CamsBLOG: Why I Get Up Early On a Sunday (and You Should Too!)

CamsBLOG

These Boots Are Made For Hiking Meetup

Why I Get Up Early On a Sunday

(and You Should Too!)

Ah, Sundays… The perfect day to hit snooze, sleep in another couple hours, and finally get up only to transport your slothful behind from your cozy bed to your nearly-as-comfy couch. Or perhaps you reserve Sunday as your “chore day” where you can finally get around to cleaning that pigsty you call a house. Productive, right? Wrong! Try this instead: set your alarm for 7am, brew a fresh pot of coffee, have a cold shower, pack a healthy lunch and go “take a hike!” Specifically with These Boots Are Made For Hiking, a hiking Meetup I discovered during covid lockdown.

“What’s a Meetup?” I can hear you asking. Here’s the definition right off their website: “Meetup is a platform for finding local communities to meet new people, learn new things, find support, get out of their comfort zones, and pursue their passions together.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I myself have been a member on Meetup for years and have attended the odd event, but I truly discovered its power this year during lockdown. Like most people, I was going through a tough time – isolation, boredom, depression – and through the power of Meetup I discovered all sorts of groups that connected me with others dealing with the same crap. Those Meetups helped me get out of my “uncomfortable zone,” beat loneliness, and provided that much-needed motivation I was desperately seeking.

“These Boots Are Made For Hiking” is a Meetup group started by Sherry Bagnato, aka “Dear Woo Woo girl,” a Toronto-based author, podcaster and hiker extraordinaire. When asked why she started this group, she replied: “I tried organizing hikes with friends, but our plans always fell through. I started These Boots to get a group of motivated people together every week!”  And boy, did it work. It started off as a modest group – about 10 members – and has grown to around 40 regular walkers! The skill levels involved are anything from beginner to “moderately challenging” meaning that anyone, age or experience, is able to join. I’ve met people from all “walks of life” (pardon the pun): from the spry and sporty to retirees; from students and newcomers to Canada to those needing the exercise or looking to get closer to nature; or folks just looking to fill up a Sunday afternoon. There are even trekkers who brave the trails as a form of physical therapy. For myself, these hikes have been an excellent form of mental health therapy; I always feel better (or otherwise exhausted) after a hike, and I’ve found it’s a positive and motivating way to start off the week! Whatever the reason for joining, I believe we all have one thing in common: a sense of “finding connection.”

I’ve had a great many conversations with my fellow hikers, and they all have something unique and enlightening to share. These hikes are also a great chance for networking.  Each week we choose a new location to brave, reachable either by public transit or a short drive (and always generous drivers willing to carpool for those who need a ride). We hit up all sorts of hiking trails: some through canopied forests, others through rollicking fields, treks up mountainous bluffs and down winding, wooden staircases – hikes for any challenge level you’re looking for! If this sounds intimidating, no need to fret; the group breaks off into smaller groups so that you’ll always find members who are more “your speed.” And of course we take breaks to rest, eat lunch or go for a refreshing swim along the way. All in all a fun, challenging and exhilarating way to spend your Sunday!

So next time Sunday rolls around, what are you gonna do? Hit the alarm and roll over, or get your backside out of bed and join a hike? If you decide on the former, enjoy your lazy Sunday. But if you are ready for a change, want to take action and get out and meet new people, then click the link below and join our next hike! You won’t regret it, and your alarm will thank you.

> >Sign up for the next hike on Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/these-boots-are-made-for-hiking

Follow Sherry Bagnato: https://dearwoowoogirl.com

Cameron is a freelance writer, short story author and novice hiker living in Bloordale, Toronto

