Modern explorer Kate Harris’s story may not compel you to follow in the skinny tire tracks she left on an often-gruelling bicycle trip on the ancient Silk Road trading route. But one thing is for sure: She’ll leave you breathless with her beautiful writing about her 10,000-kilometre cycling odyssey through 10 countries in her book Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road.
The book is the perfect Christmas gift for the aspirational explorer on your list. Better yet, gift yourself this luscious literary travelogue for snuggling up in front of a fire.
Harris, who grew up in small-town Ontario, always had a yen for adventure and a healthy curiosity about the universe, inspired by explorers like Marco Polo, Ferdinand Magellan and Charles Darwin.
“I was born centuries too late for the life I was meant to live,” she writes. In her modern world, she dreamed of being a scientist on Mars. Yet, her earthly trajectory took her far and wide in the halls of academia, studying at MIT and then Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
Through the years of studying and peering through microscopes in the lab, wanderlust pulled her like a magnet to explore ancient lands. She and Mel, her childhood friend, loaded their panniers with ramen, oatmeal and journals for their 11-month-long trek through countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Tibet.
“Maybe all meaningful journeys begin with a mistake. Some kind of transgression or false turn or flawed idea that sets a certain irresistible odyssey in motion,” begins the first chapter, Marco Made Me Do It.
Lands of Lost Borders is Harris’s inaugural travelogue and you can’t help but linger over her beautiful observations and turns of phrase. I caught myself rereading sentences and bookmarking passages, as she reflects on the human impulse to explore and her polished descriptions of far-flung places that most of us may never get to.
Get hygge with it: Scandinavia is having its moment
Maybe it’s the in-the-moment hygge trend – the Scandinavian philosophy of coziness and contentment – making its mark in everything food, décor and lifestyle. Or it could be the simple fact that the Nordic countries – Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – have caught our attention for their beauty and otherworldly scenery, and fascinating cultures.
After just 18 months of operating in Canada, 50 Degrees North, a top Scandinavian travel company, is expanding its Canadian offices in response to growing demand from travellers.
For 2019, 50 Degrees North has released new travel itineraries, both escorted and self-guided. The company offers many trips and here are two that caught my attention:
- Beautiful Norway: A 14-day independent tour that begins with exploring Oslo, followed by a steep and twisting railway journey to catch a ferry in Bergen. There, you’ll board a ship to cruise Norway’s stunning fjords.
- Snaelfellsnes & Golden Circle Self-Drive, a 10-day off-the-beaten path Iceland self-drive road trip adventure through western Iceland. Your days are filled with glacier walks, exploring ice caves and the incredible experience of Silfra snorkelling – you float between two tectonic plates beneath the ocean. And, of course, no trip to Iceland would be perfect without visiting the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.
For more details and a complete list of trip ideas, head to https://us.fiftydegreesnorth.com.
Be kind to yourself with a wellness weekend
With the holidays long behind us, February is just the right time for some (in the words of every wellness guru today) self-care.
The beautifully serene oceanside Oak Bay Beach Hotel in Victoria, B.C., is the setting for the Weekend Wellness Retreat, Feb. 1 to 3, 2019. The three-day retreat will be led by well-known wellness coach and The Life Delicious founder, Catherine Roscoe Barr. Guests get to learn about five in-depth modules on mindset, movement, nutrition, sleep and connection, based on neuroscience studies. Think of it as an extended spa session for the mind, body and soul.
Roscoe Barr’s goal is to get everyone recharged and revitalized by learning about how to manage stress, focusing on the positive, learning good sleep hygiene and physical activity habits. You’ll leave with a personal action plan for becoming healthier and less stressed.
Cost of the three-day retreat is $1,250 per person for a single occupancy package and double occupancy is $1,050 per person (including all fees and taxes). Included are two nights of luxury accommodation, healthy and delicious meals, guided exercise, lectures and discussions, access to the oceanfront spa and tranquil alone time.
Guests can extend their stay (pre-or post-weekend) for a discounted rate of $199 per night, for up to three days. To book, call 250-598-4556. More details at oakbaybeachhotel.com.
Troy Media columnist Lisa Monforton is an award-winning Calgary-based travel writer. Follow @lisamonforton on Instagram and Twitter.