A New Year and A Brand New Adventure!

Before the Morocco idea was implanted in our brains, we had planned to fly to the Southern US to visit friends, then travel by land down into Mexico, travelling by bus and public transit.


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over two years, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


Wow!  Who can believe that we are this far into 2020 already?  Time is zipping by, and I suppose that is okay because we are flying off to Morocco on the 15th of this month!

We have been back in Canada since the end of August.  We never meant to stay this long, but we kept getting more offers of housesits, and it somehow felt right to just stay put for a bit.

How Morocco came to be……..

In early September, we had a visit from a good friend of ours that lives in the town we moved away from in Canada, before heading on our nomad adventure, in 2017.  He was on his way to help his mom pack up her house, and decided to stay a night in Canmore while driving through.

He mentioned at dinner that he was trying to get a group of people together for a trip to Morocco in January.  He suggested that we should join him.  Morocco?  Hmmmmmmm, it had a nice ring to it.

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A chance visit by our friend John has sent us off in a whole new direction to Morocco!

Before the Morocco idea was implanted in our brains, we had planned to fly to the Southern US to visit friends, then travel by land down into Mexico, travelling by bus and public transit.  However, we also realized that that plan could potentially get us back to Guatemala and once again stuck in the jungle because we love it so much.  Or, we may have made it as far as our buddies property in Costa Rica, before the jungle grabbed a hold of us and held on tight.  The point is, we LOVE those places, and definitely want to go back, but the problem is that there is also so much more out there to see.

The temptation for familiarity, though, and for visiting our friends that we made that we hold near and dear to our hearts, is very great.  We see peoples faces on facebook, instagram, or whatever other digital means, sure.  But it doesn’t replace the in person contact that is so crucial for our connection to our community.

But I also realize that there are SO many more great people out there in the world, and we want to meet as many as we can!  We want to learn about how other people operate, we want to experience their culture and their language.  We may not understand many of their belief systems, but that part is none of our business.  We just want to know people for who they are as simple basic human beings.

And so, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that we were about to make a crucial mistake.  We don’t have the time required to see all the things we want to see on this planet already!  Let alone if we start spending 3 and 4 years in one corner of the world.  We need to keep moving, keep exploring and keep educating.

Are travellers the real peacekeepers?

I do believe that as travellers, we are responsible for helping others to understand the world.  For example, we are able to help people to realize that certain cultures do things certain ways because that is how THEY HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT!  I think it is important for us to send out photos of our experiences, and the things we see, so that others can understand what a spectacular world we live in.  I think it’s great to share local experiences such as festivals and fairs so that people can see how others celebrate.

Despite the bad news that has reign on social media, news paper outlets, television news……..any news, there are so many celebrations going on in the world, all the time!  There are cultures that are not bogged down by these issues that plague “first world” nations (I hate that term).  They take the time to celebrate the good in their lives, they spend time with families, and they may sit on a neighbours porch just to chat and hang out.  These are all moments of celebration, moments of human to human contact.  But don’t get me wrong, many cultures celebrate big large festivals on a regular basis.  To them it is important to get EVERYONE together celebrating as much as possible, something I think is sorely lacking in our North American society.

For more on this: Travelers, Are they the real Peacekeepers?

Checking in with friends and family

This time, visiting my hometown and area, for this long, has meant that I have had the time required to check in and see so many great friends from my childhood.  It has been a real treat to catch up with so many and to just see how good we are all doing.  I am so lucky to have had the chance to grow up in a town with such close connections.  I went to school with about 30 people from my high school graduation class, since kindergarten.  Now those are some strong and lasting bonds that get formed.

Chris was happy to hear all the fun stories that were regaled about my *ahem* slightly rebel teenage years.   Many stories long since forgotten, brought back to the surface to laugh about again.  I’m so thankful for the happy and fun childhood that I had.  I think it is the best gift that a child can get, and I am forever grateful for mine.

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My spectacular hometown of Canmore, Alberta, Canada!
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New Years Eve on the Pond in Canmore with Jill’s parents!

