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Madison Schwartz

Travel Guide

Flashback…. July 2008. It’s 4 AM, it’s dark, and I’m on a boat. As me and my newfound friends sit along the deck rails, no one speaks, our IPods, or our semi-awake thoughts provide the soundtrack. We’re on our way to dive with the hammerhead sharks; we’re on our way to dive with impossibility. As for me, I’ve just finished leading my rookie season with Free & Easy in Thailand; an experience which afforded me such an everlasting change in the way that I think, and the way I act that I never would have though it possible. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be associated with a group of individuals who all credit our present existence as travelers and dreamers to a life changing experience in Southeast Asia.

We never saw hammerhead sharks that day; but the quest for travel endured.  Sometimes its funny how life turns out. When I look back at the last few years, it amazes me how much my outlook and my goals have changed… and I owe much of it to Thailand and Free and Easy.           

My Free and Easy story started like this: 2007: At nineteen I began working in what I believed would be my life long career, my head filled with visions of overtime pay cheques, new cars, big houses, and all the other things that make you an “important” person. As time passed however, I realized I wasn’t happy with this nine to five lifestyle, and that something was defiantly missing. I had traveled before, backpacking in Australia after high school and I decided that maybe a trip was what I needed to clear my head. So I cashed in all my vacation time and headed on a 40 day Free and Easy trip through Thailand. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Thailand. The people, the geography, the lifestyle… it was all exactly what I needed.

My first Free and Easy trip was full of great days chilling on the beach, and epic nights I wished would never end. I met people who I’ll never forget, and made many life long friends. I had many life changing experiences, and crazy adventures that I never get tired of reliving. When the group flight left to go back to Canada, I wasn't on it. Instead, me and some of the great people I had met on my trip continued our adventure, we headed up through northern Thailand for Song Kran, the Thai New Year, and later into Cambodia. Through the influence of my mentors and friends in Free and Easy I have been incredibly fortunate to realize the change that travel has imbued in me; and more importantly, I have been able to see the change that travel has made in others.

Back in Canada, I’m now a university student, meandering slowly towards a BA in political science; as well as a student pilot meandering (even more slowly) towards a commercial pilots license. Maybe one day I will be able to fly eager travelers like myself around the globe, but I have put my career days on hold until later in life, and, looking back on the great experiences I’ve had and the friends I’ve made, I know it's the right decision. The decision to embrace travel means you really can do exactly what makes you happy every single day. For me that means anything from laid-back evenings on the beach and lazy days in my hammock with the trusty ipod to working on my scuba diving skills, or trying out new activities like rock climbing and Thai cooking or maybe a night at the bar swapping stories with travelers from all over the world. The genuine kindness of the peoples of Southeast Asia continues to amaze me, and their outlook on life is inspirational.

My experience in Thailand, the Philippines, and everywhere else I have been where life takes precedence over work has helped me recognize the things that are truly important. I’m stoked to be continuing my Free and Easy story in 2010, and even more stoked to meet some great new people to share it with…see you on the beach!!


Meet the Family

Curtis Smith Rob Campbell Chad Smith Matt Sawatzky Slice "sly" Johnson J.T Wiechnik Jeff Emmett Ben Copeland Tadd MacKenna Chris Sherry Dusty Anderson Eddie Duffield Rory Chappelle John Early Carrie Robinson Patrick Taclob Dominic Faint Ben Godfrey Andrew Fortnum Amy Webber Cody Webber Kyle Stephens Alyson George Julia Wellman Alana Radford Shayla Bly Evan Bachman John DeVries Eric Sorensen Josh Fink Toni Sweetland Landan Waite James O'Brien Evan Gailey Mirjana Wright Julie Ribi Luke Helland Julia Horie Kyle Wright Karim Moussaoui Carter Anhorn Eric Robertshaw Matt Trinier Karina Montagnese