World Tourism Day

World Tourism Day - September 27

Sun, sea, beach, relaxation, hotels, airplanes, sightseeing… All things you think about when it comes to tourism, right? But this industry involves so much more than that.

Tourism is all about people -from all layers of society- destinations, experiences, environments and even governments. It has social, cultural, economic and political value. To emphasize the importance of this industry in all of the previous mentioned facets, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) introduced World Tourism Day in 1980.

The date, every year on 27th September, was chosen since it indicates the end of the high season in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of the season in the southern hemisphere. On this day, we celebrate tourism, and maybe even more importantly, we address the eight Millennium Development Goals set up by the United Nations:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Global partnership for development

world tourism dayWe leave our footprints with everything we do. Tourism in general leaves an enormous footprint on planet Earth and can have drastic consequences. ‘Sustainability’ is a word often related to tourism, as we want “to develop tourism in the most sustainable way possible”. But what does the word ‘sustainability’ actually mean? It’s a vague concept, but simply put it means that tourism needs to take full account of the economic, political, cultural, social and environmental impacts it has. An almost undoable task, made harder even by people and government’s personal interests and corruption.

But I’m not here to only point out the negative aspects of the industry. Tourism is two-faced. World Tourism Day is also a day of celebration. The WTD blogger competition for example showcases some of the success stories of this incredible industry. From voluntourism to community development and from community based tourism to rewarding traveling experiences, it’s all there.

My life and tourism

Maaike in CambodiaI have a rather long history when it comes to the concept of ‘tourism.’ About 16 years ago, when I was six, I started playing ‘travel agency.’ What I did was getting all the travel brochures my parents had collected over the years and an old computer keyboard out and I got creative with crayons and paper.

My parents and friends had to browse through the travel brochures, I would ‘check’ availability for them and ‘book’ their hotel and flight ticket. I even gave them some extra information about the destination they were traveling too (all made up with that crazy imagination of mine) and print their flight tickets (writing down some random letters and numbers on a piece of paper).

Later on, I became really interested in meeting people from abroad and learning about other cultures. That’s why I started to look for pen pals online and joined the travel website Virtual Tourist (‘’Meeting the People Behind the Places’’).

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It’s Hug a Vegetarian Day. Can you go without eating meat?

Can you go without eating meat? Hug a vegetarian day

Ever heard of “Hug a Vegetarian Day”? I am pretty sure you think I am making this up. But no, it is real, and if you know someone who is a vegetarian, go hug them!

I have been a vegetarian for over six years now and it has really been the best decision I have ever made in my life.

I lost some superfluous weight back then, and nine months ago I got a perfect bill of physical health. My first A+!

  • An interesting fact: for every vegetarian out there, up to 100 animals are saved each year.

But being a vegetarian is not just about that. Another advantage of following this way of life is that it helps the environment, and it leads to an improvement of your health, too.

Remember, you just have to make sure you get the proteins, minerals, and vitamins you need via other sources than meat.

In fact, you can try to do what some people are experimenting on: eating vegetarian meals once, twice or three days a week. You can still make part of the change that will contribute to the world and also to yourself.

Check out how being a vegetarian can do wonders:

Helping the environment

The production of grains, fruits and vegetables:

  • Discharges less CO₂than meat. For example, one steak weighs 66 times more on the environment than one serving of potatoes does, which means that one vegetarian protects the Earthfrom approximately 1 ton of carbon dioxide per year overall.
  • Uses up to 1,000 times less water than the meat production.
  • Uses a lot less energy (for the heating of stables, and the transportation of the food for the animals)
  • Protects against overgrazing, soil erosion, and deforestation.
  • Pollutes less.

Source: Professor Jørgen E. Olesen, Aarhus University, FAO, The Council of Agriculture (Denmark), among others.

Helping the animals

Hug a Vegetarian DayIn conventional farming, the efficiency is so high that it goes beyond animal welfare -both in the stables and when they are sent to the slaughterhouse. Not even the modern fisheries production -with the overfishing, discarded bycatch, big fish hatcheries and medication- is unproblematic for the fish and our conscience.

