Sunday, December 26, 2010

An epiphany for Christmas

After nearly a month back in San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala, it has become apparent that I belong here and not in Mexico.  The reasons for this are many, but the main ones are:  warmth, friends and comfort. 

There is nothing wrong with San Cristobal, but it seems that I'd be better off visiting it -- rather than living there.

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past few weeks.  It's been busy (!) and I've been slack.  But I have a nice collection of photos and will post them soon.  I'll write more too.

Hope you're having a fab holiday...


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Is it time to return to Mexico after this little holiday in San Pedro? 

Methinks yes.

More soon.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Going Abroad

San Pedro Redux

I've been in San Cristobal for just over two months -- and it's been (and is) great.  But after a long, tough week, I've decided that I need a break.

Early Sunday morning I'll board a shuttle.  Eight hours later I should arrive in San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala.  The plan is to recharge my batteries, swim and relax.  I'll head back to San Cristobal in about a week.

It'll be fun going back to San Pedro after a year away...  I can't wait!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Goodbye Moo...

Moo: Good Dog

One of my former housemates from Vancouver has passed.  She took care of the burglars and the big mean kitties -- all in exchange for walkies, crunchies and love. 

Goodbye Misty Moo... 


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Remembering Susan

Susan and me in Nova Scotia

Looking back over the past few decades, there are some things that have remained constant.

Well, not things.  People.

In addition to family, there are the friends.  Some friends come and go.  Some friends are always there.  Sure, they may shift from foreground to background, but they're always there.

I've been lucky.  I've had a number of close friends, scattered across the country and around the planet. They are the kinds of people with whom you simply pick things up from where you left off.  The years may pass, yet they instantly melt away on those rare occasions that we get together.  In Vancouver.  In Winnipeg.  In Halifax.  You know who you are.

This week my circle of friends got smaller. 

I've known Susan Nisbet since 1987.  We met in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba when she was still in high school and I was 23 years younger than I am today.  Over the years we became good friends, laughing at this, complaining about that.

She came to visit me after I'd moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  How we kept in touch in the days before email is beyond me -- but surely that is proof of the friendship we had.

During her visit, we travelled to Cape Breton Island where, on a whim, she jumped into the St. Peter's ship canal.  Why did she do this?  Why not.

We continued around the Cabot Trail in my rickety Honda Civic.  The brakes got so hot, I remember stopping to fetch water to splash on them.  We laughed at the steam and continued on to the Gaelic College in St. Ann's.

Back in Halifax, we visited the touristy sites and the bars.  At one point we got separated.  Someone had had a lot to drink and left the other behind.  I've always felt like a bastard for that -- something which Susan never let me forget. 

A few years later -- shock of shocks -- I moved back to Manitoba.  Our friendship picked up again. We spent lots of time hanging out and having a great time.  It was around the time I was introduced to pants.  Ah, pants.

Pants was the term of endearment (disdain?) Susan had for my girlfriends.  There were a number of different pants, but the one I remember the best was Clowny Pants.  Yes, I dated a clown.  I can still hear Susan's guffaw over that one.  Another thing she never let me forget.

We used to go to great pubs like The Toad in the Hole in Winnipeg's Osborne Village.  We'd throw back pints of Guinness and sing along to Celtic bands like The Dust Rhinos.  Songs like Knockback in Halifax (link takes you to a video by the original artists - Weddings, Parties, Anything) and Barrett's Privateers -- which, for me, provided a reminder of the Halifax experience.

She'd kid me about marrying her younger sister -- so that I'd become part of the family.  And speaking of Sandi -- there was that time when the three of us, plus a guy Sandi was dating -- were driving in the Manitoba countryside.  Three of us were laughing our heads off while creating the Legend of Grey Gum -- a superhero (I think?) made of used gum.  We thought it was the funniest thing ever.  The Irish (?) dude thought we were off our rockers.

As recently as a few weeks ago Susan said we should write the story of Grey Gum.  We never did.  It would have been hilarious.  If only for a very small audience.

In late 2007, Susan was diagnosed with a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder.  I was shocked at how fast it ravaged her.  But at the same time, it made her gutsier.  What did she do?  The opposite of what most of us would do:  She went back to university and graduated.  Even more impressive: She got on stage and did stand-up (although she called it sit-down) comedy. 

Susan turned 40 October 3.  She welcomed Sandi's baby girl on November 15.  And she passed away on Wednesday, November 17th.  She is survived by daughter Tia, son Riley, husband Kent, sister Sandi, plus family and countless friends.

And finally, a song. Think of it as a letter:

Goodbye, my friend. And thank you.

UPDATE:  More about Susan:

Comedy community loses a colleague and friend

Obituary: SUSAN HEATHER NISBET (published on November 20, 2010)

Illness claims local 'sit-down' standup comedian

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why, Hello There

You're probably wondering why I haven't written much lately.  Simple:  I've been writing.

November is National Novel Writing Month, and I've decided to take up the challenge:  Write a 50,000 word first draft -- in 30 days.  I did it last year and, despite having just moved to Edmonton, I managed to complete the task.  And I was left with something that might become something decent, if I edit it. 

This time around, it's much more difficult -- for a lot of reasons.  Mostly, I'm creating everything from scratch -- characters, location, plot, dialogue.  Last year, I based my story and characters on the year I spent in Guatemala.  This time, I'm not so lucky. 

As I write this, I'm more than half-way.  30,000 words down.  20,000 to go.  I'll be glad when it's finished.

At the same time, I've been working on building websites and working as a freelance SEO guru -- all while adjusting to this new life in Southern Mexico.

All-in-all, the first six weeks have been good, but I find it a bit of a quiet life.  There isn't a big ex-pat community here and not speaking much Spanish doesn't help.  So I spend most days hunched over my laptop, save the hour or so a day I go walking.

I used to wonder what could possibly be wrong with living in San Cristobal.  Now I know the answer:  It's lonely.

