Say Yes To Cheese

One of my favourite parts of travel is eating.

Actually, it’s probably my favourite. Specifically, eating cheese. This is Adam’s favourite too, and is one of the many reasons we work well as a couple. Seriously though, cheese and charcuterie are our things. If we’re eating at a restaurant that has a charcuterie platter, we automatically get it. If we don’t know what to cook, we make a charcuterie and cheese platter. So, when shopping for his birthday present I got him none other than:

A home cured bacon kit! 

We started it yesterday, and I haven’t tried the bacon yet, but it looks amazing. It’s pretty easy so far- you put the included Prague salt in with a pound of salt and a pound of sugar and then dredge 0.9kg of pork belly in it. It sits for a week, then you infuse it with liquid smoke. The amount of the base cure- the salt/sugar mix- that you get out of this is actually hella impressive. We have enough to make many a slab of bacon. We made this one plain without additives and we’re using the liquid smoke, then we’re going to make another additive free one in the smoker. After we compare that, we’ll get fancy with recipes from one of the books I got him…..

 

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Charcuterie!  Literally just a book with recipes for meat, salt, and accompaniments to them. We were looking through it and are super excited. On the book front I also got him…

 

Artisan Cheesemaking at Home. I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think we’ll be able to pull of the level of beauty in this book. I mean, there’s burrata recipes in here. BURRATA! If you’ve never had it, it’s literally a ball of mozzarella hiding a delicious, creamy centre. Also, it might be the most delicious thing in the world. The biggest problem is that one ball costs $16 at Whole Foods. I first encountered it while working in Taranto. My host family took me to this restaurant that was literally just all about mozarella. There were knots of it, balls of it… anything imaginable. But the star was burrata. I’ll keep you updated on my experiments. Speaking of experiments….

I also got him a 4 Cheese Making Kit!  Honestly, I think if you don’t know what to get someone, get them a cheesemaking kit. I’m going to start with a quarter review of this- it makes ricotta, paneer, chevre, and cream cheese. Since it was Adam’s birthday, we had a bunch of people over. We created a simple menu. We wanted to keep it delicious, easy and cheap since we had 9 people. Homemade pasta with a simple marinara, garlic bread, and homemade ricotta. We started with the sauce. I didn’t want a super fancy sauce because I wanted to really focus on the ricotta as the special area. So, I put in a stick of butter, 2 cans of tomatoes, and a quartered onion. I used one can of crushed tomato and one can of diced. There’s really no reason for it either, it’s just what I had. All the big bits broke down pretty well, so I think it’d even work with whole tomatoes.

This is it bubbling away after a few hours. It’s seriously as easy as bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer. I added a little salt and pepper at the end.

Then we started on the ricotta. Apparently it’s SO easy to make. You literally just heat the milk….

Then add lemon and strain. Why do we buy this stuff?! The kit came with cheesecloth, some cultures that I guess are for the cream cheese and chevre, and a cheese mold.

Yeah. We made this cheese. Like made it. Making cheese is seriously magical. When the curd separates it just looks… bewildering. I can’t wait to make the rest of this kit. So far, it’s a 10/10 would definitely buy again.

One of the best parts of cheesemaking? Whey. I read somewhere you could cook pasta in it, and man was this stuff amazing. It added a whole layer of flavour too it.

I forgot to take a picture of my first plate which would have been better and less pasta on a dirty plate, but man… I totally forgot because I got so into how amazing this pasta was.

Now fingers crossed that next time I’ll be making homemade carbonara with some amazing home-cured bacon….

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Say Yes To Cheese

Where Do I Sleep That Night?!

I was bored and ended up on Buzzfeed, as you do, where I came across this article https://www.buzzfeed.com/scaachikoul/i-went-to-a-summer-camp-for-adults-and-it-got-weird?utm_term=.dcWp5O0QQ#.klZVwWKoo

For those who don’t want to read it, and honestly, it’s super tedious so I don’t suggest you do, the author is doing what started out as a review but turned into a weak expose on an adult summer camp. She ends up hearing of a supposed sexual assault on a drunk girl, then spends the rest of the time gossiping about it with other people while judging those who came there to party hardcore in the woods.

This article made me think a lot about hostels and bus tours. When I was eighteen I did my first trip alone and chose to go on a Topdeck tour.  It seemed like a good idea to have someone kind of holding my hand, but still offered me great independence. I loved the crap out of that trip. I met people I still talk to, I had a great time. It was a trip that fit well with my personality- lots of time around people, however the option to spend time alone in the day. I did my due diligence. I talked to multiple travel agents; I read every online review. I went into it with the expectation that I would party a lot; that cliques might form. This is what I feel the author of the buzzfeed piece didn’t do. Why would they send this author who is so clearly against the target market of the camp into it for an honest review? Why didn’t she read the multitude of yelp reviews (all of which are 5 stars, by the way) and see that every. single. one. mentions hardcore parties? What did she expect at a camp that advertises a late night open bar? Now, I’m not speaking to the sexual assault. I don’t know the girl, I don’t know what happened to her. She’s not speaking out and the author made no attempt to get her side of the story.

