I made the decision in a split second.  I’ve never been one to confront my problems, so the decision to pack up my things and leave came to me as easily.

So that’s what I did.  I packed up my toothbrush, clothes and passport and walked out of that house forever.  I hailed a taxi on the street and was at the airport before I knew it. 

“I need a plane ticket,” I said to the attendant when I reached her desk.

She gave me a curious look and when I didn’t elaborate she said, “You need a ticket to where, dear?”

“Oh anywhere.  I’ll take a ticket for the next plane to leave.”

I could tell she was a little frustrated by my lack of direction, but I got a ticket to Wisconsin regardless.

The next few days were a blur of planes, hotels and airports.  I had travelled half way across the world before I was satisfied with my destination.

When I stepped off of the plane in Brazil I knew I was where I needed to be.  The wave of hot, humid air filled my lungs and I felt like I was able to breathe for the first time in years.  I ambled through the airport, stopping to look at anything and everything.  I bought some postcards from the gift shop and imagined myself in all of the landscapes pictured in them; atop a snowy mountain, immersed deep in the jungle surrounded by nothing but nature in all of her glory, walking down a dusty road into the sunset.  There were so many possibilities right in front of me that I was overwhelmed, and I had no idea where to start. I could take a bus to a resort, I could walk to the nearest hotel or I could cab somewhere and hike into the jungle.  It was the first time in a long time that I felt free.

Like I had at the airport back home, I decided to leave the decision in the hands of someone else.  So I got into the cab nearest to me and told the driver to take me to a place where I could stay for a while, and that I didn’t care how far away it was.

The driver nodded and seemed to think for a moment before starting the car.  After the engine roared to life, however, he seemed to know exactly where he was going.  He tried many times to engage me in conversation he must have realized that my Portuguese wasn’t great, so he switched to English.

We talked about everything; the weather, our families, good places to eat.  Eventually the topic changed to why I had come to Brazil and the driver knew immediately that he had reached an unspeakable topic.  I felt his eyes on me as I turned my head to look out the window.  Tears started to prickle my eyes and he quickly changed tactic.

“No matter, senorita, no matter.  We are almost here.” He said in broken English.

Glad for the change of topic, I asked, “Where is here?”

He smiled knowingly and pointed just ahead of us.  “This is my home.  This is where I was a child.  This is place is magic, it cures all sickness, even of the heart.  This is the village of Barra.”

We drove for another five minutes before he signalled and pulled over.  I turned around in my seat to see where we were. 

“This is hostel run by my cousin, Ronaldo.  He will take good care of you, you just tell him you are friends with Felipe.” He said with a trace of unexplained sadness in his eyes.

“Thank you, Felipe.  My name is Rachel.”

“Ahh! Raquel!  You are Portuguese at heart!” He said with a wink.

I smiled weakly in return.  “How much do I owe you, Felipe?”

“No charge, senorita.” He said.

“No, no Felipe.  You drove out all this way for me-”

“Senorita, no charge.  You just call me when you’re ready to go home and next time you pay me.  It is nice to have an excuse to come home, it was my pleasure.”  He said kindly.

“Well, thank you Felipe, I will see you soon.”

“Not too soon, senorita.  You must heal before you go home.” He said as he handed me a card with his name and a phone number where I could reach him.

I closed the door and shut my eyes.  I inhaled deeply and felt the sensation of the tightness in my lungs leaving again.  Felipe got out of the cab and opened the trunk.  I must have been standing there for longer than I thought because he cleared his throat and I noticed he was right beside me with my suitcase in hand.  He smiled again and said, “This country air is good for the soul.”

He held out his hand for me to shake, but I shook my head.  For an unknown reason I felt like I owed Felipe much more than a handshake, so turning, I embraced him.  He returned the hug.  We broke apart after the quick embrace and he nodded knowingly at me and said, “You take your time here, senorita.  You will feel better, I promise.”

I stepped back to let him into his cab and smiled genuinely for the first time in a long time.  He returned the smile and started the car.  I watched him as he pulled away and waved back as he headed back for the busy hustle and bustle of the city.

I walked into the hostel and was greeted by a rough looking man.  The scruff on his chin indicated that he hadn’t shaved for days, the old wife beater that he wore was stained and torn in places.  He was about 40, but in many ways he looked much older.  The lines in his face and knowing eyes old stories of a rough life, but there was a glimmer in his eyes that indicated something that I couldn’t place.

“Hola! Como esta?” He said cheerfully.

