The Unplan – Life Changing Decisions – Part 10

For the last couple of years I’ve certainly had wanderlust. Since I first got back on a plane after surviving a plane crash in December 1997, I’ve gotten stronger and stronger and have wanted to explore further and further.

First, a trip to Bermuda to see if I would lose it completely on a plane. (2008)
I didn’t.

Then a trip to New York to celebrate turning 30 and that I didn’t lose it on a plane! (2008)

Then on to Costa Rica and Nicaragua – a whole new continent for me. Also the first time that I started thinking about studying Spanish.(2009)

Next thing I knew I was traveling to photograph destination weddings. (2010)

And then another new continent as I flew to Germany and Poland to photograph Coalition for Kids International, granting wishes to terminally ill children in Poland. (2011)

My little wings that had been weakened by 11 years of non-use, were getting stronger.

Why not take it further and create Photo Tours in far away places like Peru and Vietnam? (2012 – 2014)

With all of those great destinations under my belt, a lot of take offs and landings and no further plane crashes … I decided it was time to really take a leap and off to Southeast Asia I went with my longest flight being 12 hours and 50 minutes from Narita, Japan to Chicago, USA.

Looking back, it’s incredible to see that all of this (and much much more) has happened in the past seven years.

So, it really shouldn’t be any big surprise to anyone what I’m about to tell you …

I’m sure if you’ve been reading my series of Life Changing Decisions, you are starting to put it together.

1. Decision to get debt free.
2. Work at a job that can be done anywhere in the world (or confirm that your current job can)
3. Do renovations & put condo on the market
4. Dream of travel

What do you get when those things all come together?

You get the UNPLAN! (and a really happy Shari)

In my head, and to my close friends and family, my plan since the beginning of this was not really to have a plan at all, hence the UNPLAN.

What exactly does the UNPLAN look like?

Like a leaf in the wind (or a paper airplane), I can go wherever the wind takes me. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Well, it’s a semi-calculated type of crazy if that makes it any better!

I am setting my life up to be debt free and with fewer commitments. This will allow me to travel when and where I want and discover our amazing world. I don’t want to live my life waiting 12 months for my next vacation. I don’t want to be on vacation all the time, but I do want to live my life to the fullest and for me, a big part of that is seeing this amazing, vast, beautiful world we live in.

The UNPLAN has always been somewhat calculated. I’m not jumping off a cliff without checking for a soft landing. From the beginning, although extremely hard for other people to understand, I have made very few decisions about where / when / how long I would travel for. I would tell people I’m getting debt free so I can travel and they would of course ask ‘Where are you going to go?’ Although I had narrowed it down to a starting point of Central and South America, that’s as much as I was willing to commit to. When they asked me ‘How long are you going for?’ My answer has always been ‘I’m not sure. An undetermined amount of time. I’m not debt free yet.’

I have flitted back and forth between ideas such as a year-long around the world trip, a SWAP working holiday in New Zealand, settling in for a couple (or several) months somewhere in Central or South America, or simply living in Nova Scotia and traveling whenever I possibly can. These are big, amazing options. Don’t you dare say I’m ‘lucky’ to have these choices. This has nothing to do with luck folks, I am making these choices, they aren’t just magically happening.

You see, there are doers and dreamers in this world. I’m a doer. Yes, I have big dreams but I don’t sit and daydream unless I’m actually going to make something happen. So, being realistic about it all, I absolutely, flat out refuse to make any travel decisions until I become debt free. (with one exception – see below)

Although I still dream of where I want to visit, where I might like to stay for a little while and what great adventures are out there waiting for me, until I achieve my first, and most important goal of being debt free, I can’t move forward with achieving this undetermined amount of travel. This is a calculated UNPLAN!

I’m designing my own life. I’m making choices for me, based on my passions, what’s important in my life and how I can find happiness. Isn’t the true meaning of life to live it to it’s fullest?

So, let me give you the big announcement(s) …

1. Knock on wood, my condo has sold. Barring any complications with the condo financials, it is a done deal with a mid-June closing date. It was on the market for less than one month. I got reasonably close to asking price. I got slightly more than I needed in order to get completely debt free, set aside my down payment for my next home purchase and set aside a bit of money for travel. I think the universe is encouraging me to continue with the UNPLAN!

