Courageous, Confident or Just Plain Crazy!..Driving tips for Ireland from a Canadian Girl

“If you believe you can-YOU WILL!”

 Upon returning safely from a 3 week trip to Ireland, I thought I would share a few driving tips. 

Being a Canadian girl, traveling alone in Ireland…  

Driving on the ‘left side’ of the road- was my biggest fear. 

Do one thing a day that scares you!  Check!

Do one thing a day that scares you! Check!

However, I am a stubborn Virgo and my desire to see the countryside on my own timeline…outweighed my fear.   I was praying to find a cute Irish driver to drive me around, but apparently that was not in my divine plan.

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It was just me, my rental car, GPS and a few trusty road maps.  

With a quick lesson on a deserted beach under my belt- I headed out. 

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Driving lesson on the Beach

Reminding myself that people drive in Ireland everyday.  I am proud to report… I survived the challenge and conquered my fear. 

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I have to say I was never more PRESENT in my LIFE!

Happily, I returned my rental car without a scratch, covered many miles, saw beautiful vista’s, almost on one tank of Diesel.

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My Rental Car- Safely returned

If you’re planning a road trip to Ireland…Read on.

Tips before you leave-

  • ·      GET a GPS- it will be your best friend
  • ·      Bring a CDW Insurance travel letter-if you have coverage on your credit card
  • ·      Bring music or buy a good Irish music CD-Irish radio talk is endless and not very soothing for the nervous soul.  

Most of the rental cars in Ireland are manual- Shift on the Left.  Pedals and Clutch are the same as in North America.  Automatic Transmissions are available, but harder to find and more expensive.  I rented my car before I left through Costco online and brought a travel letter from my visa company to wave the insurance.  If you’re not covered… I highly recommend getting the insurance.  The roads are rather narrow and the tour buses are very large.  Don’t be scared.   If I survived, so can you!  

Here are my Tips… 

  • ·      Put the correct spelling in GPS- A 1 letter slip up sent me the opposite direction.
  • ·      Make sure Rental car has insurance, floor mats and a good old fashion road map- it rains a lot in Ireland and a missing floor mat makes for a very slippery clutch.  Learned this the hard way.
  • ·      Gas- for you and the car.  Road snacks and proper hydration
  • ·      Stay LEFT- LOOK RIGHT, TURN LEFT… repeat, repeat.
  • ·      Always keep body to middle of road or white line to middle of road
  • ·      Learn Roundabouts- Trick: you can ride them around and around if you miss your exit.  I also heard the locals do stop and wait, if you happen to go the wrong direction.
  • ·      For the most part Trust your GPS- It will reroute you, however when in doubt or in the middle of nowhere.  STOP and ASK a local for directions.  Remember all roads eventually lead somewhere…unless the road is closed…reroute via a local.  The Irish are very kind, patient and more than willing to help.
  • ·      Use side mirrors to gauge the edge of the road. 
  • ·      Back into parking stalls whenever possible.
  • ·      Travel early to avoid Tour buses.
  • ·      Have money for toll roads on the M50.
  •        Give yourself ample time.  Time pressures create stress and not a clear mind.
  • ·      Practice YOGA.  Breath Deeply, Fully Exhale.  Relax shoulders and fingers.  Stretch occasionally.  Pull over and cry when necessary.  Set intention for safety and good weather.  Expect a few roadblocks. 

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    Bonus: The sheep do not move.

My Mantra’s

  • ·      If you believe you can, you will!
  • ·      I am a good driver… I will get to my destination safely.
  • ·      All roads lead to somewhere. 

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Benefits of driving on the opposite side:

  • Increased Alertness & Awareness= Present Moment Living
  • Challenge your fears.  Success= Empowerment
  • ·           Senses are heightened.

Go dté sibh slán…May you go safely

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Enjoy the beauty!

Michelle

Bonus tip:  Bring a 3 prong adapter.

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Adapter for your electronics.

 

 

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I am not the Bionic Women

“A Break from technology can help us to feel human again. And I am pretty sure there’s still no App for that.”~ Micheal J. Chase.

