Friday, 28 January 2011

Back To Life...

For the first time in 2011 I am broadcasting to you from the motherland. Yep, that’s right, I have returned to England!

For the most part, these first few days after getting back from traveling can be a real downer. Time to face reality; utterly daunted with the prospect of having to find a job in the big bad working world. But, and I feel a touch guilty about saying this, I had no qualms with returning. As much as I enjoyed my time in Canada, I felt like I had got all I could out of my stay there with the money I had. Now it’s time to get my save on once more, a race to summertime to see if my financial situation will whisk me away yet again.

Looking back, I can’t say I loved every second of my Canadian experience; I don’t think my traveling spirit it set for the ultra-Western world of North America. I longed for the beautiful simplicity of India or the bohemian tea houses of Budapest. I think there’s a charm about not knowing the native tongue of the country you’re visiting and having to find other ways of communicating. It forces you to strip down to the bare essentials, using hand gestures to get you by. Using physical communication like this brings people together, something that can be difficult between two people from entirely different countries and backgrounds.

I wasn’t thrown by any bizarre acts of culture specific only to North America (other than being dumbfounded at them making almost anything a drive-thru, I’m pretty sure drive-thru hospitals are only a year or so away.) Other places I have visited, even by just hopping over the channel, have caught my attention more so just because their practices seem to alien to me, which is perfect writing material of course.

Having said all of this, I don’t think I would take back a single second of Canada, the trip itself has done wonders for my soul. I’ve learnt so many things about myself that were once unknown to me; these will not be divulged here until I get to grips with them myself! I’ve learnt more about my friendships back home and who I missed more than I expected. I’ve learnt about how I react to being utterly alone in a big city.

I will miss the views of the mountains no matter where you are, even in the heart of Vancouver. I will miss the buddies I’ve made, and wish them all well as they’ve barely made it a quarter of the way through their long journeys. I will miss baby Jennica at Goat’s Pride who I looked after for quite some time, I wish I could see her grow up! And, of course, I will miss that Canadian charm of every shopkeeper I ever came across, wishing me to have a great day.

However, I have to say, I’m excited for the next chapter. Whatever that may be…

Monday, 24 January 2011

Hooray For Community!

One more thing I have to add about Roberts Creek is their artistic talents. As I've explained in previous posts, it's a quaint litte creative place, where you can do yoga by the sea and shop organic to your heart's content. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I came across this beauty:

The Mandala as it was finished in 2008
 I know, wowza! This is the Roberts Creek Community Mandala, an ongoing community art project, located mext to the pier. It is painted every year over the space of five days, and anyone is welcome to come and join with their artistic flare. It is joined with a music festival on it's completion a day or two after the painting has been completed, presumable so it can dry! If you find yourself in the area in July, check out the info here to get stuck in.

I'll let the picture speak for themselves...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tuneful Bowls

When I arrived in Roberts Creek last week, my mind was all over the place; hence the confused post! I felt like too much was going on in my head and it needed to get out of there, fast. I was in the perfect location, a quiet and peaceful seaside town. And it seems someone up there heard my cry for help, and along came Jay with his singing bowls.

Any of you who have been to Tibet or the surrounding countries may have heard of these creations. Basically they're bowls of varying heights and depths, which are struck and stroked with wooden bats wrapped in suede. They can be made of varying materials; the ones I witnessed were made of varying precious stones such as quartz crystal, and others were gold plated. They are played with the hopes of soothing the soul, drowning out all the chatter in your mind, and lining up your internal chakras.

And there he is; Jay! Originally from Arizona, Jay has been on the road for six years now (lucky bastard) and has made a living from performing his singing bowls to various different groups ranging from paedophiles, prison inmates or your regular John Smith's and Jane Doe's. And making a very good living off it he is too.

As it so happens, Jay was staying in my hostel, and had a performace down at the yoga centre a few days after my departure. So, he decided to give us all a little taster of the action. I like to think I'm fairly open-minded, so decided to start of having faith in him that they would actually help me, with just a tiny shred of doubt bubbling under the surface.

And I have to say, whether you believe that they line up anything in your soul or not, they certainly soothe you. The sounds and vibrations from each bowl joined together in harmony, along with Jay's comforting voice, sent me off in a little peace-trance. That annoying chatter that went on in my mind for days previously was deafened by the bowls and brought to its knees.

