Winter Wonderland

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Some of you are probably not going to like this post, and that’s okay. But it seems that Christmas Day is the one day everyone wants to see the scene in the picture above, and most of the time (at least where I am) it doesn’t come. The white stuff seems to be plentiful once the holidays are over. Which isn’t convenient because we are all back at school, work, etc. By now, some of you are depressed from all the snow and the thought of listening to any song praising snow and winter just makes you want to punch something – or someone.

Here in the Great White North, we are accustomed to long, cold and snowy winters. Many decide to head down to the all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, while others less fortunate opt to hibernate and binge on Netflix and the like. Nothing wrong with that, however, I choose to embrace winter. That’s right, I actually love seeing the snow, though I hate it when I have to drive in it. But I mean winter is part of what makes my country unique. There is something celestial about hearing the snow crunch under my boots, gazing at the white stuff while inhaling the frosty air. And I want to share a few things to help you embrace winter since you can’t always rely on the possibility of an early spring.

Here are some of the ways you can enjoy winter. For those of you living in warmer climates, feel free to laugh or share this with friends in colder climates.

  1. Skiing – my favorite winter pastime since I was eleven. It’s great exercise and it really gets the adrenaline going. You don’t have to go to the Rockies or the Alps to enjoy skiing (unless you want to). Even a local ski hill will do just the trick. I am fortunate to be within 100 miles of at least six ski hills, and I currently have a season pass to one of them.

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2. Skating – another favorite of mine, and often a more economical winter pleasure. There are bound to be lots of indoor and outdoor choices near you, and if you don’t own skates, you can rent a pair for a modest fee. Plus, it is a great thing to do as a couple or a family. You can even indulge in hot chocolate afterward.

3. Snowshoeing – if skating or skiing isn’t your thing, snowshoeing can be a substitute. All you need is a pair of snowshoes and access to a forest or hiking trail. You might even spot a few furry creatures along the way, such as squirrels.

4. A simple walk through the woods – no equipment needed, just simply take a long stroll down your favorite walking trail. I am also fortunate enough to live close to a mile-long trail that cuts through a forested area. It’s good exercise, fresh air and a chance to get in touch with nature. One thing I love about winter hiking is no mosquitoes, which means a relatively peaceful walk.

Now you don’t have to do the following every day. With our daily grind, it is just not possible. But just once a week is better than nothing. It would be a shame to spend all winter cooped up, soaking up screen time.

One way to bring calmness into your life is to appreciate the present moment. We often get so caught up with what lies ahead, we forget to pause and reflect on what is happening right now. Instead of hating winter and wishing it away, it is better to appreciate it while it is here. Spring will eventually come around.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reflecting on 2019

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So first of all, I want to thank those who commented on my last post about Poland! I wasn’t expecting such a huge turnout! Funny how things happen when we’re not expecting them!

I’d also like to apologize for not posting as much on my blog as I normally did in years past, as well as for not being active on Twitter. I will try and make the former more of a priority. As with the latter, well…my plan is to come back to that when my debut novel is finally finished. I just don’t like to brag as much about my personal life as other authors.

Anyway, with 2020 just days away, it’s time look ahead to the potential fortunes of the new year. But before you do the countdown and crack open the bubbly, try and look back on 2019. I mean once it’s gone, it’s gone. A friend once told me that it’s good pause and reflect on the recent past and present. It helps appreciate what has been accomplished. We often get so caught on looking ahead to the future, we don’t stop reflect on what we have already achieved. What were your biggest achievements of 2019? Was 2019 not your greatest year? No worries! It might be a good idea to look back on what didn’t go so well so that 2020 can be better.

I thought I would share some of my top fives of 2019:

  1. I successfully completed my teaching contract in Poland
  2. I voluntarily created a LinkedIn page for my former school
  3. I helped a woman get home after she found herself stranded in my town
  4. I visited new countries: Hungary, Croatia and Turkey
  5. I made significant progress in my novel (ten chapters written)

 

Unfortunately, this year saw the end of five-year friendship. Actually, this friend lost me. After enduring months of his toxic attitude and jealousy towards me, I had to kick him to the curb. As much of a relief it was, it caused a lot of pain since we had been friends for such a long time. A lesson learned: any friend who is constantly jealous of you, criticizes your actions and holds a grudge for petty things is NOT a friend! The good thing that did come out of this is that I learned to stand up to people that rub me the wrong way (a weakness for many years).