Helping your health

There are several benefits of eating a vegetarian-based diet such as extending your lifespan. The risk of getting heart diseases or even a number of some forms of cancers lowers. You will not get any kind of meat bacteria like salmonella or campylobacter or leftover hormones, and medicine used in animal breeding.

Source: The Health Association (Denmark), WWF, British Medical Journal, among others

If you choose to get your animal products from organic farms, you’re supporting animal welfare and thereby actually helping the animals after all.

If you choose to have two -or more if you are up for it!- meatless days (Meatless Mondays, Fish Fridays. Of course you choose which days you want to eat vegetarian food) during the week, you are not only helping the environment, but you are helping your health.

It can be hard to go 100% vegetarian, but to be vegetarian for just two days a week is actually a really good way to get a healthy and varying diet. Plus, you get to try something new!

Tell us in the comments if you can dare to go at least one day without meat, and don’t forget to hug your veggie friends!

- Camilla

Losing Someone to Alzheimer’s

when is world alzheimer's day? 21 september

I never knew my Dad’s father. He was alive for 15 years of my life and he definitely was a constant in it. But I never knew him, the real him. Now that it’s September 21, and it’s World Alzheimer’s Day, I want to remember those last moments that I treasure so much.

To me he was always that grumpy old guy who -as far as I can remember- didn’t really talk to his grandchildren. I never had a close relationship with my Dad’s side of the family. I hated going to visit my grandparents because I was always bored and was rarely allowed to bring a friend. I never felt loved by them. Not until now that they both passed away.

But it’s especially my grandfather who’s stuck in me.

It’s been over nine years since he fell -maybe even jumped; we can’t prove that he did, but it’s a possibility- in the stream right by their backyard. He had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Due to his Parkinson’s, he walked around with a broomstick without the broom. He used it for support, and every night he would take a walk in the backyard.

On Monday June 13th, 2005, he took his last walk. The last couple of years of his life were really tough on him, both physically and mentally. He had to miss my Christian Confirmation because he didn’t have the strength.

One day, before the incident happened, I was lucky enough to get to see an entirely different side of him. And I’d never felt more loved than that day.

The Alzheimer’s had definitely done his damage on him and he asked about how my Mom’s side of the family was doing, several times. He forgot a lot of the stuff I told him and asked about it again and again.

I remember how he stared into the air while my Dad and his then girlfriend told my grandparents that she was pregnant and due on November. He was crying. I could tell he was sad about it, and I think that we both knew he wasn’t going to live that long.

I got three goodbye hugs from him that day. He kept forgetting that he’d already hugged me, but I certainly didn’t mind. He wasn’t someone who did that, and I don’t even remember hugging him before that day. He even hugged my then stepmother, albeit he didn’t like her.

with me 300

I guess maybe he loved her for giving him another grandchild even though he knew he wasn’t going to live long enough.

Now that he’s gone and I know him a lot more than I ever did, I have to confess something.

I kind of hate my father for never sharing him with my brother or me. Now I know that I will make sure to share him with my baby sister who I know he felt sad that he’d never get to meet -even if his death wasn’t a suicide.

Only one photo exists of him and I together and it’s one of my most prized possessions.

I love and miss you, Grandpa, and I’m so glad that I now know and understand you in a way that so many others can’t.

- Camilla

What power do introverts have?

Quiet, solitude, introversion is power. Quote.

About a month ago I wrote a post about discovering introversion, and since then I have been researching the subject nonstop.

I am currently in the process of reading two books on introversion, Quiet, by @susancain, and Introvert Power, by @lauriehelgoe.

Both of these books have given me so much knowledge on introversion, and I thought that I would share some things that I have learned. I definitely recommend them if you want to learn more about the awesomeness of being an introverted person.

So, to get things started, I wanted to point out something that I mentioned in my earlier post.

I said that that introverts are a minority in the population. This -as I found out- is not true. Although it may seem like that to us, we actually make up half to one third of the population.

