It’s that time again! Coming up on the end of my quarter as a writer for BuildDirect. You can financially support me in my upcoming travels by reading my BuildDirect content and sharing it socially off the blog page.
Look for the social share buttons at the bottom and click the blue “F” to share it on your Facebook, or share it on Twitter or Google Plus. Even commenting on the blogpost itself will pay me money. (But not commenting on this post!)
Whatever you can do, I appreciate! Thank you for all your support and help. It means a lot.
Here’s some of the most popular posts so far this quarter, but you can see all my work going back to April 1 (the start of my bonus period) by clicking HERE.
A Simple Wedding Might Save Your Marriage
Far and away my most popular post this quarter. It shares stats and anecdotes that show how folks getting married with simple weddings are more likely to not divorce! Read it here.
My Childhood Home: The House that Built Me
A simple, personal post about my childhood home and how it’s changed in the years since it was bought by its new family, and how it shaped me in my youth. That’s right here.
How Pork & Cork Are Saving An Entire Ecosystem
A story about how pig farmers and cork plantations are working together to keep an arid ecosystem functioning. Cork oaks can live 600 years and stewardship of these mighty trees is considered a privilege and calling in Portugal and Spain. Read more about this interesting symbiotic relationship. (Seeing this first-hand is a bucket list travel item that will come true in 2016.)
9 Ways to Protect Your Home While On Vacation
This has been popular this week since I guess some of these tips aren’t ones folks have read that much. If you’re going away for a weekend or longer this summer, here’s how to sleep easy knowing you’ve protected your home the best you can. Go here.
How to Stay Sane While Packing for a Move
From fighting dust allergies to protecting your hands and avoiding bugs, I’ve got little-shared moving tips I learned from what was the Move From Hell in 2012. Since then, I’m way smarter, and I pass my Jedi ways to you right here.
The Not-So-Tiny House: Simplifying for Families
My successful realtor friend Matt lives in a 3-bedroom apartment with three kids, and wouldn’t change it for the world. What tiny-living families give up in the home, they get back in an exciting urban lifestyle at their doorstep. Read more here.
Hoarding: Not Just a Bad Habit
Severe clutter can debilitate people and damage their lives and relationships. Why is it so insidious, and what can people look for in identifying whether their friends or family are living in these conditions? How can they help? Read on.
The Book-Lover’s Guide to Purging Books
I was so sad to get rid of all my books but now that they’re gone, my clutter is reduced, my home is bigger, and my allergies are doing better. Here are ways to help cull the chaos and off-load your books. Click here.
How to Change Your Life by Working from Home
It’s not for everyone, but working from home changed my life. Commuting less, I work for myself more, and I’ve paid off tons of debt and I’m just under 4 months from taking the show on the road and travelling the world for 5 years. Here are ways to make the adjustment to being a work-from-home type, and why it’s such life-changing thing to do. Read on!
How to Be a Good Neighbour in Tough Times
I’m proud this was popular because I think it’s so important that we help each other through difficult times. Whether your neighbour’s lost their job, lost a loved one, or is just really facing a tough illness, I’ve compiled a bunch of ways you can be of help, and even how to offer said help. Learn more here.
How to Hire a Contractor without Getting Conned
People are far too lenient when trusting contractors with their homes. It’s no wonder so many folks face terrible con-jobs and shoddy work as a result. I scoured the web and found all the ways you can do background checks, and why it’s critical, and stuck ’em all in this handy article.
Should You Rent or Should You Buy?
Buying a home is quickly becoming a less solid idea in some areas, like where I just moved from. What are considerations for you? Have no fear! I’ve done my research and here’s what to know before you make that decision.
A Brief Introduction to Native, Exotic, and Invasive Plants
This is an important read for anyone planting a garden or doing some landscape. Planting the wrong stuff can have terrible consequences to the local ecosystem, and you don’t want that! Learn more right here.
Brewing a Solution: Alternatives to the K-Cup Coffee Conundrum
Coffee courses through my veins. From my cold dead hands will you pry my cup! But here are enviro-friendly alternatives to the biggest commercial issue facing landfills today: Single-serving coffee pods. Get your java knowledge here.
And so much more! There are more than 30 other articles I’ve written since April 1st. Have a look right here if you’re wanting to read my stuff (and like it and share it and make me money).
Britain’s greatest Olympian ever retired yesterday. Chris Hoy took another gold medal in Cycling, and then called it a day. Tearfully, he said his career and these racing competitions weren’t just about winning gold, they were about seeing more people get on bikes. More cyclists, more roads with bikes, more, more, more.