It’s also been nice to have some solid time to spend here with Chris, showing him around to all my old childhood haunts, like literally ALL of them.  In the past we would duck into town for 3-5 days, barely getting a chance to hug a handful of people, then jet out again.  This time we have had the time to spend exploring trails and pathways, and many places from my past.

I also realized through this process that I haven’t been around my parents for this length of time in about 20 years!  It has been an interesting and enlightening experience, really getting to know them again after so long.  I mean, we all KNOW our parents, but over time, they grow and change like we do, and if you aren’t around them everyday, you don’t notice the subtleties.  My parents are on their own change of life journey right now as they are downsizing their house so that they can sell it and move into a smaller place.  So I have been using my experience of selling all of our things, to help them to get rid of the excess stuff that they have and don’t need anymore.

I have really appreciated having the time and space to really visit them and connect again.  This is something that didn’t exist in my old life.  In my old life I didn’t have time for such extravagances, it was work work work, busy busy busy all the time.  So much running around…….. so much……… too much.

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A visit on the farm at Christmas with Chris’ Mom, Stepdad, and his youngest sister Sienna and her boyfriend Landon.
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GROUP HUG!

It may seem now like all we are doing is running around, but it’s different.  Yes, we move from place to place, and it seems to some like our life is upended all the time, but we spend good quality time in places.  We spend time doing what is important to us.  We try not to get caught up in the constant pressure from society to ‘get a job’ or ‘look busy’ or the common thought that we all have ‘you aren’t doing enough.’  We try as hard as we can to do only what we want to do, which usually means working on our online businesses and our various forms of artwork that we always have going on.   We try as hard as we can to set boundaries and make sure that others understand what mission we are on and what we are working on.

We have also had a few nice visits with Chris’ mom, and his whole family, and even decided at the last minute that we were going to go and stay with his mom and her husband, plus see Chris’ youngest sister and her boyfriend for a good visit at Christmas time.  It turned out to be a beautiful drive and all the trees were covered in white frost as we passed the vast, flat and barren landscape.  Mother Nature was shimmering and sparkling as we drove along, and it was truly spectacular!

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Spectacular Prairie Sunsets!
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Winter Wonderland!

In getting in all of this visiting, we have realized that the most valuable part of this experience, and what has made us the RICHEST, is certainly NOT the money we make (believe me it is a pittance). Instead it is having the time to do the things that are important to us and sharing that time with the people we love.

Freedom of time, from my perspective, is the greatest and best kind of freedom a person could ever ask for.

New changes in 2020!

We are very thankful for this community that has been following us along on this journey.  We are uplifted and inspired by those that email us, chat with us on facebook, or pop us a whats app message or more.  As this blog is coming to the end of it’s life (who knew that blogs had memory and it’s almost full!), we have changed our direction slightly and have put our efforts into our new website and newsletter over at http://www.artisticvoyages.com.  This direction will have a more specific slant towards travel, creativity, and helping to make the world a better place.

 

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Subscribe at http://www.artisticvoyages.com

If you have the chance, please click on the link and sign up for our newsletter!  I will be sending out 1 or 2 newsletters per month just outlining what we have been up to, who we have met, what we have eaten, and what we are learning from each country that we visit.  Our aim is to live life with an open heart and open minds, to see and experience all that we can, and to share it, in hopes to inspire others to live their best life.

We are very excited about new opportunities in Morocco and beyond.  It doesn’t pass me by that the country sits on the north-western edge of the African continent, and gives us access to the rest of Africa itself, Europe AND Asia!  There are lifetimes of places for us to explore, and we can’t wait to see where following our noses will take us this time!

Wishing you all a wonderful 2020!  As my Dad says, it has a nice ring to it!  Surely this will be humanities best year yet!

This is me signing off on this blog!  Please join us over at http://www.artisticvoyages.com if you wish to continue to follow along with us on our journey! 


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Cochrane, Alberta Canada

Travelling Plans: Off to Morocco on January 15th!

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column. (Now under Artistic Voyages!)

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

 

 

Memories of Banff

Being back in my hometown for this length of time, has meant that for the first time in my adult life, I have the time to really enjoy it.