On my last long European trip there was a big group of Australians who did their very best to prove the Australian abroad stereotype right. There was also an Australian girl who said things like, “I’m not like other Australians. I like to be quiet and read a book. I’m not like those country people and it’s such a shame that’s what people think of us.” Honestly, as loud and annoying as the partiers were sometimes, quiet judgey girl was so, SO much worse. People like that are exhausting. Nothing is good enough for them, and I find I tend to get into the habit of trying to impress them which kills me because literally no one will ever impress that girl. Nothing will ever be good enough. I have a theory that people like her tend to read hostel reviews, see it’s a party hostel and stay there intentionally so that they get to feel superior about themselves.

So, in the interest of learning something I’m going to take you through my hostel review research comment reading process. I’m thinking about taking a trip to Dublin as I haven’t been there before. I don’t know the greatest place ever to stay there, so I’m going to plug things in on hostelbookers and take one at random.

First off, the most important thing to do before reading reviews is to decide four things to focus on. I present my list, in no particular order:

  1. A common room. This is important. I like to have at least one big night in every city so being able to meet people to go on said night with is key for life and predrinks.
  2. Great location or super close to transit. Obviously.
  3. A clean kitchen if they have one.
  4. Good beds and showers.

Okay, Kinlay House Dublin, let’s see what you’ve got. All reviews are taken straight from their review page exactly as written.

Liked: Gret location. Clean rooms, bathrooms cleaned often and to a high standard. Late check out for £5. Free breakfast was a god send, lots of cereals toast and toppings to choose from and unlimited tea and coffee. Comfy beds and lots of room and storage in the rooms. Overall great hostal and would definately stay here again.

Disliked: I stayed here with 12 others for my birthday and we had a room all to ourselves. We were planning on having a little drink before going out however no alcohol is allowed in the room and this wasnt stated when booking. It didnt really bother us to not drink before hand however i do think this should be stated. ALso check in isnt 12noon it is infact 2pm. This is also stated incorrectly online.

Customer would recommend this property

What I can surmise from this: Well, the positives are great. Honestly, I can’t remember the last hostel I stayed out where alcohol was allowed in rooms. I also can’t remember the last time I followed that. All in all, that’s not a big deal. Kudos to these guys for not rule breaking.

Liked: Good facilities, breakfast provided and good common room. Beds very spacious.

Disliked: Overcrowded at times but manageable. Check out time too early. Bed frames low quality, top bunk and bottom bunk can feel every movement.

Customer would recommend this property

What I can surmise from this: Breakfast seems to be pretty amaze to be mentioned in two reviews. As for the quality of bunks, I go into hostels expecting the worst of Ikea, so the spaciousness is nice to know.

Liked: Breakfast, fast internet, lots of charging outlets

Disliked: Lots of things hostels normally provide are charged here, e.g. Luggage storage, printing. Also this is not a youth only hostel

Customer would recommend this property

INTERNET! I completely forgot about that on my list. I’ve stayed in enough hostels with crap internet. I’m not sure why he mentions it’s not a youth only hostel. Most aren’t. I’m just confused as to why that’s a negative? Am I too old for hostels? This kid clearly has no idea whats up. Also, what hostel doesn’t charge you to print? Where are these magic unicorn hostels where everything is for free and there’s no one under the age of 25?

Liked: The hostel is very central, right by the Temple Bar area. Perfect for going out to explore Dublin and for nights out. The 24-bed dorm room was clean and spacious and overall it was great value for money.

Disliked: There weren’t many plugs in the rooms, and the plugs weren’t located conveniently by the beds. The washrooms and showers were not clearly indicated to everyone whether it was for males or females so a lot of people would accidentally use the wrong ones. The common area/lounge/kitchen is not open 24 hours. One specific staff member was rude to my friend and I, which makes me think customer service and communication could still be improved.

Customer would recommend this property

Great location! Again, what hostel has enough plugs? Complaints about gendering of bathrooms…? Who gives a crap?

Liked: Pretty good location -airport bus stop out front. rooms & bathrooms clean. Ok price

Disliked: Shower not warm enough but seemed ok after I told them. All toilet seats loose so slid side to side. No lift. No alcohol policy in common room & rooms (why not have a bar?)

Customer would recommend this property

Good on the hostel for addressing the shower issue but holy crap, the common room was dry?! hmmm….. That kind of goes against one of my four.

Liked: The old interior was lovely.lovley looking place.

Disliked: needs more seats in the common area.to many couches where one person would take up three seats.

Customer would recommend this property

Okay, so I was really waiting for one comment of this caliber. This person was mad someone would take up three seats and blamed the hostel for it. That is a person. A person did that. Be mad at people.

So, all in all, would I stay here? No. Not because it’s not a crazy party hostel, if I was staying here for 3 nights I wouldn’t drink on 2 of them. I just want the option. I know who I am, I know what I like. However, if everything was booked I ended up at this hostel I’d probably have a great time because I try to make the most of things… also it’s in Temple Bar so I’d definitely go to a pub… but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Just as a comparative exercise I’m also going to take a look at two hostels in the same city- two I’ve stayed at.

We’ll start with the Hostel Leidseplein. I stayed here on my last big Europe trip. I booked last minute, so I didn’t do much research on it.  I’ll give my review after the others, and I’ll try to keep my comments on comments pretty neutral.

