Woodland Walk to a Meteora Monastery in the Sky

Meteora’s Magnificent Monasteries 

For several hours we’d been winding our way up through ancient woodland when we broached the top of a hill and the largest and oldest of Meteora’s monasteries – The Great Meteoron – came into view.
Perched on the top of its sandstone pillar it appeared to float in the sky against a backdrop of snow capped mountains.

meteora monastery against a snow capped mountain landscape

You only have to have seen an image of any one of the monasteries at Meteora in northern central Greece, either perched atop a sandstone pillar

Varlaam Monastery Greece

Varlaam Monastery

or clinging to the side of a precipice…

Cliff hanging monastery in Meteora

The Monastery of Ypapanti

…to be captivated by both the magical landscape and the mystical stories of the monasteries’ creation 700 years ago, when monks hauled building materials up via pulley net systems to build these remarkable religious refuges on top of and in the sides of these unique landforms.

Hiking Meteora

Pictorial map showing the hike to Great Meteora

The 8km woodland walk up to a Meteora Monastery

While you can of course drive the circuit that circumnavigates the 6 remaining monasteries that are open to the public (there were 24 originally built in the region), I liked the feeling of making my first approach on foot, giving myself the opportunity to immerse myself in the landscape and experience a sense of connection with those who had walked this way before – a mini pilgrimage of sorts!

The sandstone pillars form a labyrinth of paths in between their bases, so I joined a comfortable 8km walking/hiking tour run by the local Visit Meteora office, whose guide led us through the beautiful wooded landscape along a maze of zigzagging paths otherwise only used by shepherds and their dogs.

Autumn colours in Meteora

A bus picked us up before 9 taking us out to the other side of the neighbouring village of Kastraki, where we were dropped off beneath a canopy of trees showing their first signs of autumn.

Pictorial map showing the hike at Meteora

We had barely begun when Lazarus pointed up to a cave in the dome shaped rock above us where the remains of a hermit’s dwelling could be seen – While telling us a fabled tale of its early day occupant (left photo above) I squirmed at the thought of the rock climbing skills required to gain access!

Rounding a few more bends, our path wound around and below another hermit cave, this time ‘boarded’ up with sticks and logs (centre photo), before being lead between Meteora’s characteristic tall steep sided sandstone pillars.

The ground was bursting with toadstools and edible mushrooms, which our guide promptly picked for dinner.

Toadstools and mushrooms found in the woodland below Meteora

Toadstools are left standing, while the edible mushrooms are gathered for dinner


One of the greatest joys of approaching the more well known monasteries on foot is the hidden gems you find along the way that are only viewable by taking this less travelled walking track – ie they’re tucked away off the main tourist route.

Our first sight of the Monastery of Ypapanti was from below –
Looking up the sheer cliff face we could see the struts supporting the hermitage’s overhang out from the ledge it was perched on (top left photo below).

Monastery of Ypapanti

The Monastery of Ypapanti

The path then meandered up and around to reach a plateau, which gave us a wonderful eye-level view directly across the chasm below to the hermitage on the opposite cliff face.
What a sight!

Despite our steady ascent the walking tracks we followed all rose remarkably gently taking us through sections of barren rocky outcrops…

Sandstone landforms at Meteora Greece

…that contrasted with the soft leafy woodland, which was a biophilac’s delight!

Gnarled old trees covered in mosses and ivy beside babbling streams…

Ancient woodland on the way to Meteora

The ancient woodland was a biophiliac’s dream


…with splashes of pink cyclamen and lilac crocuses – the source of saffron – popping out from the leafy forest floor.

Pictorial story map Meteora

Cyclamen and crocuses popped up on the woodland’s leafy floor

The Great Meteoron

Great Meteoron Greece

When the final ascent brought us out over the top brow of a hill to reveal below the largest and oldest monastery in the region – The Great Meteron – I felt quietly awe struck.

Steps up to Great Meteoron

It was not until the 1920’s that stairs were added to the monasteries to allow easier access – So rather than have to winch ourselves up in a net, we went down to a small bridge that precariously crossed the chasm across to its isolated sandstone pillar and clambered up the steps that clung to the cliff face, having gained access through a tunnel hewn out of the rock – (You can see the tunnel entrance in the bottom right of the above photo.)   

Skulls, candles and decoration inside the Meteora Monastery

We now joined the masses who had arrived by car and coach –
You can understand why the monks are not open 7 days a week! (The monasteries operate on a rotating schedule to ensure they’re not all closed on the same day, yet giving the monks solitary time to fulfil their life’s work) 

Inside was a glimpse into the monks’ sacred world.
The simple fundamentals required to nourish the body with the original ancient kitchen left as it must have been for 100’s of years prior for providing sustenance to the religious occupants; there was exquisite ornate decoration expected in a place of contemplation and worship, candles, and a remarkable room of homage to the monastery’s forebears – a room of skulls.


