messages and  one by one, interrupting them, disempowering them, and pushing them aside.  I was working out my body but believe me, on those uphills I was working out my mind too!


“you’re not in condition to do this.”

wtf! That’s a nasty one from the my old friend Ego!

I’m sorry ego, but nobody rides their bike up the entire hill unless they are a competitive athlete in this area. Everyone else has to push it up at some point too!  Even the experienced people, because they don’t want to gas themselves.

This loop was recommended by a friend of ours that is an ex olympian- mountain biker and he described it as hard work, FFS.

So why the F is my ego beating me up and judging me for walking my bike up a hill, that an olympian would describe as a workout.

Isn’t that ridiculous?  Yeah, I think so to.  Stupid ego.

So I let that one go and declared, on the spot, out loud, that I would be gentle on myself and have no more judgments of walking my bike up hills.  (I also figured talking out loud would scare any bears away, a perpetual fear of mine lol.)

Mountain biking was a particularly cool experience because it is a constant push and pull between work and reward, work and reward.  Work pushing the bike up, reward rolling down through the forest, wind whipping through your sweaty helmet, feeling like a child.

Cruising down the descents, the ego would silence and I would enter the giddy, smiling, free and easy days of my childhood, cruising down through forest, the wind in my hair and happiness in my heart. And, honestly, feeling pretty badass.

And at the end? Fatigue but good, relaxed fatigue.  And probably the best beer I’ve ever had (Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc btw.)

Ironically, a sport that makes you focus intensely on your external environment helps you reset your internal environment.  By focusing on roots, rocks and the pure somatic experience of mountain biking, you are able to recalibrate your internal environment. It’s like a reset button.

I said to my husband that I understand why firefighters love mountain biking so much!

Also, if you are afraid of biking in West Bragg or getting hurt, or bears, or whatever, don’t be because 75% of the trail users were firefighters!

So, mountain biking. It was a taste of how my regular internal life should be, what we should work towards, and it was good enough that it left me craving more, more of this glorious feeling of being a kid again and silencing that internal dialogue that has plagued me of late.

I want to feel like this.  This is how I have committed to showing up in my life – happy, energized and present. This is the best version of me for my family. 



Happiness, Lifestyle Design, Travel

Overcoming Fear in the Post Partum Period and Trying Surfing for the First Time

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 1.10.42 PM.pngMaternity leave is a wonderful opportunity to get some travel in if you are comfortable doing so with your little ones.  For my third maternity leave (yes, with 3 kids!) we are renting a house in Kau’ai for the month of December.  It’s all part of our lifestyle design master plan.

Today I wanted to write about taking massive action as part of your lifestyle design and overcoming fear dialogues.  This blog is bought to you in the context of surfing – my very first surfing experience ever with the Kinimaka School of Surfing here in Hanalei.

I chose Kinimaka after checking out them and Hanalei Surf – Hanalei Surf store was jam packed and I was watching the staff member go through the waivers and insurance, I got the sense that people were being pumped through a system.  At Quicksilver Kinimaka, the vibe was much more easy and laid back.  One of the staff members and I got chatting and I discussed a few concerns with my back, which led to him pulling a surfboard and demonstrating the movements I’d be going through on a surf board which allayed my concerns.  Such a different experience over there so I signed us up on the spot!  I usually make my decisions based on the feel I get from people and places as opposed to research.

I am going to talk about our internal fear dialogues intermittently in this report of what it was like surfing.  Even though I frame it in terms of new motherhood.  I think this is so applicable to everyone and worth the read – so if you just want to read up on the experience of learning to surf, you may want to go back to Google 🙂

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyways.

Surfing? Pretty massive action for a girl who CANNOT stand up or balance on a stand up paddle board to save her life!  And it really required some work on my own fear dialogues, trust me…

Lifestyle design is about actually doing the things you imagine would be really cool.  Everyone makes it sound so easy, you just decide to do something and do it.