“Bueno.” I said and grinned as his eyes lit up.  It was then that I knew I’d misjudged the man. 

“I’d like a room.  Felipe-” I paused to look at the card Felipe had given me, “Gallista said you would be able to help me?”

Ronaldo’s smile got even wider when he heard his cousin’s name.  “Ahh, yes!  I have not seen Felipe for so long, it is nice to hear his name!  Of course I can help you; I will give you my best room.”

He came around the counter and extended his hand to me.  “I am Ronaldo Pérez.  This is my hostel.”

I took his hand and couldn’t help but notice the roughness of it.  The calluses told me that he was not only the owner of this hostel, but also the man who took care of maintenance and cleanliness.

 “Rachel, Rachel Wilson.”

He shook my hand more gently than I’d imagined he would and said, “Well, Raquel, I will show you to your room.”

He picked up my bags and we walked through the main entrance of the dingy hostel and out into the grounds.  I couldn’t help but gasp when I saw the view from the hostel.  Soft white sand stretched down as far as I could see and clear blue ocean extended into the distance even further out than I thought possible.

Ronaldo looked back and my stunned face and smiled.  “The view is quite beautiful, no?”

I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just nodded.  He smiled again and led me through the grounds, pointing to different things along the way.  Finally, we stopped at the hut furthest away from the lobby.  We walked up the stairs and he put my suitcase down beside the door.  He took a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door.  He opened the door and let it swing open, ushering me inside. 

The inside of the hut is small and just as dingy as the rest of the hostel, but there’s something magical about it.  All of the furniture is wooden and old, but upon closer examination I could tell it had been hand carved.  The floor looked dull and scratched, but it was impeccably soft on bare feet.  The entire back wall of the room was a window, allowing me to see for miles out into the ocean.  The bed was small and looked hard, but I don’t sleep much anyway.  The bonus to this room, Ronaldo told me, was that the small door to the left led to a private bathroom, a perk that none of the other rooms had.

Ronaldo promptly put my suitcase on the bed for me and left the room. 

The next few weeks were a blur.  Now, I don’t mean I was so busy that I can’t remember what I did.  What I mean is that I did anything and everything that I wanted whenever the thought crossed my mind. 

Ronaldo and I talked every day. I walked around the small town every day, eating at a different restaurant whenever I passed one.  I got a membership at the small town library, and started learning to speak Portuguese.  I went to the small café around the corner from the hostel and enjoyed the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had at least once a day.  I enjoyed the beautiful ocean front view that seemed present in any of the places I visited.  I threw my cell phone into the ocean.  I taught some of the village kids English.  I went for dinner at Ronaldo’s house.  I met his family, and even saw Felipe from time to time.  I called my mother and assured her I was alright, that I just needed to do some soul searching.  I started to sleep, both longer and deeper.  I played guitar.  I sang and danced at the village fiestas.  I learned how to fix things around the hostel.  I learned the names of all the people in the village.  I worked odd jobs for some spending money.  I became one of the village.  My soul started to heal. 

I had been there two months when Ronaldo approached the topic of going home.  He did not say it in a rude way; he was just curious how long I was planning on staying.  I shrugged and said “Until I’m ready,” and it was left at that.

Felipe and I sat down one evening and we talked into the night with coffees and cigarettes and beers in our hands.  I listened more raptly than I ever had.  He talked about life and how no matter what happens the sun will always rise the next day.  He told me that all the pain and strife that I had endured had led me to where I was sitting and to never regret our past choices.   He told me that happiness is always possible, you just have to look around to find it.

We talked into the wee hours of the morning and I sat on my porch drinking coffee for many hours after he had left.

Since that very day, things started to change and I had started living my new life. 

It’s now been three years since that day, and here I am.  I am still living in Ronaldo’s best room in the hostel in the village of Barra.  I have never looked back.  I have never gone back.  I have made peace with my mother who has finally accepted my new life.  I have made amends with my ex-fiancé who I left in the dust, he even came to visit for a few days.  My sister comes to stay with me for a couple of weeks every year.  I realize now that running away did not solve my problems, that it never solves anything. You must confront and solve your problems to be able to live in peace.

Before I came to Barra, I was living someone else’s life.  I was focussed on making money and making other people happy.  I worked from nine to five during the week and slept in late on the weekends.  I got drunk to forget my problems.  I hated my boss and my friends.  My happiness became entwined with the happiness of my significant other’s.  If he was unhappy, I was unhappy. According to Ronaldo, I was broken.

