The Adventure of Life: Update

I feel like the last few posts of mine have been very much produced by the self-reflective realm of my brain. I guess the past year and a bit has made me contemplate a lot.

But it’s been a while since I last wrote and, honestly, I don’t want to think too hard about anything right now. So, I figured a good ol’ fashioned update-on-life post was in order ;)

Well, after the fiasco with getting sick and having to bow out of the show I was supposed to sing in back in March, I decided to reach out to another venue. Luckily they said they’d be glad to have me perform there!

In the meantime though, I had great adventures to tackle — a solo trip to Peru …!

I tried out hostel living for the first time and met some seriously awesome travellers. I went on a walking tour and ended up making friends with our guides Arturo and Mario. It was great to hang out in Lima both with my hostel roomies as well as some locals.


Arturo and I taste-tasting desserts at the Plaza de Armas in Lima’s historic center

Of course I needed my getaway in nature, so I took off from the busy streets of Lima to the remote Andes mountains. Tucked away at 3,200 metres in those grand ranges is a tiny village called San Pedro de Casta. From there, you can do a hike up to Marcahuasi which is known for its strange and sacred monolithic stone sculptures.

After trekking up to 4,000 metres elevation, I felt like I had run a marathon. Once reaching the top, my young guide Oswaldo and our faithful canine companion Chance had our lunch at this panoramic vista and all passed out for a nap.


On the Marcahuasi plateau, trying to stay vertical for this photo

I was only in Peru for eight days, but felt like I had been gone forever thanks to the full experience I had while I was there.

When I got back to Toronto, it was time to buckle down and prepare for the show! I actually had a 2-hour slot, so lots of new songs had to be learned. Then, one day I received word that the venue I was going to perform at was closing down its doors. I couldn’t believe my luck (or complete lack thereof)!!

I debated giving up … or giving this performing thing one more shot. After a hopeful phone call to the most awesome Michael Burton at the Free Times Cafe, I had a date and time booked there for July!

In the meantime though, summer was in full swing. I was finally coming out of hibernation mode and June saw my birthday, which basically amounted to an eating spree over four days and change. I was honestly kind of dreading turning 34, but by the time the day came around, I had accepted my fate. Really, I have lived such a full 34 years and am so grateful for everything all of my life experiences have taught me thus far!


Starting the birthday eating marathon (not pictured here: my lunchtime scotch)

After all the food and wine consumption, I needed to summon some restraint so I could get my voice into gear for the show. This was such a long time in the making, but all of the practicing and prepping was worth it. We had a full house and some of the most dearest people to me came out to support <3


Special thanks to Roarshack Photography for capturing the memories :)

A cover of one of my fave love songs, “Ready For Love” by India Arie <3

After the show, my brain had to switch to camping mode fast. I had three weeks(!) in Killarney Provincial Park planned for August, but was way behind in being prepared for it!

In the meantime, I kick-started the camping season with a short trip to Bruce Peninsula, hiking the Lion’s Head trail. It was also my first time volunteering for Parkbus, the awesome service I took last year to do my solo camping trips.


Enjoying solitude and dreamy clouds at McKay’s Harbour on the Lion’s Head hiking trail

Then, my epic three-week backcountry adventure in Killarney Provincial Park arrived. It was so unreal to be out there for so long — but at the same time, it felt completely right.

I went canoeing with my friends Dave and Steve, who had taken me on my very first backcountry trip ~15 years ago. We enjoyed the hot weather, lots of swimming, and the super addictive game Hanabi.

After they left, I was joined by my cousin Lilli, friend Lucy, and their dogs Smokey and Noodles for the first ~5 km of the La Cloche Silhouette hiking loop. We got the rainy part of the trip, but some sunshine for a day hike to The Crack and lots of food and laughs.

Then we parted ways and I took off for a ~12-day solo trek around the rest of the loop. Words just can’t do justice to the experience … at this time, it feels like a complete dream that I was standing on those beautiful ridges, looking out onto those awe-inspiring views.


Proof it wasn’t all a dream …

After sadly rejoining civilization, reality hit big time. It was September (still is September), a really big month for me. It’s the ending of a couple of journeys, including my current job and the career path I’ve been walking down the last ~8 years.

I’ll also be saying good-bye to not only my apartment but to the city I’ve grown up and lived in all my life. It’s a sort of temporary farewell, but it marks a huge life change … I’m nervous, excited and ready to take the leap into The Great Unknown.

Over the past couple of years, I have come to realize without a doubt that living more of my life in nature is the right thing to do for myself. I love being in the outdoors, perhaps need to be out there. Every time I get back onto the trail, amongst the trees, that sense of comfort and happiness comes over me. And so, I’ve made the decision to do just that.