2. I confirmed a long time ago that I would be able to continue to be a travel agent, but work from anywhere in the world with my current employer, The Adventure Travel Company. Today, May 15th is my last day working in the office and as of tomorrow I will be working remotely. I’ll post a blog about this transition in a couple of days, but for now, all you need to know is that I am still a full service travel agent, specializing in adventure travel. I am affiliated with the amazing Adventure Travel Company and I hope you’ll support me by trusting me to help you plan YOUR next adventure. You can email me at stucker@atcadventure.com

3. I have been accepted on a travel agent familiarization tour with Intrepid Travel for one week in Chile and Argentina in November. This is the one concrete travel plan that I allowed myself to make before all of my other plans came together. I knew that once the condo sold, I would likely head to Central or South America, so this was a natural fit and gave me dates to work with when I would already be in that part of the world. This trip is free (except airfare) and gives me the opportunity to experience these two countries with a great supplier. I knew that even if my condo did not sell, that I would be able to either find the money for the flights or I have enough Aeroplan points to get me there. There were too many benefits for me to pass up. I had originally applied but it was full. A couple of months later, someone had to cancel and one little spot opened up. It had my name all over it! I applied within minutes of finding out a spot had opened up.

4. Having confirmed that I would be heading to South America in November, I shortly thereafter made the decision to launch a new Peru: Through the Lens Photo Tour. I’ve just released details to my photo email list and full details will go public next week. On my first day to announce the new tour, I already have the first person signed up! Tour dates are Oct 18 – 28, 2014. If you’d like more information, please contact me, or sign up for my photo tour newsletter.

There it is folks …

My condo has sold.
I start work as a home-based travel agent on May 16th, but remain under the umbrella of The Adventure Travel Company.
I have a tour booked to Chile and Argentina in November, so if nothing else, I know where I’m headed in late fall.
I am about to go full force promoting my next Peru: Through the Lens photo tour for October 2014.

My UNPLAN is starting to shape up.

Now, of course, in the spirit of an UNPLAN, I have not decided how long I am going for or what other countries I will visit. And, as with everything else, those decisions all depend on many variables. My condo sale still needs to finalize and all of my debts must be completely cleared. I need to find a place to live for the summer and early fall. I must find at least eight people to travel with me on the Peru: Through the Lens photo tour. And, let’s not forget that nice man who walked into my life back in February (see Part 8 of this series). I can’t leave him behind for a year while I go gallivanting around. And no, sadly he can’t come gallivant around with me for a year due to commitments here! It’s still new and early, but it wouldn’t be fair to him or me ignore him in all of this!

Like I said … it is still an UNPLAN with many choices and decisions yet to be made and too many variables still lurking around. Don’t worry, I’ll be blogging about it all along the way!

Now that the big news is out there … let the questions begin! Feel free to post questions and comments below on this post … share with your friends … send it to other people you know who are currently on extended travels or those who dream of doing so …

I’ll be posting updates about my struggles, preparations, decisions and triumphs until departure day (whenever that may be). After that, I’ll transition into sharing my travel adventures of whatever fantastic countries I visit. Some will be exciting, inspirational and likely funny. Others will be boring and simply there for me to keep track of my thought process. I invite you to sign up for my blog updates (top right of my blog) and follow along as often (or not) as you wish.

The first five months of 2014 have certainly been filled with amazing challenges, laughter, tears and some of the biggest decisions of my life so far … but wait … at least all of those things are my choice … so really, how bad can it be?

Just like a leaf in the wind … I’m about to go on a crazy ride.

I hope its a warm, southern wind not a Nor easter!

38 Days of Peruvian Photos

Appreciate the work of a photo enthusiast. Buy a print and decorate your home or office. Make a difference to under privileged kids in Peru.

It’s just that simple to make a difference.

Leading up to the Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser on May 25th (and continuing after), I will be posting one or two photos each day from the art show.

The show is on display from May 25 – June 25th (now extended until July 10th). Prints are available for purchase for $30 (cash). If you see a photo you would like to purchase, drop by The Adventure Travel Company to purchase (or order) your copy between May 25th and July 10th.