I'm not one to have too much belief in fate or luck, but it was a pretty sweet coincidence that Jay was in Roberts Creek at the same time as me. He was exactly what I needed to get my head straight when all I could think was stressful thoughts. His general outlook of life, with his sometimes struggling financial situation, really helped me to take a step back and realise the important things. My chakra feels a little bit more in line too...whatever that means.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Peace At Last

So, my head is a little more clear now. I have had times of reflection since my last post! In the lovely little towns of Gibsons landing and Roberts Creek along the Sunshine Coast of BC. (No one seems to know where this is, Google it.)

When my guide book stated that the population of these two were around five thousand each, I knew i was in for some relative solitude. I didn't quite anticipate that in Roberts Creek, you can walk from the first store on the main road to the last, in around fifteen seconds. Perfect!

It took me a while to find a hostel here. shed no light on the place; as far as they're concerned, it doesn't exist. So Google it was. After some digging I finally came across Up The Creek B&B and Backpackers. Having not found any Couchsurfing hosts available, I had no choice but to stay here. And my oh my did I hit the jackpot. Up the Creek is basically some dudes house. This particular dude (who, may I point out, hails from England, huzzah!) just decided to open up his house and tranform it into some affordable, comfortable, relaxed accomodation. Within 10 minutes of arriving I had more of less met everyone staying there, as the total only reached five. After the chaos of the farm with no less that ten people at dinner every night, this was just my cup o' tea.

On my first day there, I took a stroll around Roberts Creek and down to the pier. The sun was just starting to set, no one was around apart from some straying dogs and their owners off in the distance. This was the space I needed to get my head straight. I didn't feel like I was in the best state of mind after the past month, and it's hard to explain why. But, onwards and upwards, and this view certainly set me on my way. (Pictures to be added soon, I conveniently lost my plug adaptor in Seattle, so preserving camera power for now!)

On my second day, after a lovely sleep-in and a chance to just slowly ease myself into the day, I headed into Gibsons to mooch. As it's coming towards the end of my trip, most of my shopping is now focused upon gifts for loved ones back home. After digging round in the beautiful antique shops, I found some stellar presents for my Dad, some that will hopefully bring him screaming back to his boyhood. (Yes Dad, cryptic ey?!)

It was a beautiful day in Gibsons, and made me feel fully refreshed. I also had a pretty zen experience the night before, one that I owe a seperate post to, because it was just that good. I then sat in a little cafe called Truffles near the marina, sipped tea (I actually doing that as we speak also, the total has now hit around six cups a day...) and listened to jazz. What more could I want from the peace I had craved for so long?

So, if you're in the BC area, and want a retreat, these wee towns are the place for you. As I was waiting for the bus, with my huge backpack on, a woman started talking to me about her travels twenty years ago, and how jealous she is that I'm on the road as we speak. Whilst on the bus, a man with a luscious head of long red hair sat and played his mandolin for us. Whilst waiting for a bus the previous day (why do all these revolve around buses?!) a man pointed out the rainbow shining in the sky above us and all four of us stood there, basking in its glory.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Back On The Road...

So, I have been relatively silent once again for nearly a week. My heart really does go out to you, I know it's been difficult. I jest! My heart goes out to my poor addled brain; starved of writing therapy it has gone somewhat crazy for the last seven days. Goat's Pride, you were bloody good fun. However, I need the sweet sweet sounds (or not so) of solitude and silence to ease me.

But before that, Squamish! I had been told by a fairly reliable source that Squamish is the place to be. This man, however, is an avid climber, and his hunger is easily satisfied by the surroundings of Squamish, with it's rocky terrain. I, on the other hand, got utterly smashed on my first night there, meaning my first full day in Squamish was a complete write-off. Hooray! Luckily it was raining all day. Looking back I feel guilty, but at the same time I felt like I deserved a day of complete nothingness.

There's something to be said about being back on the road after a long stay in one location. Your initial lung-filling hopes and dreams come whirling back to you, and you feel like the fresh-eyed clean explorer you once were at the beginning of your trip. But just that smidgen more wise of what to expect from your future destinations.

For me, getting back on the road was a necessity for my mental health. As the time draws in closer when I'll be hopping on that plane back to Blighty, I felt like I must make the most of my final precious seconds. I say, precious...I'm totally ready to go home. My brain is skipping ahead and weighing out the chances of me finding a job and saving up more dollar the hit the road yet again. It breaks my heart when I must grind it to a hault in order to knock some sense into it.