Meteora is situated in northern central Greece – about 360 km (225 miles) north west of Athens.

Map of Greece showing location Meteora

The unique landscape rises above the small township of Kalampaka (pop 22,000)…

Approaching Kalampaka Meteora

where even the chimney pots atop of the houses in the main street are in the shape of a monastery.

Kalampaka houses with monastery chimney pots

Meteora is an UNESCO site that is listed under 5 of a possible 6 Cultural Criteria, the first of which is that it “represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance”.

To appreciate the essence of the region I loved this leisurely walk through the sandstone pillars up to Meteora’s Monasteries in the sky, while seeing hidden hermit caves and hermitages along the way. This hiking tour was with Visit Meteora and cost 35 Euro per person or 60 Euros for a couple –

We were out for 4 or 5 hours, which included time in the Great Meteoron Monastery (3 Euro entry), followed by a gentle walk back down along a stone paved path through the woods to be picked up by the bus, beneath the adjacent Varlaam Monastery.

Have you seen photos of Meteora and been entranced?
(and thought like me – I have to go!)

Or more exciting – have you already been?

Do share your experience, or hopes and dreams in the comments below :)

Thirst Quenching – Photo Roulette *114

Who doesn’t love stunning travel photos?

Photo Roulette is an ongoing game and an opportunity for travel bloggers to show off examples from their travel photo portfolio –
Earlier this year I won Photo Roulette #97 that had the theme “Frozen” –

Hoar frost on the top of a gate in Scptland

As the winner, I selected and hosted the next round, It’s all in the Detail
Click through to see the 14 entries I received, and whose image I chose as winner!

Well, I’ve done it again!
In the last round hosted by Dare2Go the theme was Reflection.
Here is my winning entry :)

Kings Canyon

 A reflection of Kings Canyon in Australia’s Red Centre.

The theme for Photo Roulette #114 is
Thirst Quenching

While we all have to drink for survival…

Kangaroo and her joey quenching their thirst at a creek

Quenching our thirst is tied into cultures across the globe through ceremonies and social gatherings. We meet in cafés and pubs to talk and share ideas, and raise a glass to celebrate beginnings, unions and ends –

Many a travel memory is formed partaking in a local beverage …

Glass of wine and a pastry

And our thirst for travel adventures is permanently being quenched as we view wonders of the world – Such as cooling luscious waterfalls in luxuriant rainforests.

Image of waterfalls that cool and refresh

And the winner is…

I received thirst quenching entries from Australia, Morocco, Thailand, Hawaii and New York all illustrating luscious images of waterholes, waterfalls, water speckled flowers, coconuts, coffee making and Japanese slipper cocktails that all quenched my thirst in different ways so it was tricky selecting one!

But the winner of this round is:

Amanda ~ Not a Ballerina

Thai street seller making coffee pouring it from one vessel to another Congratulations :)

Travel Photo Roulette Guidelines

  • One submission per blog, so sites that have 2+ authors only get one entry.
  • Post processing is permitted, but photo altering (i.e. using Photoshop to remove elements) is not.
  • Abstract submissions welcomed as long as it fits within the interpretation of the chosen phrase – And the connection is comprehensible!
  • Keep your images medium-sized and web-optimized (800 pixels wide is good)
  • If you win, you will host the next round (runs for 7 days) and so choose the next theme: Keep phrases general so that all bloggers can participate. Specific items like “Eiffel Tower” should be avoided but rather made open-ended like “monuments” or with a dash of focus such as “monuments at night”, which most of us have pictures of. Phrases can be generic ‘signs’, or abstract ‘religion’, but keep it within the realm that all readers will understand. No “Kafka-esque,” or “Overlooking Creation.” Themes can be reused after 1 year, however new photos must be submitted.
  • No obscene pictures or phrases allowed. Suggestive phrases and photography can be accepted, but please keep it within reason.
  • Keep the ideas and photos fresh!
  • Pictures from your entire portfolio are fair to submit. You do not have to take the photo within the week of the contest period to submit it.
  • Most importantly, all photographs must be your own.
  • One last rule, since this is a competition for travel and photography bloggers, you must have a travel/photography blog to enter. Sorry!

How to Submit Your Entry

To enter the Travel Photo Roulette competition simply leave a comment below with:

  • a link to the image (whether Flickr, 500px, Trover, Smugmug, etc. or your own site) and
  • a short description/background/caption as to where/why/how this image quenches your thirst.

I’ll be uploading *your* photos into the post during the week so check back to watch the competition grow.

Submissions closed on Sunday October 25th at midnight GMT.
I’ll select and announce (plus notify by email) the winner on Monday 26th October.
The winner will then host the next round of Travel Photo Roulette #115.

And don’t forget to show the love sharing on your social media channels
with the hashtag #photoroulette
The more participants, the better the array of images and the more fun for viewing 😀

The Entries for this round are now closed :)

1.) Red Nomad Oz

“The day was hot and muggy as only the sub-tropics can be.  Then the shimmering reflections of the melaleucas in a little lake behind the beach drew me closer – and tempted me to quench the thirst threatening to overcome me.  And feet in the water, camera in hand, water dancing before me, my thirst magically disappeared!”

