When I first met Karen Schwartz—a mom of two and founder of Toronto's Kulture Klub—I was super impressed! Karen, who used to work for the famed teen travel company Westcoast Connection, had always been passionate about travel and loved nothing more than exploring new cities, navigating unfamiliar cultures, and immersing herself in the energy and excitement of being a tourist.
I could totally relate!
After finishing university back in 2005, I spent six weeks traveling through Spain and Morocco (with a side-trip to Istanbul, Turkey) and I still believe those were some of the most exciting and days of my life. When my husband and I took a three-week honeymoon to Greece and Spain in the spring of 2008—I felt the same thrill and adrenaline rush again. For me, there is nothing quite like travel.
Which is why I think I'm so taken with Karen's idea. The premise of the Kulture Klub is to encourage Torontonians to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture that exists right here in the city. You don't have to get on a plane to try new and exciting foods, learn exotic languages, and experience the joy of doing something you've never done before. Just book a sitter, grab your partner or a friend, and join Karen for one of her exciting cultural experiences.
Many of us are guilty of staying within the confines of own neighbourhoods, going to the same restaurants over and over again, and missing out on the vibrancy and culture that this city has to offer. "I spent my whole life in Toronto, and before starting the Kulture Klub I think I had only ever been to Little India twice," Karen admits. The Kulture Klub is her way of connecting others to the city's unique neighbourhoods, restaurants, and cultures—while indulging her own love of travel.
The Kulture Klub organizes amazing private events including corporate dinners, retirement parties, bridal showers, baby showers, girls' nights out...you name it! And, they also organize themed-events that are open to the public.
Currently, the Kulture Klub is kicking off its Local Latin Escape program designed to help Torontonians Blast the Winter Blahs! Three countries (Spain, Mexico, and Cuba) on three different nights (January 30, February 26, and March 28)...all involving amazing food and drink, coupled with a taste of local culture, entertainment, and language. (You don't have to sign up for all three to participate. The cost of each is approximately $75 to $85 +HST, and includes food, drink, and entertainment)
Other excursions the Kulture Klub has run include Kimchi and Karaoke in Korea Town and Journey to Japan.
So, if you're doing your best to stay happy despite the icky winter weather, or if you're wishing you had a flight booked somewhere exotic but it's just not happening this year, or if you just got back from vacation and are already wishing you could escape again—The Kulture Klub might be the perfect solution for you!
I can't believe it's already the middle of January. I've been avoiding 'real life' for the past few weeks and am finally getting back to work and reality.
My daughter and I just got back from a sunny week in Florida, where my greatest concern was keeping her well-hydrated and covered in sunscreen. We played in the sand and ocean and pool every day. We ate ice cream every night. We went to Busch Gardens where my toddler impressed me with her bravery, going on every kiddie ride by herself–sometimes twice. We ate in yummy restaurants every night. And, the best part was, we went on vacation with my parents, so they were around the whole time to help keep my kid entertained and happy. Prior to our vacation it was Christmas holidays and our schedule was packed with play dates, family dinners, and mini-adventures.
So here I find myself in mid-January, back at my desk, trying desperately to focus. The reality of life is starting to sink back in. In just under three months we're going to have a new baby and things are going to get even more hectic than they already are. In anticipation of this new arrival, my toddler (who will be turning 3 in February) is going through some serious mood swings. She's excited for 'her baby' to be born, but I think she senses that she's going to have to start sharing my attention, and at this point she's clinging on for dear life. I have a business to run, and despite the fact that come April I'm likely going to be a sleep-deprived, milk-producing zombie, I don't have nearly enough savings to stop working. Since there's no 'mat leave' for the self-employed, I have to figure out how I'm going to balance running my business, caring for my new baby, and continuing to give enough attention to my toddler to keep her happy.
And before all of that happens, I have to clear out of my home office (which I am quite attached to) and transform it into a nursery. The thought of this daunting task has already brought me to tears many times and has been the cause of many fights between my husband and me.
Looking outside at the leafless trees and the grey-ness of January, it's hard to stay positive. It's hard to feel motivated. I know I'm extremely lucky and that my problems are really small compared to some of the terrible things going on in the world. But, that's another problem I have: I find it so easy to get sucked into the bad news. It's so easy to go to a place of despair and sadness where you start to question, why is it that I'm bringing another innocent kid into the crazy, effed-up world?
It's easy to escape all of this during vacation, but how do you stay positive during day-to-day winter life?
I've devised a recipe which I'm going to try to adhere to for the next few weeks–at least until I get back in the swing of things. If you have anything that works really well for you, please share it in the comments below. I'd love your feedback.
1. Take a break from the news. That means no newspapers, no Google news, and especially no late-night TV news shows. It may sound crazy, but have you ever stopped to think about how depressing the news really is? I'm not advocating for being totally ignorant to what's going on in the world–if the situation is important enough, you're going to hear about it anyway. But why dwell in all of this negativity? Just take a break from it all, even if it's just for a week, and watch how much better you start to feel about life and the world around you. If you want to read something, try The Good News Network or HuffPost Good News.
2. Turn off the drama. That means no depressing books (This one I'll have to adhere to once I finish reading The Invisible Bridge, an amazing book recommended to me by Erica Ehm—which I fear is about to get really sad) and no overly-dramatic television shows (luckily, there is only one episode left of Parenthood this season and then I'm going to switch my attention to the singing and dancing of NBC's Smash).
3. Enjoy small luxuries and make time for you. January is a really great time to take up a hobby, or start seeing a life coach, or to set aside some time every week to focus on you. I'm starting a Salsa Tots class with my daughter this week because I think it will be great exercise and quite hilarious for us to shake our booties together. I'm also getting back into my weekly yoga practice. And, I'm committing to working with my dad (who happens to be a great life coach and has helped me navigate many career and life challenges) at least once a week. I'm also going to make time for little things, like date nights with my husband and trips to the spa for an impromptu manicure. These little things have the amazing ability to make life seem more sweet.
4. Try simple affirmations. Turning your hopes, dreams, and goals into mantras that you repeat daily, or write on little note cards and post all over your house (think: mirrors, windows, bulletin boards) can do a lot to lift your spirits. Louise Hay is a big proponent of affirmations and you can use her Daily Affirmations site to help get you started. For example, posted on my window above my desk I have written: "I attract meaningful, easy, fun, well-paying work in abundance!" When I'm stressing about work, I read this out loud–and I believe it.
5. Spend time in your Happy Place. I plan to fill this blog with tons of great news stories over the next few months, so feel free to come back often and see what I'm doing in my Happy Place. And then, find your own Happy Place—it can be a physical place like a cozy book shop, a window-seat in a cafe, or a bubble bath, or it can be a non-physical 'place' like a travel magazine, photos from a recent vacation, or somewhere serene you visit in meditation. Go there often. Enjoy the feeling of calm. Breathe deeply. And, before you know it, spring will be upon us!