Life isn’t really like that.  MOST People drown in information overload and learning but when it comes to taking action, they don’t.  It’s because of all of the stuff that goes on in the inside.

I think that any action that is new to you, especially in early motherhood deserves to be linked with the word massive.  Because it is.

To take action and experience new things, is to choose fear and step into discomfort and humility.

Discomfort is anathema our biology right now, in early motherhood.  Our bodies, brains and hormones are doing everything they can to keep us and our baby safe, secure and comfortable, right down to retaining fat on our bodies in case of a famine.

This is precisely what new motherhood anxiety is.  Except sometimes, that system runs a little too rampant because of our outside environment which levels it up.

Our very own brains are conspiring against us to keep us (and our new baby) safe.  Stay inside, avoid hard things, don’t put your body at risk, fear is out there! danger!  Do nothing new!  Baby!  Baby!  Baby! Anxiety! gah!

I believe that part of this is TOTALLY NORMAL biological wiring to be embraced, but I believe a far larger part of this has been wired into us by the society all around us, particularly North America.  Our European sisters seem more liberated from fear.

Our biology + personhood is immersed in an environment that loves fear. Fear is running rampant among mothers.

Just go to google or your Facebook feed – how many articles do you read that ramp up your fear?  “5 things that new mothers need to know NOW” or “What you are doing every day that could harm your baby.” – these articles all do REALLY well because they play on fear.  Then, occasionally an awful article about a baby and mother, or a family’s misfortune and how it could have been prevented by the parents, will appear on a friends’ wall.  It crushes you and instills more fear.

Internet articles are carefully titled in a sensational manner so that you can’t even look away.  In fact, you click on it.  That is where the term “click bait” comes from.  You cannot help but click on it.  And do you know what the best click bait is? Fear.

Positive articles do not garner a fraction of the readership that fear-based articles do.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself on maternity leave is to continue to pursue a bit of discomfort, embrace a bit of fear and live out some of the experiences you planned for your life, before you even thought of having a baby. 

Do not let the fear beast gain control over you. 


In my own understanding of it, the idea of lifestyle design only begins at pinterest, or vision boards, in a conversation, or perhaps in your imagination.  That is just the opening step.  The next steps are about launching into massive action.

Massive action is about overcoming your internal dialogue and fear, signing up, and doing it.  And doing it again. Until the fear becomes not a shout but a whisper.

To have a lifestyle-by-design is to intentionally decide where you want to take your life, and get busy incorporating these things in your life NOW.  Not “One day.”

Lifestyle design is not just a one-off experience, picked from a brochure while somewhere foreign and novel, only to be filed away in your apps, to pop up in a memories feed in a year time.  It becomes a part of who you are in your habitual daily life.

And so, here we are, in the middle of the Pacific ocean, living a lifestyle that is so different to ours back home.  This is our intentional effort to embrace different ways of living, travel and a life based around the pursuit of fun outdoors.   We always envisioned ourselves as being into a variety of outdoor sports, but neither of us grew up immersed in it. So here we are, at 35 years old with 3 kids, designing our lives and starting from scratch in many outdoor pursuits.

And so… surfing…

Learning to Surf in Hanalei with the Kinimaka Hawaiian School of Surfing

Back home in Canada, we have really enjoyed stand up paddle boarding in the spectacular (but icy cold!) lakes of the Canadian Rockies, and rent inflatable SUPS from the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre (great rental rates!)  so we were very, very curious about trying surfing while we are here in one of the most famous surf spots in the world.

We arrived at the Quicksilver store in various states of nervous excitement, which shows up in each of us, in various ways.  I was bouncing around the store like a four year old, equal parts doubt and excitement.  My internal dialogue was chattering.  Fear.  Nervousness. Anxiety.  Is it really a good idea to try this with herniated discs, no core and being only 5 months out of childbirth?