- That means that 1 out of every 2-3 people, are introverts.

The reason why we seem like a minority is because a lot of us mask ourselves as extroverts. As stated by Susan Cain in her book Quiet:

mask

“We live with a value system known as the Extrovert Ideal, the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight”.

Meaning that the ideal person for a society is one that is sociable and very outgoing, which is the opposite of what an introvert is, so most hide themselves as extroverts in order to fit in.

I really could go on about this, especially here in the United States, where extroversion is quite common. I’ve read so much in these books, that it blows my mind at how much we favor them. However, I have nothing against extroverts, but it can be hard to be a quiet person in a loudmouth world.

Quiet people are almost always labeled as weak or lacking ( which is something I know from experience ) and I for one HATE that!

Introverts have power

We do. We have power, and it should not be underestimated. An example that I love is Rosa Parks. She was a timid and shy person, but when the time came, she spoke her mind. She didn’t have to yell or raise her voice to get her point across; just simply refusing to give up her seat was enough.

The situation didn’t need a frightening public speaker such as Martin Luther King Jr., because it wouldn’t have had the same effect. It was because of her quietness and humility that the bus boycott happened.

Another example that I’ve found was in a book I recently read, called The Two Princesses of Bamarre. It is a fairy tale, yes, but it presents another example of introvert power. The main character, Addie, is a shy princesses who sets out to find a cure for a plague that has hit her kingdom.

On her journey, a dragon kidnaps her, and instead of fighting it -like all the other victims did- she remains calm and entertains the dragon, by talking to it, and using her embroidery skills. These two actions help her stay alive, and later she escapes. If she had fought like all the others, the dragon would have killed her.

As said by Mahatma Gandhi, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world”.

introvert18I believe that Introverts can do that. We are big “thinkers” , we observe more and have calmer energy, and when we get put into situations, we often become the ones who reveal wisdom from our inner reservoir and make others fall silent.

We have the spirit of pink dolphins, we are quiet and intelligent, and we should never be forced to feel like outcasts just because we do not like talking.

We have a power that some people don’t. We know how to embrace silence, enjoy being in our own company, and listen before we speak. Silence has a meaning, and if you are quiet enough, you can hear it.

Do you feel like letting it out into the world? Tell us in the comments if you usually mask yourself as an extrovert, and if you hadn’t realized it before!

- Mariah

Courtney’s Ugly Duckling Story

she found life again - Ugly Duckling Story

 

Trigger warning: Eating disorders, purging, self-harm, drug abuse, suicide

I just want to start off by saying thank you to Ugly Ducklings Inc for giving me the opportunity to share my story with all of you. Through my crazy year and recovery I’ve learned so much from the words I’ve heard from others and I hope I can somehow impact one of you as well.

My name is Courtney Leigh, (I love my middle name way too much to just leave it out) and I was born in Moscow, Russia. When I was six months old, I was adopted and started my childhood adventures in Springfield, Illinois. I was truly the “little princess” of the household. I had two older brothers, and for three years it was just me. I had the childhood almost any kid could dream of.

I had parents who were well off, so anything I wanted I pretty much got at the drop of the hat. When I was three, I began ballet and had parents who supported me 100%. When I was four, my parents went back to Russia and adopted my baby sister. And even then with an extra little girl in the house, we always got what we wanted. My parents, my family, anyone who knew us instantly could realize we had the dream childhood.

When I was about five or six I began to be bullied. It was about weight, my hair, my chubby cheeks, I was tall, anything these kids could think of it was brought up. I never wanted to disappoint my parents and tell them about any negativity in my life so that’s when I started hiding things from them.

Courtney's ugly duckling storyI always thought if I never showed emotion I would never have to deal with anything. Really smart for a six year old in my opinion. I think when you are so small and you want to be accepted you will do what is necessary to convince yourself you fit in.