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Morning Dew

Technology is a gift.  One I appreciate.  However, with the stream of technology coming at us humans so quickly, it is no wonder we are all feeling overwhelmed. Seriously, what human can possibly keep up to waves of emails, texts, phone calls, not to mention Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc. Even my very efficient super human-almost Bionic friends are having a hard time keeping up. The fact that my daughter snap chats herself every 10 sec, reminds me that moments are fleeting and many of them are eaten up with a relationship to our phone/computer/iPad screen.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel social media is amazing, I can reach people I have never met. Create this blog, document my thoughts, share things, keep in contact with family while on vacation, share photo’s etc. These things I love. Yet I yearn…
I yearn for a good face to face-eye contact-heartfelt conversation. I miss seeing my friends and hate the fact that birthday are celebrated via a typed message. I love to share what I am up to and being visual person, I can easily spend hours on Pinterest-building my virtual life. However, nothing beats a good old catch up coffee session with a dear friend at a local coffee shop.image
I feel the pressure technology brings. I also feel inadequate. I can’t possibly keep up. No one is as fast as a computer. Certainly Canada Post can not possibly keep up.   I still welcome and appreciate a good hand written note or a postcard from a friend on an adventure.  Something colourful and bright, that makes me excited enough to smile.

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Taking time for yourself

Retreat, like a coffee session, must be scheduled into our lives, so we take the time to feel. Feeling takes time and space. When we move too quickly we can’t feel the tiny bits of tension gripping in our bodies, reminding us that we are working too hard. The gentle tension eventually becomes a pull or a tear. Not paying attention, a fall will result in a broken bone. Not an ideal rest. I prefer to Laugh, Cry or Wail-These are welcome natural releases.

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A day of painting in the country

Or better yet, Schedule in a Retreat. Retreats help release the build up that we are unconsciously collecting through our busy daily activities.

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Alberta Skies

A retreat could be a spa in a tropical place, an art retreat or a yoga class. If you live in the city, a drive on a country road can be enough of a break to feel spaciousness, especially in Alberta with the wide open skies. It can be as simple as the warmth of a bubble bath enjoying a good old fashion paperback.
However you choose to retreat.   Be kind to yourself and make it a priority.  You deserve it.

I am currently on a train in Ireland going to an art retreat. Taking my own advice. Feeling the spaciousness, filling myself up.

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Co Mayo, Ireland

To live a super human life, one must take time to retreat.

In creative spirit,

Michelle

Beneath a Coat of Snow

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“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am officially calling a sick day. My head is full of cold and my feet feel like they are full of cement.

As I sit on my couch in my fuzzy red comfortable robe at 2pm, I am watching the snow fall gently onto the earth. I am not feeling at all guilty to be taking a sick day. There is a lightness in the air, objects are slightly blurry and the colors I see are mostly soft and covered in white snow. It is quiet and I am grateful to have a day of rest and reflection.

Almost a year ago, I planned a trip to Virginia to see my cousin and her family. The trip was perfectly planned around the famous Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.   I packed my sketchbook and paints and was set out to have an art adventure, to be inspired by new sites, especially of the beautiful spring cherry blossoms that I have heard so much about.   I LOVE to travel-it is eye-candy for the senses. There is also the unexpected. Many times things do not go as planned yet when you learn to embrace the present moment, they can still go perfectly as intended…   Don’t fight the process.

On my first day in Virginia, I awoke to a similar scene as I am looking at today. Snow was gently falling and there was a chill in the air.

My cousin, Alexis and I are 7 years apart and really had only met each other less than a dozen times in our life. Yet, I felt like I was home, we shared the same grandmother, pictures in her home and stories we shared were familiar to me. We also both loved going for coffee and eating similar things. It was easy and fun to be with her.

She was a gracious host and showed me all the sites.

Despite the cold, cool temperatures we bundled up and headed out to see the memorials in Washington, DC. It was apparent that I needed a history lesson (or to watch more TV) when I pointed to a large pencil like structure and asked “What is that?” With huge eyes and a sly smile she replied “The Washington Monument.”