The others, I can only guess.  My husband was quietly watching the big wave surfer videos on the walls, wondering what we were in for, and my cool-as-a-cucumber brother was standing with a smirk on his face.  What were we in for?

We set off for Hanalei beach, our instructor Keaton obviously much more confident in our abilities than any of us were.  None of us have any familiarity with surfing.  Nothing.

So here we were, on the spectacular sands of Hanalei Bay, mist coating the surrounding Na Pali coast mountains with a soft haze.   We could see surfers being pulled out through frothy white wash to ride the big waves just beyond the reef.  As Keaton set up the boards we watched a few guys get pummeled by the North Shore swells.

Keaton began giving us instructions on the beach, and within minutes we were down on the boards, learning about positioning, our ghostly white Canadian thighs blending nicely with the white of the board.  He reassured us that the 12 foot boards were great for beginners, very stable and easy to balance and get up on.  He proceeded to teach as if he had no doubt in the world that we’d be standing up.  What? 

Just when we were beginning to figure out the placement of our bodies on the board, it was time to hit the surf and take that massive action.

It is so true to life that you can acquire all of the knowledge you want, but none of it will settle into your being until you put it into practice.

We stepped into the water nervously, our leashes tangling among our ankles and the surfboards slapping on the waves.

My stomach was leaping up and down with the waves coming in and when Keaton excitedly pointed to an incoming swell, my heart rate joined the dance.

Our first few waves, Keaton coached us through, excitedly calling for us to start walking, get on our boards, paddle slowly, paddle faster and GET UP GET UP! He was an adept instructor, cueing us, correcting us with each wave, but what was the most gratifying (next to catching a wave) was the pure joy and excited cheers that came from him as gradually, each of us caught our first few wobbly waves.

That is the mark of a true teacher, who is still able to be with his students – not just physically, but emotionally too – Keaton was with the experience we were having.

Our joy was running with the waves and he was right there in that joy too.  It was revealed with his cheers, shouts and excitmement with each incoming swell.  This is a guy who was surfing as soon he was walking, who surfs in the monstrous swells – yet here he was in 2 foot waves loving life along with us.  That is what will always stick with me.

If we can find enthusiasm everywhere in life and retain that beginners’ wonder and joy without becoming jaded, that is the key to a happy and fulfilling life.

Though you will no doubt wrestle with nervousness and doubt as you first get into the waves, it quickly dissipates – whether you are a new mom fiddling with her rash guard and pulling it down over her swollen belly, confident outdoorsy adventure type or average landlocked Canadian whose whtie thighs are visible from the international space station.

The feeling of timing it right, being scooped up by that first wave, and the board accelerating beneath you is completely intoxicating and unlike anything I have ever experienced.

We have been completely hooked by this incredible blend of human and nature.  The mind clears, the body engages and you are truly in the moment on a surfboard. I get it. I get why surfers can sit out there for hours on their boards watching the incoming swells.

I can only compare it to about 30 years ago, when our five year old selves tried boogie boarding first time, screeching with laughter and joy as we rode in on waves and skimmed the sand.

Our grins, laughter and smiles were just as big this week, as they were in those childhood days.

When learning a new sport for the first time you wrestle – you want to release all of your pent up excitment on an incoming wave, and just go for it, with the natural flow of the wave, but then you remember you are a beginner and you need to focus on those cues –  most importantly looking up at the beach and keeping the end of the board up.

This is why we really, really appreciated the instruction of Keaton who would gently pull us back from our child-like excitment with a few easy cues to enhance our rides.  By the end of our 90 minute lesson, we were riding waves here and there, and completely hooked on the sport.  Our mid backs and arms did get quite fatigued towards the end – 90 minute is a perfect length of time for the first time.

That evening, sitting around the pool, we were all so happy and relaxed.  Deep contentment is the only word I could use to come close to describing it.

Without hesitation, we rented surfboards for the rest of the trip and know this will not be our last time surfing.

