paula toledo

Where Discovery Meets Gratitude

Ode to Wonder is an experiential community, a creative space built to exercise mental well-being and positive states of mind by engaging in curiosity, discovery and gratitude.

It is a celebration of the simple things in life, accessible through the beauty of humanity, art, travel, and sports/nature. The four pillars fit together perfectly as an acronym, 'H.A.T.S. Off' to describe a mental wellness regime based on self-care and self-compassion. 

While crossing paths with innovative and inspiring people, Ode to Wonder will share their stories of adversity, but mainly offer insight into their individual strength and the resources they used to  help them work through life's challenges.

May Ode to Wonder be a contagious remedy for some, offering enlightenment. May it be a dare to dream bigger, believe in oneself that much more. A dare to climb up those stairs, open the door to the rooftop of the world and wonder.

For we are one. Let us all be part of each other's wonders. 




Mental Health, Leaning Into Fear and The LAPS documentary 

by Paula M. Toledo

Potentially precarious life threatening situations are not outliers to me and my nine year old. We have unfortunately, spent many days and nights in the ER due to my son's asthma condition. Given that he also has serious peanut and tree nut allergies, travelling as a solo parent in foreign countries with two young children, can be tricky. Where is the nearest hospital, how does their medical system work, are questions I ask and research well ahead of time.

My Instagram world of travel shares only one angle - one of discovery and beauty. 

The 360 degree view shows very different perspectives. Late night planning and worry about the 'what-ifs' circle around. Is the AirBnb I booked too dusty, has it been exposed to pets and other asthma triggers? Engaging in the worry of inadvertently serving my son food that contains peanuts or tree nuts, due to foreign language hurdles, can provoke a sense of anxiety in me.

Being the boss, the only boss, can feel like a big undertaking. 

But life will always present challenging and uncomfortable situations before us. God knows we've already experienced our mountain share. But it is in these moments of facing adversity and finding resources to cope, that we grow stronger, wiser and more unified as a family. I could easily feed my worry to the point of it becoming a real perceived threat, but I know that leaning into fear is the only option for me and my family. 

When we arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, in our third week of travel, I was ready to relinquish my responsibilities to anyone who would lend a hand in planning our days. With the digital world at my fingertips, I connected with a stranger via Instagram, with the hope of easily resourcing family-friendly adventures. 

Emily Lancaster and her daughter, Sienna, recently moved from the UK to Lisbon. She kindly met up with us for dinner and over green wine we chatted like we were old friends reconnecting. We stayed in touch and weeks later, by way of a virtual introduction, she introduced me to a Single Mom Travel Instagram pod. SMT is headed up by Emily Lancaster @ShineALife,  Angie Davis @TheAniccaWay from Australia, and Laura Buttigieg @WatchingIvyGrow, from The Grand Cayman Islands (and now I have joined them too). These women unabashedly live out their dreams. They travel and discover the world with their children, all the while deploying technology to work remotely in their respective professions and social causes they support. 

Had I never leaned into the fear, I would have never ventured abroad with my children. Succumbing to my fear would have prevented me from meeting these inspiring women. Like a life game version of Connect The Dots, travelling, meeting Emily, and now Laura and Angie, has served me several way points to my latest connection with Dustin Hollick. 

Dustin is concept creator and the personality featured in 'The Laps', a documentary directed by Angie. The documentary follows Dustin and his travel partner, Rhian Slapp, circumnavigating Tasmania with no cash, no car and no cel phone. Departing with surf boards strapped to their backs, they leave with only 10 items. Their travels strip them to their bare necessities, testing their survival skills. Relying on the kindness of people they meet, they bartend their services in exchange for food and shelter. 

With the aid of technology, first via Instagram then by way of Facetime, Dustin and I were able to connect for this podcast. Me - in my home recording studio in Montreal. Dustin - speaking quietly on his mobile, respectful of his Indonesian neighbours. With a 12 hour time zone difference, we chatted about 'The Laps', underlying a theme of what it means to face into the wind of adversity. Speaking about Men's Mental Health, a cause both he and I are impassioned by, (given that we are both survivors of suicide) was timely as it was World Mental Health Day. 

Choosing life-enriching decisions over fear-based ones may seem obvious. But it's the desire to stay in a perceived safe zone, pulling against our human need to live open heartedly, taking on risks that align with our life's purposes, that cause tension. Removing this perceived safe zone by recalibrating with nature has been paramount to Dustin finding his sweet spots in life.

Learning from Dustin's personal experiences as a man, a father and survivor of suicide, was enlightening to me.  Our chat served as a reminder to think of my day-to-day challenges as part of my mental wellness fitness regime. Life's curve balls, fears, and overcoming adversity are simply strength and conditioning tools for greater mental fortitude and ultimately, a chance at achieving a truly fulfilling life with purpose.  

Watch 'The Laps' at


by Paula Toledo



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