However, Guatemala is less than a day down the road. I think I'll try and catch a ride back to Lake Atitlan before the end of the month.  Belize is also close by, but requires some long bus rides to get there.  Lots of time for that. 

And then there's Canada.  My quest for a reasonably priced ticket to the land of snow for Christmas is not going very well.  The hunt continues.

And so it goes...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Lots of new photos... Click on Santa or the Flickr doohickey on the right....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Flashmob at London's Heathrow Airport

Another great Flashmob video.  A group of singers and dancers in disguise surprise arriving passengers at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in London.  Love the dude singing Passenger.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Protecting Your Identity on the Road

When I travel I usually pack my laptop.  There are several reasons for this:  I write for a living, so I need my tools with me.  But I also use my laptop to access all my sensitive information while on the road -- especially banking.  The thought of using an internet cafe to check my bank balance is terrifying.  You never know who might get access to your account information and passwords.

But using my own laptop to connect to an open WiFi network in a coffee shop or library isn't as safe as I thought.  In fact, as the (always excellent) travel blog Gadling reports, hackers can easily gain access to your non-encrypted traffic.

This is what they say:

"Now, however, sites like Facebook and Twitter are encoded with such simple technology that web developers can write apps to steal random social media passwords -- all inside of a simple web browser. This means that any old person with Windows XP and Firefox can boot up their browser, turn on an application and start poaching Facebook data. Five minutes after sitting down with your tall non-fat latte you might find yourself with a new fancy status message, group of friends and password to boot." 
[ click here for the full article]

I tried it and it works.  Seriously.

So what can you do?  Be very careful or use a hardwired connection.  Resist the urge to use unsecured WiFi in public places.  And if you can't, be prepared for the consequences. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just in time for Halloween: ZOMBIES!

The US cable channel AMC has a little surprise for horror fans this Halloween:  The premier of the zombie series The Walking Dead.

Based on the comic book of the same name, it follows a group of people trying to survive a zombie invasion.  The first episode runs 90 minutes and airs Oct 31 at 10 ET.  Six episodes will are this season.

Judging by the trailer, it looks like some damn fine (if gory) braaaaain-tacular entertainment. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Video Projection

I've always loved video projection on large objects.  A case in point:  Using the Guggenheim museum in NYC as a big screen.  It might not seem like much until you factor in the difficulty of keeping everything looking proportional on the curvy building. 

It reminds me of a music video by the Canadian band Sandbox and their 90s video Curious.

Cool stuff...

Cool images from an iPod Touch

San Cristobal de las Casas Cathedral interior - panorama
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

This is the interior of Catedral de San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, taken on Oct 24, 2010.

The image was created using an iPod Touch (4th Generation). I shot a dozen stills and then combined them using Autostitch - an app that stitches together single images to create a panorama. Pretty impressive for an MP3 player!

There is an option to crop out the ragged edges, but I like the look.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A different kind of Jumbo landing

In this PSA for the International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW), a different kind of jumbo comes in for a landing at a busy airport.  Pretty amazing CGI.  And a reminder about buying souvenirs made from animals.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is Social Media the Future of Journalism?

Parody or Prophecy?

Top 5 Things my friends have posted on Facebook - Friday Oct 22, 2010

Sure, this is yet another cheap trick to drive more eyeballs to Roadspill (fingers, too).  But it also an easy way to share some pretty cool stuff from the innertubes.  The perfect way to waste part of your Friday workday... (you're welcome).

Up first:

#1 -- Cat vs Printer - Translated version (salty language advisory)


#2 -- A scary and thought provoking video about self-esteem and girls. 

#3 -- Thoughts on a new Google service called Baraza that is aimed at connecting Africa and Africans.

#4 -- John Gushue discovers El Caminto del Rey -- the scariest hiking path ever:

#5 -- A tasty treat from Top Gear!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Abandoned Places

I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated by abandoned buildings and places.  For some strange reason empty homes, deserted shops and former Soviet military complexes speak to me.

I've been lucky to visit a few of these.  The creepiest was the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant -- abandoned for nearly 25 years, it now looks and feels like the set of a zombie movie.

Then there is the former Soviet Naval base at Paldiski, Estonia. And the abandoned satellite uplink station on Nova Scotia's South Shore.

Many of these places require a special (and expensive) trip.  A case in point:  Taiwan's UFO houses.

The houses are part of a never-completed hotel complex.  Started in the 80s, it was abandoned after only a few months.  Why?  Some say ghosts, some say design.

Regardless, it still looks like a fascinating place to explore and photograph. Who's coming?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

London Underground Poster Gallery

I love posters.  Movie posters.  Constructivist posters (the Stenberg Brothers rule!). And vintage posters from the London Underground.

Today I came across an amazing collection of Tube posters at the London Transport Museum.  Lots of great stuff to check out.


Funny Air New Zealand Ad

Air New Zealand has created some pretty funny and risqué ads and videos over the last few years. And to prove the point, here's a brand new one featuring a rather suggestive puppet:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Night Lights

Night Lights
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

More new images from San Cristobal. Click this photo or the flickr link at the right. Images taken Oct 17, 2010.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New San Cristobal de las Casas Photos

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

I've uploaded more photos on flickr. Click the image or the link to the right.


Friday, October 15, 2010

This is not The View walk off

So you think watching Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walking off the set of The View because Bill O'Reilly is a dork is entertainment?


In the real world, a neighbour's chicken breached our compound. And the hilarity ensued.

Just another day in Mexico.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So You Want to be a Travel Writer?

Here's a funny little video I discovered via my pals at Lonely Planet. It pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Warning: There is salty language.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hungry For Photos?

Burger City
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Lots of new pix are up for viewing on Flickr. Most are from Comitan and the Tenam Puente Mayan ruins. Click on the burger bus or the link to the right.


Friday, October 08, 2010

Looky Here!

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

New photos are up: Click on the image... or the photo gallery on the right side of this page.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Music Videos - They're Baaaaack...

