Finding my Soul on the Mountainside

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. After years of travel restrictions, I laced up my hiking boots and filled my backpack, ready for an adventure with my hubby.

In the first two weeks, we immersed ourselves in the culture of some familiar places and some new ones. We made new friends, we tried new food, and we sampled some very special beer.

We also hiked to the less travelled places, even in the big cities. My trail shoes took me along rivers and canals, through foresrs and gardens, and stops were made in outdoor beer gardens unlike anything we have at home.

My ability to keep a pace, get my blood pumping, and keep my mind in a positive space even when it got long, hot, and hard was quite good. Only a couple of glitches when things got tough and I had to reroute my mind to more positive pastures.

It’s taken me years to get to this space where I spend more time believing in myself than not. When it happens now, because I am human and am not nor will never be perfect, I handle it. I treat myself better than I used to.

Although two weeks of nonstop travel and trekking by foot were a bit of a challenge, this next part of the journey is where the real adventure begins.

The mountains. They were calling to us. So we listened.

Another day of travel landed us in the small town of Leogang, Austria. A ski village by winter and downhill biking and hiking spot in the summer, the over 400 km of trails with a massive gondola system is like a dream.

The access to mountains has never felt easier.

Our first day of hiking was nothing less than amazing. With only small hills over the last couple of weeks, and a bit of a break from training leading up to my last book launch, it had been a bit since I’d climbed, and a while since I took on a mountain.

Climbing a mountain is never easy. Some attempts are more graceful, and others are a mess. I used to get quite nervous, even anxious, the night before, and even more so the morning of. I’m finally here, in a place where I found a sense of peace before the big climb.

We had a leisurely afternoon watching the rain from a cozy lunch spot. I was excited for the potential of good weather and a long day on the side of a mountain.

The morning of the climb came. I was calm. The breakfast buffet was amazing. My body was ready.

The first section of the climb is what I call a fuck you up, go straight up section. The gradients are high. My heart thrumming against my chest, sweat drenched my hair and shirt, I focused on one step at a time and found a decent pace. The best approach for me is to find that flow and to avoid stopping.

When it eased, so did my being. I took some deep breaths, a long pull on my water tube, and realized how good I felt. That first real push is hard, but by embracing it, I put myself into an invigorated place.

The hike was about a good 10 km up. We climbed about 1200 m. There was a windy gravel section with some easier stretches, exposed and hot. When we reached the middle station, a gondola point, we took a little breather and strolled around a beautiful lake.

We soon reentered the forest. The fresh coolness was welcome. The trail alternates between steep sections and flatter ones. I got into a flow of pushing on the steep parts and recovering on the flatter ones. Recovery didn’t mean slowing down. It meant upping the pace to flush out my legs while breathing to calm my wild heart and drinking some much needed water.

The final stretch was crazy. Straight up, for what seemed like it would go on forever. One step at a time, I made it.

I was surprised by the calm I felt the entire time. I was thrilled by how well my body and my mind performed. I believed in my ability to complete the hike gracefully. It felt good. When days like this happen, my entire being is grateful for what I am able to do.

I was so elated that I decided we needed to do just a little bit more. We climbed to the next gondola stop, not far, but extremely steep. I wasn’t fast, but I wanted a few more meters under my belt for the day. I didn’t want to say good enough.

The reward was amazing. The view was the best part of it all, and I had earned it, one step at a time. We had a lovey charcuterie and beer at AlteSchmiede. Sitting on the patio, basking in the sun on the top of a mountain, I felt happier than ever.

After some rest, we descended on foot. We covered about 25 km and just over 1400 meters of ascent. This included the addition of the walk around the lake and the extra climb. A good day. The rest of the evening, I was in bliss, the mountain high clinging strong.

The map from my Strava is below. If you use Strava, you can follow me for the click able version. If not, don’t fret. I will be compiling a list of maps and details later.

This map shows both the way up and down.

Prague Hiking Adventure

The first leg of our trip has flown by. We’ve covered several big cities, finding the park and forest hikes in each. I think my favorite yet was the English Garden in Munich.

At least it was, but now I’m torn.

Our first time in Prague, I was immediately blown away by its beauty. It’s a BIG city, yet I loved the vibe. The gardens and parks are immaculately manicured. The architecture has a totally different look. People are extremely friendly.

Our first day we hiked a series of smaller parks and did some doing some site seeing.