Net proceeds from the art show are being donated to The Planeterra Foundation and the House of the People of the Sun where we spent a day photographing under privileged youth while in Cuzco, Peru. Your support will help them have a better education, a warm meal each day and learn new skills to work and help support their families.

Peru in Video

While we were in Peru, our G Adventures leader, Elard Aranibar captured some of our adventure on video. Although all of the moments in this video won’t mean something to the general public, it is still a really interesting look at the people and the culture and some fun memories for participants from the trip.

Check it out here:



Peru Through the Lens 2013 Art Show

Join us for a Saturday afternoon Art Show opening in celebration of travel, photography & giving back!

While in Peru the group spent a day photographing street children at The House of the People of the Sun in Cuzco, a project supported by The Planeterra Foundation.

“House of the People of the Sun” acts as a haven for 80 children and adolescents who live in extreme poverty. The home is open during the day, and is run by a staff of teachers and social workers. Children are given the opportunity to drop-in to receive help with homework, a warm meal, and participate in classes and workshops that teach them valuable skills, including jewelry making, leather working, sewing, cooking, music and English.”

Last year we raised over $900 for the Planeterra Foundation and we look forward to giving back again this year, with money earmarked directly for the House of the People of the Sun project.

Join us Saturday, May 25th to view & buy photos from Peru Through the Lens participants and help support street kids in Cuzco, Peru and maybe win yourself a little something from Peru or a voucher for your next trip with G Adventures!

There is no fee to attend the opening, but donations for Planeterra Foundation are appreciated and will be accepted at the door.

Opening Remarks will be from approximately 1:30 – 2:00pm.

Drop in anytime between 1pm and 4pm.

Show will continue to be displayed until June 25th, 2013.

Presented in Partnership with:

Shari Tucker Photography

The Adventure Travel Company

Henry’s

PTL 2013 Art Show
PTL 2013 Art Show

Casualties of a photo tour

It just wouldn’t be an adventure with Shari if a few things weren’t lost, broken or left behind along the way. It’s funny because I don’t consider myself particularly careless, but somehow I just have bad luck when it comes to travel.

Last year it was leaving my cell phone behind and then dropping a lens and breaking it before I ever went through security at the Halifax airport.

This year, my trip started with lost luggage in Lima. I thought that might be enough bad luck to hold me over for the entire trip, but no … that was only wishful thinking.

In case you didn’t read the Lost Luggage post, the gist of it is that I arrived in Lima with 11 of my 12 passengers on the morning of April 6th. All 11 of those folks had their luggage, but mine had decided to take the long route. Not a big deal … I had my camera, that’s what was most important!

Only a couple of days into the trip, one of our passengers dropped his glasses on the ground and they broke. It was several days later, as we got ready to do a little tour around the Puno market, that he found a little stand selling eye glasses. Lo and behold, he was able to replace them and despite dropping them a couple more times on the trip, they made the journey!

Next casualty of the trip was at Luquina Chico. Audrey brought a nice big Canadian flag with her and she pulled it out and we all gathered around for a group photo. What happens when a group photo gets taken? Everyone hands their cameras over to the person in charge of taking the photo, including me. So, we each handed our cameras over to Elard, our G leader who quickly took a group photo with each of all of our cameras and then handed it back. Mine was somewhere in the middle of the group of cameras. He handed mine back and we all continued to pose for the group photo.

9767_ShariTucker

After all of the cameras were handed back, Clever gathered our attention to explain what was going to happen for the rest of the day.

And then ‘thud’

GASP

There it was, my 5D MK II, face down on the rocky beach …

Pretty much everyone in the group turned to look, and I’m pretty sure my face was white.
I picked it up off the ground and looked at the damage.

Broken Filter Photo by Elard Aranibar
Broken Filter
Photo by Elard Aranibar

After letting Clever know that he could continue explaining to the group, I half paid attention and half studied the damage. The entire filter was smashed. The question was, did the smashed glass from the filter hit the lens? A filter is $60-$100 to replace. The lens is about $1000 to replace.