Reflections in the water

………. ***** ……….

2.) Anne ~ Let Me Be Free

“Sitting by the camp fire makes me want to have a drink and a good old chat!”

Campfire by a lake

………. ***** ……….

3.) Cindy ~ A Move to Morocco

“Here I am drenched by waterfalls and ambushed by monkeys. Ouzoud Falls, located 150 kilometers from the homes of my coworkers and me in Marrakech, looks like a set for yet another Indiana Jones movie to be filmed in Morocco. These super-sized cascades crashing from rocks where monkeys rule quench my thirst for adventure, beauty, and relationship. The Atlas hideaway hydrates with adrenaline, awe, and laughter each time we row into the spray.”

Ouzoud Falls Quench Thirst for Adventure

………. ***** ……….

4.) Jo ~ Zigazag 

“With blistering hot summers and (apparently) more sunshine per day than any other city in Australia, Perth can be hot and hard on flora. When I see morning droplets of rain or dew on flowers I feel as if their thirst for life is being quenched and it makes me feel at peace with the world. This photo was taken on an early morning walk in a stunning botanical park, Araleun, 30 mins from Perth where shady glades and tulips begged to be photographed at every turn.”

Image: pink tulip with droplets of dew

………. ***** ……….

5.) Suzanne ~ Boomeresque

“I had to choose between two photos: one of immense amount of water pouring over the impressive Iguazu Falls in Argentina or almost the polar opposite, a beautiful hibiscus by the side of a busy street in Honolulu (Waikiki) after one of the fleeting, sudden showers common on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. I chose the more subtle rain kissed hibiscus—just enough thirst quenching rain to keep the flowers blooming year round.”

Orange Hibiscus with water droplets on it

………. ***** ……….

6.) Kathy ~ 50 Shades of Age

“We had just driven across the centre of Australia from the Northern Territory to the border into Queensland. The landscape was flat, dry and barren without a creek or river in sight, as the outback was undergoing a severe drought. We arrived at Camooweal and the Georgina Billabong which was bursting with waterbirds and beautiful water lilies. Such a delight after so much dry terrain.”

Billabong with lilies and birdlife in northern Australia

………. ***** ……….

7.) Amanda ~ Not a Ballerina

“In the bustle of Bangkok’s massive Chatuchak Markets, my friends and I stood staring at this coffee maker and marvelling at his ability to mix the drinks without spilling a drop. And then, just as we too were jostled by some of the crowd walking by, he actually did let a little spill over the sides. Sadly we’d just come from a cafe and didn’t need to buy a drink, but next time our first stop would be his stall.”

Tea making in Bangkok

………. ***** ……….

8.) Carol ~ Berkeley and Beyond

“Feeling the summer heat in NYC, these three compadres are refreshing their systems with coconut water sipped from a coconut purchased at a Chinatown produce stand. Even with that plastic wrapping, the coconut still manages to do the job.”

Drinking from coconuts through a straw

………. ***** ……….

9.) Kate ~ Adventure Mumma

“It was taken recently on a weekend break with the kids up at my girlfriends house on the Atherton Tablelands. As you can guess, having kids can be thirsty work & it’s nice to chill with friends & be able to unwind & let the kids play freely (you can see them in the background saying hi to the cow)”

green cocktail that looks thirst quenching

………. ***** ……….

10.) Amy ~Two Drifters

“After weeks of driving across the dusty Australian outback, we came to an oasis in the Northern Territory: Katherine. Sweet and refreshing as her name would suggest, this town is home to stunning, magnificent gorges. In an area where many lakes and rivers are infested with saltwater crocodiles, the Katherine Gorges remain a place free of danger where the most blissful swim awaits.”

Katherine Gorge Northern Territory Australia

………. ***** ……….

