No Longer Lost

Hello beautiful platform, thank you for waiting. It’s been a while. 

Last time we spoke, Bryson and I had just hiked and stayed overnight on top of a sacred mountain. A few days later, we started packing up our lives on the other side of the world, doing our best to ready ourselves for the end of the 2016 Japanese adventure.

I still have some special moments to share from our time away, but to tell you the truth, it’s been hard letting the last of the memories go. Please understand that I need a bit of time with them before I am able to share them with you all, but also trust that they will come your way, in time, they will come.

As you may have seen in a previous blog post, for the year of 2016, I decided against resolutions and chose to live up to a word instead. The word I chose was “grow”, or should I say it chose me…

I’m not entirely sure where the word came from, but it sort of popped into my head before the year even started, sort of like a little heads-up for the year ahead. Although I questioned it, I chose to trust the word and live by it to the best of my abilities. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, and my time in Japan, you’ll know that that lil’ old word rang oh so true!

We started 2017 with friends, midnight temple walks, and 6am Karaoke ballads. Ten days later, we would be leaving the crazy and amazing country that had become our home over the past year.

It was both exciting and hard coming back to Canada. We both had butterflies about how we would feel coming back to a place that we had grown so far from.

Slowly but surely we slept off our time difference, and surrounded ourselves with the city we grew up in.

If I’m being honest, it’s been a difficult adjustment for me. Similar to what many other travellers have experienced, we went from exploring new places every day to strolling through a city that we knew better than the back of our hands. I felt lost in a place I knew so well, because I felt like I had left a large part of myself and my personal growth back in Japan.

That is when my new word for the year of 2017 chose me. This year is going to be the year of “me”.

Now I know this might sound selfish but really, a little selfishness is ok if you’re dedicating it to bettering yourself.

Through this year of me I have decided to:

Believe.

Give.

Trust.

Accept.

Focus.

Dream.

Create.

Learn.

Commit.

Forgive.

Care.

Question.

and Transform into someone who is no longer lost, but knows exactly who she is.

So let’s catch up and talk about what I’ve been up to lately…

  • I went snowshoeing for the first time in 12 years.
  • I went snowmobiling for the first time ever with my love.
  • I’ve learned how to snowboard in 2 days.
  • I’ve given myself a minor black eye.
  • I’ve almost given myself a concussion.
  • I’ve soaked my cold bones in a hot tub overlooking the most beautiful snowy mountains I have ever seen.
  • I’ve become a vegetarian.
  • I’ve started doing yoga almost every second day.
  • I’ve put myself out there and met amazingly beautiful like-minded people.
  • I’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid!
  • I have been spending a lot of time with my love, my family, and my friends.
  • I’ve been honest about my feelings in every situation.
  • AND I’ve listened to my inner self and thanked her everyday for being brave enough to focus on what she truly wants.

So without further ado, here are some of my recent memories that I’d like to share with you.

Talk soon 

Mount Koya

Bryson and I recently hit our 9th month of living in a city centre. As convenient and exciting as it is living in such a high traffic area, nothing beats escaping to the mountains for a breath of fresh air.

About one month ago, Bryson and I booked a night at a beautiful buddhist temple on the top of a famous mountain called Mount Koya. The temple we stayed in is over 1,000 years old and sits in a town in the centre of a mountain range (which is said to be shaped like a lotus flower), with 120 other temples surrounding it, as well as a very famous and sacred cemetery.

Most people choose to take the train and cable car to the top of the mountain, but we decided to follow a network of pilgrimage trails from halfway up the mountain. There are many different trails to choose from, the longest taking about 1 week to complete.

We chose to follow a well known spiritual trail that took us about 3 hours. Every 100 meters or so, there stands a stone marker that was placed to help the pilgrims find their way both up and down the mountain range.

Each stone marker has a number carved into it in Kanji. There are 180 markers on the trail, and each are made to represent the five buddhist elements, Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Void.

We couldn’t believe the incredible shades of green along the trail, as well as the beautiful spiritual energy that followed us from the start, all the way to the top of the mountain range.

As we finished our hike and made our way through the town of Koya to our temple, the sun was setting and the air was beautifully cool and crisp.

We were immediately greeted by the owner of the temple and he quickly showed us the facilities.

He showed us the eating area where we would be served a vegan dinner and breakfast the following morning.

He showed us the amazingly warm and ever-flowing bathing areas where we would soak our cold bones in a gorgeous wooden bamboo bath that filled up past our shoulders.

He showed us the area where we would go watch the monks chant the following morning at sunrise.

And he showed us our cozy tatami room, where we would spend our time drinking tea, relaxing, and admiring the view.