I slowly and tentatively unscrewed the filter from the lens. I could hear the glass shifting and starting to come loose. I had no idea what I was going to find behind that filter. Would my lens be equally as shattered? Finally, when the filter was off, I could see the lens. It had not broken, which was a good start, but with the shards of glass and dust all over it, I couldn’t really see how much damage there was.

A little in shock, I decided to just ignore the damage for the time being, pay attention to the day’s plans and deal with it later.

When I reached my home stay (about an hour later), I took a closer look. I carefully used my blower & lens pen brush to dust the remaining glass off the lens and held it up in the sun light. Miraculously, the filter had sustained all of the damage and the lens came out perfectly fine. As far as I can tell, not even a scratch. Guess it was my lucky day!

The next day, I stayed back at Luquina Chico while most of the group went on a tour of nearby Taquille island. I loved the tour of Taquille that we did last year, but altitude was affecting me and I knew that I could not do the physical exertion needed for this particular tour. I was really disappointed because they were also taking a different route than I had the year before, so it would have been a new experience for me.

They docked at a lovely beach and then meandered their way up, up, up and around the hilly island to the top where the main square is. While they were stopped to take photos of the beach area, Elard borrowed one of the passenger’s converters. Now instead of having a 70-200 lens, it would be more like a 400mm lens. I wasn’t there to see it, but I think he was a little excited. He took off, up another hill to take photos from afar and give the converter a try. Unfortunately, when he got ready to take it all apart and head back down, he dropped his lens with the converter attached to it.
This time, the lens didn’t land face down, but instead the rocks bent and twisted the ring that attaches to the camera. Luckily, a few days later in Cuzco, Elard was able to get the converter fixed relatively inexpensively. The 70-200 (his own), however, is still awaiting repair.

Last, but not least …

It was the day of our night photography workshop. Everyone gathered around with their cameras, tripods and rain gear as we could hear thunder in the distance. We headed out to an area of Cuzco called San Blas to take some golden hour photos before day turned to night.

About half way to San Blas, the rain started to fall. And then, it started to pour. We quickly dashed into a little bar for drinks, hoping that the rain would quickly pass. Not the best night to be out finding ‘golden hour’ … more like ‘grey hour’. After about half an hour of chit chat and drinks, the rain had stopped and we continued on our way up the hill to San Blas. We arrived to see vendors setting up their street market areas again and the sun just starting to peak through the clouds. Maybe we’d be lucky and see the sun again before nightfall.

Everyone went their separate ways to find something interesting to photograph in this quaint little bohemian neighbourhood. After snapping a few photos in the main square area, Elard and I headed up, up, up higher where we could get an even better view of the city. I took this photo along the way, when I needed to stop and catch my breath.

San Blas, Cuzco
San Blas, Cuzco

At the top of the hill, we found a small common area, enclosed by glass and one of the participants was climbing up on the railing to take photos.

Paul in San Blas
Paul in San Blas

I set my tripod down to line up my photo of Paul. Took a few shots and then we headed back down the stairs to our meeting point for the group. Quite a few group members were standing around staring at this little spectacle where a huge dog was greeting people, squeezed through the rungs on a partial balcony. It was quite the commotion when two or three other little dogs decided to join him.

San Blas
San Blas

After taking pictures of this curious dog watching over all of us from above, I got ready to gather everyone up to leave when I realized that I was missing something. Where was my tripod? Had I given it to someone to hold? Had I set it down?

Damn it. I had left it at the top of the hill.

Elard looked at my sadly and I laughed and said ‘I don’t think I’m going back up there to get it!’ The next thing I knew, he was headed that direction. I stopped him and said I would go. I walked to the end of the street, took one look at how many stairs there were to the top, turned on my heel and marched right back to the group.

‘There’s not a chance in hell I’m doing those stairs again. My tripod just isn’t worth it.’

To that, a couple of the men from the trip offered to go back up and looked for it, but I argued that it really wasn’t worth it. The tripod had been at least seven or eight years old, only cost $30 and it really was broken. I had decided to bring it with me because my good tripod was too heavy and the part that was broken on this one, I could work around for the few shots that I would be taking with it.

“Don’t worry about it. It was cheap and partially broken. I don’t really care about it.”