On surf rash: Though it is innocuous in appearance, the surf rash is a nasty, searing, burning experience that is like a severe sunburn. At the end of my lesson, my thighs and knees were burning in the salty water, and the next day they were definitely in rough shape – putting on sunscreen and romping with the kids at the beach in the sand (carrying them with their sandy feet digging into my thighs) was quite painful!

I am carrying extra weight from all of the baby building, especially in my thighs so this was an area of intense chafing on the surf board – for new moms, or anyone carrying weight in their thighs, I’d strongly recommend longer shorts or a wetsuit to avoid this!

My second day, I did not wear a rash guard in the water and that is definitely something I would not recommend either. It is always worth buying a rash guard. Always.  I am off to buy one today! The surfing rash is quite intense when you get it on the tender skin of your stomach (in my case it is still quite distended from childbearing and most likely, all of the beer I am drinking here – not a good combo with the foam on a surfboard, haha.)

The third day began with tenderness.  I was only in the surf an hour my second day and my stomach looked like it had been on a cheese grater.  Pretty gnarly, as they say.

Overcoming self-limiting beliefs and internal fear messaging:

I guess I am writing a unique blog post in that I don’t want to just tell you about what it is like surfing.  I am always interested in the deeper stuff that goes on in our minds, bodies and spirits.   I am reading the Autobiography of a Yogi right now, a random book purchase (I am not a yogi) with absolute gems of knowledge from India’s spiritual figures and gurus. Though this book is based on a guru who lived more than 100 years before us, the knowledge expounded in this book is universal.  The stories and anecdotes of the author growing up as a young boy in early 20th century India are so enjoyable.

One of the things discussed in this book is how we can see (and describe with words) the external landscape of a person right away (what they look like, their job, etc.)  but the internal landscape is something that language cannot adequately capture. It is simply too complex.

This is the landscape I hope to capture with my blog posts, and what I try to capture in talking with people. My questions probe – both as a coach and in normal conversation with friends, it’s where I want to go. I like to go deep and dive beneath the surface.    There is SO MUCH MORE to something than just “I tried surfing today and it was awesome.”

There are the highs, the lows, the internal victories, the battles, the multitude of experiences that happened in the 3 seconds before catching that first wave.

And that is where I am going now with this blog.  What were the other fears  and self-imposed limitations I had to work on to achieve this dream of surfing today?  Diving deeper, what was this surf lesson about today?

Managing Fear

I was  pretty worried about my back while surfing, as I have a degenerating spine and several herniated discs, and my back pain / back injury story has been a real lesson for me in not letting self limiting belifs take over.  But you know what?  It was false messaging.  It was there, I surfed, and it dissolved. I was absolutely fine and made sure to do some yoga before the lesson.

I also had a story in my mind, that I am a new mum, overweight, out of physical condition and with horrible balance.  As a coach I am constantly working with clients on them letting go of self limiting beliefs and self-imposed barriers and these above, are definitely mine.  Guess what?  They all dissolved quickly in the foam of that surf.

We all carry self-limiting beliefs that are designed by the old brain to keep us safe.  Your internal fear messaging system will always be activated in times of nervousness.

For me, it is fear of injury. I only know this because I’ve spent many, many days in deep introspection asking myself over and over, “Carina, what is it you are really afraid of here when you say ‘I’m not sure if I want to do this?”

For others, perhaps it is fear of judgement (being a beginner surfer is a spectacular display of wipeouts that are enjoyable to watch from the beach!) – to each, their own fear stories.

Fear will start the brain chattering. Lights will go off.  That old, primal part of your brain senses that something new or novel (danger! discomfort!) is coming.  And as a new mom, that part of your brain, unfortunately, is on hyper – alert right now, because of biology but also because of society’s conditioning.

The primal brain activates all of the messages that it knows will get you back in line and back to safety and routine.  Your brain knows exactly how to talk to you – which messages it can send you, that will stop you from such follies!