And so began my tour…

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Disclaimer: Just to make me feel better – I did recognize the White House immediately. I am also happy to say I can name all the memorials now when I see them in the movies. The bonus of travel for a visual person is education.  Did I mention that I am Canadian?

National World War II Memorial

National World War II Memorial

Korean Monument

Korean Monument 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

We made our way through the memorials one by one. Alexis was being an amazing tour guide. Explaining to me that the Korean memorial was her favorite. as it touched her and her family. They really are amazing to see in person. There was a shallow pool approximately 2 ft deep surrounded by granite with engraving that said how many soldiers were killed, captured, missing or wounded. I was looking all around taking pictures, feeling somber and reflective, when the energy changed.

I hear someone shouting- Lady in the pool!! I take a deep breath, turned around to see that my dear cousin had taken one wrong step backwards and over she went, catching her foot in granite that actually said “wounded.” Weird coincidence? Hmm, not sure. The world seemed to stop for a moment. As I pulled her out of the pool , others were most concerned about the fact that her brand new I-phone was laying peacefully face down on the bottom of the pool. “The phone!” strangers screamed. I looked at the pretty salmon colored case face down in the pool and thought, “I need a stick”. I look up and a woman is waving her cane. We make eye contact – A little miracle- an angel sent her- I am sure. I borrowed the cane and pulled the phone close enough for a kind boy with long arms to reach in and retrieve her phone, complete with instructions on what to do to recover the phone.   The concern for the phone was a little alarming actually…I was more concerned about my cousin.

I look over at her, she is dripping wet, shivering and totally in shock. We walk over to sit down and reassess the situation.   Breathe….

We broke out into laughter. I had learned in yoga, The vibration of laughing and crying is almost the same, the release of energy in the body is what is important. We chose laughter.

Did that just happen? Was that for real? Was that a bad dream? Gut rolling laughter was what emerged right before survival skills kicked in.  A cab ride, extra layers of clothes, a cold pack, motrin and a few bloody mary’s later. We had reflected, laughed and ended up with a free desert at the restaurant in honor of the Best story of the Day. She was my hero that day.

She's a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

She’s a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

The next day while icing her elevated ankle , we wondered, “What was the purpose of that? “

Maybe we needed some comic relief in our somber moment? Not sure. We both agreed the spirits got a good giggle. (about the present moment awareness, not about her injured ankle.)

Maybe we needed to feel the kindness of others?     Not sure.

Maybe we needed to be here right now!    

That is for sure!

With Lightness and Love and Gratitude for family and travel,

Michelle

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial. I HAVE A DREAM!

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial.
I HAVE A DREAM!

Ps/ And for those concerned about the phone- it worked perfectly- Magic!

Endless Vistas

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
~C.S. Lewis

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Dear Friends,

I just spent a week unplugging and soaking up lots of sunshine and Vitamin D by the pacific ocean in Huatulco, Mexico. I love to visit the ocean. It’s a great time for reflection.
Where the land meets the sky or the ocean meets the sky… it is the place where the sun rises and sets everyday. This place in the middle of the earth and sky I believe we can all relate to. I always feel a real sense of connection and inspiration here. A daily reminder to find peace, joy and love.

I began the painting above before I left on holidays. I am always asked the question “What inspires you?” I believe the answer is connection. In this case, I was inspired by a photo a friend posted on Facebook. I am often inspired by travel, community, pictures I take or from my imagination. I see or feel something and immediately say, “I must paint that!”
I finished this painting today on the last day of 2014.
It is called “Endless Vistas”. To me it represents taking time for reflection, feeling what you feel and connecting Body, Mind and Spirit. Vistas are endless and change everyday. Some are small and fleeting, some are big and last longer, all are important.  They create your life.

Wishing you all Vast Vistas of Peace, Joy and Love in 2015!

With Much Gratitude and love,
Michelle

Seeing through a different set of glasses

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It’s my Birthday!! So I reflect on my summer, year, and life thus far.