But focus! And you can tell by the funny little post that focus I cannot. This is the last week of a trip I'd been so looking forward to for over a year. So, I have more things planned than my money can afford, a factor I will figure out later.

I left Squamish this morning, and I'm now calling Roberts Creek on the Sunshine (dubious name) Coast home for the next two days. And I will tell you all about how soothing it's tranquility is in the next post. Hopefully a little more coherant than this one...

Friday, 14 January 2011

Top Five Ways To Kill Time Whilst Traveling: 5) Facebook

Oh ye of little faith. Of course I was going to mention Facebook on this list of killing time activities. How could I not? As much as we all pretend to hate it, let's not forget that it has become an almost essential free resource for the modern traveller to keep in touch with home. If you ever find yourself a little homesick, a moment or two on Facebook will bring you crashing back down to the reality that home never changes, and you are in fact missing out on nothing whatsoever.

To be honest, it was pretty hard to find my top fives things I like about Facebook. I could, quite easily, find the worst things about Facebook, and probably go further than five. But, with the aim of keeping a positive outlook, let's not lie. Facebook is useful, and we all find ourselves on it far too much from time to time.

1) Curiosity: I'm starting wit ha brutally honest one; one which some people don't care to admit. I've also put it in a more polite way, so in other words, curiosity means just being down right nosey. We all have friends of Facebook that we added when in school, or maybe at an old job. But, in recent years, have lost touch but still find them popping up on our newsfeeds. On several occasions I have dished out a bit of gossip to current friends of mine, about friends long gone. The question 'How did you know that?' pops up, and shame passes over the face of the divulguer; 'Errmmm....Facebook.' But don't lie, you bloody love it.

2) Keeping in touch: Of course, the main purpose behind social networking. However, it works all the more sweeter when you're a few thousands miles away from your most precious ones. When I first arrived in Vancouver and struggled a little with missing home, totally unlike me whatsoever. If I hadn't have had the people at home to tell me to stop being silly, it would have gotten worse. However, keeping yourself fully informed about home gossip can make you lose focus of your travels, so beware.

3) Reconnecting: Similar to the last point, but ever so slightly different all the same. I recently noticed more and more pictures of travels from some uni friends of mine, Katie and Sam, popping up on my newsfeed. I hadn't spoken to either of them since we finished Uni back in May 2009; regardless of the fact we all lived together, we just lost touch. But I just had to talk to them when pictures from India appeared, as it was a place I thoroughly enjoyed. After a long conversation, I found out that they had just recently decided to settle in China. I have to say, when I find myself heading that way, I can't wait to catch up in person.

4) Parading your achievements: Don't lie, we all do it. Especially to let the people we dont talk to anymore know that we're actually doing something with our lives.

5) Birthdays: One of the reasons we can all agree on why Facebook is amazing; it helps us remember people's birthday. For all of those out there who don't have their birthday displayed of Facebook, you are cruel, give people a chance! Also, I quite like to say a Happy Birthday to someone I haven't spoken to in a while. Such a simple gesture but a kind one nonetheless.

So there we have it, then end of my series of time wasters. However, I encourage you to use these wisely. They could lead you to utterly waste the precious time you have spent so much money and energy to make it to. But used wisely, and they can be your saviours.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

An Artistic Snippet

I'll admit, I have been neglecting my blog somewhat over recent weeks. I apologise! You have still been reading it however, and for that, I thank you. So a bigger post is planned for tomorrow. For today, I would just like to share with you a recent achievement of me of which I am a little proud.

Around two weeks before Christmas, after having been at the farm for a few days, I decided to make sure I gave the family a gift at this festive time of year. I figured it would be a nice oppotunity to say a thank you for having me. So, to kill time in the evenings, I thought it best to take on a creative project in order for me to stay sane. Plus, homemade gifts are always the best, right?

I hadn't done any painting in a while, so hunted down some resources in the house; a house which has anything in it you could possibly imagine. Seems a little bit of a contradiction that I'm giving them something made fom their own canvas and paint, but hey ho...sentiment!

Of course I had to paint something vaguely resembling an experience I've had here; something goat related. I figured a picture of a goat in a field was too average. All you would have to do is look out the window to find something like that. And so, from the depths of my psyche, came this..... Merry Christmas Dykstra's!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Say Cheese!