Our second day turned into quite the adventure! I was feeling good. Doing some decent distance by foot and keeping the pace each day was paying off. Especially since we were finding the parks and forests. My mind was clear. My body felt ready for another good hike. I was amped up for this one.

We covered most of a rather large park. It took about an hour to get to the start. We first stopped at a beautiful Manor with the most amazing garden.

We then continued on a pathway along the water for quite some time. It passes by the zoo, and weaves along the water. Many small patios offering cafe and beer dotted the route. It was lovely to see many people out cycling along and taking breaks to meet up with friends. We kept the pace. We really wanted to make it through most of the park, and I had my eye on a lunch stop at the very end.

Eventually, we turned onto a soft trail and entered the forest. It was glorious! This might be the most lush forest we had hiked on this trip. We followed the trail, weaving along a trickling stream, passing by little houses up on the hill and surrounded by the happy chirping of birds. I was ecstatic that my mind and body were keeping up on what I knew would likely be a long day.

We made it to the lunch spot, Kalendova Chabrybárna, a fish farm where they cook your lunch fresh. It was delightful. We were definitely in an area where the locals went. There wasn’t English (in the main city it’s easy to get and English menu), so we scanned the menu, what clues we could, and picked a special. All the food coming out looked amazing!

We took our beers and found a spot to sit. Everything within me was calm. I knew the walk back was still a good distance, but I was so happy we made it to the end of the park and we were experiencing a place away from the other tourists.

When our food came I was thrilled to see a pile of little fish with fresh bread and salad. It was delicious.

The trek back did get long, and we ran out of water. It was hot, I was parched, and I did have to dig deep a little. I focused on keeping the pace as we had a target. A huge beer garden that overlooks the canal that we saw the day before.

I did struggle a bit. I was finding it hard. I’ll admit, I was getting tired and focusing too much on my strong desire for a cold glass of water. I kept refocusing over and over. I didn’t want to get my mind and energy derailed now so close to the end of the day.

When we sat down, water and beer in hand, it was the most amazing feeling. We enjoyed some time to simply sit, take in the city, and rehydrate!

Eventually, we meandered, looking for dinner. In his true go with the flow way, my hubby led us down a staircase on a whim and we ended up sipping beer and eating local culinary delights with a close up view of the canal.

I loved Prague. I loved the forest adventure.

You can see the map below. For all the hikes and details of each, follow along on Strava.

Brussels by Foot

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a proper adventure. You might be familiar with Just a Girl and Her Bike. This time, it’s Just a Girl and Her Boots.

Yes, that’s right. Back pack loaded and hiking boots laced up, I was more than ready to see new parts of the world.

This trek started with a 2 week stretch through some big cities. The best way to really see a big city is by hiking through the parks. I was utterly surprised and delighted with the immense green space in Brugges, Munich, and Prague. But, we’ll get to that.

Let’s start with Brussels. We arrived in the afternoon and hit the ground running. Putting on your walking shoes and getting in some steps right off the bat is the best way to reinvigorate yourself after a long journey and to keep yourself awake and not suffer long effects of jet lag. Just lace up those shoes and go!

We made a proper first stop at Moeder Lambic for some outrageous beer. I gravitated to the lambic style that they had on tap (this doesn’t happen at home). I replenished with moules & frites. The lover of creepy things on me came out when we grabbed a night cap at a high-end beer place that used to be a theater and is filled with puppets!

Our second day gave us a full day to hike and see things. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to walk through the forest areas that we thought we could. When it doesn’t go your way, find another one. We turned the day into a big city tour and covered a lot of ground.

We started off with a visit to a Gothic cathedral. The style is stunning, inside and out. There’s something sureal about looking up at windows, arches, and structures riddled with intricacy and that must have taken a long time to create.

We then fuelled up with a proper local breakfast of Croque Madame and a delicious beer.

We hiked all through the city and up a hill to a science center. Keeping a good pace and meandering off the main route to cover the occasional little bit of forest is a sure way to get your body and your mind feeling great after a long day of travelling. I highly recommend setting at least a guideline for your route with a target pace and distance. It’s the key to feeling great from the beginning of the trip.

After our invigorating walk, we kept the steps going. We made two stops at the famous Delirium brewery. It’s an entire street of separate places, all serving up fresh pints!