I just returned from holidays with my family and was inspired by many Canadian east coast vistas’. You would think I would be painting Peggy’s Cove or Marine scenes, but I was feeling inspired to have some fun. Perhaps the 3 generations spending time together had more of an effect than a well known overly photographed lighthouse.

I have learned in my wisdom to not fight the creative process.                                                   The painting:   “Looking through a different set of glasses” was created.

As I age I become more aware that things are not always black and white. I do not have all the answers. I am not always right. Even when I truly think I am.

With age, comes the wisdom to see through another’s eyes. To be more aware of what is happening around us and especially within us.

Time is precious, life can be short and all we have is the present moment.  Take the time to inspire someone.  Be grateful for every day, every year, every decade.

Swap glasses. Try the Ray-bans for a day.  Ever notice the style you wore in the 80’s is back again. Should have kept my white ones…they’d be vintage.

Better yet, ditch the dark glasses and try good old fashion eye contact.  Gaze into a loved ones eyes.  If you are really brave I challenge you to gaze into a strangers eyes.

Add a smile.                                                                                                                                                    One rule: NO TALKING. Resist the urge.                                                                                            If it gets too hard, SMILE more. Creates good wrinkles.                                                        WINKING is allowed and encouraged. Fake eyelashes help.

Likely you just made someone’s day!

Encouraging eye contact and creativity everyday.

Thanks for helping me spread the LOVE.                                                                                 Michelle

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”― Confucius

 

 

Unexpected Gifts

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”   ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Walking with my Higher Self. 24×48 Oil

 

One Year ago exactly… I went on a road trip to visit my dear friend Mary-Louise in a very small Saskatchewan town called Eastend.

Eastend is a town situated in the Southwest corner of Saskatchewan Canada.

Website clearly stated:

Eastend, Saskatchewan
is located in the middle of nowhere
and miles from the nearest city.

Surely not too hard to find… But when the road is flat, good tunes are playing… memories of good times with my friend are fully present… I manage to miss the right turn.   Minutes then hours start to add up to panic that I am off course.  Where AM I??

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This brings up memories of a road trip, again in Saskatchewan with this same friend.  Talking so much we miss the turn and add 3 hours to a simple 6 hour trip to Saskatoon… that is another story.

I am LOST!  Cell phone reception is low.  I manage to call my friend.  “You went to far,” she informs.    I could be upset with myself, but rather I quickly accept the fact that I was meant to visit Gull Lake.  To my amazement I begin to travel south over a vista of amazing gold covered hills.

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Feel like I have found my gold at the end of a rainbow.  It was double, triple fields of amazing bright yellow gold with sweeping blue skies.  Very similar to a painting I began before the trip called “Walking with my higher self”.  It was like I had to go this way to see this view.  Thanks Universe!

I was so overwhelmed I forgot to take a picture and with my usual “Why did I not stop to take some pictures” … I decided to implant the vision into my memory  bank.  I did proceed to stop later when I couldn’t stand the beauty anymore, but the view you see here is not the jaw dropping spectacular view I saw coming over the hills.

This is INSPIRATION!  Mother Natures perfect visual gift to me.  The best things in life are free.  One year later I am still thinking about this scene.  It gives me warm fuzzy feelings and goosebumps at the same time.  It is a “SAVE IMAGE” memory for sure.

I finally make it to Eastend.  What a little treasure this town in the middle of the Cypress hills turns out to be.  Quiet, quaint, where good friends await.  A place where the town parade is 5 min long and they still toss candy.

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A place where shopping for Art is self serve on Saturdays.

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A place where kindness of strangers unfold and offer you a place to stay while you visit.

A place where dogs are encouraged to visit public places.

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A place where good friends reunite.  As usual my dear friend Mary-Louise has reminded me of embracing the SIMPLE LIFE.

It is her birthday…but turns out that she is MY GIFT!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful friend.

With Love and Gratitude for friendship, getting lost and realizing the simple things in life are always free.