The past week or so at the fam, I've been on dairy duty. This is the real business side of Goat's Pride. When you're doing other duties such as feeding or milking the goats, you kind of forget all about what it's going towards. But being in the hub of activity that is the dairy processing room, where we prepare everything ready for sale, it really hits home that you're contributing to the sale of this produce. The idea that someone in Vancouver has a piece of cheese I've helped make or a pot of yoghurt I've prepared seems pretty sweet.
Jason. chief cheesemaker,
hard at work making
 Chevrotina buttons.
Back home, whenever someone mentions goat's cheese, it's just used as one bracket term, as opposed to saying cow's cheese, a term we never use. Since working at Goat's Pride, I've come to the realisation that is a massive generalisation. It's not just the standard goats cheese we are all familiar with that we produce here. We make various cheeses with different strengths, textures and consistencies. Feta, Gouda, Capramonte, Blue Capri, Caprabella and Chevrotina are amongst the list; and these are all strikingly different.

As it turns out, it's not just me as an Englishman being ignorant of these varieties. Even whilst we were working at the Vancouver Farmer's Market on a frosty Saturday, almost every customer that came to us questioned that they were all produced from goat's milk. Our response of 'yes' was often met with a surprised look; people just don't realise that so much more can be done with goat's cheese than first meets the eye.

The obvious perk of working in the dairy is that I get to taste the produce. Don't get me wrong, I don't sit there and gorge upon cheese all day, we'd be losing a lot of money that way! But the odd tiny morceaux passes my lips when we're cutting up samples. My favourite would have to be the Smoked Capramonte; an aged cheese that Jerry (cheif cheesse packer and delivery man) and myself lovingly smoked with applewood chips from our very own apple tree. It all went a bit wrong when we left it a little too long and the wheel collapsed and sunk a touch, making it look a bit wilted; but the taste was just as exquisite. When working at the market a week before Christmas, I think I forced most customers to have a taste of this one, as a smokey alternative on their Christmas cheese boards.
Our stall at the farmer's market in Vancouver where you
can find Jerry most Saturdays

But it's not just cheese that is made, of course the milk is processed and sold; I have bottled several hundred myself. Plain, Bluberry and French Vanilla yoghurt is also part of the deal. This mainly involves a lot of waiting; waiting for the milk to warm up, add the extra ingredients such as blueberries, sugar and live bacterial cultures, and leaving it overnight at 120 degrees to let it do it's thing and ta-daaaa! Yummy yoghurt is the result. It's slightly runnier than the yoghurt I'm used to, and is often just consumed from a glass as drink. I myself still eat it with a spoon straight from the pot like any other yoghurt!

The last job is packaging everything. Many an hour have we spend slicing, weighing, vacuum packing, labelling, dating and storing cheese to make it ready for sale, either at the market or one of the many stores in West British Columbia where it is sold. When I'm in Vnacouver I'm tempted to hunt one of these stores down and take a peek at our hard work, swelling with pride. I suggest you do the same.

Some Blueberry and French Vanilla yoghurt. Look out for the logo!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

These Times They Are Excitin'

Just a wee post today for all of those out there who do not have me of Facebook so are not aware of my recent minature claims to fame. I've been avidly emailing a tonne of travel publications, online magazines and blogs to get any of my writing up on their websites. So far I have been fairly successful, a good start to the year I think, and I could not be happier!

So, for those of you yet to read them, here is a little run down for you... Cool Karma on the streets of India.
This was my first moment of happiness in my writing career back in October. Just a little rundown of travel safety when on the road in India. WWOOF'ing it on a Dairy Farm.
An overview of my current experiences on Goats Pride Dairy Farm in Abbotsfor, BC. Anyone looking for cheap travel tips, this could be a very inexpensive option to help you on your way. Marrakech: A Beautful Kind of Chaos - Insights of a Morrocan Souk
This one was only posted in the last few days. An account of my days in the busy city of Marrakech, and how I survived them.

Enjoy. Tell your friends. Tell everyone you know. It is all very much appreciated!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Top Five Ways To Kill Time Whilst Traveling: 4) A Friendly Face

We're nearly there now, number four of five, wahoooo! I hope you have all suitably killed time in the past few weeks whilst I have been writing these. But now, the most important one. Let's face it, the best (and probably most socially healthy) way to kill time whilst on the tracks is without a doubt, making conversation with the closest person to you.

