The Importance of Community: Lessons learned from chasing a Killer at 2 a.m.

chasing catIt’s 2 A.M., there’s a killer on the loose, and it’s up to me to catch him… No, that’s not the opening line to my new thriller novel. That exact situation literally happened to me recently. Now, I really wish I could leave it at that and have you believe I’m some badass secret agent. But I feel obliged to reveal a couple other minor details about that night. Continue reading

Owning Up to Our Mistakes: Lessons learned from getting shot in the eye with a pellet gun

bb gun“Kids these days.” It’s a familiar expression used to express disapproval of how far today’s youth have drifted from the virtuous and well-behaved ways of their elders. But you only need to hear a few stories from my dad about his ridiculous childhood shenanigans to see what a crock that is. Case in point: the fateful Christmas he got a BB gun. Continue reading

Thinking Things Through: Lessons learned from nearly swallowing a severed human toe

toeThere are 3 items on my ultimate bucket list. Joining Captain Dick’s World Famous Sour Toe Cocktail Club is one of them. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this… unusual… drinking tradition, Sour Toe cocktails are found exclusively at the Downtown Hotel bar in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. Entry into the prestigious club is easy enough: you simply have to drink a shot of whiskey... Oh yeah, and your class has a severed human toe in it, which must touch your lips as you take your drink. Continue reading
simple activities

[Blog] 20 awesome activities involving 1 item or less

simple activities Editor’s note: This post was originally published on my Josh Martin Ink blog. In an age of iPads, Xboxes and $200 shoes, our sources of entertainment and activity require increasingly sophisticated technology, equipment and infrastructure. But there’s something to be said for the simpler activities. Activities that nurture creativity, ingenuity and imagination. In 2005 the cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. The stick made the cut in 2008. “[T]here aren’t any rules or instructions for its use,” said Christopher Bensch, the museum’s curator of collections. “It can be a Wild West horse, a medieval knight’s sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band.” In a time when it seems that every toy requires 17 triple-A batteries and every activity requires mountains of gear, it’s nice to see the simple stick and cardboard box be recognized for the limitless entertainment potential that can be unlocked through imagination. Here are twenty activity ideas for children and adults alike that require one item or less. Feel free to whip out this list if you ever hear a kid whining that they’re bored.
  1. Tag. I don’t mean tagging your friend puking on a cop on Facebook. I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent chasing friends around the schoolyard yelling “You’re it!”
  2. Soccer. It’s no surprise soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Whether you’re from Richmond Hill or Rwanda, all you need is a soccer ball and some open space.
  3. Ultimate Frisbee. Like soccer, but for hippies, the only thing you need for Ultimate is a disc (and perhaps granola).
  4. Cards. There are hundreds of games you can squeeze out of a single deck of playing cards. Perfect for games night or a rainy day. I come from a huge card-playing family. Euchre, Bugger your Neighbour, Hearts, Pork Chop—we grew up playing them all.
  5. Hopscotch. Any sidewalk or blacktop can be transformed into a playground with a bit of chalk and imagination.
  6. Yoga. Although many people go to yoga studios and gyms for this activity, all you really need is a yoga mat and a familiarity with the bizarrely-named poses.
  7. Red Rover. Oh man. No other game has been responsible for more clotheslines, bruised wrists and sprained fingers than Red Rover. “Red Rover, Red Rover, we call the paramedic over!” A personal favourite.
  8. Hide and Seek. Another favourite. All you need is a group of people and a good place to hide. Just don’t hide next to a bee hive like I did as a kid. That hurts.
  9. Charades. Great party game that doesn’t require anything fancy. Giving an easily embarrassed guest something x-rated to act out is always hilarious.
  10. Arm wrestling/thumb wrestling. Requires nothing but your own bodies. Think this is a lame activity? Watch Sylvester Stallone’s “Over the Top” and think again, buddy.
  11. Duck Duck Goose. Thrilling suspense. High speed chases. Patting people on the head. This classic has got it all.
  12. Bloody Knuckles. Taking turns rapping each other’s knuckles until they bleed is admittedly a bit violent and juvenile. But I wanted to mention this because it was a pretty common activity with my schoolmates.
  13. Touch football. If you remove the contact element from football you remove the need for all the pads, helmets and mouth guards. And the need for medical attention (in most cases).
  14. What time is it Mr. Wolf? I’m not sure how familiar people are with this game. It involves players calling out “what time is it Mr. Wolf?” to the “wolf” who has her back turned to them. The wolf calls out a time, like “7 o’clock!” and the players take seven steps toward her. This continues until the wolf thinks the players are close enough to catch and the next time they ask “what time is it Mr. Wolf?” she replies “LUNCH TIME!” and chases the squealing players around the playground.
  15. P.I.G. All you need is any sort of projectile – a ball, Frisbee, hard-boiled egg – that gets tossed back and forth between players. Drop the item and get a letter. When you spell P-I-G, you’re out.
  16. Rock Paper Scissors. I’m pretty sure more decisions have been made amongst my friends using Rock, Paper, Scissors than by thoughtful discussion.
  17. Tai Chi. A great activity I’ve wanted to try since my days in Taiwan. All you need is some instruction (and a cool paper fan if you want to look extra awesome).
  18. Tabletop football. Two players on opposite ends of a table. Object is to move a coin across the table in 4 or less pushes/flicks (downs) and have the coin partially hanging over the edge of the opponent’s end of the table (end zone) without it falling over. Harder than it sounds.
  19. I went on a camping trip/other car games. Before the days of DVD players in cars, iPods and PSPs, families going on a road trip had to occupy the long hours with driving games like “I went on a camping trip”, "eye spy" and “would you rather”.
  20. Debating. Probably the easiest way to pass the time of all these ideas is to open a controversial topic up for discussion.
These are just some of the ideas that came to my mind. What are your favourite simple activities? Badge of AwesomeBadge of Awesome is a collection of cool things to do close to home, around the world and to help others. Share your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section. Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.
Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive email updates of new posts. You’ll also get a free ebook as a thank you for subscribing.