To start this new journey, I’ll be taking a vacation of sorts to Tuscany, Italy to volunteer on an organic vineyard (hey, someone’s gotta help make the vino). When I get back, I’ll be living the farm life and exploring a new career path that lets me live more in the outdoors and travel abroad. I’ll keep writing about my adventures, whether it’s here in my humble abode in the blogosophere or on a new website currently brewing in my mind :)

In the meantime, I hope you’ve all had a full and exciting past few months and that you never stop dreaming for the future.

Yours truly,
Janice (a.k.a. Cafe) <3

Exploring Family History on the Death Road


While my fellow Torontonians partake in ribfests and fireworks to pay homage to the birth of our Motherland, I sit here on the couch, sipping some red, as my mind wanders off to another region of the world (sorry, Canada).

Los Yungas. The lush, green rainforest that stretches across Peru, Bolivia and Northern Argentina. Teeming with colourful flora and weird and wonderful fauna, it is accessible from the city of La Paz in Bolivia via the deadliest road in the world, “la Camino de la Muerte” (the Death Road).

About 50 years ago, a Korean family consisting of nine siblings and the parental heads ventured across the world from their home country to South America. (The tenth sibling would later join them). They landed in the Los Yungas valley.

My mom was eight at the time, third youngest of the siblings. Although most of the family later moved to La Paz where they opened a clothing business, my mom stayed in the rainforest for another year with her father.

They would frequently make the trip to La Paz and back, and the whole family would sometimes journey to the Yungas for restful getaways. Which meant a lot of Camino de la Muerte for my mom.

My mom remembers how unregulated the Death Road was back then, absent of guardrails and vehicles having to play the passing game when the road became too narrow to constitute a two-way. (Don’t think too much has changed there, ma).

She also recalls trucks filled to the brim with oranges and people sitting on top of the oranges as they zoomed towards their destination on the winding road.

I remember hearing about these stories when I was much younger, but back then I didn’t comprehend the global infamy of the Death Road. After days of travel research, I now find myself in awe that this rugged journey — that thrill-seekers from all over the world pay bike tours to take them on — was just a part of life for my mom.

Yes, a significant piece of my family history puzzle lies in Bolivia. Thus, Bolivia is where I must go.

Visiting “the heart of South America” was barely a shade of a dream a couple years ago. I could only hazily envision myself in what I conjured up to be a dusty town where old Bolivian señoras in their bowler hats sold fresh fruits and nuts in open markets.

But today, the dream has actualized itself into a plan. It won’t happen tomorrow, but I’ve sketched out a pretty solid draft of my future explorations in what I consider to be the Third Motherland.

While I’d love to do the typical tourist traps, like Salar de Uyuni, I also want to be able to travel slow and really immerse myself in Bolivian life and culture. And, of course, I want to visit the Yungas and experience an important part of my mom’s childhood.

Now I just need to work up the courage to face the Death Road …


… and maybe stop watching stuff like this:

If you were to explore your family history and culture, where in the world would your journey take you?

– Cafe <3

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done (Conclusion)

Okay, so while I’d love to pen the next The Illyiad, I have decided to forego the Homeric prose and tell y’all about the conclusion of my 9-day hiking trip Cafe-styles.

As you know from the intro post (that was Freshly Pressed!), I had already managed to injure my knee on Day One of our hike. What you don’t know is that two others in our group had also pulled or strained some body part or another before the second day’s end, so that we were all crawling along at a snail’s pace and nowhere near reaching our intended campsite.

It was that night that we all somberly realized that the trip could come to an end the very next morning. There was no point going on if we couldn’t move faster than dying turtles.

The saddest part was that the life-sucking, injury-inducing two days of hiking we had endured was supposedly the easiest part of the whole loop. Our fourth comrade (the non-injured one) had done this trail before and assured us that it was only getting harder from here on out.

So it was the morning of Day Three. We were all still in pretty bad shape. We decided that the first hour of hiking would be our test. It started off rough, but we kept going and nobody wanted to be the one to back down.

So the next thing we knew, we were at “the hard part.” And at this point, there was no turning back.

The part of the trail that will forever live on in my memory is what I’ve named The Descent From Hell. It was basically many, many, many feet of extremely steep, at times almost vertical, descent with sharp, jagged rocks scattered all along down the slope. It had been raining non-stop for the past couple of hours which was making things even more dangerous and slippery.

I’m normally a pretty tough cookie, but I was honestly holding back tears on my way down. The worst part is when it feels like half an hour just passed to advance ten steps, and then you look down to the bottom and realize how many more painstaking, stomach-churning “half hours” you have left to go.