Meeting new people from all over the planet is my favourite thing about travelling, as I'm sure most of you will agree. Building a collection of pals to track down on your future travels in their home countries is a serious perk. I think by the time I make it to Australia, I won't have any problem in finding free accomadation on other people's floors, you Aussie's get everywhere! The fact that you all seem to leave your own country in hoards doesn't give me much of an incentive to head down under, but I just have to now. To see all those friendly faces at least.

So, a nice personal post is as follows; my favourite people met in my favourite circumstances whilst I've been on the move. For all of you not mentioned, you are truly treasured also, and most of you tie in with the folks on here so you are not forgotten!

1) Laura from Melboure, Australia: Obviously I have to start with an Aussie. I met Laura when she spoke to me through an intercom whilst I was standing outside a building in Budapest, Hungary. We'd spent three days in Budapest previously, and loved it so much that we braved another nineteen hour train ride just to come back again. Laura wasn't working at our hostel when we left the first time, and we wondered who on earth it was when a woman answered the intercom. As it turns out, she is bloody awesome. Myself and Laura have met up a few times since meeting, which is fairly impressive considering she's based on the other side of the world! She is half the reason I would ever go to Australia.

2) Brad and Jordan, from Vancouver, BC: The first words uttered between myself and these two fellows was when they asked me if my pizza was good (it wasn't...) in a hostel in Prague. This resulted in a huge night out in this beautiful city and a good old session of bonding. Drinks were enjoyed by all, and we left them a couple of days later. Two weeks or so after that, by complete chance, Jordan comes walking round a corner in Split, Croatia, with his camera in our faces, taking a beautiful shot of Jenna and I mid-eat. Being incredibly unlucky with weather, it rained the entire time we were in Split, joy! So our meeting was a stroke of fate, as we then spent a week hanging out with Brad and Jordan. And, of course being in Vancouver, I met up with Brad who took me on a snowy truck ride up to Mt Seymour.

3) Bryan from Victoria, Vancouver Island: This was the swiftest meeting of them all. I was supposed to Couchsurf with Bryan for a few nights in Victoria. Sadly, Bryan got stuck in Whistler up in the snow and couldn't make it until my last night in the city. So, determined that we would be able to hang out, we made a big night of it. After sitting for hours, comsuming a vast array of different alcohols and having many excited talks about our future travels, we went and hit the town. I think me and Bryan were destined to meet for one night and one night only, picking up our friendship in various countries we find ourselves in in the future.

4) Paul from Melbourne, Australia: Another friend of mine recently made on my current travels, Paul's first words to me were 'What are you reading?'. And a friendship was born! (I was reading a Lonely Planet guide for British Columbia for those who are curious.) More or less every night after that, at around 4pm (seven hours after I woke up, three hours after Paul woke up!!) we would meet and always suggest a beer down in the bar on the ground floor of the hostel. Since both moving away from Vancouver in recent weeks, we have spoken almost every day since.

5) Sean from Seattle, USA: I kind of forced my way into Sean's life. Most of you keeping up with the blog will know that I wrote about a certain artist making deer heads as an art project (see Deery Me.) This artist is Sean! Having gone back to Seattle for New Years Eve a few days ago, I just had to look Sean up and thank him for all his info. As it turns out, he spent all of New Years with me and my four German friends, and a whale of a time it was too. He was the perfect tour guide in Seattle, and joined us for some stunning fireworks at midnight.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Well Beyond Farming

Before I came to do my volunteer work on Goat's Pride, I knew not a single thing about farming. I'd probaby set foot on a farm a handful of times in my life, and only to stroke a horse or pet a pig when I was young enough to fit into adorable little wellies.

So coming to Abbotsford to work on this farm has been such an enlightening experience. Much more than just their place of residence and a bunch of other heartbeats they have to care for, you really get a sense of being surrounded by this families well-being; their complete livelihood.  Just talking to Jo-Ann now she describes her life on the farm as 'an expression of who I am, and connecting with people to meet their needs. I think a lot of organic farmers think the same; that we need to stop taking from the land and start contributing. I want to see my work here as a thing of beauty.' And I have to say, it truly is.

When I first arrived here, I was immediately collared by an Australian volunteer named Graham Strong, to help him out with attempting to waterproof a hay shed. It was later explained to me that Graham actually owns a farm in Australia, New South Wales to be exact, and takes on volunteers himself. I then went on to find out he had actually won the Young Australian of the Year Award for his farming techniques back home. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

Graham has actually had a small documentary made abouts his farm by and English composer named Andy Ross. I've put the first part of said documentary, named 'Way Beyond Water', on the bottom of this post, and I encourage you to watch the next two parts also. Even coming from a farm-less background, this is inspiring stuff.