Liked: The staff were nice, the hostel entry was secure. The hostel had wifi and a computer that were both free to use. Luggage storage was easy, useful and free to use before checkout.

Disliked: The room as small and cramped. The bathroom was smelly, dirty and there was one between 12 in the dorm. The beds were small with no ladders for the bunks, making things difficult, Plug sockets were sparse in the room making charging a problem. Breakfast was bread (no toaster), tea, coffee, and some spreads. We were also charged almost an extra 10 euros than agreed. Location central but located on a busy street with tourist traps. Unsuitable for anyone with mobility issues (very steep stairs, no list).

Customer would recommend this property

Free wifi and computers are great. When my tablet broke, they were a godsend. I’m just putting this out there, I am not a fan of the ensuite bathroom. I think open floor plan bathrooms are so much better. That way you don’t end up hating the one guy who spends forever in the shower then eons doing his hair. The breakfast sounds pretty crap, but free, so. The money thing is worrying. The thing about tourist traps makes me wonder. Honestly, a lot of downtown any city in the world is tourist traps. Leidsplein is the main downtown area so… yeah. Also, Amsterdam is known for it’s super tall, very old houses. Stairs tend to rule in Europe.

Liked: location is excellent, and the rooms and bathroom are ok for the price.

Disliked: There´s no locker or anywhere to leave your things, and actually someone stole the cellphones of 2 guys in the room next door. Breakfast is extremely basic and they charge you for leaving your luggage in receptions after check out, even if it is for a couple of hours.

Customer would recommend this property

This contradicts the other review about free luggage storage. I’m going to put an aside about the theft thing even though I said I’d be neutral. Every day I left my dayplanner and passport with the front desk for free. It was super secure.

So basically, from the comments would you stay in this hostel?

Like I said, I booked pretty last minute, and I think my review will be biased towards just being happy to find a hostel. The jetlag hit me while I was staying here, and after spending one day in Leiden with a friend and her family (go to Leiden by the way. It’s 40 minutes from Amsterdam and is the prettiest, most like fairytale Dutch city I’ve ever seen), I spent the next day literally sleeping in the hostel. Breakfast, yeah, it kind of sucked, but I’ve had so, so much worse. I tend not to think of hostel breakfast as a thing- it usually is just bread and spreads. If you go in with low expectations, you get the fun chance to be surprised when it rocks. The addition of a toaster would’ve been nice though. When I was there people were marvelling over the fact that they had both vegemite and marmite. I found it secure enough- the fact that I could put my essential stuff behind the desk was great. The wifi, as I remember on my catch up to life day, was absolutely badass. The bathroom was pretty decent- they cleaned it twice a day. The noise… I mean, you’re in the same square as the Bulldog cafe and all the clubs. Considering that, it was pretty quiet for what I expected. I also loved that my bed was against the window so I got to watch and judge people. This hostel is great for when you want something central, clean and quiet. I’d definitely stay there again.

Now, another hostel I stayed at in Amsterdam. I ended up at The Hans Brinker on the aforementioned Topdeck tour when I was 18. It came with the tour company, and I didn’t choose it. Keep in mind at that time their marketing was “the worst hotel in the world” now they’ve calmed it down but it still focuses very much on the fact that it’s a budget place. Let’s look at the reviews.

Liked: Great bar, toilets in each dorm. HAPPY HOUR!!

Disliked: No ladder for bunk beds.

Customer would recommend this property

We know I like a good happy hour! The ensuite bathroom thing again. With the no ladder thing, this is actually weirdly common. Why hostels? Why?

Liked: Location was excellent, close to the nightlife and not a far walk to other areas.

Disliked: Some areas need improving.

I’d like to know what some areas are, walking distance is great.

Liked: It had a really great atmosphere, and is definitely one to consider if you are after a fun stay!

Disliked: The room was fairly basic, although it was sold to us this way so we expected it.

Customer would recommend this property

Honestly, I picked Amsterdam as the subject for this experiment because I expected some truly heinous reviews I could debunk, but the internet’s letting me down.

Liked: very good situation in the center of Amsterdam breakfast good bedroom clean and spacious

Disliked: very bad smell in the toilet and the shower

Customer would recommend this property

Clean is important. Sometimes you have to wonder if the smell is like a lack of air freshener thing, or like, a super hungover person was in there for 2 hours thing.

Liked: location..breakfast hall…..staff….

Disliked: appalling noise on first night…though staff sorted some of it out at 5 am for me..people fighting in next room..but other noise was appalling all night….the other three nights were quiet

Customer would recommend this property

Again, this is the fault of people. If one out of four nights was loud I’d count that as a hostel win.

Liked: Really most of things about this place is great: it’s superclose to the center (aprox 5 tram stops) near to Melkweg and Sugar Factory, clean, nice party atmosphere, linen and towels are included as well as breakfast (starts from 7:30). Reception was nice at every time of the day, gave directions, borrowed me a charger for my phone, I could use the safe deposit to leave my camera for the time of party. I loved happy hours at the hostel’s bar (prices are really low). I would say – the best choice in the city 😉

Disliked: Well it’s not a big deal as you can leave important stuff at the reception – lockers in rooms are pretty old and locking anything valuable inside is pointless as they work SO SO 😀

Customer would recommend this property

They lend phone chargers?! A lot of lockers at hostels suck. It’s nice you can leave stuff at reception.