The day was getting long, and it took us a bit, but we found an amazing spot for dinner, down in a cave like place. This is when patience paid off. I was famished. The day was getting long. But when we walked into this place, I knew I needed to tap into my zen. When a plate of rabbit slow cooked in lambic beer was set down in front of me, I was in heaven. When it gets long, take a deep breathe a d regroup. Travelling by foot can be amazing if you can tap into your patience and your calm energy.

Here’s my route uploaded to Strava. Follow me there to see all the hike and the details of each.

Self Care

The forest heals. The fresh air infuses life. The sights and sounds of nature refresh and revive.

After a busy time with unexpected challenges, I could feel the fatigue building as I plunged into final preparations for and all weekend reading and writing conference. I did something quite smart that I don’t usually do. I took a day off and enjoyed life. A full day of hiking, happy hour and even a football game, with my husband, refreshed me.

I had way too much fun at the conference, despite the fact that it had to be online. I gave presentations. I went to presentations. I helped host others. It felt good to be part of something that has been fundamental to my writing success.

By the end of the three days, I was cooked. I did something smart, that 9 don’t usually do. I read in bed and binged Shudder (if you’re a closet horror lover like me, check out my other website, KillersAndDemons).

After two days, I felt better. I decided to continue to be smart. I did a bunch of work, then, I went outside into the sunshine, and walked for two hours through the forest.

Am I finally learning to listen when my being needs something? I hope so.

Do you listen when you need some self care? I find having a list of things that I know I love thay make me feel good, and being setup to easily execute on them, sets me up for success. For example, having good hiking clothes clean at all times, a great pair of shoes by the door, and pack ready to go with snacks and sunscreen. Or having books or movies on hand so I can chill. Or having my bathroom stocked with bath salts, candles, and aromatic bubble bath.

Take care, and be sure to stop and be nice to yourself when you need a break.

Doing What’s Important

Life. It gets busy sometimes. It gets overwhelming sometimes. We all experience moments when there doesn’t seem to be a way to wade through the clutter and do what we know we need.

I suggest a simple approach. 1. Take a deep breath. 2. Identify what you need. 3. Do it.

Even one hour. Just take it and do it.

Today, I stole a good hour and a half and had the most amazing little jaunt with my beloved bike. Together we climbed some good hills, coasted through some forest, and even stopped to chat with a deer.

Don’t forget to breathe and give yourself the gift of time to do what you love. You deserve it.

The Power of Inspiration

I’m just coming off of a whirl wind four day of attending a local, award winning, writing conference. I have posted about When Words Collide before (Inspiration, Creativity and Community at When Words Collide), but every time I attend I end up completely compelled to share.

This year was my fourth time attending. Thus, only three years ago, I showed up at this massive conference and I didn’t know anybody. At that time, I had written my book ‘Just a Girl and a Bike’, but I had no idea how to put it together and get it out there. My goal was simply for even one person to read it and feel inspired and infused with belief in themselves. Well, I’ll be honest, tears are trickling right now as I write this, because that goal has been surpassed. And not just because I have been able to get my book into many hands of people who needed the message within, but because this time at When Words Collide I had a profound and touching experience.

The second time I attended When Words Collide, I signed up to give a presentation on steps to self-publish. I was terrified – I questioned what I really knew. But, I had learned that this conference was about sharing with each other what we had learned along the way. It was a fantastic experience. I did the presentation the next year, and again this year.

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Continue reading “The Power of Inspiration”

Reflections from the Mountains

I’m back from a very full two days in the mountains. After a solid two days of non-stop adventure, my heart is full of gratitude. Living so close to some of the most beautiful mountains is absolutely amazing. Every time I make the trip out, I come back feeling renewed and alive. My being feels open. My soul is infused with a energy and a sense of peace and calm.

The trip was oriented around a fitness expo, paired with the Banff Marathon. The expo itself is a beautifully run little event. People from all over the world come to run through the mountains, participating in the full marathon, half marathon, or 10 km run. The expo is set up such that participants come through to pick up their race packages, and have an opportunity to peruse the vendors. I have been fortunate to be able to be part of this as Just A Girl and a Bike for several years now.

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It’s always exciting to sell a book, of course. But, the conversations I end up having and the connections I end up making are what really stick in my mind. All sorts of people with a wide range of experience show up to run. I find myself relating whole heartedly to those who have never done this beforeor have nervous energy all over their face. I love that I can relate, talk to them, and perhaps even help them to focus their minds and their energy.