Sadly, my uncle passed away this year at the age of 85. He was a wonderful man, always treated me like his own son whenever I visited him, and a tireless worker, father and husband.

I challenge you to look back and write down five of your biggest accomplishments of the year, and even one of two things that didn’t work out for you. Think of it as saying ‘thank you’ to 2019.

And on a final note, Happy New Year to all my loyal followers!

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My Favorite Places in Poland

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So this may come as a shock, but back in the summer I completed my teaching contract and subsequently decided to return to my homeland, aka the Great White North!

I regret not posting as much about my time in Poland as I would have liked, though I did touch on the city I was living in, which was Radom. IMHO, it wasn’t exactly ‘top’ of my favorites list. So now I’m going to focus on some of my favorite Polish locales I encountered during my time there. Hopefully, you will be inspired to visit these places!

Warsaw

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Ah, good old Warsaw, or Warszawa as it is called in Polish. The capital and often the starting point to any Polish travels. Since Warsaw was a two-hour bus ride from Radom, I was there A LOT! Like almost every weekend. Because of the frequency of buses between Radom and the capital, it was the perfect day trip. Now most people I met said they preferred Krakow over Warsaw (Poles included), but Warsaw held a special place in my heart. It has great restaurants, chic coffee houses and a growing craft beer scene! My favorite place happened to be the Old Town. I was dating a Polish girl, who lived in Warsaw, and we had our second date there (great romantic spot FYI).

There was always something going there all year. And if you’re a fan of green spaces, there’s this neat park in the south end of the city. I like to call it Poland’s version of Central Park but on a smaller scale. I will always remember all the times I spent in Warsaw.

Toruń

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Now your average tourist wouldn’t think to include Toruń (pronounced ‘tor-in‘) in their travel plans. And I think that’s a shame! This little medieval town, located about a two-hour train ride from Warsaw, is actually the birth place of Nicolaus Copernicus. You will hear his name a lot there. In fact, there is a statue of him near the main cathedral in the center of town. I only visited Toruń once on a weekend trip, but it was well worth the journey and money! I met some locals there in a bar and ended up dancing with them in a nightclub! When you visit some of the lesser known places in Poland, it is really easy to get noticed by the locals!

I definitely recommend stopping by Toruń if Poland is on your travel bucket list!

 

Zakopane

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Pronounced ‘zak-o-pa-nay‘. This little town, which lies in the extreme south of Poland, is dubbed the Winter Capital of Poland. Polish winter enthusiasts flock to this town during the winter months, especially during Christmas and the first week of February (kids have a break from school during this time). Because it is nestled at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, it provides opportunities for skiing and winter hiking. Of course, Zakopane is a great place to visit all year round; summer hikers would love the opportunities here. However, many Poles will tell you that to truly experience the richness of Zakopane, you must visit it during winter. And that’s exactly what I did! One chilly, snowy weekend in February, I made the trip here. Being a winter enthusiast myself, I had to. I did a mini hike through the national park that straddles the Tatra Mountains, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable Polish experiences for me!

Another interesting thing about this town is the folklore. It isn’t long before you notice the locals wearing traditional clothing, especially the staff at restaurants and hotels. It almost felt as I was in a Polish version of Bavaria. Zakopane is also famous for its cheese-filled pastries. No trip here is complete without sampling one!

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Be forewarned: the closest airport is Krakow, so the only practical way of getting there without renting a car is bus. You can catch one from Krakow, which takes three hours. There is one from Warsaw as well, BUT add five hours to the journey. Since that bus stops in Krakow anyway, it’s better to just start from there unless you’re a fan of long bus rides.

 

Honorable mentions go to Krakow and Wrocław. The former is especially wonderful during Christmas when the main square becomes a giant Christmas market. The latter is a neat university city, offering a authentic taste of Poland. But I think I have bombarded you enough with information already.

Sadly, I didn’t make it to Gdansk or Auschwitz. I was not able to include either in any weekend trips, nor was I able to extend my time in Poland after the teaching contract. So many things to do, so little time! However, I may not be living in Poland now but it doesn’t mean I won’t ever be back.

So with this I close the chapter on my posts about Poland. The experience there was one of the best in my life and changed me forever. Will I go back to teach abroad? Perhaps. But this moment, I am happy on home soil.

If Poland is on your travel radar, be sure to include the places I have mentioned. If Poland isn’t on your bucket list, well…maybe you should consider it!

 

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