Liked: I liked that the bar had cheap drinks and that the people staying in the hostel were lots of fun! I also liked that there was a club in the building and free breakfast.

Disliked: I disliked having to wait to enter and exit the building and the club was very loud in the rooms until very late at night (4 am) even when only a couple people were in there. I also didn’t like how basic the hostel was for the cost. Everything was quite old and not very comfortable. It is also quite far away from most of where things are going on. 15-20 minute walk to the bulldog and the red light district. The lockers in the room were also quite small.

Customer would recommend this property

You can’t complain about the clubs noise after saying you like having a club in the building. It’s one of the world’s trade offs.

So, as for my opinion of the Hans Brinker? I had SO MUCH FUN THERE. If you’re down to party all night, then this definitely will be your jam. Nothing was the best, but everything was clean, and the common areas were amazing. The most important thing? They never oversold anything. You knew exactly what you were getting. I think that if this was any other place reviews would be crap as crap can be. It’s a smart move on their part. I find it interesting that they don’t accept stags or bachelorettes, and also that they don’t let people over the age of 35 in the dorms. I know a ton of people who would stay there and have the best time, but honestly, I wouldn’t stay here again. Part of that is the new branding looks wayyyyyyy to annoying hipster for my taste, and also the fact that there’s some pretty legit ageism in the dorms. I think there’s better places to stay that are closer to the city centre, but…. a piece of my heart is still there.

So, this post kind of got away from me, but basically my point? Make a list of things that are important to you. Know yourself. Don’t trust an atmosphere rating because that really could mean anything. I mean, I’d give atmosphere of both hostels in Amsterdam 100% but they were vastly different. Also, if you want the quiet nights but might want to try the party once or twice… I’ve seen many a quiet hostel have an occasional rowdy night, however I’ve never seen party hostel go silent.

Choose wisely.

Where Do I Sleep That Night?!

HI-Shuswap Lake: Why Did I Come Home?

I mean, you can tell from the title I had fun so this post is really just going to be me going on about how much fun I had.

With pictures!

So, the first weekend in August is BC day where we celebrate…. how arrogant we are about not being a frozen tundra like the rest of Canada? Something like that. The important thing is we get the Monday off. This tends to fall close to, or spot on to, my birthday, so I tend to have an easy time of convincing people to do what I want. And I wanted to camp. The problem is some of the pickier of my friends are just not outdoorsy kind of people. So, when I was procrastinating I found something. A hostel. On Shuswap lake. And I spent a year convincing people to go with me. Then Adam moved here, and I was like, “we’re going, care to join?” And surprisingly enough they did. We went up with a group of 7 people.

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The front is a blink and you’ll miss it type place- the sign is on the far left. It’s right on the Trans-Canada Highway. My parents knew it as “that building” and couldn’t believe there was anything there. I knew better though. After my rural hostel experience in Austria I believed in the travel magic to deliver unto me awesomeness.

The concept is that there’s some rooms in the house, you can tent where you find room, and most importantly, the dorms are old cabooses.

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There’s three cabooses, but I’m working with a blackberry camera here so I don’t have the greatest scope. One was booked out by a family, one was female only, and one was coed. I booked the three girls into the girls dorm just in case more guys came for the coed, and Adam was in there. The rooms weren’t the biggest dorms. I mean, they were cabooses! Each had 6 bunks, a bathroom, a chill out area, and a kitchen.

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The mattresses were some of the best I’ve had in hostels, and the pillows were beyond badass. The cabooses got cool in the night, which is a big plus for me, and I slept well for the first time in months. It’s been hot in Vancouver and I was just so, so happy to be in a real sleep environment where I could get blanket cozy.

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Just off the cabooses was a common area and a hut with another kitchen, bathroom, and shower stalls. I’m going to be real here- I didn’t shower the entire time I was there. Two of my friends did though and assured me the water pressure and heat were excellent. The kitchens were great too.

The real beauty was the water. You walked down this path, passing a sweat lodge,

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to get to the lake.

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That water. It was cold, but we still went in. I haven’t seen water that amazingly clean in a long time. The canoe on the dock? You can use it for free. You can row to a beaver dam. There’s just so much cool.

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Alternate dock activity? Drinking and eating chips.

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Or, like my friend and I, bonding like men. This involved manspreading, holding cans, and saying yup to each other. We bonded. Also note: I am wearing all the clothes I packed save for a driving t shirt, plus Adam’s hoodie. The weather report said it would be over 30 degrees every day. We had a lot of rain and thunderstorms on the last day we were there. I need to learn I don’t pack well after a couple of drinks.

But…

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I found something to do. Read all day, party all night!

When you book you get an email explaining things. Like….

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THE CAT! I love this cat. He would absolutely not let me take a picture, so I just took one of his face. Beautiful, cuddly cat.

AND

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DOG AND LLAMAS!

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Look at those majestic animals. You can feed them. Feed Llamas! The animals are great. It’s so naturey.