I reckon that I'm a child of the video generation. And by this I don't mean the television generation - although I'm a member of that too.

What I refer to is music videos. I remember the launch of MTV and Canada's MuchMusic. I remember seeing Erica Ehm in person and swooning. I remember channels that played music videos 24/7. Today? Not so much. Although I'm sure I'd still swoon if I saw Erica Ehm in person.

Lately I've noticed a resurgence of music videos. They didn't disappear. They went online. And there's some pretty cool stuff being made. Sure, the main purpose of these videos is to move product. But that doesn't mean there aren't some forward thinking directors creating some awfully unique videos. I speak of bands like OK Go and Cee Lo Green.

Haven't seen their work? Today's your lucky day! View away...

OK GO: This Too Shall Pass:

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass. Watch more top selected videos about: This Too Shall Pass, OK Go

Hollerado - Americanarama:

OK GO: Here It Goes Again:

OK Go - Here It Goes Again Clip
Cargado por Galaxiestarwars. - Mira más vídeos divertidos.


Monday, October 04, 2010


Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Another sunny day in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Check out more photos by clicking the flickr link to the right or the photo.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

from the "early impressions of San Cristobal" dept.

One of San Cristobal's Walking Streets (Andadors)

I've been in San Cristobal for a few days now and I must say I'm very impressed. From the welcoming gift of local coffee and a friendship bracelet from the governor of Chiapas to the positive vibe that fills the streets, it's not at all what I expected.

Welcoming Gifts!

And it's certainly not what you see on the evening news. No drug wars here.

Sure, there are the aural reminders that I'm in Mexico: Barking dogs, crowing roosters and ringing church bells (It's 7:30am!) -- but even they have a certain calmness to them.

My year in San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala was chaotic in comparison.

Over the past few days I've been strolling around town. There are two main walking streets (andadors) that form a T in the heart of the city. Locals and tourists saunter up and down, past wine bars, restaurants and shoppes. It's all here, yet none of it is in your face.

I feel like I've discovered a secret place.

Last night, Kelly, Dennis and I sat outside at a little wine bar and watched the world go by. A few Mayan street sellers (mostly women and children) stopped at our table to offer us various trinkets and whatnot. But a polite "no, gracias" was usually more than enough to send them on their way. Again: Calm.

Dennis takes a shot from his perch at the Wine Bar

After a few glasses of a cheap but tasty Sirah, we wandered over to a pizza joint to pick up a couple of pies to eat back at the house. The pizzas didn't disappoint: thin crust, cooked to perfection and loaded with my favourite toppings: Anchovies and olives. Yummy, nums.

We enjoyed a bit more wine and then called it a night.

It's been an eye-opening experience. I've only been here two full days and yet I feel like I've been here for months. That's how comfortable and pleasant San Cristobal is. Of course, living with Dennis and Kelly has helped a great deal.

As I write this I'm beginning my third full day. There isn't much on the schedule. A walk. Some wine. Enjoying the here and now.

This will change a little bit next week when I dive into my internet work. I've got five days to build the first website that I hope will generate a trickle of income.

But that's Monday. Until then, I'll be content to simply enjoy San Cristobal's charms.


Friday, October 01, 2010

from the "breaking news" dept.

Now this is a strange story:

U.S. to apologize for intentionally infecting people in Guatemala with gonorrhea, syphilis more than 60 years ago.

Here's MSNBC's take:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

from the "a place called Chiapas" dept.

San Cristobal's main cathedral

After a delay of about a year, I'm now back where I should be: The tropics. But in a new place: San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

And damn, it feels good.

Wednesday was one long day. It started at 3:30am in Cochrane, Alberta. After driving to Calgary's airport, then flying to Houston, then flying to Tuxtla Gutierrez, then driving to San Cristobal, I arrived at my new home.

As it was dark, I didn't see much. Dennis and Kelly were waiting for me and we celebrated new beginnings with two bottles of cheap (but tasty) wine. I went to bed at 2am - almost 22.5 hours after the day began.

This morning I woke up to the sounds of roosters and church bells. Tired, I hung out at the house for a while. Then Dennis, Kelly, Lucy the Dog and I went for a stroll around town. We stopped for lemonade and watched the world go by.

Home Sweet Home

The weather is nice: cool and humid. And the vibe in town is very positive. I think I'm going to enjoy it here.

I'll take some pictures over the coming days. But for now, I'm just adjusting to a new life in a new country and an elevation of 7000 feet.

And away we go!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

from the "on the road again" dept.


Why am I up so early? Because I am making a second attempt to fly to Chiapas, Mexico in a few hours. Let's hope it actually happens this time.

UPDATE (1:14pm central - Sept 29);

Now in Houston for a 6 hour layover. Boring.

More soon.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

from the "hold your horses" dept.

Promises, promises.

I'm not in Mexico. Yet.

Long story short: I was unable to fly out of Calgary yesterday due to mechanical problems with the aircraft. This resulted in me missing my connection - the twice a week flight from Houston to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. The next opportunity is Wednesday, Sept. 29.

So I'm back in Cochrane for 4 more days.

A longer story to come.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

from the "where's waldo" dept.


I never thought I'd say it but: I am tired of driving. As part of my Western Canada Goodbye Tour, I've put more than 7000km on my rental car (we like unlimited kms). I've been hither and yon, getting my life in order and visiting friends. It's been nice.

But I'm done. I don't think I can do another 10 hour/1000km drive for at least a year. Hell, last week I did something like 4000km. My arse hurts.

Now that I'm back in Cochrane, Alberta and there are less than 48 hours until my departure for Mexico, I have to attack my "to do" list with increased vigor. Not that there's much left to do. Mostly deciding what not to take and organizing the stuff staying in Dave's basement (thanks, Dave!).

There was snow earlier this week, and as I write this the air temperature is a frosty -2c. Time to join the rest of the ducks (patos) and head south for the winter. Although, that said, the skies are clear and the forecast high is a balmy 16c. Perhaps a quick trip to Banff?