Leaving home was the biggest decision I’ve ever made life.  It was also the best decision.

I now sleep when I’m tired, and get up when I’ve had enough sleep.  I have enough money to get by.  I drink to celebrate.  I love everyone in this village, and my happiness does not revolve around anything but the here and now.

I owe this magical little village my life, Felipe and Ronaldo more than anyone.  The wisdom of the people here does not compare to anything in the world.  They struggle every day to get by, and it’s for that reason that the live their lives so fully.  They saw that I was broken, but rather than trying to fix me they helped me until I got better on my own terms. 

There are things in life that you will never forget.  And this is one of them.


Kelly Houlahan

Is a student at Algonquin College studying Professional Writing. Born and raised in Ottawa, she enjoys speculating about the zombie apocalypse and spends an ample amount of time thinking about her plan of action.  Follow her on FacebookTumblr and Instagram.

When In Doubt, Draw Them Out


You’ve survived this long, you must be considering yourself an expert by now. You’ve picked the right group of people to surround yourself with and what to do and not to do.  So what’s next?


In every zombie book, movie or TV show it is nearly always someone’s second guessing themselves that gets them killed.  Don’t let this happen to you.

In the heat of the moment, your head will be filled with possible scenarios.  Stick with your gut feeling.  It’s not going to be pretty anyway.  If your gut is telling you to walk away from a scenario, do it.  If it’s telling you that the possible safe haven is full of zombies, do something about it before entering.  Throw something breakable into the room and see what happens.  Cough loudly.  Bang on the door.  Don’t just go into a house or store without making your presence known.

It’s life or death now, whether you like it or not.  It’s eat or be eaten.  If you stumble across a survivor who starts begging you to bring them back to your group, stop for a minute and really think.  If your gut screaming for you to walk away, it’s probably better to listen to it than ignore it.

Granted, this is going against almost everything science has been telling us, that your gut will always tell you to go for the known.  If you’re a compassionate person by nature, your gut will always tell you to help those in need.  But things change when the world comes to an end.  It is really black and white anymore.  Science is more or less dead.  Trust your instincts no matter what, you’ll deal with whatever happens after it happens.

You don’t want to be the idiot that brings back the psychopath to camp, do you?

And for the love of God, when you’re scouting for supplies, grab some nasal strips that prevent snoring.  I don’t care who you are and if you claim you never snore, you’ll thank me in the end when your leg doesn't get bitten off while you’re sleeping.

And now some soothing classical music and mindless carnage to ease you into your day.


Kelly Houlahan

Is a student at Algonquin College studying Professional Writing. Born and raised in Ottawa, she enjoys speculating about the zombie apocalypse and spends an ample amount of time thinking about her plan of action.  Follow her on FacebookTumblr and Instagram.

Choices, choices


In light of the latest installment of The Walking Dead I’ve found myself thinking about some of the choices that need to be made during the zombie apocalypse.  Not just the questions about going on food and supply runs or what do when someone gets bitten. Carol’s departure has sparked many thoughts on who I’d surround myself with in this situation and it has also made me doubt my previous assertions about the very same thing.

I personally love(d) Carol.  I think she’s a badass and a survivor.  But I don’t know if I’d like to have her around if some freak strain of the flu hit my group.

Here are some helpful tips in choosing the lucky few that will accompany you on your quest for survival:

- Find a survivalist.  Preferably someone with knowledge of nature and weaponry (Someone who drives a badass motorcycle and carries a crossbow is an added bonus).

- Gordon Ramsay.  I’m being serious.  Not only is he one of the best chefs in the world, he is also one of the angriest people in the world.  Imagine all that rage focussed behind a baseball bat.  Serious advantage.

- Find someone funny.  The zombie apocalypse will be a downer and everyone could use a laugh.  

- Find a stoner.  Not anyone who takes uppers, but someone who smokes a lot of weed.  This may seem like a bad idea, but they’ll offer you a calm and collected perspective when things get tense and when things get crazy they’ll go into Call Of Duty mode and start picking zombies off one by one.

- Go to the ends of the earth to find Sidney Prescott.  She never dies and she’s got a hell of a punch.

- Find an old, wise man.  Make sure they’re not too old, though.  You want someone who is still physically able to fight.  Their years of facing the world will come in handy and once they’re incorporated into your group they will go to the ends of the earth to protect you.