The following day we check out after breakfast and walked towards Okunoin Temple. This temple is said to be one of the most sacred places in Japan, as it is known for holding the founder of Shingon Buddhism, who is said to be resting there in an eternal meditation. This temple is also known for having one of the largest cemeteries, with over 200,000 tombstones nestled between the most beautiful old growth forest.

As we walked along the path, the sun was peaking through the trees and water was beginning to evaporate off of the moss covered tombs and statues. It was truly stunning and unlike anything we had ever seen.

As you can imagine, we were very reluctant to the return back to the city.

I think we can see ourselves living like this every day.

xo

Oh The Colours

If I were to recommend a time to visit Japan, it would be in the autumn. As unbelievably beautiful as cherry blossom season is, the glorious fiery hues that glow against the deep greens during the fall season are absolutely breathtaking 

More posts coming very soon!

xo

Endometriosis

This is a pretty long post, and if you make it to the end, I want to thank you for being here and taking this journey with me as I put this whole thing into words. I am not looking for sympathy, this post is meant merely to inspire and educate anyone who is going through or has gone through a similar situation. 

When I was 17 years old, I woke up two nights in a row with intense pain in my abdomen. On the second day, I went to the hospital and was told after ultrasounds and CT scans, that I had a cyst in both of my ovaries, about 7cm to 8cm in diameter. I was immediately advised to start taking birth control to help subside the pain and regulate my periods. After 4 months of no improvement, I was booked in for a laparoscopic surgery. This surgery was meant to remove the cysts and excess tissue, much like the modern day removal of an appendix with very small incisions.

The procedure was scheduled to last for 1 hour, and turned into a 4 hour operation, as there was a lot more tissue that needed to be removed than expected. I woke up with a five-inch incision right above my pelvis.

Instead of being sent home the same day, I was told that I needed to stay in the hospital for about four days so that they could monitor my progress. I’ll leave out the details, but the whole experience was not pleasant. I was put into a room with other women suffering from thyroid cancer, diabetes, miscarriages, and to this day, I count myself VERY lucky.

During my second day in the hospital, my doctor came in and told me that I had stage four endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic disorder where tissue from your uterus attaches itself to other parts of your pelvis including outside of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, pelvic walls, and anywhere it can reach really. This movement and attachment of tissue is associated specifically with menstruation and it is actually a lot more common than one might think. 5 million women in the United State alone suffer from Endometriosis, and the frequency of misdiagnosis for this debilitating illness is incredibly heartbreaking.

Endometriosis is classified into four stages, stage four being the most severe. Not to pat my uterus on the back here, but stage four is pretty darn rare for a young 17 year old girl to have.

My body hurt for the first month back home. One week after my operation, I was actually able to drag myself to my winter formal IN HEELS! I still remember my mom cinching in the waist of my vintage dress on the day of the event, because I had lost some weight. It was painful, but worth seeing my boyfriend in a kilt!

This all happened about 7 years ago. Since then, I have been put on 4 different types of birth control to help regulate my menstruation and stop my body from allowing the same thing to happen.

This was a tough pill for me to swallow (pun intended), as I come from a pretty organic and natural upbringing. The first two pills (Alesse and another I cannot remember the name of) were oestrogen based and made me throw up every month at 3am when I took the first pill after the placebos. I also experienced spotting for 30 days in a row on one of those pills. As those two were not agreeing with my body, and my periods were still unbearably painful, I was put on another pill called YAZ. This pill actually agreed with my body and made my breast grow (great for a girl like me), but YAZ was shortly discontinued due to its effects on women including fatal blood clots.

About 3 years ago, I was advised by my specialist to try a progesterone-based pill (kind of a last resort at this point). This pill called Visanne, is not your normal birth control pill. It is meant to be taken everyday without stopping to completely suppress your period. My doctor advised me to try it as not only would it suppress my painful periods, but also it would probably help save my fertility, as the operation was fairly invasive.

After 4 years of intense pain and discomfort, and the unpredictability of the way my body was reacting to the other pills, this pill surprisingly agreed with my body and actually allowed me to go about my day-to-day life. Even prior to the operation, my periods had always been heavy, long lasting, and incredibly debilitating.

For once, I felt free! I wasn’t getting sick, I wasn’t doubled over in pain, I didn’t have uncontrolled spotting, I felt normal!

So three years ago, I started taking this pill, and about 3 months ago, I decided to come off of it.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog at all, you know I suffer from anxiety and I’ve recently moved to Japan for the year which has definitely heightened it all. I hit the biggest wall I have ever hit mentally this past summer where I found myself spending days crying and I mean CRYING my eyes out on the floor, wishing my clenched anxiety ridden stomach would just STOP for a moment so that I could actually eat and function like a normal human being.

During this time, I had a huge amount of support from my family back home, and especially Bryson who would curl up on the floor with me and tell me how strong I was every day.

