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I See Butterflies

My story isn’t so different from a number of travel bloggers I’ve met although I’m surprised by this. A loved one dies and we turn to travel like hitting the eject button on plane going down. To escape a normal life that isn’t normal anymore. The club that I’ve been a member of these past four years is actually rather large.

Mother Daughter Selfie in Vancouver

In my case, I lost my mother. She was 54. She was gentle and kind and patient. She loved books, knitting and playing bingo. I never saw her laugh as much as when she was with her friends or her siblings. Everyone says I look just like her. She used to get nervous when I would ride the subway alone in Toronto. She wanted to go to Vegas but never got the chance because a heart condition took her too soon.

Now I see butterflies wherever I travel.

Folklore exists that says butterflies are the souls of those we’ve loved who’ve passed on. On every trip I’ve taken in the last four years I’ve seen one. From Chicago to Tokyo, Costa Rica to Spain. They’ve been red, yellow, brown, and orange. I was in San Francisco when I had my first colourful winged visitor. I was waiting for the streetcar when a yellow butterfly floated right on by me at eye level. The encounter left me with an unexpected calm feeling. Do I really believe that it was my mom’s spirit watching over me? Who really knows, but I do know that when I see a butterfly abroad I feel like the universe is saying “Hi, just checking in on you. I’ve got your back. You’re not alone.” I smile, think of Mom, and go on.

Butterflies |

We’re always told how short life is but when you’re a teenager or in your twenties you feel like you have all the time in the world. Losing my Mom knocked that notion out of my head. “Hey babe, you never know how much time you have so let’s make it all count, ok?” I’ve always wanted to see more of the world and I’d seen a bit before 2010. We’d spend 3 weeks every year in Newfoundland and made a few trips to Toronto to see family. There were cross-border weekend shopping trips to Maine and a week spent in Texas.

In 2004 I made my first trans-Atlantic trip, visiting England with my roommate to see her family. It was eye-opening. Even though it’s obvious to me now, it really only occurred to me then that with just the purchase of a plane ticket, I could go anywhere. The world was not closed off to me. I started dabbling with a few trips to New York and when I won two plane tickets in 2009 to anywhere in Canada I took Mom to Vancouver.

Plane tickets are now my drug of choice. I get antsy when there’s nothing in the pipeline. Vacation days are carefully hoarded, to be doled out for just the right occasion. Take a day off to just stay home and watch Netflix? Unthinkable. I could use that day to spend more time somewhere else. Seeing more of this beautiful Earth.

Butterflies |

I haven’t gone completely reckless. I still sock away 10% of my income into RSPs and I’m terrified of credit card debt but, despite my financial advisor’s pleadings, I probably spend 15% on travel each year. I’m saving for tomorrow but I’m living for today baby.

Just like a butterfly, I feel as if I’ve been going through my own transformation these past four years. I’ve seen and done some amazing things. I ate sushi for breakfast at the fish market in Tokyo. Sang noraebang in South Korea. Saw amazing works of art in Paris. Partied in Ibiza. Learned to surf in Costa Rica and hung off the CN Tower in Toronto. Travel, especially solo, has made me more confident and shown me that I can handle myself in all kinds of situations. People tell me that I’m brave but I don’t feel that way. I’ve just decided that if there’s something I want, I won’t let small things stop me.

I have no intention of stopping any time soon. There are just so many crazy, wonderful things to see in this world. And, on every trip, I will see butterflies.

Butterflies |

I look terrible but…there’s a butterfly on my elbow!

If you dream of seeing the world but find yourself saying things like “Once I have [X] I’ll go.” or “Once [Y] happens I can go.” do me a favour, don’t wait anymore. Pick a place. Book a plane ticket. Don’t wait for [X] like I did. Life is short and moves fast. Find a way to make it happen.

And as for this butterfly, she isn’t done transforming yet. Just you wait, it’s going to be beautiful.

What are you waiting for?


  1. Glamourous Traveller says:

    December 1st, 2014 at 9:51 pm (#)

    This is so beautiful. I’m happy to hear you find butterflies still everywhere you go =)

  2. Sarah Ebner says:

    December 8th, 2014 at 1:05 pm (#)

    So, so many butterflies for you to see. I hope you enjoy all the trips and adventures and feel your mum with you as you watch those fluttering wings. Send you loves.

  3. Sarah Fazendin says:

    December 8th, 2014 at 1:34 pm (#)

    So beautiful, isn’t it funny the way the world presents itself to us and how much meaning you can find and see if you look in the right places?

  4. Melissa Hogan says:

    December 8th, 2014 at 5:10 pm (#)

    Often we’re so wrapped up in our day to day that we don’t stop to look in the right places. Travel pulls me out of that day-to-day so I think I’m more in tune with the things around me.

  5. Dennis Kopp says:

    December 8th, 2014 at 4:08 pm (#)

    Melissa, I am really sorry to learn that you lost your mother at such a young age! You really do look like her and I personally believe that she actually is with you all the time. The thought that the butterflies represent her presence wherever you go is nothing but beautiful and if you really feel that, it’s definitely true. Thanks by the way for the great reminder that life is short and needs be used wisely, we all seem to forget that sometimes along the way…

  6. David Ouellette says:

    December 8th, 2014 at 8:23 pm (#)

    This is a really lovely piece Melissa. A lot of people might think we are just trotting the globe living some kind of dream without any real problems, and I hope a piece like this can help them to broaden their understanding. I really like it that you get a peaceful comfort from seeing butterflies too.

  7. Andy says:

    December 9th, 2014 at 4:14 am (#)

    Such a touching piece…and I SO agree with “Life is short and moves fast. Find a way to make it happen.”
    You just got me inspired a little bit more to live for the moment.

  8. Don-E says:

    April 2nd, 2015 at 11:32 am (#)

    I love you. That is all.

  9. Ray says:

    November 2nd, 2015 at 1:03 pm (#)

    What an inspiring post. I’ve heard the same thing about butterflies and I was touched. Your mom is always watching over you. And when you see the butterfly regardless of where you are, she’s dropping by to say hello.

  10. Melissa Hogan says:

    November 2nd, 2015 at 1:16 pm (#)

    I’ve had some family members and friends who’ve lost their own loved ones tell me stories about seeing butterflies afterwards too when they didn’t before. I think there’s something to it. And if I’m wrong, I don’t want to know.

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