Remembering Our Friends – One Year Ago Today!


One year ago today, June 23, 2012, the Armstrong family arrived home to Canada. With a bittersweet mix of emotions we were surprised at the familiarity of unlocking our front door, placing our suitcases in the same spot on the floor and looking down the long hallway of the house that had been our home for the previous 10 years. We had experienced so much change in the last year yet here, everything was just the same – the smells, the pictures on the walls, the light coming from the windows. Immediately we were transported back to our old life and it felt great to be home.

When I woke up the next morning and opened my eyes, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t dreaming. That we had actually traveled around the world on a journey of a lifetime. Over the next few weeks, we reunited with family and friends, got caught up in our usual summer activities and fell into a familiar routine. But something had changed. Tony and I were hungry for more. Moving from place to place, submersing ourselves in other cultures, exploring and learning had become our way of life and we really missed it. We knew that we had to move on to our next adventure.

And move we did! Last November we bought a beautiful 120-acre property an hour outside of Toronto and started a transition from city to country life. It’s taken us 7 months of buying, selling, renting and moving but as of this week, one year after our trip around the world, we have pulled up our Toronto roots and planted them on our own farm! Growing and raising our food, breathing clean air and having space to roam has been a long-time dream and we used our travels to volunteer on farms around the world to get our hands dirty and learn as much as we could. So now it’s time to put theory into practice.

We have named the farm Headwaters because of the importance our little part of the world plays in channeling the flow of creeks and rivers and underground streams from the highlands of the Oak Ridges Moraine to Lake Ontario. But the name also symbolizes the flow of information and hands-on experiences we will be offering anyone who wants to spend a day or week or month and get closer to the land. But that’s a whole other story, and a whole other blog!

This is my last Intrepid Mom post. I am moving on to intrepid farmer now! But since we’ve returned home I have spent every day thinking back to those amazing individuals and families who welcomed us with open arms and shared so much of their lives with us, complete strangers. These new global friends who we lived and worked with shaped our journey and we miss them very much. I picture a future time when Tony and I will be knocking on familiar doors in Ireland and Kenya and Ecuador and all the rest, sitting down with a beer and carrying on where we left off without missing a beat. But for now we will carry on the tradition and open our doors to fellow travelers who are looking to us to help them find their way.

So here is the part where I recognize all the people who meant so much to us on our travels and who we continue to connect with. Thank-you for your kind hearts, your open-mindedness and your generosity of spirit. Come and visit us in Canada!

Suzie and Michael Cahn and family – Carraig Dulra, Glenealy, Ireland
Michael and Denise Sloan and family – Ballard Farm, Kilbride, Ireland
Randall, Lucia, Katie, Francesca, Riccio, Maddalena – Spannocchia, Rosia, Italy
Dima, Bashir and Abla Khadra – Amman, Jordan
Yamaan Safady – Amman, Jordan
Paola Farran and family – Amman, Jordan
Leslie Kann and family – Amman, Jordan
Petra Allmendinger and staff – Sandai, Mweiga Nyeri, Kenya
Diane, Lucio, Oliver and Bianca Santoro – Howick, South Africa
Paul and Shareen Duncan and family – Dovehouse, Howick, South Africa
Rajesh Jangid and family – Nawalgarh, India
Tara and Sandeep Dewan – Silver Spur, Jaipur, India
Lory Fallador, Awe Chantakian, Tom Duerdenand and staff – Koh Ra Ecolodge, Thailand
Janine and David Ugalde – San Juan de la Vega, San Pablo del Lago, Ecuador
Lucille, Anthony, Lilly and Coby Sylvester – St. George’s, Grenada
Liz, Stephen, Brenda and family – Barking Horse Farm, Santiago de Puriscal, Costa Rica
Patsy and Robert Miller – Santiago de Puriscal, Costa Rica
Bill Skinner – Santiago de Puriscal, Costa Rica
Chris Johnson – Montezuma, Costa Rica

 

The Playing Field is Underway!