Michelle

Walking the High Line NYC

It has been 5 months since my surprise Birthday trip to NYC.  Not sure why I woke up thinking about this trip…perhaps it’s because flocks of people will be travelling there to celebrate Super Bowl 2014.

I love to walk.   If you go to New York City, be sure to bring good walking shoes.  Packed my Stilettos and my trusty Nike Air purple runners.  All set to explore.

Life is about experiencing extreme opposites and then finding a nice place to settle in between.   We often have to feel both ends of pendulum so we can decide where we like to fall in between.  Goldilocks syndrome- Not too hot, not too cold…just right…sigh.

NYC is awesome for that.  Buildings, people, high activity, cement everywhere.  You can be around millions of people-yet walk in your own world. Image

My favorite part of my trip was walking the High Line.  The Highline is a 1 mile NYC Park built on a historic freight railroad line.  Basically it is a public park elevated above the streets on Manhattans west side.  Perfectly situated above the art district.

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It is easy to see the skyline from here amongst the beautifully kept gardens.  This is a place where couples walk holding hands, artists sit and sketch, kids eat ice-cream, students relax on wooden lounge chairs. 

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When I walk I consciously spend a fair amount of time looking up. 

On the Highline you can look up, look down and also take a photo of where you are in the moment.   I loved the feeling of being in nature.   Here you are close to the sky, with a view of the Manhattan skyline.   See the concrete, metal, glass and feel the softness of the wood, plants and water fountains at the same time.

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The place to contemplate life while the activity of Manhattan continues on right beneath your feet. 

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When I returned home I painted 3 tiny canvases of my walk of the highline.  Perhaps a larger painting to represent my trip is brewing…

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Travel is always inspiring.  Seems there is just more time to notice, look, feel, smell.  Experience all the senses.

Be fully present to what is.   The memories are an added bonus and something to share.  For this I am always grateful.

Enjoy your trip and wear comfy shoes! 

In Creative Spirit,

Michelle

MIND THE GAP

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I LOVE travel.  Small things always stick with you.  Today I remembered the saying “Mind the Gap”.

More than a few years ago, on a trip to London, England, was where I first heard the saying “Mind the Gap”.

“Mind the Gap” is a warning to train passengers to take caution while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform.  The voice played over and over again.  The message was clear.  Pay attention.

The voice did not say “Do not Cross” or “Stay on your side of the line”.  It just reminded you to be mindful when you cross.

It is hard to step on the train with one foot.  The end result would be a physical disaster.  Split in two- not a pretty sight.

Yet in my life the things I really LOVE, I carefully place one foot in.  Soon, I begin to feel split in two.  Trying to be the best at everything ( gift and curse of a perfectionist) eventually not doing anything well and feeling drained and frustrated.  The other foot I leave in familiar territory, my comfort zone.  The place I know well.  Even when this place is no longer serving me, I feel safe here.  This split causes me great suffering.  It is hard to be pulled in many directions.

This summer I spent a few days alone in Victoria, wondering what I was doing there.  Reminding myself that I was there to take time for me.  So I sat on a rock for 4 hours in contemplation.  With an amazing view of the ocean.

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I realized that I needed to JUMP.  Both feet in!  What would that feel like?

As a child swinging off a rope into a safe pond-Jumping is exhilarating!  As an adult with responsibilities and preconceived ideas of what is right and accepted…the thought scares the crap out of me…Yet I suffer.  Complain…excuses, always excuses…all to familiar with this pattern.  Not going there.  I realize to end the suffering I need to jump into my life fully committed.  Good thing I was wearing my purple favorite Nikes.  JUST DO IT.

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It was in that moment that I decided to just step fully into my authentic life.  Stop hanging on to the edge.  Let go.  Be Clear-Set my intentions.  Be my own captain.  Steer my ship.

Mind the Gap.  Eventually to get to your destination you must step on the train.  With BOTH feet.  It is not that scary when you have someone to walk with.  We can lean on each other.

Let’s walk together….

Michelle

“There are always two choices. Two paths to take.  One is easy.  And its only reward is that it’s easy.”  ~ Unknown