This year, after talking to a lady who was quite worried about the run, she said to me, “Thank you. I really needed that.” She walked away with a smile. Now, that made my heart sing.

So, not only did I sell some books, and selling books means more money raised for World Bicycle Relief, but I talked to many amazing people. And, I made a connection that could turn into a wonderful opportunity to encourage girls to be confident, seek the activities they love, and find their whole selves. Yes. I’m excited.

Now, of course, being in the mountains, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get in some activities. I LOVE activities. I went up early the first morning and snuck in a bit of cycling. I was able to do a short, sweet loop up to Lake Minnewanka, with enough climbing to get my heart pumping.

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On the way up, I saw about eight or so mountain sheep, with babies! On the way down, I rolled right by two moose munching away at the gras on the side of the road. What an experience. These animals are truly magnificent, majestic, and have an aura of calm about them. I was even able to sneak in a side trip to Johnson Lake, adding on a couple more km and a wee bit more climbing.

I just felt SO good to be on my bike, surrounded by mountains, the fresh air kissing my face, and the essence of nature infusing my soul.

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After a long second day of talking, interacting, and being ‘on’, I unplugged by hiking aggressively up a series of switchbacks to the top of Sulfur Mountain. The peace and quiet of nature, the smell of the trail, the fresh air, and the earth, and the general calm that clings to the air on such a trail, absolutely refreshed me after expelling so much energy.

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Of course, I was happy to be home, in my own bed, back in my sanctuary. And now here I sit, writing, reflecting, and feeling happy and full of life. What an amazing place to live, so close to such mountains. And what a wonderful path I have been taking on by sharing my own story of facing my fears.

Surviving My First NaNoWrimo: Lessons Learned

I wrote and published one, single, lonely book. I chose the self-publishing route for this very personal, non-fiction story in which I open up about my struggles with anxiety and weight by facing a very big mountain, equipped with nothing but a bicycle. During this time, I found myself starting to encounter a whole new world – the world of writing. Many a time I heard the word NaNoWrimobut never really understood what it was.

20180331_110417About a year ago I made the decision to embark on the long, daunting, unknown journey of writing my first fiction novel. There were many stops and restarts due to, well, life. However, I found myself wanting, even needing to continue with this journey I had started, and to see if I could indeed write a novel.

As November approached, I again heard murmurs of this mysterious NaNoWrimo thing. Then, a dear friend of mine, and very accomplished editor and author, told me I should just do it with the goal to reach a word count that would complete my first draft. The premise of NaNoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is to write the first draft of a novel in a month. But, you can frame the challenge in your own way.

Continue reading “Surviving My First NaNoWrimo: Lessons Learned”

When Words Collide: A Whirlwind of a Weekend

I absolutely LOVE When Words Collide.

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A conference for writers, readers, publishers, editors…anyone passionate about books in some shape, way or form, this year it took me away in a  whirlwind of activity. I first heard about WWC two years ago. It is  affordable and for me it is also localThus my decision to attend the first one was easy to make. My intention, initially, was to learn. To absorb as much information as possible. To be a human sponge! And learn I did. The wealth of sessions to choose from was overwhelming. At that time, I had written my first book, and had no idea how to ‘put it together.’ I learned so much, I went home and spent the entire evening creating my project plan to assemble, promote and sell my book. And that I did. Incredibly, my book is now a concrete thing. I continue to promote and sell one book at a time. Capturing my personal story, this first book is very near and dear to my heart. My goal was to inspire at least one person with my words, and to raise as much $$$ as possible for a great cause. (Learn more here).

Continue reading “When Words Collide: A Whirlwind of a Weekend”

The Writer’s Tool Box

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Welcome to my monthly post in participation of the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). If you have never heard of it, check it out!!!

I have embarked on my first fiction book. I will fully admit, this is hard. But, I am totally committed to finishing what I have started! I have launched myself completely into this, and have scoured the resources out there. I have read books, taken classes, and asked for advice from the many talented authors that I have been so fortunate to meet.

The main result is that I have learned a lot, and I have built myself a writer’s tool box. I am so excited to share with you what is in my tool box. I hope that you find something here that will help you, no matter where you are in your writing journey. Continue reading “The Writer’s Tool Box”

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