Contact Cameron: cbrtnik@gmail.com

BLOG-Bits: Ramblings of a Madman – The Pub

BLOG-Bits
Ramblings of a Madman
the-flask
The Pub
10.23.19
    Nothing like a cool pint on a cold day… Sitting in a warm, dimly lit pub, in prohibition era red velvet chairs. With the first sip you can forget your worries… And the pub suddenly becomes your home: the dirty table, the stained chair, the dusty lamp. You could live here. The waiter is suddenly your best friend. The previously loud and annoying resident is suddenly a friendly neighbour. The loud noises are suddenly welcome. The smell of chicken wings is suddenly akin to the feeling of an organism. An overall sense of elation comes over you like there’s not a thing wrong in the world. All you worries, anxiety, depression – poof – gone. I could kiss my neighbour right now: a bearded hipster. This feeling feels like it could last forever. Is this how men become alcoholics? Did it all start with good intentions – a stress relief, a therapy, something to set the world straight? If I were dying I’d like to got out after a few pints. I wouldn’t be afraid of death. I would welcome it with open arms, like my mustachioed companion. Why can’t I always feel like this? I never want this feeling to end. Weed is good too. Why don’t they serve weed-infused beer pints? They’re missing a good business opportunity. Maybe I should start one: a pub that sells weed pints. I’d make a ton of money. Then I could buy as many pints as I like.

Poetry Corner – Starbucks

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Starbucks

I don’t even recognize this world around me. How am I supposed to be productive? Maneuvering on an unstable rock, an unknown planet, through an ever-evolving galaxy… Staring at the unfamiliar person across from me at a Starbucks, one of many, not special, drinking brown water, trying to find the inspiration at the bottom of the cup…

Multiple unimportant conversations fill the space around me, fleeting moments in a day that blends into the next, any other day really, not special, they’ve all been repeated before... People pretending to be busy, all the while thinking the same thoughts as me, feeling the same feelings, experiencing the same sense of dread…

Some people staring off into the distance, waiting for a reply on their phone, waiting for their partner to join them, waiting for an email, for a response, any response, waiting, always waiting… We are our gadgets and our gadgets are us. Coffee, Cappuccino, Americano, Chai Latte, Cold Brew, Iced Tea, Frappuccino, down the hatch, feeling wired, feeling tired, feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling hope, feeling hopeless...

Just another day at Starbucks.

Upfront Reviews: Float Toronto

Upfront Reviews: Float Toronto

by Cameron Brtnik

    When you enter into Float Toronto, you’re entering into another world… If you haven’t “floated” yet, do yourself a favour and get buoyant! 

    If you haven’t tried it, you’ve most likely heard of it: known as “float pods,” “isolation tanks” or the more ominous sounding “sensory deprivation tanks,” they’ve started to amass a cult following amongst its practitioners. It has also been called “floatation therapy,” and is anecdotally said to cure a multitude of ailments. Joe Rogan claims he sleeps in one every night. As Float Toronto – one of the few venues that carry float tanks in Toronto – say in their promotional video, “Your experience in a float tank is about everything you won’t be doing.” I personally always go in with some intent: think on my goals, focus my energy, reflect on my actions or simply to meditate.

Welcome to Float Toronto!

    You are greeted by a chill receptionist who is more than happy to give you a tour of the spa. In fact, it’s more of a “do it yourself spa.” What comes to mind when you think of the word “spa?” Relaxation, meditation, and healing – and that’s exactly what you’ll get during your float. In fact, I’ve found floating to be far more relaxing than a traditional massage. I believe it’s because your body actually relaxes, I mean fully relaxes, without friction against your body, and your muscles for the first time can fully relax. That’s the problem with traditional massage: your body is still lying against another surface so it’s impossible for your body to completely relax. Because the water is heated to the same temperature as your body, you don’t really feel it after a while and your mind becomes “untethered” from the rest of you. As Joe Rogan says, “Your body is a distraction.” Now it’s time to travel to the centre of consciousness…

    As you enter your own private room complete with personal bench, tiled shower and your very own float pod, you’re overcome with a sense of relaxation before even stepping into the glimmering abyss… The dim lights and their sapphire glow make it feel as if you’re stepping into a spacecraft – and that’s exactly what you’re doing. After a soothing shower (there’s no rush as you have a whole hour to float), you step into your personal pod and it feels ethereal. At first you’ll feel slightly nervous to lie down on a bed of water. Don’t worry: each tank has a thousand pounds of epsom salt which gives the water a buoyancy akin to the Dead Sea. You fully lie back – yes you can even rest your head on the surface of the water – or you have the option of using the provided halo cushion for your neck. You have the option of earplugs if you get swimmer’s ear, soothing body cream to rub on your skin after your session, and your very own robe; you’ll feel like you’re staying at the Hilton. If you are claustrophobic, not to worry; the tanks are easy to exit at all times by just pushing up on the pod door. But don’t fret: Float Toronto’s tanks are much larger and voluminous than most, so even the most claustrophobic guest should’ve have a panic attack.