But the beauty is that your deeper, inner self can overcome these messages and say “that’s cool, I know you feel that way but let’s go ahead and do it anyways.”

The back pain fear?  Here’s my fear, and it’s probably not even physically possible. I am afraid that the adhesion / prolapse of my spinal chord and/or the herniated discs will move and affect my spinal chord and mobility, or that my pain will increase from the current 4/10 back up to an 8/10 which was a really tough stage in my life.

These fears are unfounded, both physiologically, and because on the surf board you are mostly in a position of extension which for me, was absolutely fine (flexion is my issue) – the only soreness I experienced was muscle fatigue and soreness in the chest, neck and triceps from paddling.  I was simply an out of condition female who had to paddle like a fiend to catch the smaller waves at the east end of the bay.  But its not even that bad, it is like doing a great workout on the upper body with normal soreness the next day.

As I sit here with my coffee writing my post, I am eager to get over to the store to pick up a rash guard (lesson learnt) and simultaneously have another chrome tab open on how to heal surf rash.  I suspect the answer is get back out there, so the joy of riding vastly outpaces the suffering of surfer rash.

Looking down at the red spots all over my thighs, I consider it  my initiation into a new layer of my life, a rite of passage and a reminder that I overcame fear this week and took massive action.






Happiness, Kau'ai with Kids, Lifestyle Design, Travel

What to do with Toddlers in Kau’ai – Limahuli Garden and Preserve on the North Shore

With a 4 year old, 2.5 year old and a 5 month old, our first few weeks living on the beautiful island of Kau’ai have been about getting our sleeping hours sorted out and getting into a rhythm with micro-trips and explorations.   As any parent of toddlers and babies knows, the daily activity rhythm circulates around who is still napping.  Windows of opportunity to explore surround the naptime!

For us, morning is an ideal time to get out and about, with a return to the rental house at lunchtime to eat and get our youngest toddler and baby down for sleeps, so most of my posts will be about our morning adventures!

We are staying on the North Shore of Kau’ai, based out of Princeville which is a lovely planned community that is incredibly kid-friendly with a fantastic playground and library nearby.

About a 25 minute drive West, beyond picturesque (and famous) Hanalei Bay, is the end of the highway and the beginning of the spectacular, mountainous Na Pali coast.

Shortly before reaching the end of the line, there is a garden / reserve called Limahuli.

A not-for-profit National Tropical Botanical Garden, Limahuli Garden and Reserve exists to restore and preserve native Kau’aiian species, which exist as a living collection in this spectacular valley.  Its researchers, volunteer and staff are working to preserve a number of plants on the Plant Extinction Program list.

We were surprised to learn that many of the lovely plants in this preserve are the only ones left of their kind, nurtured in the rich landscape of Limahuli where researchers and staff work to prevent invasive species from taking over.


There are only a handful of these plants left in the world; all of them are located within this preserve.  They are extinct in the wild.


I wasn’t sure how a botanical garden would go over with two rambunctious toddlers, but I cannot rave enough about how fantastic this place was for them.

At the gift shop, walking sticks are available to take along the 1.5 mile or 2 km path which is filled with features and treasures for the little ones – small bridges, streams, waterfalls, forest, foot paths, secluded benches, steps and even archaeological sites.

The path progresses through three zones, starting with an ancient 700 year old terrace system that is in stunning condition.  This archaeological site makes up the “canoe zone” – a living collection of the plants that the earliest Polynesian settlers in Hawaii bought with them on their canoes as early as 200 A.D.  The earliest arrivals bought 4 animals (jugle fowl, pigs, rats and dogs) and 27 of their most important and useful plants.

Next is a forest walk featuring the invasive species that have crowded out the natural flora and fauna of the island, and then finally a native (endemic) species walk.  I was suprised to learn that most of the flora and fauna that ou will find on the island is not native to the island, and Limahuli preserve is the only place in the Hawaiian islands where it is possible to walk amongst entirely native species of trees and plants.

