Bit of a wreck, ain’t it?

I’ve had a pretty good reason not to be blogging for the last while.

My husband, Colin, and I survived this collision that left the other driver dead.

Looking at this picture, it is a miracle that we made it out alive.This post is not about traveling rich or dying broke.

This blog is about the reality of what life can throw at anyone. It is a hopeful tale of survival.

It was January 28th, 2018 in Queensland, Australia. Thirteen days into our 24-day vacation. We woke up to pouring rain in the town of Mackay on the East Coast of Australia between Brisbane and Cairns.

Rather than grab breakfast in a local coffee shop, we decided to press on towards the Eungella National Park, famous for it’s waterfalls, forest vistas, bird and mammalian life, and a particularly special little fellow – the platypus.

Colin had been doing a great, safe job of driving our rental vehicle on the left side of the road. This wasn’t foreign to him as he learned to drive in Britain.

It was raining and miserable that morning and Colin was driving 20 kms under the speed limit.

Lucky for both of us.

At 7:45 am, we were hit by a 76-year-old man who lost control of his vehicle for whatever reason and spun out, hitting our car head on. He died instantly.

It was a split second in time – one that hit us out of nowhere and changed our lives forever.

I did not lose consciousness. I opened my senses to that dreadful burnt rubber smell, an exploded airbag in front of me and shattered glass and plastic everywhere.

I looked over at Colin who was asking if I was okay. I knew that I had internal abdominal injuries. My gut was in pain – pain that I had never before experienced.

Being a physician, I knew that I was in grave danger of dying without immediate help.

The rest is a blur: Colin saying he loved me and to “hang in there”; a stranger coming to the car and asking if I could hear the ambulance that was very close and holding my hand; emergency services using the jaws of life; my clothes being cut off in the emergency room; being given some drugs that took me to another world, while ridding me of the agonizing pain; waking up on a ward 3 days later with no track of time; being unable to move or cough without excrutiating pain; the humiliation of the bedpan; and on and on.

I learned that I had two bowel surgeries and had not been expected to make it.

Happily, I was out of the ICU within 24 hrs and had been spared the indignity of a colostomy. Colin had his arm and leg in braces after orthopedic surgery and was bruised from stem to stern. We were shattered – both spiritually and physically.

To add insult to injury, we were in a country about as far away from home as you could possibly get. Fortunately, we had a niece living in Australia who we had just had a lovely visit with the day before the accident.

Colin said that waking up from his drug-induced state to see Alyssa’s smiling face was simply wonderful. My daughter, Siobhan, also flew down from Vancouver to help us through the worst times. The outpouring of well wishes and support from family and friends was truly strengthening.

I have frequently used the adage: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

I will now say: “what attempts to kill you can break you” – and you may not feel strong for a long time. It is amazing how resilient the human body and spirit can be. My injuries were life threatening to the point that the surgical team did not expect me to survive. Scary. Yet here I am.

Colin suffered devastating fractures in his right arm and left leg requiring several surgeries for fixation and debridement of infection.

There were a number of factors that were just very, very lucky for us. The fact that we were just 10 minutes from one of the major trauma centres in Queensland when we had been traveling in the middle of nowhere previously; or the fact that we were doing less than the speed limit. The fact that there was a Greyhound bus behind us with a dash-cam that recorded the whole thing so there was no question of what happened.

No, I don’t think I’m a different person than I was one second prior to the crash. Same old me – just a new coat of paint – resected bowel, laceration on my left eyelid, staples down the centre of my abdomen, that sort of thing.

I am also very saddened that the family of the deceased driver had to suffer through this tragedy as well. In a twist of irony, that family sent a lovely bouquet of flowers to us saying they were so very sorry. I broke down and cried when I read that note.

We have a long rehabilitation road ahead of us. At this point in time we are trying to get well enough to be allowed home to Canada. I think our healing will continue to improve once we are in our own environment and are surrounded by friends and family. We will be forever thankful to the amazing doctors and nurses that literally saved our lives.

So, Australia, we will soon bid you adieu. We do love this country and might come back some day.

Broken – but mending.

Shannon Lee


Update:  March 17, 2018 – We are both well on the mend. Thank you for all your well-wishes.

Check out my original song on Youtube:    BROKEN

Join me on my journey.

“You’re writing a travel blog?” “Why?”

Why, indeed.

After spending several hours on the internet researching an upcoming trip, it suddenly occurred to me. What I need isn’t here. I don’t need to read blogs about backpacking through Europe or where to find the cheapest hostels in Australia. I’m not looking for the best website to find “travel deals”, coupons, discounts, or use my frequent flyer points. Although I appreciate a “discount” as much as the next person, I don’t ever think, “well, I simply can’t travel to X place unless I can use my 10% off coupon”.

Au contraire.

I am a middle-aged baby boomer who appreciates the finer things in life. And I have earned them. I also love to travel. I want to see as much of the world as possible – as long as the destinations are safe and interesting.

I prefer to fly business class. My idea of “roughing it” is a 4 STAR hotel. I love haute cuisine, fine wine, live music and theater, modern art museums and nature hikes. I want to travel and I want to do it in style.

So, flying standby with a pair of jeans, three T-shirts and five pairs of gitch in my backpack is not in the cards.

On the other hand, I am not so filthy rich that I will be taking a private jet to my own tropical island and have the natives catering to my every need.