Previous Winners…

  1. Nov 2010 Living the Dream: Animals
  2. Nov 2010 Skinny Backpacker: Road Signs
  3. Nov 2010 Dream a Little Dream: Street Art
  4. Dec 2010 Flashpacker HQ: Festival
  5. Dec 2010 Over Yonderlust: Landmarks
  6. Dec 2010 Don’t Ever Look Back: Beaches
  7. Jan 2011 ThePlanetD: Portraits
  8. Jan 2011 Travel with a Mate: Motion
  9. Jan 2011 Johnny Vagabond: Water
  10. Feb 2011 Ken Kaminesky: Urban
  11. Feb 2011 Travels of Adam: Friday Night
  12. Mar 2011 Itchy Feet Chronicles: The Journey
  13. Mar 2011 Brendan’s Adventures: Changing Seasons
  14. April 2011 Shutterfeet: Storytelling
  15. April 2011 10 Times One: Piousness
  16. April 2011 Beached Eskimo: Learning
  17. May 2011 Travel Junkies: Architecture
  18. June 2011 Destination World [-404-]: Transportation
  19. June 2011 Living the Dream: Paradise
  20. June 2011 Vagabond Quest: Clothes
  21. July 2011 The Unframed World: Symmetry
  22. July 2011 Beached Eskimo: Home
  23. July 2011 BackPackerBanter: Inspiration
  24. Aug 2011 WanderingTrader: Darkness
  25. Aug 2011 Finding the Universe: Tranquillity
  26. Sep 2011 Fearful Adventurer: Food
  27. Sep 2011 Adventures of a GoodMan: City
  28. Oct 2011 Globe-Trekking.com: Reflection
  29. Oct 2011 Scene With A Hart: Framing
  30. Nov 2011 Vagabond Quest: Silhouettes
  31. Nov 2011 Hecktic Travels: Music
  32. Dec 2011 Globetrotter Girls: Love
  33. Dec 2011 Man on the lam: Humor
  34. Jan 2012 My Walkabout: Winter
  35. Jan 2012 The Art of Slow Travel: Blue
  36. Feb 2012 Ten times One: Depth of the Field
  37. Feb 2012 Runaway Juno: … Digital Nomad Moment
  38. Mar 2012 Nomadbiba: Sunshine
  39. Mar 2012 Travel With Kat: Local Character
  40. April 2012 The Travel Bunny: Street Scene
  41. April 2012 Adventure Crow [-404-]: Spirit of the Country
  42. May 2012 Food Travel Bliss [-404-]: Evening
  43. May 2012 Matt Gibson: Adventure
  44. May 2012 Flashpacker HQ: Once In A Lifetime
  45. July 2012 Dusty Main: Surreal
  46. Aug 2012 2away: Smile

    1. Aug 2012 Bridges & Balloons: Splendour…
    2. Sep 2012 The GypsyNester: What the ?!
    3. Oct 2012 Runaway Juno: Sweet
    4. Nov 2012 GQ Trippin: Play
    5. Nov 2012 Life’s Little Victories: Friendship
    6. Dec 2012 Breakaway Backpacker: Face
    7. Jan 2013 Fly, Icarus, Fly: Serendipity
    8. Feb 2013 Travel Transmissions: Lost in Thought
    9. Feb 2013 Wanderlusters: The Natural World
    10. Mar 2013 Travel Junkies: Patterns
    11. April 2013 Living the Dream: Your First Time
    12. May 2013 Getting Stamped: The Sun Goes Down
    13. June 2013 The GypsyNester: Cheesy Tourist Diversions
    14. June 2013 Boomeresque: Revolution
    15. July 2013 Breakaway Backpacker: Colorful
    16. Aug 2013 Around This World: Mountains
    17. Aug 2013 Passports & Pamplemousse Hands at Work
    18. Sep 2013 TurtlesTravel Dance
    19. Sep 2013 Keep calm and travel The Sea
    20. Sep 2013 Travel Photo Discovery: The Market
    21. Oct 2013 Am I Nearly There Yet?: Travel Fails
    22. Oct 2013 The GypsyNester: Weird Regional Foods
    23. Nov 2013 Sophie’s World: Trees
    24. Nov 2013 SHOuTography: Party
    25. Dec 2013 Adventures of a Goodman: Ruin
    26. Dec 2013 Have Blog Will Travel: Light
    27. Jan 2014 This World Rocks: Crowds
    28. Jan 2014 Travel Past 50: Competition
    29. Feb 2014 The Working Traveller: Working
    30. Mar 2014 Travels with Carole: Umbrellas
    31. April 2014 Independent Travel Help Quirky
    32. April 2014 Quit Job Travel World Statues
    33. May 2014 Nomad is Beautiful People Sleeping
    34. May 2014 Backpack Me: Mouthwatering
    35. June 2014 20 Years Hence: The Face of A Nation
    36. July 2014 Two for the Road: Into the Wild
    37. July 2014 TurtlesTravel: Summer!
    38. Aug 2014 Adventures Around Asia: Candid
    39. Aug 2014 Travel with Kevin and Ruth: Hiking
    40. Sept 2014 Till The Money Runs Out: Transport
    41. Sept 2014 The Crowded Planet: Wild World
    42. Sept 2014 ZigZag On Earth: The 4 Elements
    43. Oct 2014 Travel Addicts: Heritage
    44. Oct 2014 Living the Dream: Your Grand Adventure
    45. Oct 2014 Getting Stamped: Inspire
    46. Nov 2014 Flashpacker HQ: Viewpoint
This list was re-formatted by dare2go.com. If you like to use this two-column layout in your post please download the code here and follow instructions on same page.

The winners and themes in 2015. Click the link to go directly to that entry to see some fab photographs.