In my head I have a plan for the coming months. But a lot of it depends on how things go. Interesting times, indeed.

Best get packing.


Friday, September 10, 2010

from the "vangroovy" dept

Home Sweet Home (one of 'em)

I should write a love song about being torn between two coasts. Left and right. East and west. Atlantic and Pacific.

How is it that I came to be so attracted to two cities so far from each other? Halifax and Vancouver. Talk about an expensive long distance relationship.

The songwriting is for another day. Today I'll focus on my current visit to the left coast. I've been here in Vancouver for a week now and I've been having a blast: Enjoying a social life, getting out and doing stuff, visiting old haunts.

Hanging with former VTV/CTV colleagues at the Irish Heather.

I've written before about my rekindled love affair with this city, and that hasn't changed. In fact, my love has grown -- especially as I now have something to compare it to (10 months in Edmonton). Talk about night and day.

It's far from perfect, but it's a damn nice place to hang out in. And maybe move back to, one day. Or, in the evil plan in my head: Live in the tropics from November to May. Live in Vancouver from June through August. And then Halifax for September and October. Wouldn't that be grand? Better put that on the white board.

I've still got a few places left to see and a few people left to visit. And then it's back to the Prairies. Getting stuff sorted in Calgary. Visiting Southwestern Saskatchewan for another photo safari. And even more, before heading down south on Sept 25.

It seems like there's lots of time between now and then. But the window is closing. And I better get my arse in gear...


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

from the "time machine" dept.

A book of dreams? Of history? Or just junk?

Despite my constant wanderings, I still keep a large storage unit just outside of Vancouver. It's big -- 7'x9'x7' -- and it's packed with the remainders (and reminders) of my material life.

There is some stuff in it that needs to go, like old furniture. There's some stuff that I want to keep, like travel souvenirs and books. And there's some stuff I have to keep, like 7 years of tax paperwork.

As much as I'd like to do away with it all, I can't. Due to the amount of stuff I have squirreled away and the logistics of paring it all down, the path of least resistance is to just keep it in storage for 100 bucks a month. For now, anyway.

Sadly, I totally fall into the storage company's business plan. Sucka!

Last weekend I went to visit my stuff at its home in a big warehouse in Delta, BC. I opened up my storage container and was nearly crushed by a cascade of cardboard boxes overflowing with reminders of my previous adventures, of which there have been a few. Paintings from Ghana. Sand from Malta. Beer cans from Portugal.

I wasn't visiting my stuff to risk life and limb or to take a stroll down a junky memory lane. No, I was looking for some specific stuff to take with me to Mexico at the end of the month: hiking shoes, rain gear and other assorted bits and pieces that I want to have down south.

In one big Rubbermaid tub, I spotted a thick black book. A Daytimer. The faux leather was cracked and pieces of paper stuck out from between its pages. Feeling like Indiana Jones, I blew off a layer of non-existent dust and threw it open.

Inside was a treasure trove of a past life. Specifically from the years 1996 and 1997, when, at a tender young age, I:

- Quit my job at CKY TV, Winnipeg
- Decided to travel to Bosnia to produce a documentary
- Went freelance and turned down an investment opportunity with Frantic Films (d'oh!)
- Moved to Vancouver to start a new television station (now CTV BC)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anyway... Inside the front cover, a clear pocket held a mix of memories. Vancouver Television business cards, notes from girlfriends (!) past, and a label from a long ago enjoyed Moosehead beer. But this was just the beginning. There were more old business cards, a yellowed Far Side cartoon and lists of phone numbers of current and not so current friends.

My favourite Far Side panel

Pages and pages of people, places and long forgotten important reminders including hockey games, Spanish lessons and fancy dinners in L.A.

Hangin' with Wolfie, no doubt.

I'd intended to toss the whole collection into the trash. But in my ongoing struggle to banish stuff my life, I find I win some battles and lose others. This one may be lost.

Can I really toss out a phone list from 1992? A stamp from the United Nations post office in New York? My Halifax and Dartmouth library cards?

Flotsam and Jetsam

A pragmatist would say yes. But I think I'll say no. Not because these bits and pieces in and of themselves mean much. But because taken together, they mark a major transition in my life when I quit a full-time job and travelled to distant lands before starting a fresh, new chapter.

Sort of like today.

Monday, September 06, 2010

from the "getting down to business" dept.

Today marks the beginning of my second week of not having to go into the office. And, somewhat oddly, it is also Labour Day.

Since arriving in Vancouver Friday, I have been poking away at things. Getting my papers in order for the upcoming tax season (talk about getting an early start!), sorting through the detritus of my life that resides in a distant storage unit, and buying small things to make living abroad easier (velcro!).

This week will see the white-boarding of the next year. Formulating a game plan, if you will. Crossing out distractions and focusing on a single goal: Income. It's going to be a bumpy ride, but thankfully, a slow one.

In just under 3 weeks, I'll head south to San Cristobal, Mexico, armed with firm goals and a financial buffer. Then the hard work begins.

As I prepare to return to the coffeelands, I am glued to the computer, following the tragic news coming out of Guatemala. Rain, landslides, death. It's not pretty and there seems to be no end in sight.

My friends who live around Lake Atitlan have an additional worry: The lake is rising. Fast. Businesses along the shore are threatened and there is little they can do to hold back the water. If the rains don't let up soon, the towns and villages that ring the lake could be in serious trouble.

While it is wet in San Cristobal and Chiapas state, they don't seem to be suffering the same problems as Guatemala. This is likely due to better infrastructure.

The landslides in Guatemala mean that travelling on almost any highway is now very dangerous. The earth is saturated and very unstable. The latest death toll is estimated at 50. Not good.

This also means that visiting San Pedro likely won't happen for a while. If whole hillsides keep collapsing on the main roads, there will be no way to drive down. And there is no direct air service other than a circuitous route involving long bus rides and flights through neighbouring counties.

