Tofino: An overview/budget review

I have only amassed about three weeks of travel in the past two and a half years. I know it’s a lot, and I know how lucky I am for that. But damn, for someone who’s used to spending 3-4 months of the year abroad it’s hard. So, Adam and I decided a long weekend away was in order. We were going to go to the states, but I’m kind of dodged out by the US because Canadian/American exchange rate is, for lack of a better word, complete and utter shit; also, I’m not too fond of who the people put in power. The combo made it a pretty easy choice to stay in Canada. We didn’t want to fly anywhere, so we thought Vancouver Island would be perfect. With my luxurious family weekend in Tigh-Na-Mara still fresh in my mind, my first thought was spa. Then we looked up the prices for spas. We ended up deciding on Tofino because I hadn’t been out that way since I was about eight, and it has some amazing, super British Columbia-y stuff going for it. Think lush rain-forests and tsunami evacuation signs.

Heralded by everyone telling us Tofino is beautiful but, “oh! It’s so expensive there!” we decided to go for it. I truly believe there always a way to see a place regardless of budget. The problem with this trip was that we only had a weekend. The slower you travel, the cheaper you travel. But alas, we both have steady jobs, so what can you do.

Tofino is pretty easy to get to from Vancouver. You could go this weekend on a greyhound for about $100. We opted to take my Mom’s car because, well, she loaned it to us and Adam likes to drive.

It quickly became a game of me sending pictures like that to her and alerting her to all the fun her car is having without her.

We started our journey from my house in the suburbs and drove to the ferries. If you’re driving the quickest way is hands down Horseshoe Bay- Nanaimo. We made it on to the 8:30 a.m crossing and since it wasn’t a long weekend, our Friday morning was nice and cruisey. BC ferries is… well, it’s the only option so I’m not going to critique it too much. You pay about $18 for each passenger, and an extra $55 for the car.

After we got off the ferry we followed the signs. We did make some stop though….

This is Little Qualicum Falls. They have an upper and a lower route. Because my body is still messed up, we did the lower route. It took about twenty minutes and was a nice little detour.

All in all, there are a lot of amazing things about the off season. It’s cheaper, less crowded… but a lot of stuff we stopped for was closed until March. Most notably Coombs market, which has always been one of my favourite places on the Island.

One thing that wasn’t closed? ….actually it’s only open Saturdays but she sold us cheese anyway… Was Coleman Meadows Farm! We stopped there because we saw a buffalo dairy sign and I’m obsessed with buffalo mozzarella, which ended up being our dinner that night.

Also, water buffalo are super cute. After we pet the dog and checked out the chickens, we headed on.

Continue reading “Tofino: An overview/budget review”

Tofino: An overview/budget review

Drunk in Costume

There’s a sociological concept called ethnocentrism. My prof introduced this by telling the class a story about a community in Central America. They’ve basically made a neighbourhood in a dump. There’s apparently even a school. Since there aren’t many options after graduation the people who are born there tend to die there. Every single nose in that classroom did the thing where one nostril just gets twitchy and rides up slowly. The prof noted that we were all judging based on our standard of culture. It can be as real as landfill living, or as random as Italians turning off the wifi when it rains. It’s unavoidable, we all do it. Part of the amazing thing about travelling is seeing what’s universal and what’s not. If you’re aware enough of your ethnocentrism to realize it and tuck it away, you can end up with some pretty cool habits. Also, if you’ve been doing it all along you can now tie it to actual sociology and use it as a stepping point to learn more about sociology because it’s awesome and not enough people study it.

Basically, that was a really, really heavy intro for a not heavy topic. What I’m going to be blithering on about for a while is my biggest point of ethnocentrism. The one thing I refuse to check because honestly, while Thanksgiving is the best North American holiday (the real one in October. November is too close to Christmas, like do you even finish your leftovers before you make another turkey?!) , the most fun has got to be Halloween.  While I do admire that other cultures may have more kind of random dress up parties, these seem few and far between after one leaves college. Halloween is a beautiful time when everyone’s just like, “yeah, let’s wear a costume and have some drinks and eat some sugar.” It’s fantastic really.