    1. Jan 2015 Adventures of a GoodMan: WOW!
    2. Jan 2015 ZigZag On Earth: Roads and Tracks
    3. Feb 2015 Where’s The Gos?: Street Art
    4. Mar 2015 Ice Cream and Perma Frost: Frozen
    5. Mar 2015 Journey Jottings: Detail
    6. April 2015 House Sitting Travel: What’s your Angle?
    7. April 2015 JetWayz: Spiritual Beauty
    8. April 2015 The Trading Travelers: Celebrate
    9. May 2015 Street Food World Tour: Epic
    10. May 2015 Next Stop Who Knows: Landscape
    11. May 2015 We Travel Together: Wildlife
    12. May 2015 Vagabond Way: Festival
    13. June 2015 Travel Addicts: Landmarks
    14. June 2015 TravelnLass: Wrinkles
    15. July 2015 Anita’s Feast: Food Markets
    16. July 2015 Dare2Go: Dry
    17. August 2015 Travel Past 50: Home
    18. August 2015 Barefoot Nomad: Door
    19. September 2015 House Sitting Travel: Shapes
    20. September 2015 Berkeley and Beyond: Cemeteries
    21. October 2015 Dare2Go: Reflections
    22. October 2015 Journey Jottings: Thirst Quenching

But I Can’t Draw

I can’t draw to save my life”

“”I credit myself with zero artistic ability

I simply cannot draw

These are all comments left by *you*, my readers, when I’ve been waxing lyrical about the fun and benefits of creating storymaps for recording holiday travel memories, rather than taking what has, to date, been the more traditional route of filling travel journals with walls of words.

Image showing a step by step storymap

Story Map creation of my trip to Kakadu in the Northern Territory, Australia (Click on the image to read the whole post)


The majority of *you* feel quite convinced you can’t draw for toffee“.

Which is strange, since every one of us in our childhood created beautiful fun filed drawings of our family…

5 year drawing of his family

copyright Asa (age 4 on the left, age 5 on the right)

and the house we lived in…

Drawing by a 5 year old of his house

copyright Asa (age 5)

all of which were much admired, were complimented upon and invariably took pride of place on the fridge door until either another masterpiece superseded it or it became dog eared from loving glances as people got the milk out!

We all know we used to draw (despite doing our best to deny the fact).
But it’s a little harder to ignore when you come across some anthropological research into the unfolding of children’s artistic activity that confirms:
“across space and time, all children exhibit the same evolution in visual logic as they grow”; they have a “shared and growing complexity in visual language that happens in a predictable order” so

“doodling is native to us
quote Sunni Brown

The development of childrens artistic activityIn other words, to communicate visually is inherent in us as a species – we all did it as a child because drawing is in our nature and at that point in our lives it was still totally uninfluenced by any wayward “well-meaning” nurturing that was yet to pull the portcullis down.

Sadly, by the time we get to High School all assignments take on an alphanumeric form, forcing aside and asunder any instinctive visual language skills; and as with any skill left to languish, our development and competency wanes and although the reality is that we haven’t been practicing, we erroneously believe that doodle drawing is only for those who are “artistic” – Ignoring the fact that the only reason someone is proficiently artistic is simply because they’ve maintained their practice and developed a skill as a consequence of that.

The Doodle Revolution

However, there is good news on the horizon

I’ve been noticing a steady movement forming by visual language proponents who happily are bringing visual literacy back into the main stream

In 2008 Dan Roam started a series of books:

  • “The Back of the Napkin – Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures” 2008
  • “Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures” 2009
  • “Blah Blah Blah: What to do When Words Don’t Work” 2011
  • Show and Tell: How Everybody can make Extraordinary Presentations” 2014

The few basic lines we need to draw anything by Dan Roam

Where he illustrates how only the most rudimentary of line types are necessary to express ideas visually – with no “artistic” skill required.

Then in 2011 Sunni Brown presented this succinct 5 minute TED talk (which has been viewed over a million times) called:

Doodlers Unite

Click here if you can’t see the video above!

In 2012 Mike Rohde brought out The SketchNote Handbook

The 5 basic shapes you need to draw anything

Again showing – quote Mike Rohde:
“Once you realize how the objects around you are made from these 5 elements [circle, square, triangle, line & dot], it becomes easier to draw all sorts of things.”

visual facilitation on a white boardAnd Rachel Smith, who specialises in visual facilitation, presented a TEDx talk telling the story how at school she was reprimanded for taking illustrative notes in class despite the fact that that was the most natural way for her to make sense of the information being presented.

Today she makes her living creating visual notes, relishing the value of combining pictures with words, which help lodge information to memory whether in class, recording business meetings or encapsulating conferences.

She asked her TEDx audience mid way in her presentation:

“What do you think is the most common objection I get when I start to teach people how to do visual notetaking?”

Click on the video and listen for just one minute for her answer!

Click here if you can’t see the video above!