As for food, we did a huge Costco run and brought up cold cuts for lunches and hot dogs and s’mores for nights around the campfire. But what about breakfast? I’m assuming you asked because you, you are an involved reader. Pat yourself on the back.

Well, for like $5 a day the hostel does ALL YOU CAN EAT PANCAKES!

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These ones are blueberry peach. Now, we all know I can eat. I never got more than 3 pancakes in. It’s filling.

So, would I stay here again? HELLS YES. I already want to go back. We became good friends with the workawayer, (BECAUSE THEY ARE WORKAWAY HOSTS AND SUPPORT IT AND SO MANY GOOD VIBES!!!) and like, the owners of the hostel… it’s just like… indescribable how hospitable they are. Being there just felt like a magic wonderland of everyone being friends. Travel magic wonderland. If you go in with the expectation that it is a rural hostel, it’s a 10/10. Go here. Stay here.

And to book and for prices and such, and much better photos, click here.

As for photos, I’ll leave you with this one:

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It’s a llama. Judging me for leaving the awesome hostel and going back to real life.

 

 

 

 

HI-Shuswap Lake: Why Did I Come Home?

Travelling When Your Body Just Won’t

I have compartment syndrome.

It’s a super scary condition where your muscles don’t want to be contained in their muscle holder anymore.

The magical medical practitioners think it happened as a combination of stressing myself out way to much and overworking my already injured body. As a kid I wanted nothing more than to be a prima ballerina. This didn’t pan out as I have exactly 100% the opposite natural body you want for ballet. I have hips, I have a bum, and I hold weight in my stomach. It’s not exactly graceful. But I tried. I loved- still love- to dance. When I was 15 I went to my then family doctor and asked about this weird pop thing my hip was doing. He told me it was nothing and not to bother him with stupid problems. Yeah. I continued to throw myself into performing through dance, intensive theater camps, and started competing in musical theater the next year. My hip didn’t get better. It wasn’t until I was 22 during a rugby practice where a coach heard the noise. At that point I had been playing for a few years with a break to study abroad. My coach looked at me, informed me that wasn’t normal, and gave me the name of a sports specialist who I saw that week. Keep in mind I hadn’t really seen a doctor that wasn’t at the walk in clinic since I was 15. I went and he diagnosed it as snapping hip syndrome in 5 minutes. I walked out with a physio referral and started on that path. I probably wouldn’t have been in that sort of pain for that long if I had been better about resting and not going in to intensely. I was still playing rugby and… man, I love playing rugby. It’s definitely one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I love the crap out of that sport, I loved the people I was playing with. So play I did.

After my friend passed away I kind of gave up on life. I stopped playing rugby, stopped going to the gym… stopped giving a shit about anything really. I lost my biggest support system and that took its toll. I still have to deal with it every day. Losing someone you were that close to messes you up. My feet started to scream bloody murder whenever I stood up and after much fighting my Mom made me go back to the doctor to get orthotics. I went and mentioned that when I walked a lot my shins hurt SO bad and it hurt to even touch my calves. That’s when I got the compartment syndrome and instructions to keep very lightly active- which at that point I wasn’t, to not google compartment syndrome and, most importantly, to keep my stress levels down. I tend to be a very high stress person so I figured that was impossible, got my orthotics and hoped for the best.

Eventually it all caught up with me and I found myself having to miss a day of work to spend in the hospital because I was absolutely sure my foot was broken but had no idea why. The doctor at emergency checked me out and diagnosed me with plantar fascitis in both my feet. I had no idea what that meant and vowed to wear my orthotics more. He gave me celebrex to take and I was, once again, told to be lightly active, rest, and keep my stress levels down. During all this I managed to do two summers working at summer camps in Italy. I didn’t have the same problems there. Working with kids is pretty stressful so I still can’t figure out why I wasn’t in pain.

By this point my sports specialist had retired, which was terrible because he was the best doctor I’ve ever had. He was direct but caring, and you could tell his focus was completely on his patients. My mother had found a new doctor and my feet were getting much, much worse. I could only walk for about 5 minutes before the pain became unbearable. My mom kind of took matters into her own hands and made an appointment with the doctor and bribed me out of the house with a shopping trip. My anxiety level was high, but I like the new doctor. I’m still on her patient list. She referred me to a pain specialist in the same clinic who wanted to start K Laser. I had four treatments and things were better. I could walk for a half hour after the first one. After the fourth one I went to London and Paris and something weird happened. I walked. I walked for five hours one day and didn’t even feel a hint of a throb. I was enjoying walking. I reported this back to the doctor when I went for my fifth and final treatment. He thinks it might be a climate thing and that I should move to Europe.

Alas, the point of this trip isn’t to talk about all my pain and reinforce the fact that I really, REALLY should live in Europe. Bonjour France, je veux moi? It’s to talk about the how. Since I did spend two summers in Europe with chronic pain while working and whatnot I’ll give my list.