I want to explore. I want to experience other cultures. I want to share ideas. I want to preserve our planet and marvel at nature.

Know what I don’t want to do?

I don’t want to leave a gazillion dollars to each of my kids!  I’m going to enjoy the fruits of my labours. (Hopefully there will be something left!)

Feel free to join me in my travel adventures. I will be writing about the things that are important to me and hopefully provide some tips on how you can enjoy similar experiences.

I also have a short attention span and like to be succinct. Therefore, I promise you, it will never take very long to read one of my posts. Brevity is brilliance.

Let’s have some fun, shall we?

Shannon Lee

Delicious Japanese in Melbourne

In keeping with our “travel rich, die broke” motto, let me introduce you to Kisumé –  voted one of the “hottest new restaurants” in Melbourne for 2017.

Kisume windowWe knew we had a popular place when the only reservation we could get was for counter seats. The place is modern, eclectic and minimalist. There are dozens of efficient staff milling about. You are escorted to your seat by a hostess and then a sommelier brings your wine. It’s the kind of place where if you get up to use the washroom, your cloth napkin will be refolded for you upon your return.

Kisume sous chefs
Our view from the counter

There are 3 floors of seating as well as a dozen people sitting at the upstairs counters. We had a view of the dessert chef, the salad prep and the grill in the back where flambé edamame beans and filet steaks were set alight. Work your way through the omakase – a tasting menu with optional upgrade to the very best sashimi.

The food was delectable. Simply, exquisite. From the delicate sashimi and sushi to the saki-soaked grilled salmon to the rare filet served with a flamed foie gras. Unique, fresh flavours added sparkle to some old favourites. Definitely a fusion of Japanese and Australian. The wine list includes a variety of different sakis to savour and some crisp Chablis to complement your meal.

Of course, the price tag was grand too. With sake, and 2 glasses of wine we parted with $365. No tipping required – this is Australia. This dinner will nicely dip into our kid’s inheritance!

Kisumé is located at 175 Flinders Lane and is open 7 days a week. Reservations required.

Book through Open Table or online: Kisume on-line


Business class? All the way.

We have a simple rule. If the flight is going to be over 6 hours then we fly business class. Fourteen hours down to Melbourne certainly qualifies.

We have flown business class with several airlines including KLM, British Airways and Japan Airlines. This time it was with Air Canada.  They have direct flights from Vancouver to Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney coinciding with the Aussie summer – December through February. We enjoyed our flight on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner which is equipped with 30 “pods”. The great thing about business class is being able to stretch out. The pods flatten to 180 degrees and you have a soft pillow and a cotton duvet. Each of the 30 pods has an 18″ touch screen video for inflight movies and music.

The service was excellent with a tasty menu and a nice selection of wines and spirits. Air Canada needs to add some better movies, however.

The trick with business class is to get your travel agent to watch for the seat sales. January is often the month to save significantly on your business class fares. Frequent flyer points can also be used – or so I’m told. I never seem to be able to get these fares “on points”. There always seems to be a catch or I don’t have quite enough. I’d certainly be interested in hearing how people manage to save on business class airfare.

The other perks that are included in business class are:

  • waiting in the lounge at the airport with plenty of free munchies and beverages
  • speeding through security
  • fast tracking through customs
  • extra baggage allowance
  • ability to change the flight date or time (for a small fee)
  • ability to cancel the flight (for a fee)
  • luggage first to come off the carousel
  • first boarding and first off

The biggest thing for us about business class is getting directly to our holiday destination in comfort and feeling rested and ready to go when we land. It really helps to overcome the jet lag.

So, here we are in Melbourne.

Tomorrow we hit the Australian Open tennis tournament. It’s predicted to be 38 degrees!

Wish us luck.

All time favourite vacation?

I get this question a lot. Colin and I are getting a reputation as “globe trotters” and people want to know the highlights. I do the same – grill my friends when they return from vacation to get tips on accommodation,  restaurants, must-see museums, galleries and how to avoid lineups. There is nothing like a first hand recommendation to let you know you will be enjoying a great experience.

We’ve been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, the Caribbean, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, all over Europe and of course most of Canada and a lot of the USA. We’ve been to the Galapagos. We’ve been to Japan. But, hands down the most “other-worldly”, majestic place on earth has to be. . . .AFRICA.  In particular we visited Kenya and Rwanda. No where on this planet can you see the variety of awe-inspiring animals in the wild as Africa. We plan go back in 2018. You will see a lot of posts on our African travels.

Golden Monkey Rwanda
Golden Monkey, Rwanda

2018 Agenda

So where to in 2018?

In four days we are heading down under to Australia. We will start in Melbourne to take in the Aussie Open (tennis). Melbourne is a lovely city with a boutique flavour. After that,  we head to Brisbane and an all new experience. We plan to get acquainted with the city for a few days before renting a car and heading north through the Sunshine Coast. We had Fraser Island, Whitsundays, Noosa Park, Townsville, Magnetic Island and Green Island on the agenda. Not sure if that is too ambitious for our first time there.

Mid-July will find us on a Baltic cruise. This will be another first. Scandinavia and Russia (St. Petersburg) will be a totally new experience.

Finally, we are toying with the idea of visiting India in November. Friends have invited to show us around – it’s always nice to have a guide when you don’t speak the language.

If you have been to any of these places and have a suggestion for us – we’d love to hear from you!