Cycling isn’t just about exercise, it’s not just a way to get where you’re going. Cycling is a complete change in lifestyle. It’s pretty much the only sport that can change your life, in every way, on a daily basis.
It costs, on average, about $10,000 a year to run a car. Just riding a bus daily for work can cost you over $1,000, and that doesn’t include lost productivity in all those hours waiting for connections.
Cycling doesn’t cost a cent once you’re in it. Yearly maintenance costs are pretty low, especially if you know how to clean your bike chain and do some of that yourself. Quality bike maintenance and parts can likely be done for under $200 per year, and a good bike should last well over 10,000 kilometres.
Me, I changed cities and lifestyles entirely so I could ditch busing and other forms of motorized commute. I’ve gone from 60 hours a month to only riding a bus for 15 minutes in the last 30 days. The rest of the time, I walk and I cycle. I’m happier, healthier, and less inclined to want to slap the masses.
Change Your Thinking
When I was new to Victoria, I was busing a lot to get a sense of the world. My chiropractor was just under an hour by two buses. Turns out his office is close to one of the nicest bike routes I’ve ever ridden. Total time to cycle there? 25 minutes each way.
With my saddle bags attached, I can hit up some of the great food shops, save $5 on return bus fare, and get an hour of cardiovascular exercise in, reducing my need to find time to “exercise” at some point in my week. How is that inconvenient in any way? Well, it isn’t.
Once you turn all those wasted commute hours — because, by bus or car, you know you ain’t getting anything done but reading or emails — into exercise, that too is where you change your life. It’s killing two birds with one awesome stone.
Cycling is a low-impact, high-result exercise that does amazing things for your body, IF you’re riding the right kind of bike with a good fit. If your bike shop isn’t concerned about “fit” and how a bike performs with YOUR body, then you need a better bike shop. This is not frivolous “entitled customer” thinking, as bike fit is absolutely critical to your enjoyment of the sport, and whether it has negative effects for you.
With the right gear, the right fit, and a little conditioning, you will be amazed at the way cycling simplifies your life.
Tired of getting home angry after a 15km commute by car? Try cycling it. It only takes a month or so to be conditioned to cycle 15kms (10 miles), and I’m telling you that as a girl over 200 pounds. If I can do it, what is YOUR excuse?
Here are considerations for getting started in cycling:
Saddle Bags Will Change Your Life
I pick different areas to shop in every week. My saddlebags will hold 70 litres of goods, which is actually a lot for a single girl like me. I can get beer, veggies, meats, condiments, and more, for over a week.
In one area, I get Mediterranean foods, stellar produce, and Indian ingredients. I plan meals ahead and get things from all three on the same day.
For routine staples and bad weather, I have a closer network of shops for more mundane goods, an 8km circuit I can easily do year-round in about 90 minutes including both cycling and shopping, that sees me hitting 4 to 6 great food purveyors downtown, from Italian to organics.
Then there’s my elaborate “gluttony ride” out to Oak Bay, a beautiful seaside area, where there’s an artisan salumerie, specialty wine shop, and great cheesemonger’s, and I hit that up once a month with a mind to enjoy a fantastic cheese & wine platter after that ride — and getting 75 minutes of beautiful flat touring ride makes it a guilt-free gluttonous night.
Now, I never, ever leave home without my saddle bags because I’m either packing my camera and a lunch, or I usually make use of my excursion by grabbing things on my way home.
When you do, buy heavy-duty saddlebags, because they will last for YEARS. Mine are 5+ years old already, from Canada’s MEC, and cost me about $75 when I got them, and they’re not the expensive ones. If I replace them this winter, it will be for larger ones, not because of wear. Make sure they’re weatherproof, clasp into place, and have reflective surfacing, extra pockets, and easy-to-carry handles. These will be the best things you ever put on your bike.
If you could exercise AND save money AND get all your out-in-the-world chores done at the SAME time, why wouldn’t you?
Pick the Right Bike
There are lots of styles, and more than you likely think, when it comes to bikes. From step-through Dutch bikes to hybrids, road bikes, and mountain bikes, to beyond. Each has benefits, and it’s why most lifelong cyclists have more than one bike.
If you’re looking to be a commuter and use your bike for recreation, then a road bike’s probably the last thing you want, oddly. Get a good bike shop, talk to friends about why they like their bike (as opposed to what YOU should ride, just find out why it works for them). Plus, use places like bike swap meets, used shops, and cycling organizations to gain some good insight from people who use cycling as a whole-life endeavour, because they’re the ones who know.