“But I can’t draw”

If you listen beyond that, she goes on to demonstrate a step by step guide to get you on the road to incorporate visual language into your everyday world:

  1. Choosing tools that you’re comfortable with
  2. Developing an internal library of visual symbols for use on cue, akin to the familiarity we have with our alphanumerics.
  3. And learning to pick out key points – whether that be notating a talk, or in my case, highlighting one’s holiday adventures.

She also shows line by line how to create a simple ‘star man’ to claim your first visual thinking symbol for a person –
Try it, and tell me, did you surprise yourself?

Step by step guide how to draw a Star Man

Rachel Smith’s Step by Step Guide for How to Draw a Star Man


In 2013 Michael Nobbs brought out Drawing Your Life

Everyone can draw quote by Michael Nobbs


And in 2014 Sunni Brown published The Doodle Revolution


Click here if you can’t see the video above

In which she presents a visual alphabet made up of – you guessed it – simple lines, curves and shapes for communicating ideas, thoughts, and memories using visual language.

Can you draw these lines and shapes?

The Doodle Revolution visual alphabet

Or how about giving these stick figures a try!

How to draw stick figures

For more Ed Emerley How to Draw inspiration click on this image


Sketch-noting, doodling and/or story maps are not an artistic skill
They’re thinking skills that are articulated visually.

You Can’t Draw? I Don’t Believe You.

To finish off, here’s a great 3 minute video by Doug Neill from Verbal to Visual created in 2015 ~
Spelling out the difference between:

  • writing, which is a combination of straight and curved lines and
  • drawing, which is… ummmm… a combination of straight and curved lines.


Click here if you can’t see the video above

And because his next video, creating a page of icons has so many fun travel related symbols demonstrated, which is so relevant to us here… I couldn’t resist sharing that too!


What do you think?

Is this doodle drawing lark maybe not as scary as you thought?

Tell me in the comments below :)

Post Script:
I’ve just found another great You Tube video that will get anyone drawing caricatures  :)

Click here for the link if you can’t see it above
Why people believe they can’t draw – and how to prove they can | Graham Shaw

What to do in Whistler if you Don’t Ski

“You’re going to Whistler, in the winter?
But you don’t ski (or snowboard for that matter)!
What are you going to do there?”

Some places are so inextricably linked to an activity it becomes hard to see the place outside of its neatly labelled box – particularly when the raison d’être of the place in question has been fuelled by five bids over fifty years, culminating in a Winter Olympics finally being held there in 2010.

But there’s a lesson to be learnt here –
Just as there is more to Paris than Romance and there’s certainly more to Munich than Beer – Yes, there is more to Whistler than Skiing!

Before 1960, when a group of Vancouver businessmen came to the region with their dream of bringing the winter games to the then called London Mountain – renamed Whistler in 1965 for its resident ‘whistling’ alpine marmots – the draw card had been Alex and Myrtle Philip’s Rainbow Lodge on the shores of Alta Lake as a summer fishing destination.

Photo of Myrtle Philips standing outside Rainbow Lodge

Myrtle Philips established Rainbow Lodge in the 1920’s
In 2010 Whistler hosted the winter Olympic Games

Today – It’s a very different place.
Whislter-Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America with 8,000 skiable acres

1. Take a Peek on the Peak 2 Peak

Even if you’re not into snow sports, it makes sense to start off your time in Whistler by having a taste of what most people come here for ~
After all, its not only the skiers and snowboarders who can have the fun of taking a gondola up the mountain and riding 4.4 km (2.73 miles), 436 metres (1,430 feet) above the valley floor between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains on the world record breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola ~

Riding the Whistler gondola up the mountain

While you may feel a little out of place squeezing into a Gondola full of snowboarders – It’s entertaining not only for the scenery, but also listening-in to snowboard-speak conversations!

You can buy a non-skiing day pass and then take the Whistler gondola from the village. After a 25 minute ride, there’s a short walk across the snow to the Peak 2 Peak Station.

The Peak 2 Peak is an awe-inspiring engineering feat breaking 3 world records for –

  • The longest unsupported span in the world (3.024 km/ 1.88 miles)
  • The tallest lift of its kind (436m/(1,430 feet)
  • Links the largest continuous lift network
Peak to Peak gondola ride

Spanning 4.4km the Peak 2 Peak takes you 436 metres above the valley floor


While there is a steady flow of gondolas coming in and departing, there are only two glass bottomed gondolas (look out for the separate queue for these) which come in every 11 minutes, the time it takes to cross the span.

You can go backwards and forwards between the two mountains, and get on and off on either side, as many times as you like!

Travel journal drawings of the Peak to Peak

Extract from my travel journal

2. Have Lunch Up On the Mountain

Even though you’re not skiing doesn’t mean to say you can’t hang around to soak up the atmosphere by dining on the mountain –

While there’s a wide choice of food outlets, rather than grab a snack why not sit back and enjoy a full table service dining experience at either Christine’s on Blackcomb, or Steeps on Whistler.