I got a call from my mom who had spoken to my specialist back home, and I was advised to come off of the pill. As many women know, birth control pills have all kinds of side effects, and for some reason this pill had apparently heightened my anxiety over the years.

The thought of coming off of the pill was terrifying, let alone coming off of the pill in a foreign country so far from home. For once in my life this pill had allowed me to go about my day-to-day life without debilitating pain.

But, for those who suffer from anxiety, I feel like many of us would choose pain over the overwhelming sense of panic.

So that night, I didn’t take the pill.

Just like that, the next morning I woke up feeling like me.

No anxiety, no discomfort, no influence of anything in my body.

After 7 years I met myself again, and boy did I miss her.

After about 1 month off of the pill, I got my first period. It had been three years since my last period and I definitely hadn’t forgotten the feeling of it all, but this time, I felt different, in a good way! Instead of dreading these feelings, I immediately embraced them as my body just doing its natural thing.

This acceptance has helped me change my outlook on both my body as a whole and my periods. Instead of seeing them as a monthly chore, I’ve chosen to welcome this natural womanly process and thank my body for being so strong and amazing.

One thing I sort of took for granted during my time on the pill, was that I didn’t need to buy and use tampons or pads. It honestly felt pretty good knowing that I didn’t have to generate waste every month and harm the environment by throwing these feminine hygiene products (full of bleach, chlorine, lotion, perfume, and glue) and their packaging away.

I’d heard about menstrual cups, but didn’t look too much into the idea, as it hadn’t been on my mind for the past three years. After buying a box of tampons in Japan and seeing that the cashiers doubly wrap them in dark plastic bags, separate from all of your other groceries to ensure that nobody sees your “embarrassing” purchase, I decided it was time to move on from the wasteful products.

I did some research and decided to contact a company called OrganiCup.

OrganiCup is a menstrual cup for women that if used correctly, can last up to 10 years! Their packaging is made up of recycled paper, their products come with a reusable organic cotton bag, and the menstrual cup itself is made of a very soft silicone, so it is really easy to use.

If you take a look at their website, you can see just how much money you can save in the long run by buying a menstrual cup, as well as how much positive impact using a reusable feminine hygiene product can have on the environment every year. You can also read about the different ways tampons and pads affect your body negatively (including the unnatural additives as well as the dryness and irritation they can cause) when compared to a menstrual cup.

They also go on to explain how to properly insert and clean the OrganiCup, as well as the many other benefits that come along with it.

In short, switching to a menstrual cup is kind of a no-brainer, especially one with such environmentally friendly packaging, great customer service, and really informative diagrams and blog posts!

It has only been a few months since I came off of the pill and so far my body is reacting really nicely to this change, but I’m honestly not sure what to expect with how I will feel in the future.

I don’t know if the Endometriosis will come back and I don’t know if my periods will become debilitating and painful again. But for now, I’m choosing to be embrace this new me and be proud of myself.

I’m proud of myself for trusting in my body and coming off of the pill.

I’m proud of myself for being in a foreign country and managing my anxiety.

I’m proud of myself for making the decision to switch to an environmentally friendly menstrual product.

I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to actually write about this subject on my blog after years of procrastination.

AND I’m honestly surprised that I went through this whole post without saying the word Vagina. There. I said it.

xo

Chloe

Seven

Around this time last month, Bryson and I celebrated our 7 month Japanniversary, as well as our 7 year anniversary.

We chose to make this year a little more memorable by taking a seven day trip to Ishigaki Island, one of Japan’s southernmost islands.

We spent our nights at Iriwa Guest House (the most beautiful, relaxing, and cozy guest house on the planet), and our days swimming in the beautiful clear blue waters surrounding the island. The staff at Iriwa were the most friendly, inviting, and warmhearted people, and the guests visiting from all over the world, were equally as lovely.

We would spend our mornings outside drinking tea, swinging in a hammock, listening to the cicadas sing, and enjoying the view of the dancing sugar cane fields. Our afternoons would be spent ducking under banana leafs on our way to the nearest beach, where we would spend the rest of the daylight hours exploring the ocean’s reefs and shell and coral covered beaches. In the evening we ate local foods, made new friends, played card games, and learned songs on the ukulele, guitar, harmonica and bongo drums.

We were also lucky enough to spend a day visiting Taketomi Island, an island known for it’s traditional architecture and population of under 350 people.

I don’t think a day goes by where we don’t talk about picking up and moving our lives over to Ishigaki Island, to live like we did during those magical eight days.

The warmth, blue waters, and beautiful people, are memories that will never be forgotten.

At the end of this post is a little video of the first firefly Bryson and I have ever seen. We were trekking through a pitch-black sugarcane field, trying to find a fresh body of water to better our chances at seeing one. It had just started raining and we were beginning to lose hope, when all of a sudden one appeared like a little forest spirit dancing between the rain drops.