Tag Archives: vacation

The Stages of Adventuring (Guest Post)

The Stages of Adventuring

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you been on any adventures lately? Are you on an adventure now? How do you feel about adventuring?

My hubby and I are adventuring in the Maritimes. We’re having a wonderful time as we explore all four provinces on our whirlwind tour.

Has it been nothing but unicorns and rainbows? Definitely not.

Tend, with caption: "This would be our first campsite on PEI. Yep, that’s the Atlantic outside our front door."

This would be our first campsite on PEI. Yep, that’s the Atlantic outside our front door.
[Photo Credit: Steph Beth Nickel]

So what are the stages of adventuring?

Decide to Adventure

It’s true that not all “adventures” are those of our choosing, but that’s not typically true of vacations.

Dave and I first decided to travel east after our 2017 vacation in Alberta.

Because we’re tenting 10 of the 17 days, Dave thought it would be cheaper and take less planning.

Such was not the case.

Even when we choose to go on an adventure, we must mentally make provision for the unexpected.

Prepare to Adventure

I booked our accommodations, prepared the shopping lists, and purchased the food and other supplies.

Dave undertook the time-intensive project of booking campsites and plotting our route.

All the while, we were seeking to get extra work done at our day jobs.

By late Sunday afternoon, I was done in. We were scheduled to leave on Thursday at 1:00, and I was uncertain whether the trip was worth all the effort.

There may come a point as we prepare to adventure that we’re ready to call it quits.

Begin the Adventure

By 2:00 on Thursday, we were on the road, only an hour later than we’d hoped.

My hubby, who is doing the driving, did not consider the next eight hours much of an adventure. There was lots of construction and it took that long to get to Gananoque.

But what a delightful B & B.

The hosts were friendly. The suite immense. And the made-to-order breakfast was included.

When we’re finally ready to set off on an adventure, we need to take a deep breath and go for it.

Look for God-Sightings on the Adventure

The luxury of the B & B in Gananoque was evidence of God’s grace. (I had no idea it was so lovely when I booked it.)

When we returned to our campsite after exploring Charlottetown for the day, we discovered the owner of the campgrounds had graciously covered our tent with tarps to keep it dry. Talk about going above and beyond!

And one more thing: the stars!

No one really wants to get up in the night to use the facilities, but I was actually glad I did. I looked up and the stars were incredible.

So, whatever adventure we’re on, may we remember to look up.

Whether we’re on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or an “adventure” we’d never choose for ourselves, may we keep our eyes open for the Lord and His handiwork.


Keep your eyes open for the Lord and His handiwork. (Click to tweet)

No matter what the adventure, keep looking up. (Click to tweet)


Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.

Bubbles in Bratislava

Europe on a river cruise. Hands up, everyone who’s dreamed of a getaway like this. My husband and I decided to splurge for our 30th anniversary, and the Grand European Tour from Viking River Cruises exceeded all expectations.

Fifteen days on the ship from Amsterdam to Budapest, with daily excursions, plus a three-day extension in Prague at the end. I loved being on the deck watching the scenery slide by. My favourite stop was the charming town of Miltenberg in Germany, and Budapest at night is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

Conversations with our tour guides and with the crew on Viking longship Alsvin gave me a reality check about conditions in some of Europe’s former communist countries. Why had I assumed democracy was some kind of magic remedy that would make things better?

Democracy and freedom are fine things, but like everything else, they have learning curves and weaknesses. New political leaders need time to learn how to govern well (sadly, the corrupt ones seem to catch on faster). With no restriction on travel or occupation, those looking for a better life may forsake the fields for the factories, or their homelands for emigration.

It surprised me to hear that some people long for the “good old days” of communist rule, when “nobody had much, but everyone had something.” Others are thriving, and building a bright future.

These scattered tidbits of information were a minor part of our tour, but in the midst of sightseeing, sampling fine food and learning history, they carved a sense of hopelessness in me. What could I say to someone in this position? “Jesus loves you?” He does, but the words alone don’t sound like much. And they’re hard to trot out in a two-minute conversation with a stranger.

Normal people wouldn’t be affected this way, but although I tried not to dwell on it, my heart-heaviness grew.

Our bus tour through the city of Bratislava discouraged me. On the one hand, we saw a bridge that’s an engineering marvel, as well as opulent villas where international ambassadors live and hold court.

asymmetrical suspension bridge in Bratislava

The Novy Most (New Bridge) is an asymmetrical suspension bridge (also known as the Slovak National Uprising Bridge). Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

We saw a historic castle, still in use for diplomatic meetings. Slovakia’s capital city is poised for growth.

On the other hand, we saw smoke from clusters of factories. We heard about the thin walls in the grey ranks of apartment complexes. The contrast between rich-and-showy and trying-to-survive hurt me.