  1. Carry all medications with you in your carry on. Luckily they only lost my luggage on the way home, but damn were those some bad days until it got restored to me.
  2.  Make sure your medication is legal in the country you’re going to. I worry about this all the time even though celebrex is pretty standard.
  3. Talk to your doctor about transitioning through time zones. When I went to Australia I lost a whole day. I tend to keep my Ipod on Vancouver time no matter where I go so that I don’t accidentally wake people up when I call home. Sometimes you end up taking what you take at noon at home at eight pm away, which is reasonable. However, sometimes you end up needing to take it at 2. Figure out the time zones and talk to your doctor.
  4. For the love of all that is and ever was do not start your medication on the trip. Take it for at least two weeks before. Finding that celebrex worked for me was hard. I went through some other pain meds that had side effects that… wouldn’t be what you’d want in a shared bathroom situation. (This also plays into why I hate ensuite bathrooms at hostels, but that’s another post.). You need to know how your body reacts to what you’re taking. For instance, I had to learn the hard way that if you ignore the label and take celebrex without food you will not be a happy camper. I tend to prize celebrex because it worked for me but meds are different for everyone. I’ve even heard of some people having weird side effects from the generic. Do not take this grace period for granted. Seriously. Very, VERY important.
  5. Give yourself permission to feel like shit and hermit for a few days. I’ve been to Genoa many times but I’ve never seen any of it. There’s a hotel there  that’s not far from the train station and whenever I’m there it’s where I stay. It’s clean, not to expensive, the shower water pressure is awesome and their wifi is full on badass. I get an inordinate amount of food, take the longest shower ever and just relax. I’m an introvert with extrovert qualities and I need the recharge time. Even with a cold it’s not fair to do a shared room when you’re sick or injured. Let yourself have that down time and don’t let anybody make you feel bad for it. If you’ve booked a hostel and just need a day to hang around the building and the two blocks around it, that’s fine. Take care of your mental health and your physical health will follow. After my Genoa stays I go wherever I need to after feeling like a renewed person. If I have a bum around the hostel day, usually I feel ready to go and end up having amazing nights.

When you have chronic pain it sucks. Going places sucks. Getting out of bed most days is a marathon… but it’s possible to push through it and have some great experiences.

Just give yourself permission to feel it otherwise I’m sure your head will explode.

Travelling When Your Body Just Won’t

Why it’s Okay to Believe – Guest Post by Steven Calis

There is, in of us, a yearning. It is hidden perhaps. Buried in ourselves somewhere primal. There is a part of us that, should we allow it, enables us to just for a moment hear the earth calling back to us, pleading our return to her.

My friend Sandy has given me an opportunity to post an article on her proper grown up travel blog and I am very grateful for the opportunity, my only issue was finding a topic coherent enough to warrant writing. So, two or four glasses of red wine under a beautiful night sky in tuscany has inspired me to write and post, should Sandy allow, an article about religion and I’ll find a way to intertwine it with travelly type things to keep the post relevant.

I wonder sometimes, does religion fit in our western world? Is there room for Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Muhammed and other powerful figures from mankind’s infinite pantheon of God’s and prophets to survive in a western civilization wherein almost everybody has almost the sum total of human knowledge and speculation at the click of a button?

I am an atheist. But I am an atheist that can see the beauty of religion (but not in its crooked, ritualistic and bizarre organised form) and the raw healing power of belief. I can see with my own eyes the strength gained from faith and I see nothing wrong with it.

There is a good chance that a historical jesus did exist (see reza aslan: zealot) and the further one digs into this man’s real life the more genuinely fascinating he becomes, although he is not quite the Che Guevaran type revolutionary some alternative historians will have you believe, nor was he the meek and mild gentle Jew from the bible. I believe he was (as far as the evidence shows us) a man with strong morals, a fierce belief and self determination and an aggressive desire to free his people from roman tyranny. That is a man worthy of history. We don’t have to sift through pages and pages of bloated, historically backwards and awkward scripture to find a man worthy of our respect and admiration.

Why mention this?

I mention this because at some point you may realise the god your parents told you about is missing or cold. The beliefs you held once upon a time are shaken, distorted, faded or just gone and it has left you bitter towards your mosque, synagogue or church. If this is the case then this article is for you. My point today is this; if there is a god, and you agnostically or otherwise can just feel something in the earth or universe then no one can tell you you are wrong, if he/she/it exists then it is an existence in spite of our man made perception of him. Why should the popes god be the same as yours? There is no reason. The various sects of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and countless others both today and in antiquity will have you feel like god, whatever it is, lives in places of worship, awkward pagan rituals, tythes or other age old institutions that just don’t fit with you. If God is this incalculable, unfathomable, omnipotent force of nature then how can anyone claim to know him? You may trust jesus or Muhammeds words, but why ignore the hundreds of prophets that also roamed the early middle east? How can we possibly attribute such wisdom and knowledge to illiterate, poor and uneducated men from the ancient middle easy? or ignore a belief like Buddhism that to more and more westerners every year attracts attention because it’s beliefs in God’s are idealogical, philosophical and leaves room for you to know the god you feel, not the one you fear.

My point is this. The universe and possibly universes are for now beyond us (for now). Reading any book by lawrence krauss, steven hawking, brian cox, richard dawkins or any scientist that strives to bring science to all of us can leave you dumbstruck at the scale of the universe and at the very real and breath taking magic of our existence that goes far beyond the capabilities of fantasy and fiction. one man can not have the answers, if you feel a personal relationship to god then that is yours and no one can take it from you nor is it any less real because you struggle to see your god in dated scripture.

