Read a bit of Mariellen Ward’s blog BreatheDreamGo and you quickly realize this is not your average travel blog. She specializes in the transformational and meaningful aspects of travel. Her own travel awakening came with the fulfillment of a lifelong dream in 2005: six months travelling in India, which she says completely changed her life, and she now refers to India as her “soul culture”. One of those life changes was the evolution of her career from corporate writing and editing to travel writing and editing.
Mariellen founded BreatheDreamGo in 2009, inspired by her trips to India (she’s been back five times since 2005). She also writes for other print and Web outlets, is an associate editor at TravelandEscape.ca, and co-founded Toronto Travel Massive, a monthly meet-up group for travel writers and travel-industry types.
A fourth generation Torontonian, Mariellen has lived in various places in Canada and Asia, but is now based back in Toronto.
What prompted you to start BreatheDreamGo and how has it evolved?
I started Breathedreamgo because I could see the world of writing and publishing was undergoing drastic change, and if I wanted to survive as a writer and achieve my dreams, one of my best options would be to make a name for myself online—to create a platform, and a brand and become known for a niche. I chose travel in India because that is my abiding passion! Breathedreamgo continues to evolve as I learn the craft of travel blogging, and become more skilled at all the various things it involves such as photography, SEO, social media and, these days, video editing.
What have been the most rewarding or unexpected experiences that have come from starting your blog?
The most rewarding thing about all the hard work I’ve put into Breathedreamgo is how it is taking me closer and closer to living my dream life, which is to travel and tell stories. I have loved the process of trying to become good at something, of trying to master something (writing) and of becoming a better writer. I didn’t have the emotional fortitude for this journey when I was younger. Plus, I hadn’t found my muse—travel in India. It’s also amazing to connect to people all over the globe through my writing, and on various social media platforms.
You’ve said that your blog is about finding meaning through travel. Why do you feel this is important?
It’s not important to find meaning through travel. It’s just how it is for me. I love the inner journey as much as the outer journey, and when I can connect those dots and tell a good story in my genre—which is creative nonfiction or personal narrative travel—well, that’s heaven for me. Plus, it’s a very good strategy on the Internet to identify and clearly establish your niche. I have two: travel in India and meaningful adventure travel. However, if you do find meaning in travel, and if it makes you a stronger person, or broadens your horizons, or gives you a whole new perspective, or makes you see yourself as a global citizen, or helps you manifest your dreams, that’s great!
Are there small things we can all do to make our vacations more meaningful, even if we’re not travelling to an exotic destination, or even very far from home?
I think being very attuned to local culture is a great thing you can do for yourself and the world. That’s how to make the world a smaller place, in the best sense of that phrase. Show respect and curiosity—it’s a great combination and it will win you friends from Rome to Rio to Rajasthan to Raratonga.
Where do you go at home (in Toronto or anywhere nearby) when you need to recharge your mind and/or body?
I need to be alone to recharge, so anywhere I can be alone will do. But when I really need to recharge, I go to Aurovalley Ashram in north India. It’s a small, garden-like ashram right near the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River, surrounded by a teeming jungle, Rajaji National Park. The vibrations there are peaceful, profound and consciousness-changing.
What have been some of your favourite inspirational/meaninful trips in Canada?
A recent trip to Halifax to commemorate the Titanic centennial was very meaningful. I have had a lifelong fascination with this disaster, and traveling to Halifax for the centenary events gave me a real appreciation for the role that Halifax played in the recovery operations. Years ago, traveling to the Gulf Islands and Tofino was very special. A friend said the “veil is thin in Tofino” and she’s right. And all the camping trips I have taken to central Ontario, and to our cottage near Orillia on Lake Simcoe, were extremely meaningful. Like many people, I find it easier to feel a sense of spirituality when I am surrounded by nature.
You’ve written a bit about volunteer vacations. How do you feel about “voluntourism” in general? Do you have any top tips for those who’d like to do this type of travel?
Voluntourism can be a great experience, but you have to do your due diligence. You have to make sure the organization is reputable and the work is truly needed and is not depriving someone local of work. I volunteered to work as an assistant art therapist with Tibetan refugee children in Dharamsala (read the story) and it was a very rich experience. I found out they just needed love.
You write quite a bit about yoga and it seems to be a significant part of your life. Are there any yoga getaways in Canada that you can recommend?
The most authentic yoga experiences I know about in Canada are at the Sivananda Yoga Camp in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, and Yasodhara Ashram near Nelson, British Columbia. I’ve been to Sivananda, but not Yasodhara. I stayed in a tent for two weeks on the gorgeous grounds of Sivananda, and loved getting up at dawn and chanting in the temple, and then taking a yoga class before breakfast. It’s a very authentic ashram experience and it’s in a peaceful beautiful setting. I love it there in the summer!
Anything else to share with Where.ca readers?
I really believe in the power of travel to transform, and I hope that my writing inspires people to “breathe, dream and go” and follow their dreams—or, at least, to see the beauty, magic and wonder in this world. I think life is a precious gift. If you have the great privilege to be born into a situation that allows you to pursue your dreams, what are you waiting for?