Having gone Peak to Peak across and back on the gondola I found myself on the Whistler side, so came out of the cold and into the welcoming Roundhouse Lodge which was buzzing with skiers and snowboarders exchanging stories from their morning’s adventures. The air felt mildly steamy from wet and damp snow-sports clothing drying out in the warmth and the flat footed way of walking in rigid ski boots made everyone look stiff from their mountainside exertions.

Eating lunch at Steeps Restaurant

Coming off the slopes for lunch at Steeps Restuarant


3. Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre –

Whistler’s First Nation
Excerpt from my visual travel journal

Extract from my travel journal

Visiting from Australia, a country that like Canada has a modern history, I was keen to draw back the curtain of this recently developed resort to see what had gone before.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Getting an insight into the lives of the First Nation people

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is a short walk from the main village.

Twisting cedar bark to make string


Whistler is situated on ground that forms the border between the Squamish people, whose territory runs down to the coast, and the Lil’wat people who occupy the inland mountains.

The Cultural Centre is therefore run by members from both groups –

There is a daily greeting ceremony involving traditional song and drum beating followed by a tour that includes going out into a long house to see cedar bark soaked and then twirled to create string –
The fun here is that it is an interactive demonstration, where you too get the opportunity to create some –
I made mine (shown on the left as I twirled it) into a little bracelet.

There’s also a lovely café here, and a retail gallery with many indigenous arts and crafts for sale.

What to do in Whistler if you don't ski

4. Walking Nature Trails

Leaving the Cultural Centre I chose to walk back to the village via the Fitzsimmons Accessible Nature Trail – It’s 800m long, so you’re only ever a stone’s throw from civilisation but it’s so quiet and peaceful you feel as though you’re way off out in the wilderness.

Enjoying this ancient cedar wood tranquillity I come across a sign…

“Look Up”

A sign in the woods telling me to look up and see bear claw marks in the bark of the tree I am standing beside

“Look Up! A bear has used this tree as a scratching post.”


I was pleased it was winter and they were all busy hibernating!

However, this wasn’t the only trail –
There’s a 40km paved Valley Trail for walkers and bikers, which connects the outer suburbs to the village hub.
A great piece of infrastructure planning.

River of Golden Dream bridge in Whistler

I was staying out at Alpine Meadows and was able to walk to Rainbow Park – the birth place of Whistler – crossing the River of Golden Dreams along the way.

Travel journal extract

Extract from my story-map travel journal

5. Ziplining

Just because you don’t want to ski doesn’t mean to say you’re not up for a little thrill seeking – pushing the envelope and taking yourself that little bit beyond your comfort zone makes you know you’re alive – And is just what holidays are all about!

I was therefore excited by the prospect of doing a Ziptrek Ziplining tour so (nervously) put my hand up to have a go.
I planned on starting out gently doing the Intro version – the Bear tour for beginners – the one that said
“The perfect tour for first-time zipliners”

I’m not quite sure how I therefore managed to find myself on the Eagle Tour – The one that said:
“This breathtaking tour features five different ziplines, including a 2000-foot, awe-inspiring monster that drops 20 storeys! This tour is perfect for anyone who has ziplined before or just wants a heart-pounding, mind-expanding adventure experience.”

Hold on! But I haven’t ziplined before, and dropping 20 storeys is not what I have in mind as “fun”.

But serendipity has a wonderful way of wheedling its way into travel plans and if anyone is thinking should I?/shouldn’t I? go for the more experienced run – even as a first-timer…


You’ll be so thrilled you stepped up to the challenge!
You’ll love it 😀

If you can’t see the video above – Click here for the link



There’s a comprehensive list of winter activities on the Tourism Whistler website but here’s 10 more ideas of what to do in Whistler if you don’t ski, which caught my eye:

Have you visited a holiday destination renowned for one thing, but then peeled back the facade to reveal more to the place than at first glance?

Do tell and share in the comments below

The One Thing All Travellers Will Forget…

…and my Top 3 Travel Tips
to be sure you will remember!

Passport Check Tickets Check


“Passport?” – CHECK



And you’re off

Leaving on a jet plane

For months you’ve been dreaming of…
  • faraway places and luring landscapes
  • sparkling sunshine and gentle breezes
  • escaping to a world a million miles away
For weeks you’ve been researching top travel tips and planning on…
  • where to stay
  • what to see and do
  • who to fly with and
  • how to optimally pack the perfect wardrobe
At last, you’re experiencing your travelling dream…
  • viewing magical vistas and iconic features
  • your senses buzzing with fresh smells, soft sounds and the tantalizing tastes of local cuisines
  • you feel that long anticipated sensation of being ALIVE

before you know it, you’re back in a taxi pulling up outside your front gate.

And you're home

In the pouring rain you pile out onto the glistening pavement and haul your bag back up the garden path to the front door where you fumble for familiar keys, and the door slams behind you.

The after-holiday blues starts to seep through you –
Have you even been away?

Have you forgotten something?

