It’s Been One Year

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Today is the one year anniversary of returning home to Canada.

It feels like so much has happened and yet I can’t even recall what I did yesterday because every day is the same.

I have been so lucky to be sheltered in a region that wasn’t largely impacted, we had the safety of the Atlantic Bubble. And everyone I know is safe and healthy.

But it has been a bit strange.

Although I am proud to call myself Nova Scotian, the truth is I have not spent this much time here in two decades.

So honestly reflecting on a year at home is difficult as my emotions are all over the place.

But let’s start with my story from one year ago…

 
Billboard on highway in Cuba about the US embargo
Advertisements are banned in Cuba so highway billboards are used to remind people of the revolution and its heroes or denounce the US embargo like this one.

In 2020 I wanted to travel Cuba to write a guide for independent travelers.

Going to an all inclusive in Cuba is cheap and easy. But making your way around the country is confusing and expensive.

Usually the way things are done is the opposite of what you’d expect.

But after spending two years in Cuba I realized that if you can push all common sense aside, you can travel Cuba easily.

And I knew how to do that.

So I landed in Holguin in Eastern Cuba, stayed in an Airbnb next to the resorts in Guardalavca, and discovered Gibara, a town I’d love to visit again.

I was on such a high of traveling solo and discovering a new part of Cuba on my own.

And then the news hit.

Four cases. Then the next day twelve.

To save my Mother from worrying about me every day I decided to come home.

 

My Trip Was Over

So I found a shared taxi and we drove for 14 hours. I shot the video above from the window, making note of all the picturesque towns.

I spent a week in Havana and figured I’d be back in July, which was not an ideal time to continue writing the Cuba guide.

But 40C weather in July meant there wouldn’t be tourists around and I really do love summer in Cuba.

And I think we all know that didn’t happen.

 
Havana airport departures
I don’t know how they found masks, at that time no one was wearing them.

Safe at Home Not Stuck at Home

My experience in the last year is not typical of most people’s lives.

Nova Scotia is one of the safest places to be in North America.

We had the Atlantic Bubble and a relatively normal summer. I have spent so much time with family – especially my two nephews who are 1 and 3, I have seen them grow and develop personalities.

I finally committed to video (do me a favour and subscribe to my YouTube channel?) and got my life a bit more organized.

I visited the very underrated Saint John for the first time and loved it.

I spent a week exploring PEI food and then another week discovering Cape Breton restaurants on the Cabot Trail.

And I saw a lot of Nova Scotia while shooting 21 videos since July, and counting!

I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. And thrived in this time.

 

It’s Not All sunshine and Moon Mist Ice Cream

I have also felt an uneasiness of waiting. I love being here but I don’t belong here.

And so I’ve been living a bit of a life on pause. I have been making the most of my time until someone hits the play button.

Yet when I think about this odd one year anniversary it doesn’t feel stifling because I know travel is on my horizon.

Our province has conservatively estimated my age bracket will have its turn in late July/early August.

And many believe it will be sooner but they are managing expectations, which I can appreciate.

But I’m ok to wait until then because this year also helped reaffirm my priorities.

 
Ayngelina at Souris East Lighthouse in Prince Edward Island

#1: More time with family.

Last summer my mother came along with me while I worked on a project exploring PEI restaurants.

While sitting in the shallow water of Basin Head Provincial Park outside Souris we discussed what a beautiful day it was. But also what fun it would be to be there with my nephews.

So we’re doing it!

I booked the same cottage in Georgetown for this August and I have never been more excited to travel somewhere.

I am really looking forward to spending the summer in Atlantic Canada and have been making a list of all the things I’d like to see.

Ayngelina and family with guide in Ecuador all with mud masks
10 Years Ago My Mother and Sister Visited Me in Ecuador

And Then….

I have international plans!

If all goes well and I get the shot by September I want to spend the autumn traveling.

It was hard to choose my first destination. But I wanted to go somewhere familiar, where I can help with tourism by sharing my experiences.

And this time I’m upping my game by sharing weekly videos. So people can really see what it’s like to travel in all my favourite countries.

And so I’m going to Ecuador!

I haven’t booked my flight yet because who knows what will happen. But I have started to make plans.

 

Why Ecuador?

I can’t say it’s underrated because really I think it’s just unknown!

Everyone raves about Costa Rica, but I find it devoid of culture. Foreigners have ruined it and replaced much of it with yoga retreats and vegan gluten-free cafes.

Ecuador has the Amazon jungle, the Andes mountains, the Pacific coastline.

And of course the Galapagos Islands.

Yet it also has such a rich culture grounded with the living history of Quechua people.

The Quechua people are throughout South America and may be the largest group of indigenous people in the world.

Today 2.5 million Ecuadorians speak Quechua. It isn’t a culture that is hidden away or only recognized for special ocassions.

And that gives Ecuador a special energy and spirit.

And while Ecuador is not perfect. It has handled the balance of tourism much better.

It is still possible to have authentic experiences, that weren’t simply created for tourism.

I haven’t traveled Ecuador since 2013. So I’m hoping to go for at least 6 weeks and I’m really excited about sharing what the country offers.

You can expect more videos of Ecuadorian food and all the people I meet.

Oh and if you’re wondering about my Cuba guide? Yes I am absolutely going back to write it.

I want to say I’m getting back to it late autumn. But if I have learned anything, it is not to make plans too far in advance!

Join the Conversation

  1. Bill MacDonald says:

    Yes, I hear you re Costa Rica. A few years ago, my partner and I did a trip to Cuba and Costa Rica.I had done a lot of reading about CR as both a tourism destination and a retirement haven, so had high expectations. When we returned to Canada, we both agreed that while CR was interesting, we had enjoyed Cuba far more. It seemed that CR was full of expats who had turned almost every natural amenity into a business. Anyway, we both love Cuba having driven pretty much the length and width of the country and look forward to seeing your guide.

  2. It’s easy to feel your excitement about travelling in this post. Here’s hoping it works out as I’m always anxious to read about your adventures. Good luck!

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