Imagine dedicating a whole year to doing things that make you Happy. Going wherever your instincts lead you, being around people that make you feel good, trying new things that get you excited. That’s exactly how I chose to live this past year, and it’s been an incredible ride! The last time I did something like this was right before I went to Miss Universe after winning Miss Canada. It’s been a while and I felt like it was time to reconnect with myself and find my Happiness.
I kicked off my journey by attending AFest, a conference with Ted Talk speakers and best selling authors in Ibiza, then made my way to Burning Man in California, participated in Tony Robbins Date with Destiny event in Florida, and then ended it with Sky Diving in Dubai! To say it was a joyful, happy year would be an understatement. I felt alive, recharged and ready to take on the world! Being in this blissful state I knew there was one more place I wanted to explore to get to the source of happiness… Bhutan, the Land of Happiness. I have wanted to visit Bhutan for over 10 years and nowfelt like the right moment.
Bhutan is a hidden gem tucked away in the Himalayan range between India and China. It’s a Buddhist Kingdom and is considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world. They even have a Gross National Happiness index that measures the quality of life of its citizens. After my week long trip I realized it’s not only the happiest place I have visited but also one of the most beautiful,fascinating cultures. You’re surrounded by breathtaking snow-capped mountains, exquisite hand carved buildings, prayer flags fluttering in the wind… and you’re sure to crack a smile from the funny roadside signs, hilarious stories about night hunting, painted phalluses on village homes…. and oh that killer Bhutanese humour.
As a TV presenter I have traveled around the world and have met fascinating people from celebrities, to world-class athletes to spiritual leaders, but this trip was incredibly special. I shared this adventure with people I truly love, my sister and closest friend. We not only had the privilege of meeting His Majesty the King, we also organized an itinerary that would make national geographic envious! It ended up being a trip of a lifetime beyond anything I could have imagined. I left Bhutan with spiritual encounters with monks, a sacred blessing for love, visited ancient monasteries, trekked to the top of Tigers Nest monastery (10,000 feet above sea level) and had my perceptions completely challenged. I thought Bhutan would be a conservative country, it was refreshing to learn it is an accepting, fun-loving culture that truly values the happiness of its people.
Gross National Happiness
The views flying into Paro, one of the most dangerous airports in the world were mesmerizing! We were surrounded by 16,000 feet Himalayan peaks and had jaw-dropping views from the cockpit of Mount Everest and the snow-capped Himalayan range. You have to see it to believe it… the videos will take your breath away! The flight alone makes you smile ear to ear, no wonder they are so happy I thought. Our first encounter was with our guide Ugyen. A cheerful man who cracked us up with his stories about night hunting and dating in Bhutan. During one of our treks in Thimphu I shot a video with him about Gross National Happiness (GNH). He shared that it was introduced by the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuckand is the guiding development principle in Bhutan. Ugyen feels that ‘GNH is more important than gross national product’ and that ‘you can measure it by seeing it on the face and smiles of people’. He observed my face and said that I looked pretty happy. I took the compliment and continued to trek up the steep hill, huffing and puffing as I battled the altitude.
Monks & Wisdom
I had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama twice in my life. The first time I was during a press interview during my time at CNN International. The second was with a private audience in Toronto where he spoke about faith and oneness. I was intrigued about Buddhism and wanted to learn more, but I never imagined that years later I would be in Bhutan sitting with Monks discussing Meditation, Buddhism and Happiness. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting master Karchung a monk who meditated in a cave for 6 years and is now committed to being one of the happiest people on earth. He invited us to his home for coffee and shared his thoughts on happiness. He radiated pure love and joy and gifted us with some precious pearls of wisdom “don’t judge the other, only judge yourself’ he also gave us a simple yet profound exercise “for 5 minutes each day practice making the other person right. Even if they harmed you, it happened for a reason, practice they are right in what they did and just be’. I must admit this is really hard to do but I appreciate his deep wisdom of letting go and surrendering to things you can’t control.
Adventures in Punakha
I’m in love with Punakha, a picturesque small town with incredible natural beauty that is virtually untouched by tourism. We went white water rafting (singing Bollywood songs all the way down the river). walked across the longest suspension bridge brimming with prayer flags, and cycled through steep hills and charming villages.
We visited Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan’s oldest and most beautiful Dzong’s wearing traditional Kira dresses and high heels! We climbed up steep ladders and walked across cobble stone alleys in style (and with sore feet), all which was well worth it as soon after we had the opportunity to meet His Majesty the King. It’s easy to see why he is admired and revered by his people, his humility and kindness is truly inspiring. Everyone I met in Bhutan was wearing pins of the King to show their love and respect for him, it was endearing. I admit that after meeting him I got a few pins and proudly wore them during the rest of the trip.
We visited the Chimi Lhakhang ‘Divine Madman Temple’. We trekked through rice paddy fields to get there and along the way were shocked to see colourful paintings of phalluses on the village homes (you got to see it to believe it). Our guide told us that at the monastery we would get blessed with a wooden phallus on our head! At first we though this was hilarious, three women with lots of inside jokes and laughter…but our attitude changed after we encountered a father trekking through the fields with his newborn. We learned that he and his wife had trouble conceiving a child and after a blessing from the temple they had their first born. With his 2 day old baby in his arms, he was on his way to the temple to give gratitude to the monk and receive a name for his son. It was beautiful. This is considered a temple for fertility and a sacred experience for many.