So in the interim, I have toes and fingers crossed for the people of Guatemala. And I continue ticking off items on my "to do" list.

And so it goes...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

from the "day 4" dept.

Go West...

So far, the first week of the latest chapter has been going well.

I've sorted through my stuff, tagging items as "to be sold", "to be junked" and "to be taken to Vancouver". I've also made Cochrane my official address and alerted anyone who cares.

I continue to pitch a writing project centred on the Celtic Colours music festival this October in Cape Breton. No bites yet. It seems a long shot.

In the meantime, I'm preparing to depart for Vancouver tomorrow (Friday 9/2). I'm going to drive there, leaving first thing in the morning to hopefully avoid crazy long weekend traffic -- especially between Hope and Vancouver. I hit that the last time I drove out and it was BRUTAL.

I'll stay in Vancouver for a week or so, sorting through my storage unit in an attempt to reduce the amount of flotsam and jetsam that I have. Spending $100/month to store what is essentially crap makes no sense. I want to whittle it down to just photos/papers/negatives/travel trinkets -- and find a smaller, cheaper storage solution.

Four days into this new life I feel pretty confident. I've been poking away at formulating a plan for Mexico (I head there 9/25). And everything seems to be going smoothly. And it's funny: The last 10 months have seemingly disappeared from my memory. Weird.

And so it goes...

Monday, August 30, 2010

from the "day 1" dept.

So, the first Monday sans gig. How did it go? GREAT!

I got up early. Drank a pot of coffee. Fiddled with computer stuff. Changed my eyeglass order. Caught up on some email. Talked to the HR department.

And then I drove to Banff and Lake Louise for lunch. Just because. I guess I'll be thankful for that!

More to come...


Sunday, August 29, 2010

from the "turn that frown upside down" dept.

I'm not quite sure when the latest chapter of my life actually begins. For some reason I think it should be Monday. But in reality, the page was turned when I left Edmonton on the bus yesterday.

Rather than look back and complain about the last 10 months -- it was my choosing AND there were many benefits -- I'll look forward and try to be thankful for things. With that in mind (and just a wee bit of looking back):

Friday August 27, 2010 - I'm thankful for the nice send off at work -- and those who attended post-work drinks.

Saturday August 28, 2010 - I'm thankful for Trisha and Ella for getting me to the bus. And Dave for picking me up in Calgary and driving me to the airport to get my rental (surprise!). Also Dave and Karen for a great dinner, party and introduction to several new people.

Sunday August 29, 2010 - I'm thankful for Karen giving me aspirin this morning. Trisha & Graeme for the lobster they brought back from Nova Scotia (which I just ate) -- and also for a roof over my head for the past two weeks. And to Dave, yet again, for providing another roof. And storage.

And so it goes... (with a lot of help from my friends)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

from the "life reset" dept.

"Which way to San Cristobal?"

And so, it begins.

This morning finds me in a completely different situation than yesterday. My gig is over. I'm about to leave Edmonton. And the sky is still firmly fixed above.

I'm reminded of a quote by the Grinch, when he awakens Christmas morning to find that Christmas had arrived despite his best efforts:

It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!

And sure enough, despite taking a giant leap of faith, a bright new day arrived. I'm healthy, have money in the bank and a new direction in life.

So far so good.

Today will see me leaving Edmonton. I have a one-way bus ticket for Calgary. My ol' pal Dave (from the Halifax chapter of my life) will pick me up and I'll hang at his place in Cochrane for a few days. Then I pick up my rental car for some Prairie and West Coast exploring.

A return to Southwestern Saskatchewan is high on the list, as is a stroll on Chesterman Beach outside Tofino.

Mexico isn't far off. September 25. But with the upcoming buffer, I'll be relaxed and ready to hit the ground running -- or a similar cliche.

I had a nice send off at the office on Friday. A long-term staffer (Ivor the amazing IT guru) was also leaving. Thankfully he took most of the spotlight. Sometimes I like being the centre of attention. Sometimes not. It worked out well.

After finishing the workday I headed to a local watering hole for drinks with my (now former) boss Jessica, the newest member of communications Sarah, and a team of reporters (Min, Faiz & Charles). Plus Dan, the lucky winner of my job.

It was a nice way to end the week and the experience. I also received a nice card from the folks in the newsroom.

At the end of the day, most of the frustration I felt was not about work, but about place. If this gig had been in Vancouver, Halifax or even Calgary, I'd be on board for another year. But Doug and Edmonton are like oil and water. I didn't expect that.

Time to pack and get on that bus... Southern Alberta awaits...


Friday, August 27, 2010

from the "the end is just the beginning" dept.

This is it. My last day at CBC Edmonton. And my last full day in Edmonton.

More to come...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

from the "a (small) change in plans" dept.

Thursday, August 26, eh? Crazy.

One day of work left. Two sleeps in Edmonton left. Crazy.

It's been a busy week: Getting stuff ready, looking after a house, garden, two cats and a dog, plus training my replacement.

Now that I've cycled up the big hill, it's time to coast down the other side. Work should be easy on Friday with cleaning out my stuff and submitting forms. I believe all my work related communication tools will expire at 5. Whatever.

Because it's rainy season in Southern Mexico, I've decided to delay my departure from Canada by nearly four weeks. No sense rushing down there for the cold and wet when the best time of year (fall) is almost upon our great Dominion.

I'm still beating a hasty retreat from Edmonton on Saturday. I'll hang in Calgary/Cochrane for a few days. And then I'll rent a (cheap) car and drive to Vancouver for a bit of work, a bit of play and a whole lot of organizing. If the planets align, I hope to spend a night or two in the Tofino area getting spiritual and eating my face off at Sobo (you had me at deep fried polenta).

I wish I could fit in some Galiano time, but my cottage of choice is booked solid. Boo.

No matter. A bit of transition is in order and I'll be heading south on Sept 25. A little poorer, but a lot more relaxed and ready to work for me and my future.