Visit the museum of broken relationships: Zagreb, Croatia

Ah, love. The heady surge of endorphins. The joy. The companionship. The matching tattoos. The disgustingly sweet pet names that make your friends want to punch you in the throat. But of course, love and break-ups go hand-in-hand. The pain. The binge eating. The binge drinking. The sweatpants. The Sarah McLaughlin purchases on iTunes. The mopey “poor me” demeanour that makes your friends want to punch you in the throat. Continue reading

[Blog] I am a Hobo Torpedo: Friends over stuff

By Josh Martin

“My friends are my estate.” – Emily Dickinson

Waterloo, Ontario—It’s ten-thirty at night and I’m hurtling down a deserted street inside a shopping cart, like some hobo torpedo. As my mobile, metal coffin rattles down the road at mach five I suddenly realize something—I’m an idiot. It had all started two minutes earlier when my “friend” Royce offered to push me to the local bar in a shopping cart. Royce and I lived together in university with four other buddies in a dump of a student house on Marshall Street, a few blocks from the bar we were headed to. Never one to pass up a free ride, I accepted the shopping cart offer without a second thought. I sat in the shopping cart facing forward and cheered Royce on as he pushed me faster and faster down the darkened street. Before long, my courage faltered. “OK, Royce!” I yelled over the clatter of the rattling shopping cart. “Slow down!... Slow down, Royce!... ROYCE!?” The cart showed no signs of slowing down. I risked a glance over my shoulder to sternly insist that my good and trusted friend stop the cart immediately. Unfortunately, my good and trusted friend was now twenty yards behind me with a stupid grin on his face. He had let go of the cart and sent me hurtling into the night. Turning forward once again I realized that I was drifting to the right. To my horror I found myself heading straight for a fire hydrant. I vainly attempted to extricate myself from my impending doom. But leaping from a speeding shopping cart is more difficult then you might imagine. I crashed squarely into the hydrant and was launched from the cart as if from a catapult. I flipped head over heels, cleared the fire hydrant and landed on my back in the grass on the other side with a dull thud. Yup, I thought to myself. I'm an idiot.

A good reminder for myself

My life on Marshall Street was far from luxurious. We lived in a house that was near collapse. Our diets would make any nutritionist weep. All our furniture was second-hand and exuded a wide range of odours. None of us owned a car. And if our bank accounts were towns from the Wild West, there’d be tumbleweeds rolling through them. And yet, despite the squalor in which we willingly spent our days and nights, I’ve never laughed so hard or had so much fun. Some of my greatest memories, like being launched from a shopping cart, are from those days in university and I think it says a lot about what’s really important in life.

Principle #2 of the Badge of Awesome Ethos: experiential riches trump material wealth.

Our culture places a lot of emphasis on high-paying jobs, big houses, cars, and other material benchmarks of success. In pursuit of these acquisitions however, we often sacrifice time and relationships with the people that make life so memorable. Before making a decision, consider the social implications. Maybe buying that new big screen TV will mean you can't afford to go on that camping weekend with the old gang. And maybe that house in the 'burbs is big and awesome. But will it mean being far away from the people you enjoy hanging out with? Cherish your friendships don’t let the material stuff in life get in the way of them. If that means riding a shopping cart to the bar instead of a Ferrari, then I say giddy’up—as long as Royce isn’t driving, of course. The above story is actually adapted from my book, Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life's absurd moments. Check out the Store to find out how you can get your own copy.

Play the Blindfold Game

This week’s Backyard Badge goes to the Blindfold Game – one of the most disorienting and entertaining activities you’ll ever play. Thanks to the Van Osch family for submitting this week’s winner – your Backyard Badge of Awesome and free ebook are on their way! I recently had the pleasure of joining the Van Osches in the Blindfold Game. Here’s how it works: Continue reading