The more advanced in dance I got, the more self image and perfection took over my mind. I was eight and probably one of the most muscular girls of my age in the studio. So instantly that translated into “you are fat”. My costume sizes were getting bigger, my thighs were touching, and I was miserable. At nine years old I decided to stop eating. From such a young age I always saw food as such a negative thing. I did not see it as fuel or energy, but only as: ‘this is what makes you gain weight’. At this point, the bullying got to where I couldn’t go to school. I’d get so sick from starving and being so sad I couldn’t make myself go to school.

This pattern of no school, not eating, and being upset, continued into the sixth grade where it was brought up that I may in fact have an eating disorder. I was taken to a dietician once, and hated it. I pouted my way out of counseling. It got to a point of being so bad my parents switched me into the private school district in our town. Good idea right? Take the girl who’s been bullied for multiple years and move her into a school where her class size is only 20.

I ended up joining the cheer squad, (you’ll see how important this is later). Needless to say it was awful, I was bullied, I was starving myself, and then I picked up self harm and purging. I ended up telling the school I had mono for nine weeks while I stayed home because my malnutrition got to a bad enough point I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs to my room. I somehow managed to pull myself together physically, and somehow made it out of there alive.

My freshman and sophomore year of high school I decided to try out for cheerleading, and I didn’t make it. I joined a competitive cheerleading squad and instantly fell in love with the sport, and I finally found somewhere I belong. Cheerleading was the one place I knew I could go and be happy. Then my junior year I somehow got the courage to once again try out for the school cheer squad and I made varsity. I also started drinking, smoking, my cutting got worse, and so did my eating disorder.

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The moment after a loved one commits suicide

how to deal with the first moments after a family member commits suicide
Trigger warning: suicide

What happens at second 41?

If every 40 seconds one person takes their own life, who picks up the pieces at second 41? How to react the exact moment after this happens?

So here’s the thing. Sunday, the morning of August 31st 2014, I woke up with a lot of things on my mind.  First and foremost was the fact that it was my little sister Nicole’s birthday.  Six and a half years ago, on February 12th, 2008, she took her own life at just 23 years old. And there are so many things I could say.

  • She was too young
  • She had her whole life ahead of her
  • She didn’t know what she’d be missing
  • She had to have known how much everyone loved her
  • She surely knew how her family would feel if she was gone

The thing is… when Nicole decided to take her life, she wasn’t thinking about her age. She took her life because she felt she didn’t have her whole life ahead of her. She couldn’t picture the future long enough to realize that she was going to miss out on some of the most fun and best times ever. She had no idea how much she was truly loved. And most importantly, she wasn’t thinking about anyone but herself when she made the decision to end it all.

Suicide is NOT selfish

When I hear talk about suicide, one of the most common things people tend to discuss is strictly their personal opinions on how they feel about suicide. Too often, those affected by suicide aren’t in the right frame of mind to decide to get involved and take an active stance against it. This is where one of my many points comes into play.

Definition of selfish. Is suicide selfish?When you ask someone their opinion on suicide, I feel pretty comfortable saying that I bet they’ll tell you they think suicide is selfish. But is suicide actually selfish? Just look at the definition.

When you first start reading it, you might think “Yeah, actually it is.”  But then you keep going and you ask yourself “Personal profit?”  And then we have the words egocentric, egotistic, egomaniacal. Do any of those words sound like they describe someone who’s about to take their own life?  I honestly don’t think so.

  • Desperation
  • Despair
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

I could go on and on, but those are a handful of words that I would associate with the act of suicide. Having been through the things I’ve been through, I doubt “selfish” is a word I will ever associate with it. I used the word in my video, but in relation to those of us who are trying to prevent it.

It hurts

I remember that night Nicole called me. I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying. All I was getting was screaming and crying, and words here and there that sounded like “it hurts” and “want to die” and more screaming and crying.

She had tried to cut her wrist open. When we took her to the hospital, there’s only one distinct conversation I remember having with her. They were stitching up her wrist and while I held her other hand we had a little talk. I told her I loved her, that I was there for her.