If you do end up celebrating Halloween, or any fancy dress occasion on the road because well, hostels try, you end up in a weird spot. You’ve packed light. What do you wear for a costume? I

What do you even want to be? I have some basic guidelines:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. Seriously. Don’t. Don’t make jokes about other people’s culture. Do not, for the love of all that is good and holy, attempt to change your skin tone. If you even have the thought of, “hey, is this going to make me an asshole?” Then abandon the idea because it probably will.

Actually, that’s it. That’s one basic guideline. I feel it’s sadly not as observed as it should be.

Most of the ones I’m showing here don’t involve much- I’m trying to keep them without really any sewing. If you want to see my costumes that I’m making hardcore for this year, my friend and I have a sewing blog. I’m posting a few tutorials within the next week. They’re simple this year, and would be achievable while on the road… but I’ve learnt that while everyone carries a sewing kit, very few know how to use one.

Bank Robber

I’m actually doing this one this year, so it mayyyyy be a bit of a cop out, but it’s a good costume. Basically all you need is a striped shirt, and a pair of black pants or leggings. A black tuque and black gloves would be great to complete it, but not 100% necessary. If you have an old black t shirt, you could even make the mask.

Literally any animal

Claire’s is pretty multinational, but look for anywhere with jewelry for kids. You can usually find some sort of ear headband. Wear whatever colour top matches with jeans. It’s a bit of a cop out, but always works in a pinch.

Roman God or Goddess

White sheets and safety pins work wonders.

A Kid

Wear PJ’s and put some eyeliner or washable marker freckles on your face. If your hair is long enough pop in some pigtails, if not give yourself some bedhead.

 

Sports Fan

I have a thing where I try to buy a rugby jersey for every country I go to. If you have, or are carrying some stuff from your hometown, deck it all at once. The thing that makes it costume-y? Pop some face paint on. Having “GO SPORTS TEAM!” on your cheek makes it.

Tacky Tourist

Just being yourself tbh. Wear that camera on its neck strap and some socks with those sandals.

Lumberjack

Flannels are everything and you should pack tons of them. Pop one on with some jeans, a tuque if you have it, and sing some Monty Python for full effect.

Laundry Bag

This one take a bit of effort. Wear a comfy outfit, and safety pin a bunch of your other clothes to you.

Beach Goer

Wear a swimsuit. If you want to put some effort in, 60’s hair and makeup always looks cute with this.

A Mirror

This is the costume that proves you can never be too lazy to dress up. I also had to think of all the other costumes above so I could write about this, which is why some of them are super weak. (actually, upon my pre post reread, I’ve determined they’re all pretty good.) Procure a cosmetic mirror on a handle with a hole (easily found in any grocery store) and some string (dental floss works well.). Thread a length of string that fits well over your head through the mirror hole, and get yourself a necklace. When someone asks what you are, say what they are. Note that a LOT of the time people won’t get this right away, but will come back and tell you you’re a genius.

Any dress up party is only as fun as the enthusiasm you put into it. You know who isn’t having a good time?

Sulky McSulkertan in the corner who is trying to be cool.

I make sure to pack a few things I could incorporate into a costume just in case, and I’ve never regretted it. Look at all the things you can do with basic suitcase stuff. Imagine how creative you’d get if you raided the school supply section of the supermarket. Put the effort in, feel the passion, have the fun.

What are you being for halloween?

Besides a person having a shot for me 😉

Drunk in Costume

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

Crossing Canada Part 2: The Beginnings of Budget… sort of

I’ve been doing a bit more research. Canada is huge. I mean, obviously it’s the 2nd biggest country in the world. As such, there’s tons of things to do.