Many of the plants introduced during the plantation era (following Captain Cook’s arrival in the late 18th century) quickly overtook most native species.  In fact, the mango tree is one of the most invasive.

This area instantly captured our toddlers’ imagination, especially the recently constructed (2013) traditional Hawaiian hale (house) which was a community project led by elders.




The 700 year-old terraces of the canoe garden, featuring an ancient irrigation system.


There are many spots to stop and take breaks with secluded benches in the forest, though picnics are not permitted.  The children were enraptured with the moss on giant stones, looking for dinosaurs and tigers, and clambering over the stone paths.


Children love the path with its steps, streams and stairs.


Because the path is a mix of gravel track and stepping stones / small stairs, it is not possible to take a stroller, so if you are traveling with a baby you will need a carrier.

The path gently ascends to a spectacular view of the Na Pali coast.  During the winter months (Dec-Mar) it is possible to see humpback whales in the deeper waters.  For the toddlers in your family who have seen the movie Moana, it will feel reminiscent of the scene where Moana climbs the mountain to place her rock!


Looking for whales at the highest vantage point in Limahuli



Once you have enjoyed the spectacular views afforded by the top of the preserve, the path slowly descends downward in a loop back to the terraces, though you’ll find yourself turning backward to gawk at the mountain behind you.  There are several ancient tales about the mountains that surround the preserve, and in the free guidebook you will be able to read about them.  Our toddlers enjoyed looking for the stone figure of Pohaku-o-Kane, sitting wakeful on top of his mountain.


Descending toward the gift shop



There are several steps descending back to the gift shop, and in places there is not a handrail – so holding your toddlers’ hand in spots is recommended.

Our little guy was getting ready for a nap, so the clumsiness stepped up a level with a few trips on the steps going down!




Building a Business, Happiness, The Projects, Travel

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Start a Side Hustle and Align it with a Goal

On Instagram this morning, I saw something along the lines of start a side business to travel. I liked it.

A lot of the coach feeds on instagram can be quotes overload – but the ones that matter to you, stay with you.  This one stuck with me this morning as I perused Instagram over coffee.

I enjoy the mix of foodie shots, outdoors adventures, fashion, life hacks and coaching brain food that makeup my Instagram feed!  It is part of my strategy each morning to fill my mind with inspiring visual images & my ears with inspiring messages.  This starts me off in the right mindset each and every day.

Let’s get back on topic…  So I started a small creative business on the side. I make medieval & tudor inspired jewellery and sell it on Etsy.

It literally was a hobby that paid for itself while I was in graduate school. I needed something creative when studying military & strategic studies.  I also liked the “wtf” face people gave me when I said I was a counter-terrorism expert & jewellery designer.  Kinda fun for a multi passionate.

Eventually, it led to a bit extra cash on the side & it has paid for a few international trips during which, I thoroughly enjoy going on buying trips for new supplies. For example, buying sunset seashells and freshwater pearls in a Kauai street side market in the glorious tropical sun (2014) and hunting down antique bottles in a British flea market, tea in hand, on a dark rainy day (2015.)  Pretty cool memories!

I don’t look at my side hustle as an income source though.

I look at it as a facilitator of my goals.

I really like sharing alternate perspectives on the GML that shift your mindset and facilitate growth. This is a great example of one in the making, live and unfiltered!

It’s my “cherry on top” income which I channel into my goal of seeing the world.

To ensure that my side business is connected to this specific goal, I have a tax free savings account set up.  This is because little nuggets of money, here and there can be easily frittered away on small things, because $3 or $5 or $7 at a time have little meaning attached to them on their own.

However, all those $5 or $6 deposits straight from Etsy (And I don’t see anything as my account is with a separate bank) add up over time.

I’m so busy on mat leave a year whips by in no time, and at the end,voila!

Having that goal attached to a side hustle is amazing, because let me tell you, you never lose motivation!  Another side benefit is that it facilitates creativity.