I often think how funny it is that we spend so long dreaming, planning and finally experiencing we focus little attention on the longest lasting part of the trip – potentially the rest of your life – on the travel memories.

I’m sure when you return to work on the Monday you’ll manage to recount many a funny tale to entertain and share with your colleagues –
But in a couple of years those tales will start to go a little grey and fuzzy around the edges –
And in 5 years? Where was it you went?!


Memories fade

It is a fact –
Memories fade.
And sadly, if some form of action isn’t taken, it is the one thing all travellers will ultimately forget.

But, who wants to give up precious holiday time to do something that has no dopamine hit in sight for another how ever many years?

Let me share a quick story –
Just the other day I purposefully went to my bookshelf when my hand fell upon something quite different and I came away with…

Some doodley scribbles from my time in Canada…

Ziplining and Skiing doodlesAs I pulled out the concertina pages, it was such a blast to be suddenly ziplining my way through the snowy Canadian pine forests and skiing the Whistler-Blackcomb slopes from the top of 7th Heaven ski lift – I have to say playing with a few coloured pencils at odd moments while I was away was really not that much of a hardship, and well – my first dopamine hit had just kicked in!

I think sadly, many people feel the only way to record a trip is writing in a traditional travel journal – where like homework, you shut yourself away each night to get it done –

This is not my way of doing things –
And hopefully after reading this, neither will it be yours.

My Top 3 Travel Tips for Remembering your Trip… Forever

1. Start

As Woody Allen said – “Eighty percent of success is showing up” – so as soon as possible after leaving home – once through airport security is ideal – break the ice and make your first mark.

Do not have any high-falutin aspirations, which could either deter you from showing up at all, or set the bar too high making you feel you can’t keep it up.
Buy yourself a drink, and as you relax back in your seat to take in your first taste of holidays, use the bottom of your beverage of choice to make a coffee ring, a wine stain, whatever – to mark the page of your travel notebook.

Hey Presto – Your adventure has begun and your first holiday memory has been recorded.

This may even set the trend – a holiday recounted in a trail of beverage marks taken at the bevy of cafés and bars frequented along the way.

Waste no time in making your first mark

2. Don’t only rely on photos…

There is interesting evidence that indicates that blindly snapping away and relying on your camera to record the sights makes you remember less of that scene – Convinced you have safely secured the shot for posterity, your brain fails to be fully present in the moment and you miss out on making that all important emotional connection.

I can vouch for this scenario from my trip to Venice where over every bridge and down every alley there was such a mouth-wateringly beautiful vista I was compelled to try and capture every little bit to take home with me –
The reality being, I now couldn’t tell you where any one of those images was actually taken, nor how I truly felt when standing in the scene before it –

Venice Memories

However, the little doodle I made shortly after buying a bag of hot chestnuts in the street market (top right image) carries me instantly back to that moment in time and triggers my brain to recreate the entire scene –

But photos are so easy, I hear you say and if not photos, what then?

We all have different ways of taking in our world and expressing it, but it has been proven that text in conjunction with diagrams is the most effective way for conveying information –

Be a rebel and consider throwing your school learnt ways out of the window and have a go at story-mapping.

Anyone – even a 4 year old – can draw a stick-man so using this shorthand notation of pictograms, along with a few written details, plus the odd quirky receipt reflecting the local lingo (as well giving you the name of the café and the date) ~
What better way to get your grey matter sparking and those cherished memories highlighted… forever.

Story map pictogram diagram

3. Stop – It’s all in the detail

Have you ever re-discovered a pressed flower in a book, which the moment it’s touched transposes you back in full technicolour glory, to that meadow where it was picked?
There were no words with it, no lengthy descriptions, no photographs – Just a single tactile object re-connecting you to a moment in time otherwise forgotten.

Quote Paverse We Remember Moments

It is not the big picture descriptions that create the best memory joggers, but rather the details you’ve focussed on within the frame.

On my last holiday to Scotland, I was coming from Australia where most trees are eucalypts, which remain covered in silvery green leaves all year round – I was therefore totally captivated by the variety of woodland trees there.

Its all in the detail

Rather than record my walks through the woods in general terms I focused on details that caught my eye – Such as the lichen growing on bare wintry branches, the first of the catkins struggling against the cold hoping for spring, and the last remaining rusty red autumn leaves hanging on to sculptural ancient oak trees.
It is from these vignettes that the whole picture comes vividly back to life.

While my first tip stressed the importance to start, my third tip is stressing the importance that you stop (at least once each day) to be truly present in the moment while you soak up and consciously connect to the smallest of details in your foreign surrounds.

Emotional connections are the best of memory joggers.

Experience has taught me that memories fade quote


So on your next trip be sure you are not one of the travellers who will forget:

  1. Start (80% of success is turning up)
  2. Don’t only rely on photos (try a Story Map)
  3. Stop (It’s all in the detail )

How do you ensure you remember the highlights of your holiday?

Do share in the comments below :)