Have I mentioned before I hate budgeting? I feel like it kind of ruins the dreaming with pricing and such. The problem is I know how to budget- account for things like hostels and meals, make a per diem rate… there’s many ways. The thing that always gets me is what’s labelled the “entertainment” budget. Museums, festivals, taxi’s if the transit isn’t 24 hours, club covers… do drinks go in the food and drink budget or entertainment?

What I like to do is make a big bumper list of things I’ve seen and researched. Museums and attractions that look amazing, restaurants and clubs I’ve heard about, outdoor excursions… Here are 3 quick tricks I’ve learned with this:

  1. always round up to the nearest $10. Something is $14.50- budget for $20. Prices can always change and they tend not to go down. It’s also way more fun to have more money than less.
  2. Figure out which big budget attractions are worth it to you. I’m going to say it. I’m not a fan of climbing crap. I hate getting midday sweaty, and honestly, the stuff you’re climbing is the stuff you want in the picture you take at the top. I have issues with my ankles, feet, and calves. No matter how wonderful it is for some, it’s not for me.
  3. Don’t get discouraged. I get it. You see the big number and your mind goes “holy crap. I will never be able to afford that.” Remember, the city will be there. You can go back and do things you missed. It’s especially great when you go with people who haven’t been to the place before.

Budgets suck, but it’s the nuts and bolts that make trips possible.

Crossing Canada Part 2: The Beginnings of Budget… sort of

Why I Decided to Study Abroad

3.1% of Canadian students choose to study abroad. 

Let that sink in. Honestly, it’s kind of super gross. I went to college after a quick stint as a receptionist. All I wanted was to go back to Europe, but post-secondary is one of those things I thought I really needed. I also wanted to get behind the rope at museums and cultural sites and thought, “Yes, I shall be an archeologist.” I didn’t even know how to spell archeologist. I had never seen Indiana Jones (still haven’t). Imagine my bewilderment when I was walking down the steps from my rude awakening about what archeology really is i.e a physical anthropology lecture, and saw a big sign: “Study Abroad in Europe”.

The program was offered by the college and for four months I’d tour around Rome, Florence, Venice, Lucerne, Paris, and London. The museums would be my classroom and I would be one with Art History (which is a hella lot closer to what I thought archeology was). This was March. The program included a textbook reading and small classroom component in August, and in September I was off.

I loved the learning. There’s something magical about looking at a painting in real life, at the  real time and hearing about it. Also, little tidbits like this:

That’s some graffiti by Michelangelo. Who knows that other than an art history professor?

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t all sitting at cafe’s in Venice and shopping in London. I had some hard days- I was very ill at the start of the trip in Rome and didn’t find a social group. Everyone was quite clique-y and I kind of got lost in the shuffle. I was told in Florence that everyone thought I was a horrible know it all – a side effect of being to sick to party and actually doing the assignments. Luckily my solo traveller heart kicked in and I still had a great time.

Even with the little social fejula I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I grew so much as a learner and a traveller. I learned that social whatever’s didn’t matter as much which has helped me through pretty much every single interaction I’ve had with humans since- especially when I’ve travelled. I’ve learned that if you need to absorb information try looking at it in a more active, realistic way.

Also, I learned that travel isn’t something I can just “get out of my system”.

I did my field school through Langara College, where I was going. The credits are pretty universally transferrable, and they do some continuing ed programs if you just want to take a trip with none of the work. Almost all universities have an international office if you’re not wanting to do the whole tour thing, but instead just want to do a full on exchange. My cousin did one in Milan and literally talked his way backstage at the Versace runway show. Magic.