I can't wait!

Monday, August 23, 2010

from the "four to go" dept.

It was a weird day.

Work was OK, if a little slow. It got better at the end of the day.

No, it wasn't work that made it a weird day. It was me: Thinking.

About what, you may wonder?

Edmonton, I guess. Even though I leave here with few good memories (which is not to say I leave with bad ones -- just no memories, really), I wonder if I didn't give the city a chance. Did I judge it too harshly and too early? Did I set up a self-fulfilling prophecy?

That's what I was thinking about.

And, to answer my own question: I think I did give it a shot. I went to a few events, I tried to have fun. But it's hard to make your own fun. I'm not one for doing absolutely everything on my own. Companionship is nice.

It bothered me hearing about work parties after the fact. It bothered me that my cellphone never rang. It bothered me that the only times I did anything was with people I already knew.

Can you tell I'm not much of a civic booster? Can you tell that I just want to let it all out? It's coming.

Meanwhile: The future. I'm thinking I might delay my departure to Mexico by a week or two. It would give me some time to enjoy Canadian fall and spend a bit more time down in Calgary. There's no rush, really. The only rush was getting out of my rented home.

Time for a glass of wine, methinks. And more pondering.

And so it goes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

from the "inching forward" dept.

Today is Sunday, Aug. 22nd. Generally, it's an unremarkable day -- cool, gray, fall is definitely in the air. But there is one remarkable thing about today. It is the last Sunday I will spend in Edmonton.

In less than a week I will have relocated to Cochrane, Alberta. What little stuff I have is now there, the last of it hauled down yesterday.

Between here and there lie 6 days in Edmonton and 5 days of work. But it's no holiday I'm about to embark on. It's a big test -- a challenge to see if I can walk the walk and make a living from my creativity, business skills and the internet.

Can I? I hope so.

But, worst case scenario, I'll return to Canada. Not Edmonton. I won't make that mistake again. But somewhere like Toronto where freelance jobs are as plentiful as dandilions in a prairie meadow. Or, at least that's what I like to believe.

It feels good to be winding things down. I'm free of my apartment. I'm free of my stuff. And soon, I'll be free of what has been a most challenging and unexpected year in Edmonton. It's too bad that the last 10 months weren't spent in Vancouver or Calgary or Winnipeg or Halifax. I would be leaving with a heavier heart. But I am overjoyed to be leaving Edmonton. And I won't be looking back.

It's too bad, because, by and large, I had a good job in a good environment. But Edmonton and I didn't click. And that is the primary reason for my departure at his point.

Like I keep saying: I'll write more on my relationship with Edmonton once I'm out of town. But I'm bursting at the seams to let it all out. And, boy, will it feel good.

And so it goes...


Saturday, August 14, 2010

from the "final countdown" dept.

My spirits are soaring as things wind down. Soon, the past 10 months in Alberta's capital city will be nothing more than a memory. More on that once I leave town.

As of this writing, there remain 10 more work days. And two weeks from today I will depart Edmonton for Calgary. And on Sept. 1, I will board the big bird for points south.

All fear has disappeared. But there remains much to be done: An apartment full of stuff that needs to be emptied and cleaned by tomorrow. Bank accounts that need to be set up. Mail that needs to be forwarded. Stuff that needs to be hauled.

Slowly, the list of things gets ticked off. And with each tick, the transition gets easier.

I've been looking at Google StreetView of my new 'hood. Looks great! Lots to explore. And no winter, although sources say that it does get chilly. No matter, the Pacific and Caribbean aren't too far away. As is my old home of San Pedro la Laguna, down in Guatemala.

And so it goes...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

from the "it begins with a single step" dept.

I suppose the first step was resigning. Done. Waiting for the memo.

But reality set in: I had to do something. No waiting around. Time passes. Soon I will have no home. Soon I will have no job. Even if I wanted to maintain the status quo, the plans have been put in motion.

I've been trying to book the perfect escape. Wrestling with bus schedules, housing schedules, plane schedules and, all the while, trying to keep it cheap.

Today push came to shove. I clicked some buttons. And I now have an itinerary.

Friday Aug. 27 - Last day of work.
Saturday Aug. 28 - Bus to Calgary Airport ($90). Pick up rental car. ($156). Drive to Cochrane.
Sunday Aug. 29 - Tuesday Aug 31 - Last minute errands, relaxing, stressing and what-evering.
Wednesday Aug 1 - Return rental car. Fly to San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico at 7am. ($488)

I'll arrive around 9:30pm -- and, with luck, to the smiling faces of Dennis & Kelly - whom I met last year in Guatemala. Housing secured. Work about to begin.

And that's that. Next: Getting rid of the last of my stuff and cleaning my apartment. I begin housesitting Friday. How strange to think that Edmonton will soon be a (bad) memory.

Let the future begin!

from the "a change in direction" dept.


If I'm going to go through another big change, then it's time for Roadspill to change. It's time to start writing about the ups and downs of life lived differently.

It's hard to believe that in four weeks I will be down in Mexico. There is so much to do. And even though I've done these kinds of life changes a number of times before, I'm still overwhelmed. Selling stuff. Cleaning the apartment. Finding temporary housing. Booking flights and cars. Spending money. I don't want to spend money!

And, the big one -- believe it or not -- fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that I'm making a mistake, even though I know I'm not. None of my past decisions have ever led me astray. Things have always worked out. Not perfectly, of course. But the worst case scenario has never happened. And I'm not even sure of what that would be. And if I were homeless and penniless on the streets of some Canadian city -- well, deal. Would that happen? I doubt it.

There will be more on all these issues over the coming days and weeks. First -- I must get rid of stuff. And then the rest will fall into place like it always does.

At least that's why I try to tell myself -- when I actually listen.


Friday, August 06, 2010

from the "heading south" dept.

My third-last weekend in Edmonton is about to begin. And I'm going to Calgary. Yay!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

from the "let's go exploring" dept.