Travelling is wonderful exercise for the mind (I told you I would mention travelly things) and I have learned a great deal by talking, praying and meditating with people from different religions and so I feel it is important to say this; if you are happy, if being a peaceful Muslim, Jew, Christian etc gives you real and satisfying joy then not a damn thing any athiest says matters, however it’s when rusty, ancient teachings hinder the education of our children by stopping them learning about contemporary science that we have a problem.It’s when vague religious texts can cause centuries of blood shed because faith is being used against you as a sword instead of nurtured in you like a flower. but again, that is organised religion and it’s pressures and its the very thing I oppose.

But there is room for a personal god my friends, you feel him right? You just know something is out there? Then no one can tell you are wrong. But let it he be yours, let us avoid forcing our beliefs on others. Let our children find “god” however they please but guided by a solid education of modern beliefs and sciences. If God exists he, by granting us this curious nature, must be able to survive scrutiny.

So, all I want is for you to be you. I want you to bathe yourself in the glory, magic, majesty and joy that comes from being a human being in a seemingly unknowable universe. And if you see the fingerprints of God around you then that’s fine too. Just make sure it is a deity that empowers you, frees you and allows you to love whoever you want to, to learn whatever you need to in an effort to be, at the very least, the best human being you can be.

I am grateful for the opportunity to write something here. I can be reached at Calis_travels@yahoo.com or at my blog www.fatskintandlost.wordPress.com

Thank you so much for reading

Calis the traveller

Why it’s Okay to Believe – Guest Post by Steven Calis

Travel Stuff on Indiegogo and Kickstarter Analyzed

I have a weird obsession with crowdfunding.

Honestly, it’s the best of the internet.

A lot of stuff is for travel. Some of it is very innovative. Some of it.

The price I’ve listed is the lowest price that allows you to get the entire unit of thing. Does that make sense? You know what I mean. Like, when they say, “oh, we’re making a backpack/pillow/jacket/thing that will save all the lives but then if you pledge $10 you’ll get a t shirt!”. No, I want the thing I’m looking at.

The Woollip – $35, ships in September 2016

Okay. This is a good idea. Those neck pillows that go around your neck? Well, they try. Try and fail. However, I’m not sure this is the solution. First off, this relies on the person in front of you having a soul and not reclining, unless you go to the side in which case I feel like it would take up a lot of the neighbours room until you’re super skinny and don’t take up much of an economy seat. Actually, the only people who don’t take up much of an economy seat these days are 4 year olds. The only time I can see this working exceptionally well is when you’re next to a window. Don’t be a space intruder.

The Nomad Travel Blanket – $72, Ships November 2016

These are hella cute. However, at the end of the day it’s a blanket shoved into a pillow. I feel like this is a gift you’d get from that aunt who doesn’t have kids and gets you really expensive, extra adorable things and you love every minute of it.

Dash Minimalist Travel Wallet– $18, November 2016

This is a really nice wallet. I love that it comes in pebble leather because honestly, nothing takes abuse like pebble leather. However, I was always taught not to keep credit cards and a passport together. If that gets stolen aren’t you like super hooped for identity theft? That said, as a female I get what I like to call “purse privilege”. I have a bag that I’ve grown so used to having at all times that has pockets. I can definitely see how this would be a godsend for guys. Even for the containment of passports alone. I wonder if it fits two….

The BullRest– $54, September 2016

I’m very intrigued by this. It does look like it supports the neck a lot better. Also, it looks hella cool. The thing that’s dodging me out is the “one size fits all ergonomic”. I have a short neck, but I have some giraffe-esque friends. How can it be the same? If I could afford to spend $54 on a travel pillow I’d definitely get it to try it out, but now it’s on the Christmas list for my aunt with no kids.

GOQUi – $129, September 2016

I’m into this. I feel like it’s good not just for travel but also life. I’m all about the more charge. Also, I might lose my phone less. I also like that it doesn’t take up an outlet because anyone who’s stayed at a hostel knows those are precious rare jewels. I feel like if I could find a way to attach a long shoulder strap this would become a going out bag.

Travellr Case– $22, September 2016

This is actually a really cool idea. I usually use a ziploc bag but I’m still worried about cutting myself. Also, let’s be real, this looks pretty damn cool. It’s a razor case, I mean how much can I say about it except for, “yeah, I want it.”

Aer Travel Pack– $179, September 2016

It’s an expandable backpack with lots of pockets. It’s a really well designed expandable backpack with lots of pockets, but it’s nothing new.

Libertad Travel Shirts– $97, October 2016

I have a few thoughts on this. First off, it’s a merino shirt. Unless they have a patent on the “super fine spun merino” then this fabric is probably available in other things. Specifically woman’s clothing. If you’re cutting a men’s shirt, it’s really not that hard to develop a pattern for woman too. My girly hips and I are unimpressed.