All right, survivors.  It’s time for you to go out and find the people who will save your ass.  Just remember these handy tips and use your brain.  If, at first glance, you feel like it’s a bad idea then it probably is.  Walk away before they latch on.



Kelly Houlahan

Is a student at Algonquin College studying Professional Writing. Born and raised in Ottawa, she enjoys speculating about the zombie apocalypse and spends an ample amount of time thinking about her plan of action.  Follow her on   FacebookTumblr and Instagram.


It's Called Common Sense, People


So here we are, in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.  The cities are burning and things are getting desperate.  There are zombies everywhere you look, people getting eaten by the hordes.  Are you smart enough to survive or do you get devoured?  Here are a few things to remember:

  1. Sally Sue has been grabbed, she’s been bitten on the wrist and she’s about to go down.  Don’t go back for her, you idiot.  Keep running, there’s no hope for her.  If you can spare a bullet, by all means shoot her in the head.  But don’t go back or you’ll just be one more walking corpse.
  2. Don’t settle down.  I know we’re all craving a place to call home but there couldn't be a worse thing to do.  You need to remain packed and ready to move on at a moment’s notice.  Staying alive is better than being at home.
  3. There is absolutely no reason to use fire as a weapon.  Having a moving, biting corpse trying to eat you is still better than having a moving, biting corpse that’s on fire chasing after you.  Think about it.
  4. Use your common sense.  If it feels like it may be a bad idea, don’t do it.  Don't go to the hospital, 3000 other people have had the same idea and I'm betting a lot of them are infected.  Same thing goes for the mall.  Use your brain while it's still functioning on a conscious level.
  5. Don't worry about what other people are doing.  Do what you think will help you survive. 

If you remember these four things you will have no problem surviving, there may be a few struggles here and there but you will be alive for the long run.

This puts humanity in a tough spot, though.  Or is there any humanity left?  Where is the line that distinguishes humanity from anarchy?  Truth be told, there is no line anymore.  You do what you do to stay alive, end of story.  But there must be something to help keep us all ourselves rather than mindless killing machines; all of the beloved characters in the movies, television and books seem to have a spark of life that keeps them human.

The simple answer is live.  Live each day to it’s fullest.  Some days will be bad; full of death and blood.  But there will be some good days, days where you find a stash of chocolate bars and shampoo.  Take the little things and roll with them, it’s the only way to stay afloat in a world that is threatening to drag you down. Go forth and flourish, survivors.




Kelly Houlahan

Is a student at Algonquin College studying Professional Writing. Born and raised in Ottawa, she enjoys speculating about the zombie apocalypse and spends an ample amount of time thinking about her plan of action.  Follow her on   FacebookTumblr and Instagram.


The End is Nigh


So, the world has begun its inevitable end.  It all started with some poor guy all the way over in India hacking his lungs up from what was thought to be a severe cold.  He got checked out by a doctor that diagnosed him with a weird strain of the flu, highly contagious of course.  He was put into quarantine but it was too late.  He had infected his family, who had infected their friends and so on.

Now here we are… The beginning of the end of the world, the zombies are slowly taking over.  There is no time to pack up the house and round up the family.  You only have a moment to make up your mind about your first stop.

What would your first stop be?  Would you run to the grocery store to get all of the non perishable items you can get your hands on?  Would you run to the local gun store and get all the guns and ammo you could?  Or would you drive over to your family’s house and scoop them up?  I sat down with ten people and gave them this situation.  I sat back and watched the discussion unfold, and these are my findings.

You are both practical and wise if you choose food and water.  The human body can only go on for so long without them, after all.  But what good is food and water if you don’t have either the means to protect yourself or people to help with the struggle?  Maybe this is why only one person chose this option.

You are a survivalist if your first stop is the local gun store.  You are smart enough to know that guns can be a source of protection as well as food. It truly is survival of the fittest, but what good are guns if you’re just one person surrounded by 100 zombies?  Surely guns can save your life in this situation but what about life’s essentials?

You are sentimental if your first choice is people.  Yes, they can help with protection and gathering supplies, but they can also slow you down.  Out of the ten people I sat down with, half of them chose people.  Their main reason was that they couldn't bear not knowing what had happened to their loved ones.

Where does your first stop lead you? Are you sure it's a wise decision?


Kelly Houlahan

Is a student at Algonquin College studying Professional Writing. Born and raised in Ottawa, she enjoys speculating about the zombie apocalypse and spends an ample amount of time thinking about her plan of action.  Follow her on   Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.