Jenn and Nicole. SistersI held her hand while she cried and told me how much it hurt. But she wasn’t talking about her wrist. She was talking about her heart. And her mind. She was telling me how much it hurt to be alive. In that brief moment, I made a decision that some days, I find myself questioning and regretting.  I said: “It’s a selfish thing to ask… but please don’t go.  It’s selfish of me to want you to stay. But please stay”. But then I said: “It’s okay. If the pain is too much and you can’t hold on… it’s okay if you have to go. I love you. I would miss you. But I will never be selfish enough to ask you to stay in a place where you feel like you don’t belong.”

My therapist told me that I did an amazing thing, because I gave her the freedom to choose, and that it took courage to do it. Some days, I question my decision, and in the end it doesn’t make suicide okay.

So what do you do at second 41?

Just as it goes with any death. With any loss. The number one feeling is grief. But with suicide, the rolling wave of emotions a survivor feels is endless.

It’s different for every single person. There are those who feel like they failed the person who took their own life. And then there are those who feel like failures.

You find yourself constantly lost in thought and the number one thing on everyone’s mind is “What did I miss? What could I have done differently?”

The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing you can do differently. There’s nothing more you can do except to let them know how much you care. How much they mean to you. How much the entire world will lose, if they’re gone.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t convince them they have a reason to stay.

It’s not because they aren’t strong enough.
It’s not because they’re selfish.
It’s simply because the pain is too great.

At second 41, all you can feel is confusion. Second 42… panic. Second 43… denial. Second 44… pain.

And every second that ticks by, a new emotion will take you over, right down to your soul.  But when it’s all said and done and the realization sets in, try to remember what the person would want you to do.

They’ll want you to pick up the pieces and try to understand they didn’t mean to hurt you. They just didn’t know how else to make their own pain go away. So, you see? Suicide isn’t about being selfish. It’s not about hurting others or thinking about one’s self. It’s about freedom of choice and the need to make the pain go away.

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you think someone you know/love is considering suicide, let them know they have choices. Let them know they are free to choose. But also make sure (VERY sure) you let them know they will never be alone. Let them know how much you care. You CAN save a life. Let them know you’re there for them and how much they matter.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to stand on the side of second 41.

- Jenn
(Ugly Ducklings Inc team member, and author of this Ugly Duckling Story)

She Misses Her Sister, And Wants You To Know Something

“There’s so many things, that my little sister has missed. So many things that she’s not been a part of…”

It’s September 7th, and although we kinda hate that there even is a week for suicide prevention, we are here to make our part in telling all those who still don’t see how serious this topic is, that it is happening. It is happening so often that it is scary. I didn’t really know this until I saw the video.

This is Jenn. She lost her little sister seven years ago after she decided to take her own life. Their relationship was truly special, and now that September 10th is upon us, she wants you to know something.

40 seconds were never so relevant, until now…

PS: Don’t ever hesitate to reach others if you need to. Ugly Ducklings Inc is a community of people who can offer support and encouragement. We are not professionals, but you can check our resources page to contact helplines. Try to find counsellors near you, or close friends and family who care. There will always be someone out there for you. 

If You Had The Chance To Change Your Life Right Now, Would You Do It?

If You Had The Chance To Change Your Life Right Now, Would You Do It? She Did

At the beginning of this year, I decided that it was time to make a change in my life. I didn’t like where I was or who I was becoming; I really needed a life change. One thing I decided I needed to do was take control of my health and fitness.

whole life challenge, colouring contest

Colouring Contest for “FIT”

I have this inspiring sister who is incredibly gifted when it comes to helping people with their health and fitness, but she never pushes herself and her ideals on anyone – and that usually means people ask her when they are “ready”. I was ready. And so it started.

That was in February. You may have noticed that I dropped off the planet a bit then –sometimes that is what it takes to really get things under control. It means managing your time differently. For me, it meant not putting health and fitness last, in the “I don’t have time” category. It meant gradually moving it higher up on the list until everything else could work around it, rather than it being fit in where it really didn’t fit.