TravelMore Jetpack– $49, September 2016

I’m just going to say I am so not a daypack person. I’m a big purse person. I feel weird wearing them. I do love the idea of the folding down though. I am a “just in case” packer and so yeah, having one in there in the situations where I have needed one- going to the beach for the day, liquor runs- would be stellar. Basically, if I were a daypack person or I needed a gift for a daypack person, this would be the one I get.

Powearin Modular Jacket – $134, November 2016

I’m not sure if this is the best or dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. I know I’m confused but I don’t know why. Please do yourself a favour and watch the video. There’s some of the most intense jacketing (?) I’ve ever seen.

edit: I’m embedding the video. For reasons that will become obvious. Dude loves his jacket. I’m sorry to everyone I know for making you watch this an obscene amount of times over the next six months. 

 

The Joey Jacket – $145, August 2016

Apparently travel jackets are big business. This one gets points for not confusing me, and they have a hoodie version which I’m a fan of… but it looks like a less stylish version of the baubax jacket. Also, since there doesn’t appear to be gendered styles I’d worry about it fitting over my lady hips.

3in1 Travel Adaptor

I wish they had more pictures of this because I feel like I could get behind it but I need more info.

FLOATTI Suitcase– $360, December 2016

After my quick jaunt to London and Paris a few months back I’ve pretty much sworn off suitcases, but this one gets my attention. First off that bag strap. So simple, so elegant. Why did it take so long? The built in scale is brilliant, as is the tracking system. If any suitcase could grab my attention this is it.

Hiero Band– $10, August 2016

So I bought this one. I’m a big lover of an arm party and since I make a lot of macrame I always have a ton of bracelets on my wrist, might as well make one work for it. The concept is by pointing to the symbol you need it’s easier for people to help you. It’s $10 and hella cool. I’ll still try to learn all the languages but there’s only so many times you can say bathroom wrong before you pee in the street ya know?

Elephant Stripes Travel Packs – $200AUD, October 2016

I actually bought a 45L one on kickstarter a while back. With kickstarter once the campaign closes you can’t still buy them off there, but with indiegogo you can, so thus the link. I’m obsessed with this video of them packing a ridiculous amount into it. I’ve seriously watched it at least a hundred times. Including the six times I watched it while getting the link to that video. Also, and I can’t stress this enough, they’re so cute!

Slicks Modular Backpack– $309, August 2016

See, now we’re talking. This is what I expect in a backpack that claims to be new. I mean, okay, it’s a backpack with packing cells. But making one of those packing cells a suit bag is new and different. I think this is pretty awesome.

I’m quite proud of my ability to spend the day on kickstarter and indiegogo and only maybe spend $10. Also, I’ve learned that apparently we want chargers on everything.

Have you pledged anything? Heard anything about any of these?

 

 

 

Travel Stuff on Indiegogo and Kickstarter Analyzed

What Brexit Means For Me

Ugh. I’ve been trying to avoid writing about this because a part of me was hoping if I didn’t acknowledge it it’d go away.

It gets compared to Trump a lot- mostly as a “guys, this could  happen.” style warning. I’m 99.99999% sure that Trump is only running because he’s finally losing his hair and that he’s seen everyone be like “Poor Obama! All those gray hairs!” so he figures if he’s president he can lose it gracefully.

Brexit is just pure racism.

That honestly fucks with my head like a lot.

What kills even more is hearing about all the racist incidents that have been going on. They tend to focus most on the Polish and Muslim people so my example might not be the best, but here’s kind of how my head is wrapping around it.

Let’s break down how ridiculous Brexit racism is.

I have two citizenships- Canadian and Italian. When I planned to live in the UK a few years ago I would have entered as an Italian. So, if I was there now, I would be told to get out, and might be the victim of some of this nasty shit that’s been spewing.

However, my ethnic background is English, Scottish, Irish, and Italian.

But for my Great Grandmother being sent to Canada as a Barnardo child, a choice she had no control over, I might have been born in the UK. Not to mention that my history major cousin has mapped out ties in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well. (If you don’t have a historian in your family start like “encouraging” one of the younger ones. It’s great when you need someone to explain things or have the most detailed family history ever. She’s tracked us back to the Netherlands and France.)

If someone told me to get out of their country, called me vermin, it’d be like…

I think what I’m trying to express and probably failing at is that Brexit sucks. It’s reminding me a lot of Harper’s third term as PM of Canada- all the baby boomers ran out and voted while the young people got lost in the “it doesn’t matter” spirit of it. Maybe there are some things about Brexit that will help the UK and the racism issue is taking over because it’s just so damn disgusting.

I’m not out to tell young people how to vote in elections or referendums. Your vote is your vote, and it’s your personal beliefs and personal business.

I am 100% out to tell people to vote. Seriously. Vote in everything. Have you looked at municipal voting stats? No one votes in them but yet those are things like water, roads, and bylaws that affect you every day. Take every opportunity to make your voice count because sadly, posting it on facebook doesn’t count. When young people don’t vote we’re letting our parents control our lives. It’s like getting a bedtime all over again. But a bedtime that sucks much harder.

It’s estimated that 25-32% of people in the 18-24 year old range voted in the Brexit referendum.

I wonder what would have happened if people cared as much about the issue before the referendum as they seem to after. I hope they feel guilty for not voting in something that I desperately wish I was given a say in.

What Brexit Means For Me