Friday, October 28, 2016

Going on a trip? Bring these

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Since the last post was a bit on the sad side, I thought it would be a good idea to have this post a little more upbeat! I will try to keep this short and sweet. If you are about to or thinking about a little adventure for yourself, I’ve compiled an incomprehensive list of items you might want to investigate further. Obviously, nobody has paid me any money to talk about things I’ve used or want to use whilst travelling. Nobody is paying Bert for his mom and two friends to read his blog. Let’s get started.

Things I’ve had/have or similar.

Forge 75 Backpack Eclipse/Lava

I don’t have this bag specifically but you can get a solid bag for under $200. The bigger your bag, the more stuff you’re going to bring. The old adage “Bring half the stuff and twice the money” is more than accurate. 

This mesh bag might be my favourite purchase because it was so cheap and comes in handy weekly even at home. Mine is orange though so it adds a certain pizzazz. Keeps your dirty laundry away from your clean and it some countries you can just drop the bag off and pick it up a few days later. Why not buy two since you’ll be down a bag as your clothes are getting cleaned!

Organic Cotton Sleeping Bag Liner Rectangular White

This might be my second favourite. Comes especially in handy if you are staying in hostels; much more sanitary and gives you piece of mind. Basically the liner of a sleeping bag that sort of acts like a cocoon. I lost mine pretty early into my travels but would certainly recommend and buy another one.

Cosmo Headlamp Plum

Comes in handy on hikes or dark hostels. Frees up your hands whilst carrying items. Not expensive and
makes you look prepared. “Oh is it dark miss? Let me show you the way. Oh I like to stay prepared!”

Conspiracy Razor Outdry Trail Shoe Black/Heatwave
Another great item that was taken outside a hostel in Malaysia. Don’t leave these gems outside people. Great for hiking and going sockless if that’s the life you’ve chosen.

Nothing sexy about extra battery chargers for your phones but I promise you will need it.

Since we are on the charger topic, you will also need an adapter and you don’t need to spend a fortune on it.

You won’t want to lug around your big pack all day through X city so throw this daypack on and get out there missy!!!

High Jinx 24 Daypack Black/Asphalt

This might not seem necessary but one night everyone will be around a campfire or hanging out on a beach and you will want some beats. I also use it for shower music and podcasts to entertain me while I clean my room.

This might not seem necessary but one night everyone will be around a campfire or hanging out on a beach and you will want some beats. I also use it for shower music and podcasts to entertain me while I clean my room.


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I suppose you think this is where I talk about not playing with frisbee on a roof in Thailand? Well I'm not going to say it.  

Ultralite Towel River

This one I was advised against by my brother and since I’ve lost both of the ones I’ve bought, you could probably skip it but one day you will wish you had it.

Classic Stainless Steel Bottle 1.18L Shale Black

This will be a lifesaver more than once. I’ve broken a few and learned that it’s best to shell out the money for a good water bottle.

Raptor Dry Bag Poseidon

You’re going to get wet. Do you want your stuff getting wet? If not, get these.

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The sun will kill you. Protect your eyes and your skin. If you want to get fancy, try the spray on sunscreen; it's a delight. 

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Money clips are more convenient than wallets at times.

You want people knowing you’re from Canada and it’s nice to have a warm sweater. Also an item I don’t have any more but working on finding a replacement. This or a nice Jays hat or toque.
Canadian Flag 3 x 6

It’s a classic thing most Canadians and some American do. Do what your heart tells you.

Things I’d buy if I had more money:

Fenix 3 GPS Watch Silver/Red

I’m purposely not buying myself a watch because I think that it’s a classic girlfriend gift to give. I’m going to be watch-less for a while here team.
Pro Guide Board Shorts Black

My swimming costume is not very fancy. A good pair is always well received.

Squamish CIS Jacket Evening Blue

Sometimes it rains. Put on a rain jacket. Problem solved. I also recommend a solid umbrella.

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If you are looking to buy a Christmas present for a man this year, go with this. They also have comfy close if you are a man looking to buy things for a lady. No kissing!!!

I have a standard camera and it suits me just fine but a waterproof camera gives you more options if you are somewhere a bit more tropical or ocean focused.
Retractasafe 100 Cable Lock Smoke

Can’t trust everyone out there. Lock up your things.

Other items that could come in handy is a deck of cards, hand sanitizer, Kindle, wireless headphones, addresses of people you want to send postcards to, and any candy or specific product that you love that you would miss abroad. 

Here are two post from people who know actual stuff about tech gear and more travel accessories.


 “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

I miss my dad

I miss my dad. I’m not sure there’s an easy way to talk about it or describe how it feels to not have one of your parents around but a lesson I’ve learned through writing here the last 5 years is that writing almost always makes me feel better so that is what we are going to try and accomplish now.