The next thing I knew, someone was asking me questions about photography and then, out of the corner of my eye I see Elard sprinting up the street. I yelled for him not to bother, but he kept going. I really didn’t want him to go all the way back to the top for my broken tripod that may or may not be there, but there was no way I was running after him (at altitude) to try to stop him!

A few minutes later, Elard returned, breathless from hurrying up and down the stairs ….. no tripod to be found.

So, all I can do is hope that someone in need found the tripod and will sell it on the street or at a market somewhere and make enough money for a day or two of food for themselves and their family.

Good news out of all of this? One less thing to carry in my backpack. Five pounds lighter and easier to pack!

Oh, the casualties of a photo tour.

One Sleep to Peru through the Lens 2013

For all of you out there who have been waiting for me to start blogging about my Peru trip this year, the time is here!
I was up before the sun this morning in an effort to get all of my last minute things done. On top of my list is clearing off my laptop and hard drive so I have room to store this year’s photos. As I write this, I’m transferring files from my hard drive to my desktop computer … multitasking! Yay me!

There’s been a whole lot of change and excitement over the last year in my life. I won’t go into great detail as I’ve written other posts about it, but here’s the nitty gritty …

In Feb 2012 I went on a three week adventure to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and then on to lead Peru Through the Lens 2012 … a photo tour that was so much more! I had no idea that when I embarked on the first photo tour that it would have such an impact on me. I spent 11 weeks traveling from February to September of that year (adding in Dominican Republic) … and then came home, got sick and changed careers. Whirlwind 2012!

What’s even more amazing to me is that I am not the only person from the Photo tour who had life changing affirmations! Maybe it was the magic of Machu Picchu, the wanderlust from traveling or just the demographic of people who participated last year … but many of us saw life A LOT differently on our return to Canada.

This year as I head off to Peru in just one sleep! Yikes! I feel like I’m looking at it with a brand new set of eyes. Last year I was stuck. I was complaining of being on a hamster wheel and just spinning without going forward in my life / career. This year I seem to have most of it together. A new career as an Adventure Travel Specialist, better health (knock on wood that continues) and just as much vision as I’ve always had, but I seem to be able to articulate it better.

So, here’s to my next adventure … starting in approximately 36 hours … I’ll try not to be such a klutz at the airport this year! (you should read it, you’ll have a good laugh!)

Oh yeah … I’ve also scheduled the 2013 Art Show & Fundraiser for May 25th. Details will be out soon, but put it in your calendar now! Come see all of the participants work from the 2013 trip and support community, artists and the Planeterra Foundation!

Pisac ruins, Peru
Pisac ruins, Peru

Peru Through the Lens Info Session

Date & Time
Wednesday, January 9th
7pm – 8pm
Please RSVP here

Location:
The Adventure Travel Company
5552 Kaye Street, Halifax, NS
902-482-8000

April 6 – 20 – Trip Itinerary

If you are looking for an adventure and have a passion for photography, this is the trip of a lifetime for you! It’s a trip for hobbyists, enthusiasts and passionate photography people just like you!

Want to know what makes the Peru Through the Lens photo tour special and if it is a good fit for you? Come join us at our info session for detailed itinerary information including plans for this year’s special portrait project.

The idea is to be surrounded by people who love adventure and photography, to have just enough structure to be safe/organized, but lots of free time to explore Peru and capture beautiful photographs.

All of this, AND the expertise of a well-established professional photographer at your disposal for the whole trip. Workshops, Tips, tricks, shop talk and lots of opportunities to be fully immersed in your passion.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see Peru through your lens and share your passion for photography with others.

Highlights from Participants for Peru Through the Lens 2012

After a successful 2012 Peru Through the Lens tour, I asked participants to provide me with feedback about the trip so that I could continue to improve it for the 2013 year. Today, as I reviewed that feedback to see what I haven’t yet done, that I need to do, I reminisced while reading through each respondent’s highlights.

Here are participants responses to the question:
What were your top five favourite experiences or places of the Peru Through the Lens Photo Tour?