Let's go exploring!

It seems like I write a lot of these posts:

News of a big change in my life. I'm moving to Thunder Bay/Halifax/Winnipeg/Vancouver/West Africa/Vancouver again/Guatemala/Edmonton.

And now I'm writing another one. I'm just not sure of the destination.

Yesterday, after a lot of thought and after leading a rather craptacular existence in Edmonton, I chose to make a change. I decided to resign from my job and head off into the sunset.

Originally I had planned on a late October departure. But the universe had a different plan and moved my departure day up by two months.

I don't mind, but it's going to be a busy August.

What's next, you ask?

Good question. And a hard one to answer. I'll be leaving Edmonton and heading either south or west.

What will I do, you wonder?

Point your browser to -- THAT is what I will be doing. Building a website (and others) to generate passive income. It will take a lot of time with little initial reward. But the goal is long term. And freedom will be the result.

There's much more to say and explain, of course. But for the moment, I still have a job. A job I'm late for.

There's much more to come. And thanks for playing along at home!

Monday, August 02, 2010

from the "almost home" dept.

Greetings from Cochrane, Alberta.

I'm slowly making my way back to Edmonton from Vancouver... big changes await tomorrow.

The fallout here... Wednesday.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

from the "whoops" dept.

I've been asking myself a series of life-related questions since arriving back in Vancouver. The top one is: "What was I thinking?"

Not in reference to coming to Vancouver but rather, moving to Edmonton. There's a chunk of my life I won't get back.

Anyway, Vancouver is tempting me with spectacular weather, cold beer and fresh salmon. To say nothing of the sushi, coffee and, well, everything else.

I'm now in full scheme mode -- trying to figure out how to move back here, live for next to nothing and find a steady income. These answers don't come easy.

But there should be some major news soon.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

from the "a long tramp" dept:

Are we there yet?

For no particular reason, here are the stats from my epic Edmonton-Vancouver drive on July 24, 2010 (all times in Mountain):

6:14 am - Downtown Edmonton 0 km
8:06 am - Edson, Alberta 200 km
9:00 am - Hinton, Alberta 286 km
9:21 am - Jasper (East Gate), Alberta 316 km
10:12 am - BC/Alberta border 393 km
10:56 am - Highway 5 / Highway 16 interchange 471 km
2:07 pm - Kamloops, BC (East) 792 km
3:25 pm - Merritt, BC 900 km
4:24 pm - Hope, BC 1021 km
4:59 pm - Chilliwack, BC 1076 km
5:14 pm - Abbotsford, BC 1104 km (brutal traffic on Hwy 1)
6:10 pm - Port Mann Bridge 1144 km
6:15 pm - Burnaby, BC 1152 km
6:22 pm - Vancouver 1163 km
6:25 pm - Second Narrows Bridge 1166 km
6:37 pm - West Vancouver (Fulton & 15th) 1181 km

Total time: 12:23
Total length - 1181
Average speed: 95.3701 km/h or 59.2602 mph

If not for the horrible traffic between Abbotsford and Burnaby, I could have shaved at least half an hour off my time. Still... a pretty good average.


Friday, July 23, 2010

from the "and so it begins" dept.

I'm moving. Slowly. And honestly, I'm not sure where I'm moving to.

I do know this: I'm driving a car full of crap from Edmonton to Vancouver. Or, more precisely, to my storage unit in Surrey.

Why? Because I'm not staying in Edmonton. That much is certain.

When I will leave for good and where I will go to is all up in the air. It could be: Australia, Belize, Nova Scotia, Guatemala, Mexico or Vancouver Island. Or none of these. Fate will likely decide. Or I'll have to actually choose.

But the Edmonton "adventure" is wrapping up. Soon, I'll have very little in the way of stuff here. The remaining bits -- chairs, cutlery, my George Foreman grill -- they're all headed to Calgary. Or the Sally Ann. Or the dump.

I'll save my parting shots for after I leave permanently. I wouldn't want to be run out of town just yet.

Next stop: Vancouver!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

From the Archives

Here's a radio feature I did on Kent Pandy, a children's television show host in Belize. It aired nationally in Canada on CBC Radio's Definitely Not The Opera.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

From the audo archives

I've been going through my creative archives and finding all sorts of treasure... like this:

It's a radio feature about shortwave radio in the digital age. It aired in Canada a few years ago on CBC's Definitely Not The Opera.


Friday, July 09, 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The End Justifies the Dreams

I've never been one to accept the status quo (at least for more than a year). Life is an adventure, and I intend to live it. And now that I have made my decision to leave Edmonton at the end of October, new opportunities are popping up like wild oats.

If you've been playing the home game, you know that there have been a lot of questions about my next steps. I've been asking those too.

The reason for the return to life unstructured is simple: Building passive income from internet based business. is a start -- but there are many additional ideas to explore. It's too hard to be an entrepreneur while working full time. And now that I've devoured What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis, I'm inspired and focused and chomping at the bit.

And that leads us to the decision part: Where to next?

It is important to keep overhead low while I work on this internet stuff. There may be zero income for some time. A lot of sweat equity is required but the payoff will be huge: freedom.

After I leave Edmonton in the fall, I plan to go to Vancouver to get my ducks in a row. Address changes, storage sorting and meetings with business partners and internet gurus.

And then the options:

1. I'm waiting to hear if I'm the successful candidate for a gig authoring a guidebook about Belize. If I get it, I'll move to Belize for six months or so. Break out the One Barrel!

2. Return to San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala and/or Chiapas, Mexico. Both offer a great climate, interesting people and low overhead.

3. I've been asked to housesit in Australia (Brisbane). This is at the top of the list, but depends on what happens with the guidebook project.

4. Move back to West Africa to work on a roving news bureau. I see doing this in 2011, but it could be moved up.

5. Make Halifax my base of Canadian operations next spring.

So: Lots of options. Some compatible with each other. Some that require serious long term commitment.