Thanks to our never-say-die friends on the ground in Kenya and the generous contributions of our family and friends all over the world, the playground at Solio Public School in Nyeri, Kenya has begun. As you can see above, the heavy equipment has moved in and work is progressing very quickly. The first picture shows…

Coming Home – Part 1

We are on our way home, sitting now on an Air Canada flight from San Jose, Costa Rica, where we have spent the last 6 weeks of our journey, heading back to the comfort and familiarity of the home in Toronto we left almost 12 months ago. We munch on chips, sip our drinks and…

My Hippie Life in the 21st Century

So here I sit in a bamboo yoga studio, surrounded by the Costa Rican highland jungle. Across from me a 20-something with dreadlocks and piercings in her lip stretches to the tunes of The Who. A young man with a long blonde ponytail and a beaded necklace greets us as he walks by, offering hugs…

Christopher’s Month in Grenada

When I was in Grenada, my dad and I took the PADI Open Water Scuba Diving certification course. It was a lot of work but now I’m certified! For the course we had to read through a 5-pound book and do a test every chapter. The book talked about how to save a drowning diver,…

Melissa’s Month in Grenada (so far)

When we first arrived in Grenada I was sad to leave Ecuador and the house there with the dogs. But our new place in Grenada has a dog named Brownie and 3 little kittens (Speedy, Speedet, Lizzy). The Sylvester family owns them. They have 2 kids. One of them is a girl named Lilly and…

Leopard mom and her cubs

Our Internet in Grenada is the fastest we’ve had since… Toronto. So I’m celebrating by uploading some video from our travels. I shot this sequence in The Maasai Mara National Reserve at the end of November. We were traveling with Petra and Sammy from Sandai Lodge in Kenya. This is a raw video experience, no…

Who are we?

We were in town the other day visiting a batik printing studio/store when the shopkeeper showed us the cruise ship schedule and warned us to stay out of downtown the following Monday and Wednesday. “They’re not like you.” She said. “They swarm into town, browse through the shops and don’t really buy anything.” Picking on…

Ecuador – Our Routine Life

As we settle in for a month in our new home-away-from-home in Ecuador, I realize how much we like our routines. Since leaving our stay in Thailand in February, we were pretty much living out of suitcases as we toured through Phuket and Borneo, and across the ocean to Quito and the Galapagos. Not a…

Back to the Future

I feel like I’ve stepped into a time capsule. After traveling in one direction for 8 months, we have arrived back to the same time-zone we departed from but coming at it from the back-end. In fact, by flying eastward and crossing the Pacific Ocean, we gained back the day we lost when we flew…

Borneo Expedition

In the 2004 sequel – Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid a group of scientists take a slow boat up a river in Borneo in search of a magical flower, they end up being squeezed by a pack of really big and angry Anacondas. About a week ago we followed in their footsteps and…

Uncharted Territory – Southeast Asia

I don’t know why exactly but for some reason the Asian leg of our journey was the one I was the least excited about. I’d always wanted to go to Africa and South America, the Middle East was intriguing to me and of course Europe is always a fun destination, but Asia, hmm. When, as…

Leveling the playing field – Update

A couple of months ago we launched a web appeal to our friends and family to join us in ‘leveling the playing field’ at a rural school in the foothills of Mount Kenya. We had visited the school in November with our friends Petra and Sammy from Sandai Lodge to help plant trees that they…

India – Another world

India is more than just another country, it is another world. We first got a sense of this other world when we applied for a travel Visa in the dusty basement at the Indian Consulate in Rome (our second attempt to get our Indian visas while on route!) Melissa had to use the washroom and…

A visit to the highlands of Kerala

Earlier this month we visited a rubber plantation in the foothills of Vagamon, Kerala. Vanilla County Plantation offers tents and rooms to tourists who are looking for an alternative to the hotel experience. Homestay accommodations are often way-off the tourist track and therefore offer meals as part of their package. Our experience has been that…

India – what a bargain!

Yes India is fascinating and exotic and chaotic and exasperating and everything I thought it would be but I hadn’t counted on it being so cheap! Where else can you book a driver for a day for $30.00? Other bargains…. Pop or water, 20 cents Bag of groceries – veggies, fruit, bread, milk, eggs, $3…

Christmas in South Africa

December was our month to sadly say good-bye to Petra and Sammy and all our wonderful friends in Kenya and move down the continent to South Africa. Read below to see what each of us remembers and catch the slideshow at the end: Linda: We had already confirmed that we would be helping out Paul…

Maasai Mara

Our last few days in Kenya were spent on a Safari in Maasai Mara, one of Kenya’s finest game reserves. When we planned our RTW going on a safari in Africa was at the top of our list, a life long dream! We traveled with Petra and Sammy, our hosts from Sandai Lodge and guides…

Salabwek

Two years ago, Kew Beach, my school in Toronto, built a well in Kenya through a charity called Free the Children. I went with my family to visit it and the village is called Salabwek. First we saw the old school which the village parents had built because they wanted their kids to learn. It…

