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My name is Jeannie Mark

I’m a mid-lifer who quit a growing corporate career to reawaken my passions — and forge a life set by my own rules.

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The Philippines

Figures and Landscapes

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China

Moving Forward

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China

Before You Teach in China, Read This

This is Blogstock

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Don’t you love summer?

It’s the season of barbecues, sticky skin from slathered sunscreen and condensation sliding down a beer bottle.

It’s also the time of year to go camping.

I personally haven’t camped in quite a while, but come August I’ll get my chance.

From August 8th to 9th , 2014, I will be speaking once again (remember the first two occasions?) at the world’s first blogging festival!

Brussels: Where I Slept & What I Ate

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Where I Slept

Alone.

I sleep alone right now and it’s best that way. I snort loudly sometimes, often hogging the covers. My left hand has the tendency to curl up into a ball and stay in that state until I rouse. Weird, I know.

In case you were thinking of dating me, isn’t it best to be honest now?

When it came to sleeping in Brussels the emergence of theme hotels is at an all time high. I certainly don’t mean a gaudy, monstrous slab of architecture à la Las Vegas style, but something inherently European.

Eating was another matter, I ate food interlaced with a strong history. Some of it wild and wholly unexpected, others a pure pleasure to familiarize myself with.

This is Brussels

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Brussels is kind of dingy. That’s what a few people told me before I went.

This happens to me frequently. People find out what I do and then insert (sometimes without me even asking) their point of view about a city or country.

I’ve become a pregnant woman.

Pregnant women are often given unsolicited advice on what they should or shouldn’t do with their fetus and this continues well after the child is born. It must be worse with the onset of social media. A well meaning baby photo posted on Facebook becomes an advice column for the mommy critics.

Travelers love to talk about their travels with others, which is cool. They also become heady with tips. Do this. Go here. I hated that. 

What people constantly forget is a destination is very much opinion. It depends on who you were with. How long you stayed. What you chose to see.

Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, has three official languages — Dutch, German and French, and is home to the waffle. But it’s so much more than that.

Belguim marked a return to Europe since my running with the bulls experience in 2012. It’s been 2 years since I’ve seen medieval or gothic buildings, tasted cuisine that didn’t have chillies or loads of garlic, had to make sure my right ankle didn’t wrench on a cobblestoned street.

Travel is both personal and mainstream. I say mainstream because inevitably, we all gravitate to famous landmarks that teem with crowds and touts, but how we process them is intimate. Why we go is sometimes private.

Often my travels revolve around people and Brussels was about connecting with my friend Alison Cornford-Matheson, the blogging queen of CheeseWeb, the source for all things Belgium. We spent a few days together and enjoyed some sights, conversations and tasty food.

Via Rail Best Photos: Manitoba

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“You have two hours in Winnipeg,” said the cabin steward. “Enjoy it.”

Manitoba was a surprise. My mind was blank on what this province might be. It could be so many things, but also nothing.

Once the Via Rail train arrived to the Ontario-Manitoba border, a thick blanket of trees fell back and revealed open, bursting plains in golds. I was charmed.

Via Rail calls each transition corridors and once the Manitoba one began, I felt nudged back in time, when existence was simpler and nature was the jewel of beauty, not what was a glorified manmade machine.

Winnipeg is a diamond in itself. The downtown is called the Chicago of the north and it definitely had that feel of history carved in marble and stone — a resonance of a grand past melding quite well to the present day.

The most compelling thing about Winnipeg is the devotion to the arts, the food scene and the staggering amount of festivals (19 plus!). I was sure nothing could compel me to live in the prairies ever again, after concluding that Calgary held some depressing views (looking at those endless skies all your life can lead to an empty feeling) but Winnipeg made me rethink my ignorance.

I was so happy to connect with my designer, Janelle of Bloom & Brilliance once the train stopped in Winnipeg. She took me to the distinctive Exchange District, the French Quarter (she speaks French, uh huh), where we ended at the Forks, a green space downtown where the Assiniboine and the Red Rivers converge. I’m not sure what rocked the most, meeting her or exploring Manitoba. Basically, it all felt right and good.

Hopefully my photos tell you everything you need to know. Sign up for that damn Via Rail trip already, would ya?

Introducing Creative Revolution Retreats! Join Us February 2015!

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I’m beyond excited!!

I’m proud to finally unveil our writer’s retreat location and details. Leigh and I had many sleepless nights crafting and creating the ultimate retreat. We are finally ready. Drum roll…!

Creative Revolution Retreats

When: February 3rd to the 10th, 2015

Where? Samasati Nature Retreat on the gorgeous Caribbean coast of Costa Rica

What are we going to do? Spark Your Revolution!

Creative Revolution Retreats Facebook Page

View on the terrace at Samsati Nature Retreat

View on the terrace at Samasati Nature Retreat

This is the beginning of something amazing. Renewal always happens this way.

Writing taught me to express myself.

Writing gave me confidence.

Travel and writing about it gave me my voice.

Just writing period told me that I’m a writer.

Via Rail Best Photos: Ontario

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The journey began in the dark.

Night had taken over Toronto. Black, all encompassing, a slithering cloud of sleep dust.

Red lights flickered on, then off, and on again.

I stirred, tilted my head and saw velocity. Felt its power. Twinkling dots, shadows, those tremors that rumble from deep in the earth and rise – swooping past my window. I was watching atoms split and merge together.

So this is a Via Rail experience.

The train rattled and I slept.

A lurch woke me.

I opened my eyes. We were in Ontario.