This post is written in co-operation with our friends at The Ritz-Carlton. They are in the business of helping people around the world celebrate something important away from home. We all celebrate different things and for different reasons at different times but every celebration is special. Below are six moments of mine that looking back, I realize were celebrations of finally living the life of my dreams.
Years ago I had a most memorable night out in Dubai, a celebration of my new global life if you will; how far I had come and how far I still had left to go. I had an extended layover and decided to make the most of it by visiting Dubai for the day. Eventually I ended up at this open-air bar and enjoyed some casual conversation and surreal scenery with other travelers. It was a quiet type of celebration, but an important one as I look back at my life and see these key moments for what they are – benchmarks of a new start for me.
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has been captivating travelers for centuries, including me. I had heard of this sublime structure for years and finally being able to experience it for myself was a moment I’ll never forget; looking back it was a celebration of how far I’d come and a reminder that big tasks take time. It also helps that besides the Hagia Sophia, the rest of Istanbul is a fascinating city as well. Turkey always seemed so far away, somewhere I had heard about on the news and read about in history books but not somewhere I thought I’d ever have the pleasure of visiting.
Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
Years after giving up my traditional career in Ottawa, I found myself in Toronto where I by chance found myself enjoying dinner at TOCA at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto. While it was a group function I invited a friend, someone I had known since childhood but had lost touch with over the years. The evening was rich in conversation, delicious food and a refined atmosphere. It was also rich in the meaning I took away from it.
Looking back, this dinner was very special; it was a celebration of my new life and what I had become, the feeling of arriving even if in a city close to home. I wasn’t just someone who left home with a dream; I was someone who was turning their passion into a career and happier than I had ever been in the past.
Years ago I was invited to visit the Azores, which at the time, was a place I had never even heard of before. I found them on the map in the middle of the North Atlantic and excitedly made my way to these little known volcanic islands that still are a part of the seemingly removed country of Portugal. While there we visited Sao Jorge, a quiet spot best known for solitude and amazing hiking adventures. While there, I decided to share a small video I had made on Facebook and it instantly uploaded, the fastest upload of my life.
This moment was a celebration of freedom for me because it made me realize that working online I could theoretically live anywhere with a decent internet connection. Here I was, in the middle of the North Atlantic uploading videos to Facebook on one of the fastest connections I had ever experienced. I’ll never forget that moment as I saw the upload bar scream by; I was truly free to live and work almost anywhere.
I visited Dubrovnik with a group and loved the city; I even stayed a few days after everyone else had left. I stayed at a local lady’s home that was recommended to me from a friend in the group. On the last day she showed me her finished attic with views of the harbour and said friends and family often stay there. Later, I was in Montenegro when the lady emailed me saying if I wanted, I could stay in that coveted attic. I called my mother, bought her a ticket and we spent nearly two weeks together enjoying each other’s company, the views and of course Dubrovnik.
This was a very special celebration for me because not only had I left home, but I was in a position where I could fly my mother out to come join me and provide for her during her stay. As a child I was always taken care of by my parents, very well so. This was a moment when I realized I wasn’t just living my dream but in a position to share it with my family. Being able to call my mother and ask if she’d be interested in joining me in Croatia made me feel good; it was also a celebration of arriving at an important goal in my life.
Recently on a trip back from South Africa, I had a lengthy 17-hour layover in Washington, D.C. I was returning to my adopted home of Little Corn Island off the coast of Nicaragua where the final touches on a house I built from scratch would soon be made. I spent this unexpected time in Arlington, Virginia at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City which is just outside of the nation’s capital. I had been working so hard on my house over the last few months, that once again traveling had taken its toll.
I spent that time reflecting on the wonderful trip I had just taken and relaxing at The Ritz-Carlton, simultaneously realizing just how drastically my life had changed over the years. I went from being a professional with a stable job to the gent who in 2009 sold it all to chase a dream. It wasn’t just a dream though, now, seven years later it’s my reality. I celebrated quietly there in Arlington, raising a glass to myself and inwardly laughing at the joyous moments the last few years have provided. It was an expectedly important moment, a rare time of reflection before I would once again board a plane.
Whether we realize it or not at the time, all travel is a celebration of sorts and sometimes you only realize what those special moments really meant only when looking back. All travel is a celebration of freedom and escape; it’s the freedom to go somewhere you’ve always been interested in and an escape from the routine of our everyday life.
These six memories are important to me because they all celebrate milestones for someone who didn’t want to just travel the world but form a global life for himself; to tilt at windmills, sure, but something less fantastical. What matters most to me is discovering new things, spending time with my family and friends, being successful in my career, having the freedom to choose what to do with my time and experiencing the very best this world has to offer. These memories are all a celebration of just that and I’m thankful to have had them and of course, looking forward to creating countless more while I still can.