I even used this idea for a “colouring contest” at a gym-opening I was at. They asked participants to draw a picture of what “fit” meant to us (shout out to FIT by Fun Fitness Fast – amazing place to go in the Burlington, ON area!).

So everything was going great on this front… and around rolls April. I had heard about the Whole Life Challenge in February from my friend Heather. In March during a discussion about health and fitness, she recommended I might want to try it out the next time… in April, her Facebook page began piling with information and promos about the Whole Life Challenge that was about to start in May. I signed up immediately, recruiting my sister and one of her besties to join me. After interviewing Heather for Ugly Ducklings in April, our very own Jenn also joined the team.

The challenge changed my life.

Sisterly texts... Day 1

Sisterly texts… Day 1

And, besides that, it was a lot of fun! I gained valuable information, education, and insight, self-esteem, and confidence.  I was able to let go of a lot of the notions I had in my head about what health and fitness “looked like” and for the first time in forever, I felt like I was in control of my life and my health.

Anyone who wants to make a healthy change in their life, for whatever reason, I highly recommend you grab a friend who lives close by and join the WLC (even a long-distance friend can be a total game-changer, I’ve learned). ANYONE can do this challenge, regardless of your current health and fitness level – it just requires you to be mindful and accountable for the choices you make. There aren’t any crazy workouts or fitness regimes – it is about making health and fitness work for you. 

The first thing I will say about the challenge is that Undisputed Fitness (the community we joined for the WLC) really knows how to build a tribe. There was so much support in their Facebook group and on the website –everyone on their team genuinely wants everyone else to succeed; they offer advice, recipes, encouragement and answers to the questions everyone has. It was such an honour to be a part of such an incredibly strong and gifted group of people.

I cannot thank Heather enough for all the love and support she gave me during this challenge (and just in general!), the conversation I had with coach Lorenzo just before the challenge ended was a HUGE game-changer and Nate was a fantastic team captain and creates the best Facebook memes.

This entire team is so badass.

whole life challenge - making almond milkI also learned so much about myself and my environment. I learned to be conscientious of what I am putting in my mouth.

I haven’t stuck to the “compliant nutrition” since the challenge ended – but I am way more educated now about the foods I am eating, what is in them and how they make me feel. You think almond milk that you buy at the store is a godsend?

Read the ingredients – you can’t even say half of them. I made my own!
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Shannon’s Ugly Duckling Story

Ugly Duckling's Story - Shannon

My Name is Shannon. I am a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. I am outgoing, loving, loud, and stubborn.

I am all of these things but I am also a Survivor.

When I was 23 years old, I met the man who would be my partner in life and my soul mate, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Things could not be any better!

Then, during my annual women exam, my doctor was concerned with the pain I had been experiencing, and ordered a CT scan and ultrasound. That was when they found the tumor. While scared, I knew that my mom had had some cysts and things so I assumed I had them too. A few days after having the growth biopsied, the doctor called me with the news.

- “I’m sorry Shannon….but it’s cancer…”

Wait WHAT?! No.. this wasn’t right! I just found the love of my life; my life was on the right track for once! Since the cancer had already progressed pretty significantly, I really didn’t have too many options.

Shannon's Ugly Duckling StoryI had surgery to remove the tumor, but they had to remove a large portion of one of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. I then proceeded to have radiation therapy because in my young mind nothing would be worse than to lose my hair. I also chose not to have a full hysterectomy. At the time it seemed like a rather stupid choice, however later it would prove to be the best thing I could have done. The next 8 weeks really went by like a blur: a whirlwind of cancer treatments, doctors’ appointments, working a full time retail job and at the same time trying to maintain the relationships I had built.

Fast forward to 2012

I had been happily married for 8 years, and after 3 years of infertility issues and being told I would never carry a child, we were blessed with a beautiful little boy who had just turned 2. I had renewed my faith and trust in the Lord and felt life could not be any better!

I had done it! I had beat cancer, defied the odds and had a baby, I had a wonderful new career and my marriage was truly a happily ever after with my prince charming.