Lessons on Happiness
On my last day in Bhutan I tied a prayer flag at the top of mountain and watched it flutter in the wind with my deepest wishes in them. There are so many reasons that make this country special and a culture we can learn so much from. To say I ended my year of ‘happy experiences’ with a bang is an understatement. Bhutan was the perfect way to solidify all that I learned. I made a list of why I believe it’s such a happy place: The simplicityof the culture and people tops it. We somehow have lost this in fast bustling cities. During my trip I saw kids playing on the streets, people genuinely connecting and not consumed by their phones, the food was organic and fresh, and the locals were kind and humble. There’s no question that being surrounded by naturealso makes for a happy disposition. Fresh air, majestic mountains, respect for the land, and little pollution makes Bhutan feel like paradise. I also noticed that humouris a big part of the culture. Funny roadside signs, loads of jokes and pranks, I laughed so much on this trip! And finally being surrounded by arteverywhere is inspiring. The charming homes are hand carved, the traditional Kira dresses are colorful and elegant, and artists consider paintings spiritual.
I left Bhutan with pure joy and happiness in my heart. I am truly grateful to have experienced the Kingdom of Happiness and for this magical journey. As we all go on our own journey to find happiness, a beautiful experience like this can help us reconnect with ourselves and remind us that it’s the simple things in life that bring the greatest joy, and that everything we seek outside is already inside of us. Peace. Joy. Love. Happiness.
Someone posted this beautiful memory of all the Miss Universe Canada winners on Instagram today. It was a trip down memory lane and it made me think of my journey and what Beauty means to me in my 40’s.
I believe that real Beauty is about being YOU, unapologetically, imperfectly and authentically you. Always being true to yourself despite how it may look to others. It’s about radiating love and joy from the inside-out. It’s about seeing the world with beautiful eyes, and all people and experiences as divine teachers. It’s about embracing your femininity and still feeling powerful, strong and fierce.
I feel honoured to have represented my country as Miss Canada, for me it is beyond physical beauty… it’s about confidence, self belief, trust and knowing that you were put on this earth to Shine. I am grateful I had the opportunity to rise up, stand up and show the world who I AM. In whatever endeavour you choose ladies don’t be afraid to claim the stage and shine, whether in a boardroom, in business or in front of an audience … BE YOU.
Embracing all parts of ourselves: our intellect, our drive, our strength, our vulnerability is what makes us beautiful. Outwards standards of beauty presented in media and social media are fleeting, I know because I have experienced that industry first hand. The moment you alter who you are to fit into someone else’s vision of beauty is when you lose yourself. I have seen women undergo surgeries, unhealthy diets and desperately try to fit in to gain approval and self worth, and it hardly ever leads to that. Do what feels good to you and what’s healthy for you not for the opinions of others. I personally have been asked to get a nose job, implants and been criticized for parts of my genetics that I’m proud of, like my broad shoulders. I found all these things so superficial and knew the moment I would be given an opportunity to speak my truth and showcase my energy all else would be secondary, and that’s exactly what happened. And no I didn’t change one single thing about me. I owned the stage and reached heights in my career by being completely and authentically me.
I believe true Beauty comes from your warmth and how you make someone feel. When you feel great about yourself, when you love yourself and allow the world to see you for you… you have the natural ability to make others feel that way and that is Beautiful. We have all met them, those people who radiate an energy that surpasses time, they age but are still magnetic. That charisma, that energy is a wholeness within themselves. The most beautiful people I have met told me they felt beautiful inside and loved themselves. Even the ones that don’t fit ‘conventional’ standards of beauty, the moment they believe in and own themselves… they become magnetic and you can’t help be attracted and drawn to them. In my humble opinion, the concept of beauty is really quiet simple… BE YOU tiful. Be you.
In November of 2017 I decided I wanted to Sky Dive. I had an incredible year… a year I call a journey back to myself. I was on fire in terms of going after all my goals and desires. I followed my heart and my instincts which took me to Spain for an awesome conference full of entrepreneurs and ted talk speakers, to California for Burning Man and to Florida to experience Tony Robbins Date with Destiny. I felt transformed, alive and in love with life and myself.
As I got clear on my vision for my life and the things I want to do and be, I had the sudden desire to sky dive in Dubai over the Palm. I put a photo of someone skydiving with the view of the Palm on my vision board in December, I had no clue when I would go to Dubai next.
…but of course the universe works in mysterious ways.
Two months later in February I felt like visiting Mumbai and Dubai, and within 24 hours I manifested a call from an old friend offering a work contract that would take me to both places! I took it. Within a week I was in Dubai. I tried to book Sky Dive Dubai 3 times before and during my trip but it was sold out. I thought it wasn’t meant to be… but at the last minute one person canceled, and the next morning I was in the sky jumping off a plane! It was my time, divine timing.
I am proud to say that I experienced only a few minutes of nervousness and only felt fear the moment I looked at the earth from an open plane about to jump. It’s a surreal experience looking death into the face but having enough faith to leap anyway. I held my breath and jumped. In my mind I said it’s time to Let Go. Within 30 seconds my nerves turned into crazy, pure joy. It was exhilarating. Magnificent. I felt free, alive. It was fun and freeing. I felt like superwoman, unstoppable, powerful and like this was MY world.
The parachute down was stunning, Dubai is beautiful. I had the view of the Palm (the exact photo on my vision board). When I landed I was blissed out and felt so calm and at peace. It’s a powerful thing to sky dive. I felt like if I could do this and face fear straight on, I can do anything. I feel fearless these days. Each time I look up at the sky I can’t believe I took the leap. It makes me realize how powerful we are and how incredible this world we live in is. If you get the chance I say DO IT! Be Fearless. Be You.