My dad died when I was 19 from a brain tumour. I vividly remember the drives out to his place and eventually to Sudbury where he was at the hospital.  It wasn’t super drawn out but also didn’t happen suddenly. I can remember thinking the Christmas before it happened that I was under the impression that this was going to be the last Christmas we spent together; unfortunately, I was right.

I try not to use vulgar language whilst writing these posts but if I’m allowed to speak freely, losing your dad fucking sucks. The thing people don’t tell you is that while the immediate pain eventually goes away, you’re never back to 100%. Your first birthday, Thanksgiving, his birthday and Christmas are all reminders of what just happened. Oh, so you graduated from school, booked a one-way ticket or going to your brother’s wedding? Don’t worry, it will all become much sadder because it’s a reminder that person isn’t around to experience it with you. I have a nephew who talks about a papa he will never get to meet. Whoever draws the short straw and falls in love with Teacher Bert won’t ever get to watch a movie with my dad and almost immediately hear him snore. 

On the plus side, I won’t have to hear him complain about my grass being too long or not green enough. My kids won’t be told how when they walk they pronate and should get orthotics. They won’t be told when they’re bored to walk the dog or do their research for a research project they don’t have. They won’t know the sweet sound of gospel music being blasted at 400% volume or the reliability of their grandpa eating all their chocolate bars they need to sell for school.

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While it is by far the worst thing that has ever happened to me, there are small bright sides. No matter what obstacle has come my way since then, it pales in comparison. Oh, that girl doesn’t want to give you her number? Tough break but it beats being at your dad’s funeral. I’ve probably saved a few dollars on Father’s Day gifts that I’d like to say have transferred into better Mother’s Day gift but we all know that’s not true.

I suppose another reason I’m writing this post is because a big portion of people in my age bracket haven’t had to deal with this type of scenario. Some have but most haven’t. This is my attempt into giving people a peek into what life after death is like. Oftentimes, when I hear that a friend is going through something similar, it brings me right back to that day I was in the room with my brother when it all went south. After that happens, most people are rightfully at a loss for what to say. There’s no magic word or pill to make you feel better. While a Facebook message or text from me isn’t going to change the trajectory of their next few weeks, I hope that it gives a brief glimmer of hope that eventually, it won’t hurt. Eventually it will make you tougher; eventually it will make you realize we only get once chance on planet Earth and we need to love while we can. Be as sad/angry/frustrated/confused as you like. Emotions are meant to be felt. You need to feel it. People grieve in different ways. 

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My best advice would be to surround yourself with people who love you. Cry as much or as little as you like. Get mad if that’s how you feel. Feel hopeless, betrayed or devastated. I would suggest not making any rash life choices or doing anything that might harm you. I would also caution against drinking too soon after. It could lead to you asleep on the grass outside an ESSO gas station while a group of girls wakes you up to call your mom who lives 30 minutes outside of town instead of walking the 5 minutes back down the street from where you came from. It could also end with you signing a release form by paramedics stating you refused help and to sign where the X is. You could sign your name and the paramedic alerts you to the fact that you signed your name but not where the X is. You may also awake at home in your bathroom, miss work and a dentist appointment but those are all hypothetical.

Just to be clear, I didn’t write this to make anyone sad, or for anyone to feel sorry for me. I have and do live a charmed life. I am insanely lucky to have the family I have, endless opportunity, great friends and health. If I could reshuffle the deck, there’s no chance I would take that deal. We all get dealt different hands and I just wanted to shed some light on a topic that consumes some of my daily thoughts.

If your mom, dad, uncle, grandma or grandpa are still around and you find yourself wondering how much time you have left, I have one suggestion for you:
Find pictures of them as baby, kid, teenager and adult and ask them what the heck was going on in those pictures. Family albums are gems that I promise will make your sides hurt. Find an album, brew some tea and listen to some stories.

Let’s end on a positive note. The lessons I learned through being my father’s son is not to work hard, love your family and put them first, the baby is always the favourite, water the grass, shovel the driveway and walkways, put salmon in tinfoil and steam it in the dishwasher without other dishes, give back (20+ years hosting a three hour, volunteer Gospel radio show), get good snow tires, no joking around at border crossings, a love for driving, a soft spot for ‘Con Air’, ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and ‘Married with Children’, and to cheer and stick up for the underdog.

 I sometimes wonder what he would think of Thailand, New Zealand, Poland and whatever comes next. I think that he would worry about me getting hurt, (he didn’t instill a great enough fear of roofs into me) and not seeing my family enough but I think that he would think that this has been a pretty cool ride. I bet he would want me to meet a beautiful, smart young woman to spend the end of time with but it’s comforting to know that meeting my future draw dropping wife won’t instantly give him a heart attack. Love your friends and family with all your heart. Time marches on and we don’t always get second chances. Photo albums. 

"Songs of love, hope and inspiration."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Am I a feminist?