Lori’s Highlights
1. Meeting and making new friends
2. Tombs at Sillustani (optional excursion during free time near Puno)
3. Machu Picchu – for the personal physical accomplishment & the view
4. Lake Titicaca – specifically Taquile Island
5. Pisac ruins

Pachamama Beams Down by Lori Cammerota
Pachamama Beams Down by Lori Cammerota

Kristie’s Highlights
1. Puno
2. Home stay at Ccaccaccollo and community of Taray
3. Machu Picchu
4. Hot springs at Aguas Calientes (optional during free afternoon)
5. Markets (Cuzco, Puno, Ollantaytambo, Pisac)

Machu Picchu by Kristie McDougall
Machu Picchu by Kristie McDougall

Monika’s Highlights
1. The time Shari took to teach me about photographing using manual and using the histogram on the back of my camera
2. Seeing the ruins at Pisac
3. Lake Titicaca – including Taquile Island, the homestay at Luquina Chico, and the floating islands
4. Having the time to see the Ollantaytambo ruins the second day in the morning (optional during free time)
5. Ruins at Machu Picchu early in the morning
6. The sense of community that was established with our tour group early in the trip

Pisac Terraces by Monika Bigelow
Pisac Terraces by Monika Bigelow

Diane’s Highlights
1. Machu Picchu
2. Cusco
3. Puno
4. Uros Floating Islands
5. The Flat topped island at the Chulpa Tomb ruins in Sillustani (optional tour during free time, near Puno)

Sillustani by Diane Slaunwhite
Sillustani by Diane Slaunwhite

Andrea’s Highlights
1. Homestay at Ccaccaccollo
2. Machu Picchu
3. Uros Islands
4. Luquina Chico Homestay
5. Taray Dance Festival

Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Andrea Robinson
Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Andrea Robinson

Ed’s Highlights
1. Seeing Machu Picchu at the end of the trip. It was the icing on the cake for this Peruvian adventure.
2. Home stays…both of them – Ccaccaccollo & Luquina Chico. This truly gave me an insight into the Peru culture and gave me a perspective on life that I would not have gained from looking out of a bus window or simply sitting in coffee shops.
3. Visiting the Uros floating islands and meeting the community who live there.
4. The photo project of taking family portraits. It was touching to see how many of these families were so excited to have us take pictures of them. When I showed my “Mami” and “Papi” the pictures I took of their community they both began to weep with joy. It was quite an emotional experience for me.
5. Making new friends with the group that I got to travel with. They were all fun and I learned more about photography from interacting with each and every one of them.

Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Ed Robinson
Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Ed Robinson

Sarah’s Highlights
1. Uros floating islands
2. Machu Picchu – It was great getting there early to sit and take in the vast beauty.
3. Taquile Island – tough active day but lunch with the million dollar view made the struggle worth it.
4. Pisac – so much beauty and history
5. Cusco architecture

Uros Islands by Sarah L. Hill
Uros Islands by Sarah L. Hill

As for myself, my highlights were:
1. Machu Picchu – Please read blog post Lost City, Found Self and you will understand.
2. Puno – The impromptu carnival street parade some of us saw during our free time and visiting the market to buy vegetables for our home stay families.
3. Luquina Chico Homestay – The parade of welcome music by the local men, dancing with the locals, helping make fried dough, photographing the locals at work (fishing & sorting fish), my little home stay sister Deanna, who cried when I left.
4. Uros floating Islands – The history of these islands fascinates me!
5. Homestay at Ccaccaccollo – challenging to communicate with our families because they speak Quechua, but feeling warmly welcomed. Enjoyed the volunteer family photos & meeting so many people of the community.
6. (I couldn’t just have 5!) Taray Dance Festival – A complete authentic travel experience. It was not a tour, nothing planned, just going about a day the same way that the locals do. Except this particular day was a local dance festival.

Ccaccaccollo weaving by Shari Tucker
Ccaccaccollo weaving by Shari Tucker

Interested in joining in the fun and discovering your own highlights? Join me for Peru Through the Lens 2013!

In 10 years, will this matter?

How to Make a Decision – Part 1

When making a decision, you have several options …

1. Don’t think, just do it (completely an impulse decision)
2. Follow your heart (do what you love, but not necessarily what is most practical)
3. Do what you think is expected of you.
4. Follow your head (do what you know is most practical, not necessarily what makes you happy)

Honestly, some people do the same thing every time they make a decision … others have a variety of decision making differences depending on the situation.