When I sit down to make a piece of jewellery, I never know what I am going to make.  Most of the time, I work on a state of flow which gets my creative juices going.

Thinking about income and expenditures is not conducive to that flow state for me.  In fact, during times of sleep deprivation or stress, I just cannot come up with ideas for pieces (I always sit down and just begin to create, I never start with an idea or plan; I let them come to me.)  During the early stages of mat leave, for sure, I took a break as my creativity was a bit drained by sleep deprivation and time with the little ones was very important.  But eventually you get your groove once you are settled in with the new creature.

My best ideas for making pieces come when I am inspired, imaginative, free of constraints.  Having the international travel mindset as I sit down? Magical.  It gets me going.  So do podcasts, and browsing through medieval images on pinterest, but that’s for another time!

I’m excited to share with you in my next blog, more on this “flow state” and why it is absolutely magical for idea generation & creativity.

Do any of you have a side hustle? Have you attached it to a specific goal?  I’d love to hear if anyone shares the same mindset.


Happiness, Travel

Project: Get on a Plane



The fear of losing the ability to travel was a major obstacle for me.

It was one of a few things that made me truly debate whether to have kids.

In my internet travels I felt bombarded by articles and discussions on forums about the horrors of travelling with kids.  In fact, the terrible family with screaming kid dominates the narrative on family travel, doesn’t it?  People don’t want to travel beside families, and families are afraid to travel.

What I did not understand at the time, is that you do NOT have to listen to narratives that do not fit your own.  For every narrative that doesn’t fit with your life, you can find 20 others that do.

Yes your baby might cry on the plane.  But you know what?  Your baby probably would have cried at home that night, too, except you get to be in a different country the next morning!  And for every person who dislikes a baby, there are at least five people who LOVE babies (including flight attendants) who would love to hold them for a bit. Most of the world’s population have a family, or have been around babies… so ignore those vocal naysayers.
In 2013 and 2015 I hopped on 8 hour international flights with my 6 month old, to go see extended family in the UK.  I missed them desparately.  As a new mother I needed some love, too.

I found those voices as I prepared for my first international flight, solo.

 I bit the bullet and booked the flight. Only 5 minutes later I felt panicky and thought “aaaah what am I doing?!”

The flight was fine. I was treated like a rockstar.  Early boarding, 1st class treatment, TONS of baby cuddles and holding from the flight attendants while I ate, and the sound of the plane lulled both babies to sleep.  Logistical stresses like getting on and off a train were non-existent.  For every train I got off of, there were 3 people waiting to help me lift the stroller down.

The trip was one I will never, ever forget. Beyond disconnecting from the daily routine back home, I was able to fully immerse myself in being present with my daughter as we discovered new places together.  So much time with a newborn whips by at the blink of an eye; I think it is because s often we are also distracted with the daily routines and must-dos of home life.  On holiday, I sat and drank coffee in the garden of an old castle.  Got on the wrong train with with both babies in southern England, and went to visit special places that my Mum and I visited when she was still alive.  Each of those in itself is an immersive experience that bought me back to the present.

Looking back there was some kind of magical bonding on that trip. Just as newborn baby photos are beautiful to look back on, the memories of our trip fill me with the same sense of happiness.  Even though in the moment there were certainly meltdowns and diaper changes.

We adults love travel because it infuses us with the exact same sense of wonderment our children experience every day. Our brains and senses are revitalized as we explore new places.

I’ve been to England a thousand times but to go with a baby gave those same forest trails a new magic to them.

In so many ways, as a newborn mum, I was seeing things for the first time, with a fresh set of eyes.

Returning from an international trip also gave me a newfound confidence in my ability to take my daughter on micro-adventures and domestic trips.  I am much more comfortable with “would you mind helping me” also.

Travel provides a three fold reward. The anticipation, the experience itself, and the fond memories that last a lifetime.