Know Your Paths
Cycling on the road isn’t a death sentence, but I sure as hell don’t enjoy it as much as I like a pedestrian/cyclist trail, like the great paths here in Victoria, which include the Galloping Goose and the Lochside. Most North American cities are designating paths for cyclists now, but they’re not always where you’d know to look. Ask at your local bike shop to see if they’ve got maps for your region, Google routes, or scan the app stores to see if there’s a cycling app for your area.
The Google (the web version only) now has a “bikes” feature in Beta testing on Maps searches, and you can select that to see the most bike-friendly route. Bike routes are often better, and different, than walking routes as elevation tends to be a big factor in riding. Here in Victoria, the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails are on an old train track, so the elevation grade has been smoothed out very nicely despite all the dips and valleys of living on an island. This makes for a much less intimidating ride than heading up car-friendly hills and other steep grades, and makes it the perfect place to get accustomed to distance rides.
Another plus to Googling places for your travel route is you can also get an approximate cycling time and distance. From my experience, the times tend to be for the “semi-conditioned” rider — not experts, but someone who’s cycling more regularly, so if you’re new, add some cushion time there.
Cycling, like motorcycling, is very much a skills-based pursuit. The more confident you are, the safer you’ll be. You need to know you’re a victim in the making every time you get on your bike, because Car vs. Bike almost always has the same outcome. But that’s not to say you can’t be more prepared to avoid these situations entirely.
Most cycling organizations have Skills-based rides where they teach you how to ride smarter. Here in Victoria, there’s a 3-hour basic skills course that’s free, and there’s an 8-hour one that costs $30, where you go on a ride through the city and they teach you in situ what skills are suited to what scenarios, and how to be a proactive, safe rider.
Gear is pretty much the be-all end-all with cycling. You get what you pay for, and, trust me, when your life is on the line in a mid-winter chores ride near dusk, cheaping out isn’t the way to go.
Whether it’s great-quality raingear that keeps your head in the game, rather than you shivering and thinking how awful you feel, or lighting for evening rides, quality counts.
For lights, you want to check out the brightness rating. How many watts? Anything less than 2 watts should be a throwaway. And if it’s only 2 watts, you likely want to double up. Obviously, you need a front and back light, but most cyclists never think to put spoke lighting on their wheels. The only seriously close calls I have ever had have been from cars on side streets not seeing me in front of them and nearly T-boning me. For $15, you can get a couple sets of spoke lights to make your wheels light up and give yourself 360-degree visibility on the road at night. Trick yourself out with lotsa lights, because being a Christmas tree means being seen.
A helmet is a no-brainer, but most people don’t like them. I’ve been saved by helmets twice — once preventing a head injury, and once preventing death. But, hey, if your haircut’s that important to you, fine — just opt out of my medical system if you choose the no helmet route.
And That’s a Starter
Cycling will change your life. That’s inarguable.
If you get hooked, it will be your drug of choice. It will clear your mind, improve your health, bolster your finances, charge your creativity, and mellow your mood. It will save the planet, too.
If your arguments are “It’s too hard,” well, that’s because you’re new. Cycling on the road, your conditioning improves faster, better, than probably any sport I’ve ever tried. If you think “It’s too far,” that’s also because you’re new. Trust me. Give it one month of 4-5 rides a week, and you’ll be stunned.
There are really no good reasons to stay off your bike. I’ve seen parents taking kids to school on bike trailers, children as young as 6 years old cycling 10 kilometres around a city with Mom and Dad during a day, and more.
Cycling is more flexible than you imagine, more rewarding than you could dream, and it’s something you can do today to change EVERY part of your life.
Give it a shot. You’ve got more power in you than you think. Change your life, ride a bike.
One of my favourite songs from my teen years was Cyndi Lauper’s “Money isn’t Everything.”
It feels like life comes in with built-in looped lessons, themes that repeat constantly throughout our lives. For me, money and patience are two lessons I’m forever learning about.
Money, though, is the one that causes me most grief.
Drowning piggybank, from TheDoublethink.com: http://thedoublethink.com/2009/06/how-much-to-spend-in-a-recession/
This year has probably been the most learned year on the money front for me. I’ve fixed a few things, changed my quality of life by way of making small choices, but I’ve still run into a great deal of hardship twice this year. Once during the Olympics, because you don’t realize until they arrive what a wild ride and party it is to live within, or how expensive life gets then, and, well, right now.