    There is heavenly zen music playing as you enter the glowing hull. As you descend into the warm glow of the lights, it’s nice to just lie in it for ten minutes to get fully immersed into the experience. You can control the settings from inside the tank if you want to control the lights and music, but this floater recommends trying the full experience: FULL SENSORY DEPRIVATION. Oh, and one very important tip: never rub your eyes! Don’t put your hands even near your eyes. Doing so will result in a disruption of your meditative state and quickly propel you back to reality. In case of this scenario, there is spray and a towel provided in the tank which will quickly remedy the situation. As you’re in a “sensory deprivation” tank, after about ten minutes you’re encouraged to turn all these distractions off…so you’re floating in pure blackness, like the blackness of space, the thick water fully supporting your weightless body. At first you may feel helpless, anxious, or even nervous…but slowly a relaxing feeling encompasses you like a warm blanket. As you lay there naked – oh yes, I forgot to mention you are encouraged to go “au naturel” to get the full experience – typically your mind will start racing to all the things you have to do that day: go to work, pick up milk, take the dog out, watch the season finale of Game of Thrones. In today’s age you may even have a full-on panic attack that you can’t whip out your phone to check your notifications and like your favourite insta posts. But eventually these thoughts fade and suddenly, for the first time in forever, your mind becomes empty…or at least void of any trivial thoughts. You begin noticing your environment and because there’s no light to “influence” your vision, you may even start hallucinating. I have envisioned that I am floating in space with stars hovering above me (these experiences are heightened by a quick hit on the ol’ vape before floating. I feel this enhances the experience but is not necessary.)

Top 5 Things I Like To Do While In The Tank 

  1. Listen to my knuckles crack underwater
  2. Hum and chant underwater. Your voice is intensified so that it sounds like it could fill a stadium. (One time floating with a friend he heard me chanting from an adjoining room. He thought he was hearing things in the tank!)
  3. Force myself to be creative. If I have an upcoming project that I haven’t reflected on yet, I simply focus on that one thing and – boom – ideas come streaming in
  4. Pretend I’m a frog swimming around in my own private pond
  5. Massage my body. The salty, viscous fluid helps with this

    Because you won’t be “fighting gravity,” it’s hard to tell where the water ends and your body begins… You became “one” with the water and the space around you, as if you’re a naked astronaut floating through space. I am usually fully relaxed halfway through the float, and that’s when my mind starts being creative. I like to use the tank time to think, create and brainstorm ideas – like a literal think tank! But each person’s experience is subjective, and you may prefer to just relax and enjoy the experience. With around twenty minutes to go, I often pass out due to feeling so relaxed. You may call that a waste of a float, but trust me when I say when you wake up you will feel like a new person, and I guarantee you will have never slept like that in a bed before. The music comes on again at the end, sort of like a heavenly alarm clock, to wake you. But if you find it hard to snap out of the trance you’re in, the water will start gushing around the tank to “nudge” you awake. You’ll want to take another shower to wash all that salt off your body. One thing you’ll notice is how smooth your skin feels: “Like a baby’s bottom,” is the best way to describe it. Another thing I find is that, ironically, my muscles are sore, almost like I just ran a marathon. I think it’s because they’ve never fully relaxed before. But it’s in a good way, like that feeling after a good workout at the gym.

    After getting dressed, you can enjoy some hot herbal tea in the lounge and share your experience with the staff. They even provide a journal where you can share your experience by writing a poem, drawing your visions, or writing a short diary of your experience. I’ve heard from people who have had very visual hallucinations (particularly one guy who did mushrooms in the tank. But I don’t recommend that, at least on your first float!), to those who have none and just find it to be a therapeutic experience. I recommend you book a float to find out what you’ll experience. They also sell bags of epsom salt in the lobby so you can enjoy the health benefits in the comfort of your own bath. Whatever your reasons for trying it are – therapeutic, spiritual or psychedelic – I believe floating is the best way to achieve it. Bon voyage!

