All posts by Ian McKenzie

This Summer Leave No Trace

We’re preparing our travel trailer for several weeks of camping over the next couple or three months. Part of our preparation is ensuring that our activities do not leave a mark or effect on the natural or cultural environments we visit.

What does it mean to leave no trace? It means enjoying outdoor activities to the fullest yet leaving no sign that you were ever there.

Leave No Trace Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting outdoor ethics, promotes an environmental education program to raise public awareness regarding the importance of respecting Canada’s wilderness and natural areas by providing the public with proven solutions to protect and enjoy our natural areas.

The program has seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What you Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impact
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Others.

Some of the ways you can put the principles into practice:

  • Pack out all garbage, and pick up garbage left behind by other campers
  • Take only pictures
  • Hike along existing trails whenever possible
  • Don’t wash dishes (or bathe) directly in lakes, rivers, streams or ponds
  • Use biodegradable soaps and shampoos
  • Don’t feed or harass wildlife
  • Use stoves, where possible, instead of an open fire
  • Respect the rights of fellow campers – keep voices low and leave radios at home
  • Don’t cut down living plants or trees
  • Buy or repackage food into burnable or reusable containers
  • If you have a large group, divide into several smaller parties and camp on different sites at least 100 metres apart to lessen environmental impact
  • Don’t dig trenches around tents, and don’t dig holes for grease pits

7 free or almost free things to do this summer

This week marked the solstice and the start of summer in this part of the world. You may have your summer activities marked out, or you may still be wondering how to spend your time. There are lots of inexpensive summer activity in which to indulge.

  1. Catch up on your reading – take advantage of the extra daylight and free time to dig into those books you’ve been putting off reading. Make sure you add some fiction to the list.
  2. Make a kite – with some newsprint, some sticks and string, you can build a basic kite and fly it in the park.
  3. Tune up your photography skills – dust off the camera, read some photography tips and spend some time taking pictures of everyday objects.
  4. Get active – turn off the television and unplug the video games. Get the whole family active. Your heart will thank you.
  5. Become a social media influencer – Alright, this is not so much a one-off summer activity, but if you think you have something to share, why not start this summer?
  6. Attend concerts or plays – find out where local entertainers are performing in your community. There will often be free or inexpensive outdoor performances.
  7. Plant a garden – planting a garden usually takes place in the spring. There are also plants you can use to enhance your landscape, which are best planted in late summer or early fall.

5 Tips to Help Simplify Your Life

  1. Make a list of your five most important goals. You can’t achieve your goals if don’t know what they are. Do you wish you had more time for your family, your friends, or your faith? The act of reflection can create insights and opportunities toward achieving what matters most.
  2. Turn it off. Just because you have a phone, a television, a computer, a PDA, etc., doesn’t mean you need to have them on all the time. Even short breaks from incoming media can shift your perspective. Take a walk, meditate, read, or reflect.
  3. Invest your time. Spending money is easy. Anyone can buy presents on-line, but a phone call, coffee, an evening of board games, or tray of home-made treats will create memories that last longer than any purchase.
  4. Leave work at work. Don’t let your work routine take over your life. Try not to take work home everyday. Take lunch breaks and leave on time. Use all your vacation time: see what type of flex-time arrangements you can make with your employer.
  5. Count Your Blessings. You don’t need to have the newest version of every product on the shelf. Countless millions of people on our planet live on a dollar a day or less. We have more than our grandparents could have even imagined. Don’t take your blessings for granted. Count them and be thankful for what you have.

Protect Your Peace of Mind With a Home Inventory

Friends of ours were at work, one day a couple of years ago, when they received a phone call they didn’t want. Their house was on fire. They live in a newer neighbourhood where houses are close together. The fire started in a neighbour’s house and quickly engulfed two others.

Our friends lost everything. Insurance covered rebuilding the house and replacing contents, but it couldn’t bring back mementos and personal itmes.

Every day we see news reports of homes being destroyed by fire or devastated by flood waters. Even more numerous are the unpublicized instances of break-ins and home thefts. For the most part, these accounts fade into the background as we think to ourselves – ”it’s okay, I have insurance.” And while the peace of mind that property insurance provides allows us all to sleep at night, most don’t realize what a traumatic experience these events can be.