Due to the roasting climate, Australian farmers have struggled with drought for quite some time now. Things got so bad that this led to bankrupcy, depression and even suicide in some cases. Farmers are so reliant on weather, an unpredictable and lethal force, for their income. However, Graham believes that just looking to the skies and praying for rain is not the solution.

He goes on to explain there there seems to be some kind of assumption that you can't do anything if there is no rain. Graham's whole philosophy stems from the idea that we need to adapt to our surroundings and create new solutions for typical problems. So, Graham planted a tonne of salt bush, an alternative method of feeding his 2500 sheep. This plan was looked on by sceptical farming peers as an uncertain solution. Graham, however, has reaped the rewards.

Andy had a beautiful way to describe the impression he got from seeing Graham and his farming co-workers, which really stuck in my head and appreciate the incredible work these people do. He says; '(These people) are artists of the land...when I look at this all I see is trees and grass. These guys see it as an interconnected web of organisms and life.' Graham goes on to explain a farmers deep 'relationship with the land; you have to listen to it, speak back, and see it's response.' A farmer's land as a child he's got the care and nurture for, as well as negociate and develop with.

Having experienced what I have at Goats Pride, and seen the creative and inprising work Graham does back home in Australia, I have a new appreciation for the amount farmers put into their properties. It's far beyond just manual labour and keeping everything ticking over. It's a matter of trying to transform and evolve the things you've got to create a better environment, to adapt to what you feel the land and climate is telling you. Hopin' and a' wishin' ain't gunna get you so far.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Reflection and Anticipation

So here it is, New Years Eve 2010. It is at this time of year that taking a moment to look back at the previous 365 days in order to see what you have achieved can be beneficial. In looking back, we can also look forward, and use our experiences to create new goals for the coming year. Also, on this very night, the majority of us see in the New Year with a hideous amount of alcohol in our system and often don't remember the first few hours of it whatsoever. I intend to partake in this tradition, and in Seattle, Washington of the United States of America no less. Huzzah! Let's hope it's a good 'un.

So, last night, when I had our plush rented apartment all to myself, I reflected on my 2010 (with a glass of wine of course). And my oh my has it been a big one. This year, I realised my dream. On a train somewhere in the north of India and sometime in the middle of July, I decided I was going to be travel writer. Yes, I finally chose a career, and one that is incredibly hard to find success in. Well done me! But hey, I'm willing to put the hours in, and what's life for if not to enjoy and do what you love? I think with a little help from self-esteeem and determination, along with a little help from my friends, I could at least give it a shot.

Writing aside, this year i have travelled to three new continents; Asia, Africa and North America. Everytime I think of it in those terms my heart flutters a little, how amazingly lucky am I?! Onwards and upwards as they say, there's plenty more ground to cover.

As well as finding something I love to do, I have indulged in other people's happiness this year also. One of my oldest friends, Katie-Jayne Lewis, got married this year. I imagine it was the most joyful day of her life so far, but I have to say it was probably one of mine too! I've known her since we were seven, and after fifteen years of imagining our weddings days, she finally took the plunge, and it was utterly perfect. I wish herself and Rhodri a bloody good 2011.

A new arrival came into my life in 2010, in the form of little Leo Simon Foster. This kid is probably the most loved child I have ever known, with a family of around twenty of us keeping him safe at all times. If I ever feel down, a visit to Leo cheers me up without fail. So thanks go out to Joe and Laura for bringing this little hero into our world.

2010 will always be remembered for me as the first year I ever ran a 10k. About half way through this race, I decided it would be the only year I ever ran a 10k. However, when the endorphins hit their peak and my legs had a rest shortly after I'd finished, I was determined to do another.

Which brings me onto 2011, a year to be active. Not only will I be doing another 10k,  will be doing two. And then, in October, a half-marathon. Oh holy shit. Why on earth have I decided this I hear you cry?! Well, I can't really give you an answer. Why not?

As well as being physically active, my career is going to need some work too. Having run my bank account into the ground, 2011 will sadly not hold as much travel for me (I will be doing some though, you can't hold me down for that long...). So back at home I will be working myself into the ground instead, support and help from all of you out there would be much appreciated!

In an attempt to prepare myself the next big trip that is evolving in my head, I'm going to be learning Spanish this year. I'll leave it up to all of you to try and work out where it is I'm actually going...