The Greening of Kenya

At the end of this blog post, please click through to our Christmas appeal! I’ve always known trees are important. In Canada, one of the greenest countries in the world, we’re constantly defending our forests from overzealous logging, urban encroachment and evil developers. In Toronto, you can’t even cut down a tree on your own…

Elephants Up Close

When I got to Kenya the first thing I wanted to do was visit the elephant orphanage where our family had adopted a baby elephant named Chemi Chemi. At this orphanage named “The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust” they rescue abandoned elephants whose mothers are usually killed by poachers and the babies are also injured defending…

Rescuing animals in Egypt

  When we were in Luxor, it was crazy. People, tourists everywhere but the thing that caught my eye the most was how the people treated their animals like the horses and donkeys pulling sugar cane and people on a cart. I saw scratches and how skinny the horses and donkeys were. I really did…

What I Learned About Jordan

People are friendly “Welcome to Jordan!” We heard it from everyone we met, our hosts, taxi drivers, shop-keepers, the man who made the pizzas at the bottom of our street. And Jordanians truly mean it. They are very proud to serve you and show their hospitality. Our hosts, Dima and her parents Bashir and Abla,…

Petra and Wadi Rum

I am now in Jordan living in this really nice apartment in a house owned by a Jordanian family who let us stay there. I love it. Just a couple of days ago we started a 3-day trip into the desert and mountains of south Jordan. The first day we visited some mountains and got…

Amman, Jordan

When I first thought of Jordan I thought of a desert with sand dunes and not many houses, but really Jordan’s deserts are mountainous and rocky with lots of bushes and shrubs. Amman, the capital, is huge and bright with lights. Most of the population lives here. There are mosques on about every street which…

Luciano

We were standing in front of the baking section at our local grocery store trying to translate a package of yeast when we ran into Luciano. He was in Italy for Singing in Siena, a week long workshop that was being held at a nearby 18th century farm called Montestigliano. As it turned out Luciano…

Homeschooling Headache

  I’ll get straight to the point. Homeschooling Melissa and Chris has had its challenges. Our travel plans in September were to settle, once again, into a home-away-from-home for a full month, this time in beautiful Tuscany Italy. But unlike our month on the farm in Ireland in July, September was also the start of…

Italy

Crossing the border from France to Italy we waved goodbye to a hectic August. We had driven through Ireland, Wales, England, France, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Europa Park (the EU packed into an an amusement park) and then south to the Mediterranean. Our last taste of France was the Riveria where we rented a small…

Staying With Friends

Traveling around the world, hopping from port to port, is exciting but tiring so landing on a friend’s doorstep for a brief respite is like finding an oasis in a desert. It’s a time to put up our tired feet, talk in English with people who understand what we’re referring to, catch up on email…

Paris

Paris was the final destination of our two week holiday with my dad, sisters and family. We rented an apartment in the 5th Arrondissement right near the subway and close to a bountiful food store, a boulangerie, several wine shops and restaurants – of course I could be describing any corner of Paris. Not everything…

Crossing the Channel

When we left London our group split into two with five of us driving and the rest taking the train. Our route took us through the Chunnel and those of us in the car had the unique experience of driving onto the train and riding the rails in a rail car that resembled a time…

Pump Up the Volume in London

Never thought I’d complain about going to visit London, England, and I’m not really. But going from the slow-pace of living in the Irish countryside to the congestion and hordes in London was a bit of a shocker. We met up with Tony’s family (10 of us in total) for a whirlwind week of touring…

Saying Goodbye to Ireland

It’s hard to express how sad I’m feeling leaving Ireland. I can’t remember a time that I’ve felt so attached to anywhere else I have traveled but I’ve come to the conclusion it has to do with many things. First of all, it was our first stop on this risky venture around the world and…

Wicked Wind

We went to the Cliffs of Moher to see more of Ireland. It’s on the west coast, the most windiest place in the whole wide world. As soon as we got out of the car the wind would whip us back inside the car. There was even a sign that said that we shouldn’t proceed….