“Trying to remember all the items in your home can add to an already stressful event. Having an inventory of items in your home is one of the best ways to prepare yourself,” states Stefanie Hay, insurance and claims expert with Aviva Canada.

Besides helping ensure you have the right amount of insurance; an inventory will help settle your insurance claim faster and verify losses for your income tax return.

Sure, but who has time to go through every item in their home? The task need not be onerous and can be as easy as taking a video account of each room in your home.

Many insurance companies also prepare content lists that can act as a helpful starting point. AvivaCanada.com recommends separating the contents into categories:

  • Clothing, books, tools, toys, bicycles, and other items
  • Jewelry, silverware and other valuables
  • Computer equipment, gaming consoles and software

Whether you conduct a video or written inventory of your home, don’t forget to keep your inventory in a safety deposit box or at a trusted home. That way you’ll be sure to have something to give your insurance representative if your home is damaged. You should also keep a record of legal documents, such as birth certificates and passports, and financial documents, such as bank account and insurance policies on your inventory.

Make a Choice to Live Your Life

Life is About Choices and the Decisions We Make

Life is a road. It may be long or short; smooth or rocky; crooked or straight, but you’re on a journey. Occasionally, you reach a crossroad. With a choice to make and no guarantee where the road leads, which road do you choose?

There are no guarantees.

You will not know where a road will lead until you take it. There is no guarantee the choices you make will lead to happiness, fame, fortune or contentment. There are always circumstances beyond your control. You only control decisions you make, and your response to what happens.

Wrong decisions are seen in hindsight.

If you knew you were about to make an unwise decision, would you continue? Perhaps not—though certain destructive behaviours work that way. Why decide if you knew from the start it was incorrect? It is only after you have decided and experienced the consequences that you realize the decision was right or wrong. If the outcomes are good for you, then you have decided correctly. Otherwise, your decision was wrong.

Take the risk: decide.

Since life offers no guarantee and you won’t know if your decision will be wrong until you have made it, take the risk, and decide. It is better than going nowhere because you can’t make up your mind. One wrong turn might get you lost. However, it could lead to opportunity or new roads. It is all a matter of perspective.

However, do not make you decisions haphazardly. Taking risks is not about being careless and stupid. Here are some pointers that can help you choose the best road:

  • Learn as much as you can about your situation. The less you know about your situation, the more difficult it is to make a confident decision. Ask the 5 W’s: what, who, when, where, and why. What is the situation? Who is involved? How did it happen? Where is it leading? Why are you in that situation? These are some of the questions to ask to learn more about your situation. This is a crucial step. It’s difficult to move forward if you don’t know where you are.
  • Identify and create options. What options does the situation give you? If you can’t find options, create your own. From the simple to the complex, examine all ideas. Your most outrageous idea could prove to be the right one in the end.
  • Weigh each option. Assess each option by looking at the pros and cons. In this way, you gain some insight into the consequences of each option.
  • Trust yourself and make a decision. Now that you have assessed your options, trust yourself. You won’t know the outcomes until you move on a decision.

Once you have decided, face its outcomes: good or bad. The road chosen may take you to a place of opportunity or to a land of difficulties. The important thing is that you have chosen to live actively, instead of being a passive bystander. Do not regret the outcome. Instead, learn from it and make better decisions in the future.

Personal Objectives for Life Balance

More than ever before, we play many roles in our lives. We are workers, parents, spouses, friends, caregivers, and volunteers in their communities. We also try and make room in our lives to take care of our own well-being. Not surprisingly, achieving balance among all these competing priorities can be difficult. Here in Canada 58% of people report overload associated with their many roles.

While you can’t control all the factors that impact your work/life balance, there are some things you can control. Life is made up of several parts working together to bring the balance needed for optimal wellness:

  • Physical: nutritious food, safe water, healthy air, exercise
  • Mental: intellectual challenges, knowledge, thoughts
  • Emotional: feelings, belonging, security
  • Philosophical: authenticity, spirituality, meaning, attitudes
  • Social: relationships with others, friendships
  • Career: finances, fulfillment
  • Recreational: leisure, fun, sports

Finding the ideal balance between work and life is rare. The nature of that balance is different for every person and can change over time. We shouldn’t try for perfection, but constantly be aware of making choices that will benefit all aspects of our lives. Achieving work/life balance is an investment – it takes time and effort to implement. But it’s worth the effort.