Airbnb virgins no more

We’ve avoided traveling in recent years because it can be complicated, expensive and tiring. We’ve opted for stay-cations instead. This year, we decided to try something new in the hope it would make traveling easier and more enjoyable.

Living in the Northwest where several locations in Canada are just a short drive away. We only wanted to go somewhere we could drive to to avoid the headaches of planes and rental vehicles. We chose Calgary because it’s less a tourist destination than Vancouver, Victoria, or Banff. Few people go there in summer, that coupled with the exchange rate in our favor made for an affordable choice that would leave us spoiled for choice of accomodation.

Using Airbnb were found  accommodation with free parking for only USD$45 per night in a cool, trendy suburb within easy walking distance of the city. The place was a new and immaculately clean townhouse with our own private bedroom and bathroom with use of the kitchen. The hosts provided us fantastic advice on local cafes and restaurants that were the hot spots for locals. We traveled with a very small duffle bag and one small backpack between us. Everything else we needed as far as toiletries, towels, hairdryer, etc. were provided.

I made a short video of our room (sans la salle de bains) ….. Check it out! Not bad for $45 per night, eh?  Sorry, couldn’t resist slipping in the stereotypical Canadian “eh.”


This was our first time using Airbnb, and we were so glad we did. We never could have stayed so close to the city in a hotel of similar quality for anywhere near the same price. We were able to walk the beautiful Bow River trail along the edge of the city and take in the sights at our own pace. Having our vehicle with meant we could explore further afield and get around safely after dark. The only preparation needed in advance was to register with Airbnb, to book and pay for the room, then pack our bags and enter the destination in our GPS.

It wasn’t totally without complications. We ran into a bit of a hitch with Airbnb registration process. As they have grown, they’ve increased their security making all users provide sufficient verification of who you are. That’s fair enough. If I’m staying in a strangers home, they have every right to make sure I am who I say I am. It’s they means of proving who you are that posed a bit of a problem for us.

Because we live simply, we avoid using much social media, and a large part of the Airbnb verification process is giving them access to your social media contacts. Without that, we had to jump through a few hoops, but now that we are verified and have received positive feedback from our hosts, all future bookings should a snap.




Working toward my own Independence Day

by Bella Yesterday was the 4th of July. The day when millions of Americans celebrate the approval by the Continental Congress of “the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.”  It is typically seen as a celebration of freedom via independence from the British monarchy. In this modern world, freedom, to me, means something very different. This isn’t going to be political. I’ll save my thoughts on “freedom” in America for another time. This is about the only way to be truly free in the world today, by not having stuff that weighs you down and and imprisons you. So I guess this is about shunning shopping as a way of life, and striving to have only what you truly need. So what do we truly need? Food, clothing and shelter, right? If you really want to be the ultimate minimalist, well, I guess that would be the goal. In our modern society, achieving that isn’t really practical. You’d have to run off into the wilderness and survive off the land with no tools or weapons. Actually, there is an even more extreme example of true minimalism. The Greek philosopher Diogenes took voluntary simplicity far as you can go within a civilization. He lived in a barrel with only a cloak, a stick, and a breadbag. He had clothing in his cloak, shelter in his barrel, and food that he begged for and stored in his breadbag; so even he had a little luxury in keeping his stick as it provided none of the three true necessities. Still it would be hard to be more minimalist than that. Personally, I want to achieve something in between the extremes. I personally like some interaction with others, modern sanitation, a clean and safe place to live, comfortable clothing, access to a variety of foods, healthcare when I need it and, of course, technology. To have these these things, I have to participate in modern society, but it’s up to me how and to what extent I do that, and that’s where freedom comes in. Freedom, for me, is not being held back from doing the things I want to do. I don’t want societal norms to stop me, but more than that, I don’t want to be held back by useless possessions.  If I have money tied up in useless stuff that I then have to store somewhere, I am a prisoner to that stuff. A year ago, I wrote about our 9 goals on our journey to voluntary simplicity which sum up how we are working toward achieving a balance. We’ve made a great deal of progress, on several of these goals. I’ll give you a detailed update in the next post. We continue working toward the day that we can call our Independence Day. That day will be something to truly celebrate.

Super Cute Japanese Ami Elephants

by Bella

My last post talked about Zen inspiration. The simplicity associated with Zen Buddhism is not the only traditionally Japanes thing that I find myself drawn too.

A few months back, I shared pics of some of the little amigurumi toys that I make. My favorite pattern is a true Japanese pattern. It’s definitely the most complicated of all the ami I’ve ever made, but so worth the effort and pretty intense focus required. Thank you to Stephanie from All About Ami for translating the pattern and posting it for free with loads of pics and drawings that make it much easier to follow.

I’ve made 3 of them to date. The first one, I sold and have had requests for more. The two pictured here are special requests. One is for someone who was actually born yesterday. LOL!  A grandma ordered it for her grandson. Lucky I finished it early as he was 10 weeks premature. Don’t worry – I’m happy to say that the grandma says he’s doing well. The other elephant is for our eldest daughter. That’s right, we have another daughter, an absolutely gorgeous, very independent, highly intelligent and adventurous 19 year old. No, I am not biased. It’s all true. If anything, my description is an understatement. The sweet little elephant with the pink roses will be flying across the pacific to live with and be cared for by her in Australia. Lucky little bugger!

Zen inspired

by Bella

There is such beauty in simple things. I am transfixed by nature, design, food and art in their simplest forms. The Zen concept of simplicity is the ultimate example of this beauty.


There is something so peaceful and comforting in images of calm waters and balanced stones,  that I want my life to reflect it.