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over two years, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


Being back in my hometown for this length of time, has meant that for the first time in my adult life, I have the time to really enjoy it.  Chris and I have spent much time exploring around Canmore and checking things out.  I have taken him on walks to my old bush party sights and places that I played as a child, and we have spent lots of time down by the Bow River, even on the cold days.  We have meandered through many of the towns trails, old and new, and I have been really impressed with how well they are kept up.  There is obviously a focus here on public recreation, and the town has done a great job of providing that for its citizens.

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This was a warmer day down by the Bow River in Canmore, back when we arrived at the end of August.

We have also been to Banff a handful of times, and I have taken great joy in regaling my tales of youth to Chris, as we navigate the new, to him, landscape.  Last weekend we headed out on a bit of an adventure to Banff.  Banff Gondola was offering a free ride for locals on its trip up to the top of Sulphur Mountain, in exchange for a donation to a charity.  So we figured that we would head in, and also planned a soak in the nearby Banff Hot Springs as well.

One thing lead to the next and before we knew it, we were checking out Bow Falls, running around lost in the Banff Springs Hotel (now officially known as Fairmont Banff Springs, but I don’t call it that), and hitting up even the Candy Shop downtown.  I also firmly insisted that while there, we absolutely MUST visit the Christmas Store, despite Chris’ obvious disapproval.  (Spoiler, he actually liked it……a little bit at least:))

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The majestic Banff Springs Hotel
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It truly feels like a castle inside as well!
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A Candy wonderland and a MUST stop on Banff Avenue!

It was a great day of playing tour guide (one of my favourite things to do as a local), while also telling him the stories that each place inspired.  I have many incredible stories and memories of Banff and despite the fact that Canmore kids were adamant that Canmore was BETTER than Banff (“Banff Sucks!” we would say), the town played a huge part in my childhood.


I was born in Banff, Alberta, Canada in 1976.  I know that I am from a select few that have had this good fortune, and in fact, I have recently learned that people born in Banff or Canmore are dubbed “Unicorns” by those who aren’t from here.  Without confirming the reason for this, I can only imagine that people think that nobody could possibly be so lucky as to have been born in such a spectacular place.  It’s as if we are all mythical creatures or something.

I lived there until I was three, then my family moved 20km down the road to the much quieter town of Canmore.  I spent the rest of my childhood living in Canmore, but of course, Banff was also such a huge part of this time in my life.

As a small kid my mom would drive me into the Sally Borden Pool for swimming lessons, because, at the time, Canmore only had one public pool that was at a motel on the highway, and it was outdoors.  I remember feeling so cool swimming in that big pool, and that big building and I loved swimming lessons there.

My Dad worked at the Banff Centre, which also housed the Sally Borden Building so I inevitably spent much time up there. I took for granted the adorable little trails that surround the property, and the quaint little stairways that go from building to building.  My Dad is one of the founders of the Banff Mountain Film Festival that is housed at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and I spent many years with my parents at the festival watching films and mingling with climbing greats.  I had no idea, at that time, just how lucky I was to not only be living where I was, but to just be part of such a monumental film event that has now spanned the globe numerous times.  We were very grateful when my Dad offered us his tickets for this years festival.  We felt so fortunate  to attend the event, and it brought back many great memories of my childhood.

Jill and Chris at BMFF

Of course, I also learned to ski at Mount Norquay, Banff’s local ski hill.  My Dad took me up there from the age of 3 on, and it didn’t take many years before I was beating him to the bottom.  Many times, a day of skiing would conclude with a stop at McDonalds, then the closest McDonalds we had to Canmore.  It was the cutest little McDonalds ever, built with all wood and stone, complete with a rustic little fireplace.  (Unfortunately it has now been modernized, and looks, at least through the windows, to be as stark and uninteresting as any other McDonalds!) My favourite dish?  6 McNuggets and fries of course! (My adult self is disgusted!)