Some I haven’t been on, but have been wanderlusting pretty hard on:

  • Sea|mester  You spend the amount of time on a yacht learning how to sail, getting your PADI, and taking classes like Marine Biology. Also, they get the most pun points.
  • Where There Be Dragons  These look so beautifully curated. If you read reviews you’ll be just… I don’t even know. I want to go. I wish I had known about these earlier.
  • Kalu Yala You live in an eco town in the middle of the jungle. This is so far in my wheelhouse it hurts.
  • Semester at Sea This is one of the most well known study abroad programs. Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela were guest lecturers. This program is actually bananas. Block off like 2 hours for the website because that’s seriously how long I took forgetting I was doing a blog post.

If you’ve been on any of these, let me know! I love first hand accounts. Also, you’re probably super cool.

And, if you’re rich as and are all like “damn, I want to drop some cash right now!” I’ll gladly let you fund me on some educational adventure. 😉

Why I Decided to Study Abroad

The Planning of a Trip Crossing Canada Part 1: The dream and inception

In Paris I met two awesome guys who were just beginning their travelling (One of them is a writer. Check out his road stories here). They walked places because they were scared of the metro, so we drank with them, explained the system, our views on life… all the wonderfulness that I call travel friend magic. While they were talking about their trip and asking for advice and such, and they said, “one day we’ll be as wise as you”. It was weird, because I don’t think of myself as wise, and I’m pretty sure my liver’s with me on this one. But I guess I do sort of have a handle on this. A lot of the time I get asked to help people I’ve met with their trip planning process and it tends to go as smoothly as a trip can. So, I’m going to plan my next big trip. I’ll write about every part of the process.

Life just gets better when there’s a trip in the works.

The first question: Where?

I plan trips, look at trips, revolve around trips all the time. I need a constant supply of dreaming or else I get really, really depressed. This makes where the hardest question. Where do I commit to? In high school it was Europe. I love Europe. It calls my heart. But, I think on this trip I need to do something different. I think it might be a Canadian thing, but I’m big on knowing my ancestry- I know how my Nonno and Nonna came to Canada, and how their ancestors ended up in Italy. I know my dad’s a mix of English, Irish, and Scottish. If you go far back enough you’ll hit French and Dutch. I curse that part for making me the tallest person ever. I love knowing exactly what parts of the world make me, me. Seriously, that genetic testing thing rings all my bells. I would die of happiness if I’m part Neanderthal. Can you really know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re from?

My Mother had a dream of packing up a car and driving across Canada with a map on the roof. I don’t know about doing that now, though my dad has delusions involving Vespa’s and teardrop trailers. No thank you. However, the cross Canada idea is a good one. How can I see other places and not appreciate where I live? Also, it’s super awkward when people are like,
“Oh! I love Canada! I did this, this, this and this.” Now, due to having family back east and a Mother who loves the dickens out of Canadian history I’ve seen more of Canada than a lot of people I know, but my response is usually, “I watch tv in sweatpants.” So, this next big trip? Let’s do some Canada.

The second question: Basic Logistics.

How do we get around? I’d love to rent an RV, but I’d need friends. Most of my friends think the idea of me in an RV 24/7 is a little… unfavourable. Thanks guys. Plus, while I have a sabbatical option for my job others can’t commit to a full however long that would take. I need a trip where it can be a “meet for a leg of it” option. Then I thought of it. Via Rail.

They have unlimited rail packages. Coast to coast by train. Including stops to Churchill- one in the summer for belugas and one in fall for polar bears. All the other appendages too, but polar bears and belugas get special mention because they’re freakin’ BELUGA WHALES AND POLAR BEARS!

The third: Broach it with friends.

I do this every trip. So far no one’s come with me. But, I did pop a little “hey guys, I’m doing this next summer! Who wants to come along?” into the group chat. Like I mentioned, this style is perfect for people to come on a leg or two.

Fourth: The dreaming.

I have a whole year. I need to get an idea of what I want to do and how much things cost.