The bus let us out to explore the grounds of Bratislava Castle. My husband and I wandered, taking photos and absorbing the atmosphere, but I couldn’t shake the sadness inside.

Talking with God wasn’t helping. Until I turned and saw His gift.

A mother blowing bubbles for her child

See the bubbles, in front of the tree to the left of the left-hand lamp post? Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

On a park bench, a mother. Blowing bubbles for her child. Something in the simple act spoke hope to me.

God is still God, and He’s still present and at work.

Looking back now at our photos, I see a beautiful, modern city with green space, cradling a picturesque, cobblestoned historic centre. The older part has quaint buildings, brass statues, and of special delight to my husband and me, fine chocolate and artisanal honey.

Brass statue of a worker peeking out of a manhole

The Watcher. Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

How much would I have missed if I only remembered this city through my sad impressions?

Funny, I wrote this post to share how God encouraged my spirit through the mother and child—and the bubbles, which He knows I love—but I see a second lesson for myself: stop trusting my own perceptions, especially the melancholy ones, and pray for clear eyes to see what God sees. (Not that He doesn’t see the hurts. He has perfect perspective.)

Funnier? That’s a big part of the message I brought home from Write Canada: pray to see and hear what God sees and hears. More about that in a future post.

Oh—lest you’re wondering, Eowyn the travel sheep (or “porta-sheep”) came too. Acton the adventure sheep would have needed his own seat on the plane.

Stuffed sheep in the window of our ship's cabin

Eowyn watching the sights. Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

Curious about the scrapes in the paint on such a new ship? We passed through a lot of locks, sometimes with bare inches’ clearance on each side. We had a skilled crew, but wave action will jostle a boat while the water’s rising.

The Choice to be Cheerful

Have you ever read accommodation reviews and wondered if the people actually stayed at the same spot? There’ll be a stack of 4- and 5-star reviews, and then some 1-stars. Raves about how great everything is, and rants about miserable service and conditions.

My husband and I read the usual gamut when picking an overnight spot for an impulse trip to Prince Edward Island. We decided that mixed reviews are mostly about what people look for. Some folks are never satisfied.

Prince Edward Island National Park

PEI National Park

PEI is maybe a four hour drive from our home, and My husband had never been there. I hadn’t been since I was a child. It was time.

Some would say it wasn’t quite the right time.

It was the Victoria Day long weekend* and time for those with cottages to consider opening up for the summer. I think most cottagers stayed home, because Atlantic Canada was cold that weekend. There was snow. I saw bits of hail.

Our lodging was designed for summer use. It was cold, and it stayed cold, although after a while we couldn’t see our breath.

Remembering the cranky reviewers, we stayed determinedly cheerful. Even when morning came with no hot water.

But I wondered if that was the final straw that would turn me into a grump. (And I wasn’t the one who discovered the hard way just how cold the water was!)

Most of us can handle a few irritations or troubles, but after a while we get tired of being patient and we think we’ve had enough. And I’ve often thought it seems like life piles on “just one more” until we crack.

The enemy of our souls would suggest we just start spewing at the first problem. “It’s inevitable.” Except it isn’t.

As I heated water in the kettle so I could wash, I realized it’s not about my choice to be positive. It’s about my reliance on—my confidence in—God as the one in control, my Shepherd, He who will look after me in any circumstance.

That’s the peace, not whether things are good or bad. That’s the source of contentment, not my decision to be cheerful (although that’s good too).

Our overnight stay turned out to be more “roughing it” than we’d planned, but it taught me something important: Be positive, but more than that, remember and trust in God.


Woodpecker at the Anne of Green Gables heritage site

Because sometimes life stinks, and we can still have security and even joy in God. That’s what the Apostle Paul said: “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation… For I can do everything through Christ…” (Philippians 4:12-13, NLT)

And lest anyone feel sorry for us, we actually did have a delightful day once we got back on the road. We went to the beach (in jackets and hoods) to watch the waves and seabirds, saw two beautiful herons, strolled the grounds of the Anne of Green Gables heritage sites, walked quietly through a prayer garden, ate lobster burgers accompanied by some classic tunes from our younger years, indulged in some COWS ice cream… and my sweet husband bought me some birthday gifts. The day turned out to be the first of  50 good memories I’m to record in the journal he gave me the next day, on my actual birthday. Best birthday ever? I think so.

I’m so glad we didn’t let the cold ruin it. And I hope we get back to PEI when the normal tourists go, in the summer when it’s warm!


*Yes, Canada appears to be the only country where Queen Victoria’s birthday is a national holiday. No, I don’t personally care about her birthday. Yes, I would consider renaming it. But let there be no talk of us losing a statutory holiday.