Every New Years Eve for quite a few years, many Banff and Canmore locals would flock to Lake Minnewanka to have a raucous party in one of the picnic shelters on the lake.  Somebody would bring heavy duty tarps to block the windows so that the harshness of the winter temperatures would stay outside, while they got the fires roaring on the inside.  The parents would shovel off a section of the lake so that we kids could skate on it, and I remember more than one painful time that I would have to come back in to get my dad to rub life back into my feet, as they had become frozen ice blocks.  The adults would become increasingly drunk, New Years would come and go, and everyone would simply drive home.  Clearly, NOT something that could or would happen now-a-days!

For a time, no childhood birthday party would be complete without a trip to the water slides in Banff.  The Douglas Fir Resort, one of the hotels on the outskirts of the town, was our go to place for this.  I recall numerous visits to these waterslides as kids, and though small in stature, they thrilled us to bits.  It didn’t take much to excite us small town kids!

I also remember trips to Banff to shop at The Hudson Bay Company (HBC), the only major department store that existed in the Bow Valley at the time.  Of course, these trips would be combined with a visit to the Candy Store and often an ice cream at Grizzly House, depending on the time of year.  When we had visitors come to town, we would take them down Banff Avenue and we always had to also make stops in the Christmas Store and The Body Shop.

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Inside the famed “The Spirit of Christmas” store.
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The perfect Canadian mascot!

My later memories start after I gained the freedom to drive a vehicle.  From the age of 16 on, trips to Banff were just part of my perspective.  If it wasn’t me driving there, it was one of my friends, and we would usually head in at least a couple times a week.  In one of my many acts of rebellion, however, I drove into Banff, driving my friends car, with only my learners license!  All I know is that there was a bunch of us girls, and we were bored,  and we REALLY wanted to go to Banff.  The next thing I knew, much to the humiliation and scared shitless-ness of my passengers, I was stalling the standard shift car repeatedly down the length of Banff Avenue.  I’m pretty sure Banff Avenue was the only thing we saw that day.  We were much too scared to actually get out of the car lest somebody actually figured out that we weren’t old enough to be driving by ourselves.  We somehow made it out in one piece, and not arrested, and arrived back in Canmore, vowing that we would never repeat that event again.  After all, the owner of the car was only a month or two from turning 16 and getting her own proper license!

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One of the views along the Bow River in Banff

 

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One of the many stunning views on Banff Avenue.

The freedom that comes with having a drivers license is palpable.  I remember driving with the window down on the highway, feeling the wind blow on my face and just feeling like I could do anything in the world now that I had my license. Quite often an afternoon of a few of us hanging out at Craigs drinking coffee, would end when one suggested that we should go to Banff, and off we went.  Many times we would head up to the Banff Springs Hotel and get lost in the expanse of corridors inside, and of course, we went bowling a time or two as well.  Canmore, of course, didn’t have a bowling alley.

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They call this “Christmas at the Castle” when the Banff Springs Hotel decorates for the holidays.

You might guess, by now, that Canmore also didn’t have a movie theatre (and still doesn’t!) . Tuesday was locals night at the Lux Cinema in Banff, so we would all pile into Banff to watch the latest and greatest release for only $5.  Usually there were 2 or 3 vehicles full of us, and of course we would run into other friends from school that had gone as well.  We would then roam the streets at night, just revelling in the glitz and glamour of Banff Avenue, sometimes stoping in at  Eddies Pool Hall where we would play pool and hang out, enjoying the care free life of a teenager.  On this current return trip home, Chris and I have made a few trips to the Lux, and it amazes me that it is exactly the same as I left it.

Summer time meant that we would drive in and check out Bow Falls, drive down to the Banff Springs Golf Course, explore around Tunnel Mountain, or drive up Mount Norquay to check out the view.  Of course many kids experienced floating, in some device or another, from Banff to Canmore along the surface of the Bow River.

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Looking down on Banff from Mount Norquay
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Bow Falls in the winter.  Located below the Banff Springs Hotel

The Banff Hot Springs was our big backyard hot tub that we frequented often.  We would go all times of the year to revel in the heat of the waters.  Winter was the most fun when it was minus 40C.  After braving the cold to get into the pool, we would set about creating whacky hairdos that would freeze solid in the frigid temperatures.  When Chris and I went there last weekend, I was thrilled that the price is still very reasonable at $8.30.  I assumed that like all other things in Banff, this price would have gone sky high, but it has remained an affordable treat for every sort of visitor to Banff.