Also, I am obsessed with travel books. I’m a writer, I’m obsessed with books in general. (side story, one time my friend Heahter and I were at a bar and she saw a guy she thought was hella hot so I struck up a conversation and he was like, “I’m a writer.” So naturally I was all, “what are you reading?!” and he just went, “I don’t read.” Heather and I looked at each other like wtf even is this guy? Writers read.) Upon further investigation I found Rough Guides is due for a new edition of their Canada book- it will arrive in my mailbox on June 23rd.

I love guidebooks, and I like Rough Guides. I find them laid out well, and they tend to hide the super history in the back so if you want it you can get it but it doesn’t like assault you with info you need to sift through.

Guidebooks are all well and good, but if I’m going to see some historical stuff, I want a good handle on it. And I need credits. So my course options are Canadian History to 1867, Post- Confederation Canadian History, and History of British Columbia. I shall take them, learn, and bother everyone around me.

Now I let it simmer. The next step is a budget and savings plan, but I like to save that for when my excitement is at peak. Right now I’m going to ride that sweet, sweet, trip anticipation high.

PS: Any suggestions/stories are much appreciated!

The Planning of a Trip Crossing Canada Part 1: The dream and inception

Some Thoughts On My First AirBnB

I’m back! My trip was amazing, and I need to live in Europe. Clearly. My heart is there. For such a short trip- the shortest amount of time I’ve ever been in Europe for- it sure gave me a LOT to process.

We all know I’m a hostel devotee. I love the social atmosphere, I love that it kind of forces you out during the day, and I even weirdly love being in the same room as randoms. It bonds you, and I feel comforted knowing if I die in my sleep I won’t need to wait for someone to smell me. So, when one of the friends I went on this trip with suggested an AirBnB I was…. meh. It was a lot more expensive than hostels we were looking at in the area, and what? we were going to stay in the same apartment? All the time? However, I don’t like to discount things before I try them, so I went along with it. We ended up in a place in Hammersmith in London. The location was good- zone 2 on the tube map. The place was nice. I’d definitely love living in that apartment. However, I couldn’t get over my nagging issues.

First off, it was kind of boring. Luckily I ended up catching up with English friends. If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have had a night out at all. There weren’t many pubs around (super disappointed in that actually. The English are supposed to be the pub people. Have they given the title to the Irish?) and as a result I definitely spent way more time sitting at home at night than I would have otherwise. Also, since there was no mild rustling in the morning of other people we ended up sleeping in wayyyyyyy to late. I felt myself getting comfortable in the way I do when I’m at home. Instead of wanting to do things I wanted to indulge in the jetlag and cosy up. It was cold outside and UK netflix has RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Another thing that got me was the advertising vs. the real thing. We were told there was a bed and a pull out. The pull out was actually a chaise lounge. There was supposed to be a dishwasher. It was broken. The price included towels and linen. Apparently that was a typo and meant towel. There was a cleaning fee. On the intro sheet they still asked that we clean. Most of this stuff was the fault of the actual place we stayed, so okay. Fine.

I think what got me the most is the parallels I see between London and Vancouver. Vancouver is in the midst of a huge housing crisis. There’s tons of units and houses just left empty. (The city of Vancouver is doing a survey on this here. If you live here I urge you to take it.) Some of the people that do own homes or units are putting theirs on AirBnB instead of renting them because it’s a lot more profitable. Tourism is important and it does a lot to help the economy of the place, but so does having places available to rent for the people who live there. When supply is so little rent becomes astronomically unaffordable to the citizens who have to live on a meagre minimum wage. I couldn’t figure out if the place we were staying was somebody’s home, or if they had just styled it to look like it so they wouldn’t be criticized. There was a lot indicating the latter.

Would I stay in an AirBnB again? I can’t think of many reasons why I would. If I was alone or on another trip with friends I’d pick a hostel every time. If I was going with my boyfriend I can’t reason out why I’d pay the same price I would for the luxury of a hotel to stay in an apartment. The only time I can think of where an AirBnB might be my preferred option is if I was on a trip with my extended family. I understand why some people might like them, but overall the experience was pretty…. honestly quite guilt ridden. I think I could get behind it more if people used for their place when they were away instead of making it this weird backdoor hotel market. I mean, if you’re paying hotel prices then get me clean sheets every day and a chocolate on my pillow please.