Me, well, I’m almost never a #1 or #2. I usually follow my head, except in love (this will be particularly funny to those who know me well!). I’ve just discovered recently that even more so than following my own head, I often do things because I think that is what other people expect me to do. (I’ll have an entire blog post on expectations coming soon!)

Since 2009 I have wanted to go away to learn Spanish. Originally I thought I would go for 1 or 2 weeks. As the years passed, my interest in learning Spanish has stayed strong, but the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘you can’t do thats’ over powered everything else. Over the years I researched Spanish schools in all kinds of different countries, tried to think about when the best time to go away would be … continued to travel for other reasons, but hadn’t taken any real steps to make a decision on learning Spanish.

In the fall of 2011 I decided to purchase a Spanish Learning program for my computer (Berlitz Spanish Premier – I got my copy at Costco in Halifax). I wanted to learn Spanish, in hopes of leading a group of photo enthusiasts on an adventure called Peru Through the Lens. I wanted to be able to communicate in Spanish a little on my own. Unfortunately, I really didn’t study enough to be able to put sentences together, but I did learn a lot of vocabulary. I was the Queen of the one-word sentence or question! I had the Spanish speaking level of a two year old. Yay me!

In December 2011, the trip to Peru was confirmed and I decided this meant that I also needed to travel to the Galapagos Islands. I mean, really, it was part of the neighbouring country of Ecuador and I might never get back there again, so I should do it now, right?

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

It took me a good two to three weeks to finally decide to take the leap and go for the trip to the Galapagos. I had been thinking about the possibility since the summer of 2011 when we started planning for the Peru Through the Lens photo tour, but I didn’t put anything in place until I knew for sure that the tour was taking place. I did a lot of research. I asked my travel agent (Rose, at The Adventure Travel Company) a million questions about packages and pricing. I debated over land vs boat accommodations. Land won out fairly quickly due to my previous well known adventures in sea sickness!

What I am getting at here is that I did not take the decision lightly. I thought about it long and hard, but knew that I had to make a decision somewhat quickly (after confirming the Peru trip was going forward) in order to book my flights and tie them in to the beginning of the Peru Through the Lens trip.

I often get stuck when I am trying to make a big decision and I have come to realize many good and bad things about myself.
1. I always do research and a lot of thinking before making decisions. I’ve always been this way!
2. I like to think I have equal parts of head and heart participation in most of my decisions.
3. I am very influenced (or have been in the past) by what close friends and family members ‘expect’ me to do and how they will react to decisions that I make.
4. Sometimes I get so flustered and stuck in my own head that it stresses me out and I can’t make a decision at all. It is at this point that some people give up, drop the idea and run away. For me, it is at this point that I have a little chat with myself …

I ask myself – “Shari. What are you doing? You obviously want to do this (trip to Galapagos) … what is stopping you? If you want to do it so badly, you shouldn’t be stressed about it!”

I answer myself – “I’m scared that I don’t have the money. I’m scared that my business clients will find someone new to do their photography. I’m scared that my parents won’t understand. I’m scared that I’m going to love it and not want to come back. I’m scared that if I don’t go, I’ll regret it. I’m scared that I’ll never have another chance to see The Galapagos Islands.” Geeze! I’m a big ol’ scardey cat!

I ask myself “In 10 years, will this matter? Will you be in debt from it? Will you regret having traveled, learned, experienced new cultures? Will you regret it if you don’t go? Will you learn anything from it? Can you do this 10 years from now instead?”

I answer myself “Don’t be ridiculous … it is a couple thousand dollars, not millions! I can pay that off. The debt won’t be around 10 years from now. Of course I won’t regret the experience. Travel = education of a whole different realm than what most people learn in life. Will I learn from it? How could I not? Sure, I could do this in 10 years, but if I wait until then I might be married with kids and then I won’t have the money or time to do a trip like this … then I’ll regret not having done it while I had the time!”

Decision made.

Just after Christmas, I contacted Rose at the Adventure Travel Company and put all of the details in place for my five day adventure to The Galapagos Islands. Off I would venture, on my own, with the Spanish of a two year old, Vamos! (Let’s Go!).