In August of 2012, I went for my women exam like I do every year and told my doctor I had some tenderness, as well as other symptoms. Concerned, my doctor ordered a full range of tests just to be safe. I went home that day sort of on pins and needles, however trusting in God to see me through.

The next week we took our son for his 2 year checkup, and that’s when our world started to change. After talking to our son’s doctor, he confirmed our fears for our little man: that his delays were not just that he was a late bloomer, but that he might be autistic.

For a while I felt so angry. How could God do this to us? Was he punishing me for all the bad things I had done? Then, I realized that he had done nothing to us, he only gave me my heart’s desire to be a mother in the form of a sweet little boy whose brain worked a little different than everyone else’s. It was this special little boy who would give me strength in the darkest hours to come.

The next day my test results returned. Again, I received the worst phone call a person can get from their doctor.

- “I am so sorry Shannon, but the cancer is back…”

My journey to remission has taught me so many things about myselfI was stunned and dazed. WHY? I did not spend a lot of time trying to figure it all out or process, it was just too much. I just gave it all to God and hit the ground running. I made an appointment with an oncologist for later that same week.

Since there was no tumor this time and only cells, we were able to just do Radiation treatment for 6 weeks. While exhausted I was still able to work. I successfully completed my 6 weeks and things were looking good. I even took a trip to Jamaica to celebrate!

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Ugly Ducklings from Netherlands, Switzerland, and Argentina together

Ugly Ducklings Inc members get together

There are people who are very skeptical when it comes to cyber friends and meeting people you’ve only talked to via a computer screen.

Well, The Ugly Ducklings are an exception…

This past summer, Maaike, Maressa, and Marie had the incredible opportunity to meet each other, defying long distances (in the case of Argentina, especially), and other tiny obstacles. Below you’ll read the three diaries of these three duckies who got this great chance to meet.

Maaike story, summer with ugly ducklings

Having some of my best friends living abroad is a unique experience to say the least. Everything feels exactly the same as with friends living close to you, except for the *bloody* concept of distance (who came up with that anyway?).

You cannot just ring your friends on the other side of the world to ask if they feel like going out or to meet up. Conversations are only possible via text messaging applications or social media, and face to face contact is limited to online video chats. It’s weird feeling so close somehow, but so far away at the same time.

But sometimes… sometimes luck is at your side.

That moment when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and you can actually be together with friends you love so very much. It happened to me this summer when I was the most fortunate girl in the world to be able to spend some time with my dear friends Maressa and Marie (a.k.a. Sisters from other Misters).

Last summer, Maressa and I were on a road trip for a week in her home country Switzerland (and we also shared our experience with The Ugly Ducklings here!)

Right away we agreed that we would meet up again next summer too, regardless of where that would be. Well, since Maressa never visited my home country, the Netherlands, we agreed that she would visit me this summer. We planned some day trips and even visited my second home, London, where I used to live in 2012. It was once again an amazing experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world.

meeting ugly ducklings from other places

With our Ugly Ducklings t-shirts!

Then there’s this other peculiar case of faith I need to tell you about. Our dear Colombian friend living in Argentina (still following?), Marie, happened to attend a wedding in Rome in July… at the exact time Maressa was in the Netherlands. Everyone can do the math, right?

Exactly! Marie also took a flight to the Netherlands. I’ll spare you the details, but the journey to Europe entailed a lot of work and stress for her. But finally, she made it and the three of us were reunited.

I really have to say, it felt so natural to have these girls with me. So perfectly normal. Like we’re not living 450 and 7107 miles (!) apart, but just next door to each other. I was then also extremely sad to see them leave.

I had an amazing time with my Sisters and loved to show them my homeland. Also looking through their eyes at my own country and its culture taught me so much. It’s good to reflect upon these things from time to time and to open your eyes to your own country’s beauty and its unique aspects.

Friends enrich your life and having friends living so far away makes you appreciate that fact even more.

Maressa and Marie, I felt extremely privileged to be able to show you my country and to have you around me. Het was gezellig! Love you girls to the moon and back!

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