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I’ve decided to try and write a post about a topic I have zero expertise, knowledge or experience with. (Sound familiar?)

I love asking people questions. I hate small talk but if you want a topic for conversation, I got you. Two of my favourite questions the past few weeks have been:
1-What 2-3 thoughts cross your mind the most each day.
2-What do men not understand about women.

Now, I will give you a minute to think of your own responses.

Do you think your answers match up to my unofficial research? If you are a woman, I’m going to guess one of your two thoughts. Don’t believe me?

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Overwhelming, the top answer is food. There is no second place. As for what men don’t understand about women, the answers vary but resemble how men don’t pick up on signals, need to be told instructions clearly and directly and how men can’t fathom how much women analyze each moment of every waking period of time. A woman I asked couldn’t understand how it’s possible for me to not think about something for a period of time; she has never not thought about something once. The fact that men and women are so different and we all live/work/play in the same spaces is proof that whoever/whatever created us has a sense of humour.

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A few other events that I’ve noticed also nudged me in the direction of writing about this. It’s not getting too much attention in the media but there is an election going on in America and there is a man running against a women for the presidency of the United States of America. The debate happened last week and whilst politicians aren’t known for their polite demeanour, a headline coming out of the debate was the overwhelming amount of times the male candidate interrupted the female candidate. The woman essentially never interrupted him or called him out on his behaviour. An article the next day essentially claimed that this is what living life as a woman is. Being interrupted, “mansplained” to, seen as inferior or a sexual object.

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Now, I have no idea, being a man who can’t keep his room clean but I can see how these claims could be accurate. Another article dove deeper and explained how much harder it is for women to get access to Obama and the inner circle in the White House due to an old boys network and balancing having a family and being on call 24/7.

One policy women adopted in meetings was to repeat a key point made by a woman and giving her credit so another person couldn’t claim the idea as their own. As a sidebar, Justin Trudeau has half men and half women in his cabinet. What up America? A second piece of media attention that had me reflecting was a video I saw last year but saw again this weekend. This video I feel is accurate and can only try to imagine how annoying it would be to walk through daily life like this.

Catcalling is not a practice I understand or support. I’m all about trying to find a wife and finding true love but you need to understand the situation, how they are feeling and are dealt with daily in these situations. I have a sneaky suspicion that at times, some women want to be approached by a certain man that catches their eye. However, it’s the guy they don’t want to be approached by is doing the approaching while the more compatible suitor is laughing out loud whilst listening to comedy podcasts on the subway.

A big reason I don’t like approaching women at bars is because you are seen as just another monkey in a jungle filled with the most monkeys. So lately I’ve been trying to imagine what it’s like to be an attractive female, living in Toronto and the challenges but also the perks the receive. I would be interested in hearing about any insights you may have on this topic.

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Do you know what the definition of a feminist is?

The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

So to sum up, being a feminist means you think guys and girls are equal and should be treated the same? In what world is not every human a feminist? We won’t veer off on how religions play a part in this but I think that when people think of a feminist, they think of a woman who hates men, loves women, has hairy legs and is generally bitter and uptight. The problem might be in the baggage of the word feminism. What if there was a modern, more hip term to galvanize the world into supporting your sister and your mom as much as your brother and father?  Now I’m obviously not the first person to think this so I did some major internet research and found a few new words that have been proposed. They crowned the winner to be Equalism. Gender neutral, new beginning and kind of catchy. Runners up?

Equality for everyone regardless of their genitals


GEM (Gender Equality Movement)




I love questions but I also have a fondness for quotes. I’m not sure how many women would agree with this quote but I am confident it has some merit.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."

Margaret Atwood

I had never thought about it in those terms but I found it eye opening. When I’m walking home late at night, the thought of a man raping me doesn’t cross my mind. Stealing my $5 bill in my wallet concerns me a bit but it’s a hit I could take. I remember going on a blind date with a lady and I told her I could pick her up and she gave me her address. After the date, I thought that giving a man who you barely know your address seems to not be very prudent. She obviously had nothing to worry about with me because I never saw her again because I have some fairy-tale dream of how I’m going to meet my wife and picking her up in an Enterprise Rent-a-Car was just not going to happen. 

There are a lot of strange men out there who might not be the most intelligent, caring, or good looking and they have a more negative view of women that I may have. While I’m no Sean Connery, I’m not an Ogre who has major hurdles to climb when trying to find a partner for life. Some men have harder times and I can see how being rejected their entire life could build up some animosity but it’s not an excuse to make women feel uncomfortable or unsafe. It must be wild for grandmothers to see the stark differences between how they were raised and treated compared to a young girl being brought up today.

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If you have any thoughts/comments/concerns, I would love to hear them. I’m just a guy trying to get a bit more perspective on the fairer sex. I am an Equalist after all.

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“The rise of women does not mean the fall of men.”