Some Thoughts On My First AirBnB

When Solo Travel Means Being Alone

I walked into the bar and ordered a local pilsner. There was the usual hostel vibe, a large group was playing some sort of game. I sat down with my tablet at a table nearby. I figured being in a hostel bar alone some other solo traveller would strike up a conversation eventually.

I was still tired after the bus ride from Germany, but who knew who I’d meet? Where the night might take me… That’s what I love about solo travel. I completely bought into the whole hostel concept, and after three trips I had yet to meet a person I couldn’t “gel” with. For someone who spent lunch hours in Elementary school doing homework alone and got bullied out of a high school I felt like I had cracked the mythical code to acceptance, friends, and building up self-confidence.

“Is anyone sitting here?” I looked up at one of the guys from the game. I knew it! The travel inclusion always wins. “I just lost the game we were playing and my punishment is to talk to you for two minutes.”

What. The. Fuck.

I wish I had said something along the lines of, “I’m not a punishment, I’m a human. What happened in your life to make you that saying that is at all okay?” But sadly, I’m not a badass. I’m still mad at myself for going along with it. I was just… I guess flabbergasted. Who does that?

Larry*, apparently. Larry was someone who looked like the 90’s spelling of X-TREME! He acted like, well like someone who would orchestrate the above exchange. He set up a GoPro everywhere to record his “epic” times with his friends- one of which had just gone back to their group.

“I just got offered a job!” I saw the tour guide from the bus that day walking away from the group looking as shocked and bewildered as I felt while shaking his head. Larry looked ecstatic and was slurring his story about how the tour guide liked how he arranged this big game and that he should work for the company. I found out during my two-minute-to-the-dot conversation that I was on the same bus schedule as them until Paris. My stomach dropped. Great.

In the next Czech city the booking gods frowned on me and I ended up in the same room as Larry. The town was small and Larry and his merry band of fellowmen decided this means they needed to binge drink for two nights straight. Now, I won’t sit here and say you shouldn’t hard core party in Europe. I ended up being invited in on one of the night (after Larry passed out? Was to drunk to object? I’m not sure. As salty as it sounds, I wasn’t exactly concerned for his well-being.). His friends were actually pretty cool. I had fun. In the next city there was enough museums that I managed to avoid the group, but the town after that was very secluded. Hostel in the middle of the woods secluded. One of the nights a girl they had deemed worthy to be in their group was setting up a board game and invited me in on it. I jumped at the opportunity to be social until Larry announced “I’m not going to play if she’s here.” I was glad to see everyone at the table was a bit taken aback. I just didn’t have the energy to fight it and went to bed. Looking back, this did my bank account and liver a lot of good. I was able to take on the next two major cities with a lot of gusto; however, the whole endeavour soured me a little. I was having trouble shaking it off. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t people want me in on their super fun times? Had nothing really changed since I was a teenager?

I met up with my friend Tom in Munich, where I told him the whole ordeal. “The guy Larry, I just don’t get what his issue with me was. I mean, I don’t think-”

“Wait, Larry?” Tom’s eyes lit up. A look of understanding, disbelief, and the faintest hint of pity on his face. “That group had to stay back a night. They were on our schedule but no one could stand them. We were all happy to be rid of them.”

At first I was shocked but if literally anyone I knew had told me about what Larry did I would think he was more vile than satan’s breath after a night on cheap hooch. The guide’s bewildered face? The other people on the bus when Larry drank a 40 of jager at eight in the morning? His friends faces when he decided not doing something was better than including me? All true reflections of how he is and how the world reacts to him.