Book your float here: https://float-toronto.com/ and use their online calendar

Recommendation: Book a package of ten floats and it’s almost half price! Tuesdays are “clean for float” days where you can volunteer to come in and clean for a few hours in exchange for a float! 

Float Toronto on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=3nHbY3lNOJI

Post-float reactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI_EL3IvmKQ

Joe Rogan on Sensory Deprivation Tanks https://player.vimeo.com/video/97880537

Cameron Brtnik is a freelance writer and blogger based in Toronto, and a practicing “floater”

BLOGasides: “Not Very Bunny” (An Easter Story)

BLOGasides

“Not Very Bunny”

(An Easter Story)


Preface: During our Easter brunch this year at the prestigious The Doctor’s House in Kleinburg, as I prepared to delight the family with some “Easter entertainment” during brunch, I magically disappeared before the show even began, leaving my family to think I’d dashed on the bill or ran off with the Easter Bunny. Now to “eggsplain” the mystery behind my unplanned disappearance…


     I was all prepared to give my best 5 minutes as the Easter Bunny, but of course my laptop crashed that morning, so I had no way of playing the audio file. It was at that point I made up my mind: I would find some living soul in Kleinburg that could help me. I ventured out into the attractive yet unknown terrain of Kleinburg Village, popping into every store along the way hoping to find a working computer. Alas, shop after shop, the townsfolk had never heard of a “computer.” Finally, glimmering in the distance like a mirage, was a Flower Shop with a flickering red light that read: “Open.”


I ventured in and the proprietor, an old Korean woman, tried her best to help me by plugging in my usb stick into what looked like Bill Gate’s first prototype of a “computer” to no avail. Now in full-on panic mode – all the while knowing I was missing out on a succulent 5 star buffet – the singular customer in the shop, a lovely lady with with her son, noticed my predicament (I had been joking around with her son: “Are you buying flowers for your girlfriend? Did you meet the Easter Bunny this morning? Etc”). She said, out loud, likely much to her chagrin, “We have a computer at home. We live close by!” After the shock of hearing one of the local residents actually owned a computer died down, I said, “Let’s do it!” and then she said, “Follow me!” to which I replied, “I actually don’t have a car!” to which she then retorted, “We don’t live that close…” Then she said, “What the heck, jump in!” and she, Cecelia, I learned after a hurried handshake, introduced me to her husband Michael; driver, and her four cute kids sitting in the back.


After a fun name game along the way where I purposely mixed up all the kids’ names much to their delight, we pulled into the driveway of what must’ve been the nicest house in Kleinburg. I started guessing what Michael must do for a living: doctor? Lawyer? Arms dealer?? As I walked into the front lobby, there was a single painting hanging on the wall, clearly depicted by one of their kids, but it wasn’t the painting itself that caught my attention; it’s what was scrawled on it: “Make Magic.” I stopped in my tracks and exclaimed, “This is a sign.” Despite it technically being a “sign,” I couldn’t help but think I was on the right track. I followed the sign further into their beautiful, sprawling home and then into Michael’s office. I made quick work: I inserted my usb stick into the computer (even the computer was big), pulled up my file, emailed it to myself, and confidently said, “It is done.” By now I was sure an hour had passed.

My intention was to bolt back up the road to the Doctor’s House, but Michael offered to take me back as he knew the predicament I was in. James joined us (“James Cameron”, another sign?) We sped up the winding road back to the D.H., and I jumped out and thanked them. Michael handed me his business card and I assured him I would contact them. After a friendly farewell, I sauntered in, clearly having been lost in the labyrinthine buffet, and the rest is as you remember it: At some point in all the craziness, the Easter Bunny made his debut, told some “not so bunny jokes”, scared a baby or two, delivered some hastily dyed hard boiled eggs, hugged a few people he hadn’t seen in years, then hopped off into some distant meadow where he’s happily hibernating till next year (mistakenly next to some hungry bears). And it struck me that that is what Easter is truly about; it’s about gathering together with family, sharing laughs, tears, and lots of chocolate; and about helping out a random stranger in need.

Happy Easter to all my lovely followers! – Cameron

Watch my “Not Very Bunny” Easter Bunny standup act: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=8zDIcGLgxJI