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Banff Hot Springs is perched on the side of Sulphur Mountain offering splendid views of the mountains and valley below.

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Happy to be warm!

Our legal years (18+) (and maybe one or two before that;) ) would bring us into Banff to party in the clubs.  Canmore didn’t have venues that played wild and raucous club style music, so again, we would all pile into Banff to take part in this strange right of passage affair.  The Back Alley and Silver City (also dubbed Syphilis City for obvious reasons) were our favourites.  Many nights we would go to one or the other, or bounce around between the two trying to find the most fun possible.  We also sometimes found ourselves caught up in the wildness of Wild Bill’s Saloon!  As the name implies, it was always a good time!

Back in those days we were allowed to be carefree kids.  We didn’t have to worry about date rape drugs or any number of other things that teens have to deal with now-a-days.  I feel like we were part of the last generation that could go out and have a good time, completely worry free, and for that I am so thankful.  Most times we had a designated driver to take us home, but there was the odd night that a few of us would sleep in the car until early the next morning when one would drive, with one eye open, and we would slink back home smelling of booze and stale cigarette smoke.  (Yes, they still smoked inside back then!) Our parents were thrilled with us I’m sure!

 

In later years I had a job working at the Banff Springs Golf Course Pro Shop for one summer.  This again gave me a different perspective of Banff, and was my first introduction to truly working with tourists.  Only in recent years have I acknowledged that I actually grew up in one of the worlds TOP tourist destinations.  I mean I knew that lots of travellers came to Banff, when I was a kid the streets were lined with busloads of Japanese, all standing at attention, cameras poised and ready, but I definitely didn’t put it all together then.

I definitely didn’t understand the majestic beauty that existed all around me day and night.  I, for sure, didn’t understand what privilege I had as a child living in a place where I was free to ride my bike all over town, go hiking in the woods whenever I choose, and to just be wild and free.  And I don’t think I understood how nice it was to be part of a genuine small town community, to be surrounded by people who truly care for one another.

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A recent photo taken by the Bow River in Canmore.

It wasn’t until I moved away from Canmore and the Banff area permanently in 2002, that I started to realize just how beautiful it all is, and age has brought an appreciation for the community and the group of people who collectively raised me.  Of course, we appreciated the outdoors when we were kids, back then we spent our lives outside.  We would go on hikes and marvel at the views, and we would climb the mountains just for something to do.  But it was all just normal to us, it was our everyday reality.  In retrospect, I can see that I took it for granted, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

But now, I truly do realize just how lucky I was to grow up in this majestic place.  It’s not the tropical paradise that one conjures up when the word paradise is mentioned, but it is certainly a paradise of its own accord.  The clean water and clean air is marvelled at by people from far reaches of the world, who also come to enjoy the plethora of spectacular mountains, lakes, trees and rivers.  The names Banff and Canmore have become synonymous with mountains and outdoor recreation, fit people and world class athletes.

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Beautiful fall days in Canmore.

People flock to this valley to get but a taste of what it would be like to live here.  Many struggle greatly to keep afloat financially, with the ridiculous rates of inflation and costs of housing and living.  But Banff and Canmore are also both places that know unimaginable amounts of wealth and overabundance.  Above it all, and despite what class of person you are, my hope is that people who live here truly appreciate the stunning beauty that surrounds them.

I am thankful that I have chosen a life that has allowed me to spend this amount of time back in my hometown.  This visit has, again, solidified my foundation, it has reminded me that I am one of the fortunate ones, and it has helped me to recall parts of me that were long lost.  I guess you could say that I am one lucky little unicorn indeed!

And, you know, maybe, at the age of 43,  it’s finally time to admit that Banff doesn’t suck so bad after all!


Click here if you would like to read my article entitled Notes on my Hometown – Canmore, Alberta, Canada.


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Canmore, Alberta Canada 

Travelling Plans: Our plan is to stay in this area until Christmas or New Years.  Details of our next destination are yet to be confirmed.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

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