In this western world, I appreciate every Zen moment I am fortunate to experience. Each one is like the coming out of a long winter and feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin for the first time in months. I just stop, feel, experience it and carry that feeling with me.

image from

Just let it go: an email to my sister

by Bella

image source:

I’m getting to know my big sister all over again. We’re 6 years apart in age but the only girls in a family of 5 kids, so we were very close growing up. Time, distance, responsibilities, and the modern world caused us to grow apart. Until a few months ago, we hadn’t had any contact since our grandmother’s funeral in 2000.

Recently, she initiated contact with me and we’re writing regular emails to catch up on all that we’ve missed. One thing I’ve noticed is that my sister, though she desperately wants to be happy, really dwells on the past. She and her husband have so many lifestyle related ailments, that I’ve lost track of them all. They don’t seem to make the connection between how they live, eat and think to how they feel.

She wants to know all about me and my family, not just what we do, but who we really are. I have been very honest with her in the hope that by sharing our journey with her, she and her husband will be inspired to make some life changes that will bring them the happiness they so desire. In fact she just told me today that they sold their 2000 sq ft home, got rid of much of their stuff and moved into an 885 sq ft place, and they feel a huge weight lifted off of them. What a great start.

This is an excerpt from one of my early emails to her. It clearly resonated with her, and I hope that it will cause others to reevaluate what makes them happy. It’s about letting go of not only things, but of bad habits and toxic emotions …

“I’m glad that you’re finding some peace in your life. Desire is the source
of all pain. Desiring love from <others>, desiring to be rid of the things
that haunt or upset you, they all cause pain. It’s easier said than done,

but you *can* just let it go.

I’ve been pretty good at that in recent years, with a few exceptions.
Unless someone intentionally does something to me or my family, I let it
go. When someone is evil, I write them off and move on. It bothers me for a
while, but eventually I get over it, however I don’t forget.

When you left, I missed you, but was never angry at you for leaving. I

The thing that created the most distance between me and the family and me
and old friends is everyone’s strong held (stubborn) beliefs. I don’t want
to tell others what to believe or how to live their lives. I respect
people’s right to live and think as they like. The problem is that I expect
the same in return. It’s the lack of the return part which creates the
problem. Therefore, knowing that my desire to have respect returned and not
getting it causes me pain, So I let it go and, for the most part, have
removed the sources of that pain from our lives. Essentially, it sounds as
if that’s what you were doing when you moved away. I’m just sorry that
other pains plagued you for so many years, but glad to know you’re moving on
and can see that it only hurts you to hold onto it.

So about us. We are minimalists and gluten free, dairy free vegetarians
(I’m mostly vegan),

We’ve spent many years shopping, shopping and shopping like we were trained
by corporate America and the government to do. It made us miserable. Having
to find a place for all the stuff made us even more miserable. Now we’re
paying the price. It took very little time to accumulate all the stuff.
It’s taking ages to get rid of it. We’ve been selling it off and giving
things away, while only buying what we truly need, for 5 years now, and we
still have stuff to get rid of. We’ve finally set a deadline <and we have a goal>

Anything that’s not of any real monetary value or use <has to go>.
The stuff and getting rid of the stuff has become all consuming. We’ve
been doing it for so long now that trying to get rid of it, is making us as
miserable as buying it and storing it did. If we don’t just let it go, it will devour

The healthy, simple eating goes hand in hand with that way of thinking.
We’re cleansing our minds and our bodies. Eating healthy and exercising
gives us clarity of thought. It removes the brain fog, allowing us to
escape the hypnotic affects of the brain-washing that led us down the
consumerist path. It also creates space for new opportunities.”

I’m so proud of her for making changes in her life and really touched that she reached out to me. We’ve reconnected at a point in our lives where we want the same things, freedom and happiness. It’s wonderful to be able to support and encourage one another to achieve these goals.


George Carlin tried to tell us, but we didn’t listen

by Bella Jack and I put ourselves into a box more than 20 years ago. We met while traveling in England, got engaged and immediately thought we had to start accumulating stuff, settle into a home with our stuff, get more stuff, move into a bigger home…… I’d better stop short of plagiarizing the great, late George Carlin. Oh how I miss his brilliance, how he saw through all of the crap. He was trying tell us all the secret to happiness….but I digress. The point is that we were trying to live the lives that we thought we were supposed to live. We would work 9 to 5 jobs, buy cars and a home, fill it to the brim with nice stuff and that that was the secret to happiness.. It was even more about the stuff than the jobs, the cars and the house. So within a week of getting engaged, we had purchased our first BIG box full of stuff. We didn’t have a house to put it in, or even a car to transport it, let alone the jobs to pay for it, but that didn’t stop us. At one point, we had to transport our overloaded backpacks along with the BIG box on a packed commuter train to London. Even when the box burst open as we tried to hoist it off of the train, it didn’t dawn on us that maybe we shouldn’t have bought any of that stuff. We didn’t need any of it, not the queen size down duvet and matching pillows, the mattress and pillow protectors, the COMPLETE bedding set, the Bodum coffee plunger, the coffee mugs, the cookie and pastry cutters…Yes, you heard me right “cookie and pastry cutters.” What were we thinking? Instead of getting the loud and clear message when that BIG box burst open and screamed, “You idiots, you need to walk away, no RUN and leave me here. Be free,” we said to one another, “We really should stop traveling, ‘settle down’ and find a place for all our stuff. We had seen George’s routine, All My Stuff, and were big fans, yet it never occurred to us that in his 5 minutes of humor, he had revealed the secret to happiness. At the time, for us the pursuit of happiness equaled the pursuit of stuff.  As a result, we continued to do what we thought we were supposed to do and in doing so, put ourselves inside of an even bigger box. It would be nearly 20 years before that box would burst open, and we would set ourselves free. George was right.