Options are good. They make life interesting. And, once November rolls around, I'll be ready to start living life again -- this time with a wad of cash tucked in my jeans.

Remember: You have but one life to live. Follow your bliss -- it won't steer you wrong.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Photo of the Day: July 6, 2010

No Photo!: Kosovo
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

This is the last "photo of the day" for a while.

The idea began as a way to encourage/force me to take a fresh picture every day while living here in Edmonton. Sadly, I realized that to be an impossible task. So, I began raiding my archives.

Recently, it was pointed out to me that without a description of what the photo was about -- some context -- that the idea fell flat. I agree. It also became a bit of a pain in the ass.

So, from this point on I will only post photos when they're fresh and new and I have time to write some relevant text.

I'll start posting photos of the day when I'm living abroad again.

And this photo? It's of my Dutch pal Harry ten Veen looking at a no photo sign in Kosovo. We were there in 2005.

CONTEXT: Harry reads the sign, while I ignore it, thinking that a series called "No Photo!" would be fun. Of course, it is also somewhat of a challenge. This shot was taken at the Kosovo-Macedonia border crossing. I got caught too. UN Mission in Kosovo folk weren't pleased. But they didn't keep the camera or card. Suppose that's why they're called Peace Keepers.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

How To Be A Travel Writer

How To Be A Travel Writer:

There are lots of books, e-books, courses and seminars that claim to tell you how to be a travel writer. Some are good. Some are a waste of money. But, for absolutely no cost, I'll tell you the secrets you need to know so that you too can make money while traveling.

I won't go into a long-winded story about my past. But I will tell you this: I get paid for my words and images and so can you. You want proof? Here's a sample of my work: online, in print, photos, and more.

So let's get started!

1. Talent - You need to be able to write well. Period. This is something you can't fake. And if you don't have a good handle on the English (or any) language, you will not be successful. If you want to improve, I suggest taking a creative writing course and reading Strunk & White's The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition. That book is your bible. Read it. Know it. Live it.

2. Read - Read travel writing online, in newspapers, and travel literature. Get a library card and read everything you can. What do you like? What moves you? Emulate that.

3. Style - You need to have a style. Whether it's nuts-and-bolts or flowery prose. Hone your style. Become the king of your style. And you can have more than one!

4. Practice - Just write. Write about your town. Someone you know. Get a feel for color and structure. Does it makes sense? Do you like it? Let others read what you've written. Do they like it? Why? Do they hate it? Why? But don't be too critical! You're likely your own worst enemy when it comes to reviewing your material. I never read anything after it's been published. Why? Because I always feel I could have made it better. And once it's out there -- it's out there! Let it go!

5. Travel - You don't have to go far, but you have to go. And then witness things. Make notes. I use a pad and a portable audio recorder. Be meticulous. Take pictures. These can add extra dollars to potential sales if the quality is good enough. A small digital camera helps with note taking too: Photograph signs, names, menus. You'll thank me later!

6. Write - Luckily for you, almost anything can be a story. I've written about Chernobyl and Karaoke in Belize. But do you could write about a local museum or event.

7. Markets - Ah, selling! This is the tough part. These days it's getting harder to find buyers. But they do exist and you can make a living as a writer -- but it takes work. A lot of work. You have to think about your writing as a business. Target your piece to the relevant publisher. Don't send a story on golfing to a surfing magazine. To find markets you can buy the latest 2010 Writer's Market Deluxe (Writer's Market Online) or create your own list. That's what I did.

I spent several weeks combing through the internet in search of every English language newspaper in the world -- and for the email address of their travel/feature editors. Once I had that, I was able to send out query letters with machine-like precision. My goal isn't to sell the list, but since it took so much time (and really, our time is all we have to sell -- whether we're writers, engineers or nuclear physicists) to create, that I think it's only fair to be compensated. This is a business, remember! If you're interested, just drop me a note.

If you know another language, why not pitch publications in that language as well. And, don't forget that if you know people who speak different languages, you can hire them to help you translate your story. The more markets, the more money.

8. Sell-Sell-Sell - If you're just starting out, I've got some bad news. You'll likely have to write on spec(ulation). What does this mean? You work (write) and then pitch your completed story in the hopes that someone will buy it. Eventually you'll get to the point where your portfolio speaks for itself and you can just pitch ideas to editors. Writing on spec isn't necessarily a bad thing. It'll help you practice your craft and hone your skills. I know that is always looking for travel pieces. They don't pay (yet), but they do give you a venue for your work. Email Wanderism.

Sometimes you'll be offered a low price. That may be disheartening, but it doesn't have to be. If you sell the rights to your piece for one-time only and to a restricted geographical area -- you can sell the same stories multiple times. My Chernobyl story? I made $3000 by selling it several times. My mantra is simple: Do something once, sell it many times.

9. Tools - I almost need a page dedicated to good travel writer kit. If you're on the road, keep it basic. I recommend: A notebook. A good pen. A digital voice recorder. A good, compact, tough point and shoot camera. A laptop (I prefer Macs on the road). And, because you can't write all the time, a Kindle!

That's it! And you can likely leave the laptop at home.

10. Benefits - Being a travel writer sounds like a lot of hard work. It is. Period. And you likely will never become rich doing it. But there are loads of benefits:

- Free Travel: Once you're established, you can often join junkets provided by airlines, resorts, hotels. The catch is that you have to write about your experiences on the junket. Are you selling your soul? Not if you're honest!

- More Free Stuff: Armed with your business card and portfolio, the words "Do you host travel writers?" can open many doors -- especially hotels -- for free! Don't make promises you can't keep. Do tell them you're researching. You'd be surprised by how friendly the tourism industry is to writers these days.

- Fame, Fortune and Romance: Heck, you're a travel writer! Enjoy it!

Best of luck with your endeavors... keep me posted on your progress!

Photo of the Day: July 4, 2010

July 4, 2010
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Taking Liberty. NYC.

Friday, July 02, 2010