I’m happy I didn’t let him ruin my trip, I had an amazing time. I’m also a lot more aware of how behaviour like that hurts people and it’s helped me not do that to others. There needs to be an exception to prove the rule, and he was mine. I still think that I always meet amazing people while travelling.

As for Larry I don’t think that he works for the bus company- they make all their guides get a branded twitter. I haven’t found evidence of him doing anything really. I hope he got help. I get the feeling that there was something under the surface that he took out on me. I hope he’s not pissed off someone who would physically hurt him. Above all else, I really hope I never see that asshat again.

*name changed to protect the absolutely, completely guilty.

 

When Solo Travel Means Being Alone

The Language Project

Before I start, I would like to point out that even though I have spellcheck on, I spent at least 10 minutes not believing that language was spelled right. What a weird word. 

This time last year, as facebook likes to constantly remind me, I was in Europe. At this exact time I was probably in Nice, but I’m trying not to think to hard about it, lest my heart shrivel up in sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving my new job, I’m super happy about my garden and it’s good getting schoolwork done. Am I sad that I’m not going to Italy to work this year?

Immensely.

However, it still hasn’t quite hit me that I’m going to Australia. So for now life just feels super routine. What I need is a starter. I need a motivator.

I need a project.

“Now Sandy,” you may or may not be thinking. “What about your gorgeous garden?”

Well, things are in the ground. I’ve planted some more seedlings. It now just feels like a lot of sitting around and waiting for things to grow. this gardening thing is great for food, but damn. I want stuff to grow now. Patience is a virtue I’m severely lacking.

I’m taking three classes: Spanish, English Lit from Chaucer to Morton and Intro to Programming.

I found this little infographic and it got me thinking….

24 weeks? 600 hours? that’s…. 25 hours a week or 3 and a half hours a day.

Who has time like that?!

Oh wait, me. Especially for academic pursuits. Mind you, now that I’m working it’s not as magical. So, here’s the plan. I’m going to do some experimentation.

Welcome to week one. I’m going to do my best to hit that magic 3.5 on most days, but I’ll probably have more or less. Also, let’s be real here, I’m not going to include any time during my two weeks in Australia.

I have a multi thronged plan of attack. I’m going to not just use my textbooks for class. I’m also going to explore other mechanisms.

My Background in Spanish:

Some context. I did take take Spanish from grades 9-11. My teacher was a special little flower though, so I didn’t learn much. I went to Cuba twice in high school, and Spain last year. We quickly learned “dos cervezas, por favor.” was my jam. Also, rum is the same in every language. Tequila is conveniently a Spanish word. Or not so convenient. Depends whether you ask that night Sandy or next morning Sandy really.

My Plan of Attack:

TRU SPAN 1001 -Basically the reason I’m actually doing this. I want those three credits. This degree thing is getting old. Also, the prof is awesome. I’ve already gotten 49/50 on assignment one that I handed in an embarrassingly long time ago.

Spanish for Dummies – I think I bought this when I was drunk, but it seems like a decent and light resource. I apparently also bought the French and Italian.

Busuu.com – I bought premium for two years before my trip, and I’m going to use it dammit.

Duolingo.com – Everyone always talks about how great it is. It’s free, I’ll give it a shot.

Podcasts – This is my plan for the gym. I’m trying to multipurpose my hours. I’m pretty much going to download every learn Spanish free podcast that’s on there.

Netflix – Besides the classic Miss Dora, there’s a few shows in Spanish with subtitles. I’ll go ahead and count this as studying.

Youtube – I watched a TON of kids shows in Italian while working in Italy. I really feel this is a great way to learn. If it’s meant to teach toddlers colours it can teach you to.

So, to test these online resources we’ll go for what the weakest prong on the learn online is:

Speaking.

We’ll gauge my success based on how well I do with my phone-in oral exams.

Ever learned a language through a dubious or awesome online resource? Let me know what you did. Or if you think something’s so stupid it just might work, also, let me know.

 

The Language Project