Vikings, Normans and Those Bloody English

It’s amazing how Monty Python jokes are all making sense now. We’ve watched the movie trilogy again (Holy Grail etc.) and downloaded a lot of the classic skits from Flying Circus and find ourselves appreciating them all over again but from an Irish point of view. The Irish are a very modest lot, never boastful,…

Getting Dirty

My nails have never been dirtier but I’ve never felt happier. There’s something extremely satisfying about taking a tiny seedling, unearthing it from it’s birth-pot, burying its little roots in a small hole on top of a big, mulchy, earth bed and watching it grow. And then eating it! We spend our days at Carraig…

Wicklow this week

Ireland is idyllic no matter where you look. It is a gorgeous country and the weather and the light are constantly changing. I can’t stop taking pictures. Slowly we’re getting to know this place but Ireland reveals itself gradually. The people are very friendly and we have been welcomed into their lives, pubs and paddocks…

Chicken Hunt

Today our family got a chance to help out at the greenhouse that the farm family we’re helping out is renting so they can sell their organic vegetables. It was a lot of fun, we helped re-pot some basil leaves and pepper plants so they could grow a lot better. We used a rich, nutritious…

Sandy the Horse

We are staying on a farm near Wicklow town. We live in a cottage on the farmer’s property. The second day I got to this farm I saw a horse hoping I could ride him but the owners said he was too old so I could only pet him. They told me his name and…

Happy Canada Day!

A beautiful purple sky as night descends in Dublin and we have yet to see any form of July 1st celebrations. Ah well. We heard rumours of a pub crawl but not quite something you drag the kids along to. We had a mini-celebration of sorts with our good friend Ellen and her adorable daughter…

We’re here!

We’ve arrived in Ireland and it is only now that the enormity of this trip is sinking in. Jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, we meandered around Dublin’s leafy streets yesterday impressed with how old many of the buildings were and how fast the traffic moved, barely remembering to look right when crossing the streets! We’ve done it!…

Paying for the Privilege

One of the first questions people ask (or are too polite to ask but are thinking anyway) is how can you afford to travel around the world? We asked the same thing! We have the usual North American expenses – mortgage, children, education, car care, etc. But in reading about the many other RTW families…

Losing our Best Friend

Sadly, we had to put down our dog Tilly today. 13 years old and sweet and loyal to the end despite struggling with an intestinal tumour that was making life very difficult. She was the first dog Tony and I owned together – always sweet-natured  and long-suffering in a big, noisy family where she patiently…

Renting, Renos and Rain

This is a picture of our yard sale in the rain! I can’t imagine anyone really wants all this junk but at least it’s out of the house and will never return! Why am I telling you this? Because this sale is a result of a year of purging to get our house ready before…

Home Away From Home

When I started seriously researching for this trip two years ago, my first task was to figure out where we were going. We sat down as a family and all came up with ideas of possible countries we thought sounded interesting or activities we wanted to do or sites we wanted to visit. Then we…

Our first stop

Our first stop is Carraig Dúlra an organic small-holding run by Suzie and Mike Cahn.

RTW: Gearing up

Packing electronics for a RTW (round the world) trip is a lot different from packing for a canoe or motorhome trip. Where for a couple of weeks on the road (or on the water or a trail) we can get by with a camera, GPS and iPhone (for emergencies and entertainment), the technology required for a…

Getting Shot

Fortunately, I had read a long time ago that you need to get vaccinated for world travel very early on in the planning process. You need to get some shots as early as 6 months ahead of departure. Also fortunately, we have a great Travel Vaccine Clinic here in downtown Toronto that figured it all…

Christchurch

In March Linda, Tony, Christopher and Melissa visited New Zealand for two weeks. We hiked a volcano, swam with dolphins and went horseback riding. We tasted a lot of great wine and shot some targets… Our journey ended in Christchurch where we rented bikes and rode to Mona Vale for a breakfast of scones, muffins…

Canoe Trip Adventure

Now that Melissa (8) and Chris (9) were old enough to paddle with enough power to make a difference, we moved on from RV road-trips to canoe tripping. I love camping in Ontario but I always feel the best part is being able to get away from crowded campgrounds and finding the perfect piece of…

RV Cruising Again – Quebec and PEI

At this point, our daughter Melissa had joined the family and we were kinda getting twitchy for a little summer traveling. Our older three were all at camp in August so we packed up the younger two into a much smaller version of the RV we had driven south eight years earlier and headed east….

Space Shuttle Launch, Florida

At exactly 6:22 a.m., March 1st 2002, the Space Shuttle Columbia took off from the Kennedy Space Centre and we saw it happen! We now had Christopher, age 3, with us along with his big brothers Briar (12), Thomas (10) and Dawson (9). Back to Florida again but this time squished into our mini-van. This…

Go RV or Bust!

I’d always thought that going on a family vacation by motorhome sounded like such a fun idea and so easy – essentially just packing up a mini-version of home and taking it on the road. My only hesitation was the whole idea of staying in trailer parks – concrete pads, nosy neighbours and patio lights….

Armstrong RTW Map
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