My fear of heights and the pack that felt like it could easily throw me off balance and hurtling down the slope was probably what made this descent feel a hundred times worse for me.

It was at this point that I knew this trip would be the hardest thing I’d ever do.

But what I love about these mental challenges is that it gives you so much strength for all of the other hard things that come up unexpectedly along life’s path. And really, after that, nothing on the trip seemed as insurmountable.

By day four, I think all of us had found our groove. We had each figured out the best ways to navigate the terrain, we knew what hours of hiking would feel like, and we had built confidence in ourselves and our team.

There was so much beauty to see, that I couldn’t understand why other hikers we met along the way were attempting the loop in two or three days! (Never mind why they’d want to, the thought of how they were going to was mind-boggling). There was so much to enjoy and savour that I don’t think I’d ever want to do the trail in less than nine days.

Those never-ending uphills felt so worth it when you got to another amazing view. And even until the last day, there was always something new to see — like the “quartzite highways”, The Lord of the Rings-like scenery, and the Jurassic Park forest.

We met many hikers during our journey — many more than we had anticipated. But then again, since we were moving at a senile pace it was no wonder that everyone starting before us was lapping us! While being in solitude for most of the trip was nice, it was great to meet and share stories with our fellow campers.

The last few days brought us sunshine and a day of much-needed rest. As our packs got lighter and we became acclimatized to our daily routine, we were finally able to pick up the pace!

Nine days is a long time to be out there and things that I didn’t know could hurt — like my elbows, of all things — hurt. But I loved (almost) every moment of this crazy hike and at times just felt so elated and fortunate to be out there. I’m looking forward to the next one!

– Cafe <3

If you didn’t answer the question on the first post: What’s the hardest thing you’ve done (physically and/or mentally)?

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

**This post was Freshly Pressed! Thanks to WordPress and to everyone who read, liked, and commented! Much love!

This epic adventure of our four young heroes begins on a gloomy, overcast morning.
The fifth of their band had fallen from the ranks.
Even Charlie, the Australian Shepherd, was to deny them his companionship on the long journey ahead.

Alas, the four heroes would march forth, a united army,
Into what was foretold to be days of thunderous storms and merciless showers.

Survival comes at a price, weighing heavily on their backs.
Our heroes enter the dark forests of Killarney,
Like knights forging into the abyss of battle.
How will they persevere for nine days when the first hour begs for relief?

The constant, piercing pain in their shoulders was unprepared for;
Every footstep on the uneven, rocky path becomes akin to lifting lead.
Did our heroes expect too much?
Delude themselves into believing that they were worthy of winning this war?

There is a momentary reprieve in the sojourn
As our band of ravenous travellers stop to refuel.
Chief’s succulent veal roast is devoured like The Last Supper.
A mountain of fluffy white rice nurses the mind’s wounds back to health.

Merry as elves, stomachs content with the feast,
Our heroes take up their pilgrimage once more.
Yet, what is said to take one hour extends into two for our weary crew.
Then, the first of them is hit.

Big J’s knee, giving way to the unforgiving terrain, waves the white flag.
Agony stretched across her face,
She attempts bravery in the midst of falling arrows,
Her comrades patch her up and again, they roar on.

Finally, as the merciful mirage appears to the worn desert travellers,
The sign to their first night’s home beckons.
After a few wrong turns and balancing perilously on narrow ridges,
Our exhausted heroes stumble into an oasis.

The fight is not over; it has only begun.
They know the worst awaits them in the mountains,
Like the sleeping dragon that will surely awake when neared.
Will our heroes survive and slay the beast?

Stay tuned …

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done (physically and/or mentally)? Why was it the “hardest thing”?

* * *

What’s up?! Okay, for those of you who are like, What has happened to Cafe and why is she talking like Shakespeare??? I thought that writing about my hiking trip adventures in the style of this week’s Writing Challenge by The Daily Post would be so much fun! I really did feel like this was an epic tale and seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever done, at least physically (but mentally, it was up there too!)

So I hope you enjoyed it and if you want to hear about the rest of the trip in this epic prose (hehe), holla in the comment box!

– Cafe <3

I’ll Miss You Forever, Boracay (Boracay Photo Blog 3)

I may become an emotional wreck writing this last Boracay post. Not sure if I’ll be able to hold my shit together. But you’re right, it must be done.

So here we go, people! As I said in my previous post in the Boracay series, there were many different excursions being offered on the beach. Every five steps there was another group of (usually) men ready with their sales pitch and “secret price.”

So, which ones did we choose? Continue reading