Having done the bad-back thing right before getting pneumonia, it’s actually been 7 weeks of consistent drain on my wallet, with little to nothing coming in, and it’s been hairy a couple times. Thank god for freezers with food in them and well-stocked pantries and beans and oatmeal, man.
But there’s a lot one can learn from hard times, even poverty.
There’s a gift in poverty, for those who are able to escape it.
I was raised by parents who’d come through a lot financially. My mother, I think, had it harder than my father — hers having been the kind of family that feared eviction on Christmas eve but returned home from mass with a giant gift box of food and clothing from the community, who slept three kids to a single bed.
I still remember her telling me of those times, but I never “got” it. Not until the last five years.
Years ago, I was cursed to be stupid enough to fall into the “why me?” crowd when it came to being broke. I’d be jealous as shit of my friends who always got nice gifts. I felt like a victim, as stupid as that is.
I still resent people who can, and do, have all the things they want but have zero appreciation of just how fortunate they are to have it.
Some of them, if reading this, would probably have the whole “But you can earn your way out of poverty” attitude, and they’re right, to an extent. But what if you’re like me, or unluckier, where you have one year after another of illness or injury, misfortune or bad luck?
When it’s a six-month patch, you get through it and you move on. When it’s six years, or longer, it’s just an accomplishment to make it through month after month. Retirement? What? Savings? What? Survival, man.
I’m lucky, I’ve almost had it constantly be tough and hard for the last decade, but I always get by, I always make it through the hard patches. And every time I do, I’ve learned some new trick about money, some new way of saving a few pennies, but more importantly, I’ve always been able to remember that life is so much bigger and more meaningful than a balance sheet.
For those who think “time is money”, so just buy your food and work more — how? How does one magically make this more expensive, prepared, convenient food just appear? How does one afford to live spitting distance from the best job they can get?
They don’t. Not in this town, man.
There’s a reason money’s the fastest way to kill a relationship.
There’s nothing in this world we value more than money, there’s nothing that defines your life more — and nothing is more omnipresent than the reminders of just how much YOUR value is determined by the money you have or don’t have.
Try it. Wear tattered, out-of-style clothes with a bad haircut and zero accessories, carrying lousy plastic bags or beaten knapsacks, and be sure tote your insecurities and financial worry along with you, then enter into any decent shop in any reasonable area of town, and tell me you don’t FEEL your value lowering when you enter those establishments.
Or go experience the thrill of being constantly broke and listening to even your average friends talking about their new jeans or the restaurant they went out to, or the vacation they’re saving for, and try to ignore that little pang of “I wish…” that creeps up inside every time you think of small items you’d love to have.
Reminders exist everywhere of just how much you don’t have when you’re living hand-to-mouth. No matter how much peace you’ve made with your status, the constant reminders beat you down a little, just like how a single repeating drop of water can erode the hardest of stone over time.
Despite all this, the older I get, the more I appreciate that I truly value the important things in life, and through all my adversity, I’ve learned to really experience gratitude for the little things that come my way.
I love a good meal, I’m passionate about great wine, I know a gorgeous sunset can’t be bought, I savour all the little moments life gives me, when I find the time to really absorb them.
Truth be told, I’m happy there’s a recession on some levels.
When it comes to the middle class and the wealthy, I’m glad they’ve had to wake up some. I’m glad we suddenly realize there’s more in life than the mighty currency markets.
I’m saddened by those who’ve lost everything, who’ve had lives crushed by fucking assholes in the economic world who just have no concept of debt or value.
It’s so ironic. The people who “create” finance in the economic world actually have zero concept of what a real dollar is worth, of just how far — or not — a normal living wage goes.
And they’re the ones who’ve helped bring everything, and every one, down.
Still, poverty has its gifts.
Gratitude is a gift you’ll never grow tired of. There’s nothing like actually really appreciating a thing. Anything. So many people I know just shrug off little moments of generosity. How could they? Don’t they understand?
No. Not yet.
But they will.
Not having disposable income makes problems harder to solve, time harder to find, health harder to manage, and a social life harder to have.
But, with the right perspective, it can really open your eyes.
Has the recession taught you to better appreciate life? Have you really learned what you need to learn from the last two years? Have you gained insights that will define your future and always keep you cognizant of what real “worth” is?
Have you used it to remember what life is really about — the world and people around us, moments in time, laughter, and creation? Have you learned to be kinder to others and generous in thought, action, and words, when finances fail you? Have you learned to be understanding of the trials others face and the compromises they need to make just to make it through their weeks?