Fixed life or a big trip?

Today Colin, my friend Malindi, and I stumbled into a few open houses after grabbing lunch in Olympic Village.  Every time we see an “Open House” sign, I always joke with Colin that we should go in but today we actually did it.  And even though we are no where close to being able to afford a house, it was interesting to walk through and consider what it might be like a few (or maybe a dozen, given Vancouver’s housing market) years down the road.

We ended up looking at three places: two one-bedroom condos in Olympic Village and then a three-bedroom here in Kits.  That last one was a bit more serendipitous than realistic; I kept saying we had to see three places just like they do on House Hunters and we happened to pass an “Open House” sign on our walk from the bus stop to my apartment.

And, oddly enough, the prices didn’t really shock us. Sure, half a million for a one-bedroom sounds horrendous but after all of the Vancouver housing market horror stories we’ve heard, it really didn’t seem that outrageous.  And after talking to the real estate agents, it became easier and easier to picture us house hunting for real.

But just a few days before this, I was knee-deep (aka on the 4th page of my Google Doc) into planning a 2-week Central America vacation for Colin and I: exploring the jungles and mountains of Costa Rica and then relaxing at a resort in Cancun.  And the night before that I was researching Alaskan cruises.  And then just yesterday I got all caught up in figuring out how Colin’s x-ray technologist certification would transfer abroad if we were to say, live in the UK for a year.

Travel has been a huge aspect and aspiration of my life for the last 5+ years. It’s been tough living full-time in Vancouver since I returned in Sept 2014 and not having a plan for a big trip anywhere. I can feel myself sort of grasping at straws to make any kind of vacation or travel plan come to life. I just want to go.

But at the exact same time, I love it here. I love that I have my own place, relationships, a job.  I love having a community and a cute neighbourhood (that’s not too far from the beach!). And while I know I could find all of those things abroad, I’m also starting to love the idea of a permanent fixed life in Vancouver.  Yes, real estate prices are insane but this city has really become my home and I do find myself wanting to put down roots here for a future.

So basically, I don’t really know what I want! I mean, in an ideal world, I have the money to take big trips, experience living abroad for a while and then return here to settle permanently.  And maybe that ideal world will come to be one day.  But for now, I almost feel like I have to make choices between enhancing my fixed life or planning for something bigger farther away.  When I put money into my savings account am I saving for a down payment or for a plane ticket?

Maybe the answer is both? A down payment is not a reality in my near future but a two-week trip to Central America definitely could be.  So maybe I save a bit for both of those things. And then maybe we put off moving abroad for a longer stretch until we’re more settled.  I guess I just don’t want to miss out on anything. I don’t want to have a mortgage but look back and wish I had traveled more or taken that opportunity to live overseas.  But I also don’t want to look back on years of travel and wonder why I can’t afford to buy a home or figure out my career path.

I think about my Aunt Deborah in times like this.  She traveled extensively when she was younger: living in Australia, backpacking through China, studying abroad in Europe.  But she also got married, had children and bought a house in Etobicoke. And despite having met those fixed life goals, she, and her family, still find the time to travel.  Deborah and my Uncle Chris took their first child Nathaniel backpacking through Southeast Asia when he was still being carried in a sling.  And right now, they’re on a house exchange in Europe with their two children for the summer.  So, I guess it can be done. Maybe I just need to call up Deb for some tips:)

 

A birthday weekend in Harrison Hot Springs

This past weekend I celebrated my 24th birthday by living my dream of pretending to be one half of a well-off elderly couple AKA spending the weekend at Harrison Hot Springs!

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I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to spend a lot of my birthdays in some really cool places. I’ve never been the person who wants a huge dinner or night out a club for my birthday. I always prefer to get away somewhere and just spend the day with a couple of special people.  And then stretch out the celebrations by going for lots of birthday brunch dates:) My favourite blogger has a goal to spend each birthday of her 20s in a new country. And while I haven’t quite hit that milestone, I still love the idea of celebrating in special places.

Where I have celebrated so far:
1) I turned 15 at a beach resort in the Philippines with my Aunt Hayley and her family.
2) I turned 18 during my internship in Sosua, Dominican Republic. It was our day off so we spent the day horseback riding and picnicking.
3) Technically I turned 19 and 20 in Toronto but 19 was after spending a month in Peru and 20 was only a week or so after getting back from my first ever Europe trip!
4) I turned 21 in Mbabane, Swaziland and then took off to Cape Town for some more celebrating.
5) I turned 22 in Tokyo, Japan amidst lots of humidity and a delicious sushi dinner.

But back to turning 24!

Colin and I drove out to Harrison Hot Springs on Saturday morning. Our original plan was to be in Calgary this past weekend for the Stampede and to visit with Colin’s family.  Unfortunately, that trip didn’t happen but fortunately it’s because Colin started a new job! Even though our Calgary road trip got postponed, I still wanted it to feel like a bit of a road trip so I got Colin to fill up his phone with a new road trip playlist featuring a lot of 90s/00s hits.

We arrived in Harrison around 1pm and had just enough time to check in, grab lunch and walk along the beach. I was amazed at how tiny and cute the town was! After check-in, Colin suggested a place for a quick lunch. I asked if we should drive and he laughed because it was literally across the street.  Everything in Harrison seems to be right across the street.

The beach! Unfortunately, we didn't get a ton of sun.

The beach! Unfortunately, we didn’t get a ton of sun.

At 2:30pm we had our spa appointment at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa – a birthday gift from my mom. I love spas. Everything is so indulgent and you get to strut around in a flurry of aromatherapy oils and terrycloth robes.  Colin had never been but trust me, he’s now a convert.  We started with a mineral spring soak with lavender mud and then a couples’ massage. We were both in heaven – thanks, mom!

Post-spa bliss

Post-spa bliss

As guests of the spa, we were also able to use the resort’s hot springs pool. What a nice end to our spa appointment – soaking in a warm pool outdoors and sipping on frozen drinks!

Pretending like we're in the Caribbean or something

Pretending like we’re in the Caribbean or something. PS: this is the lap pool; the other pools were much prettier!

After our pool time we returned to our hotel (a whole 3 min walk from the resort) to get showered and ready for dinner. We had reservations at The Copper Room which is, according to online reviews, the nicest restaurant in Harrison.  Most of the reviews raved about the food and made note of the live band and elderly clientele. I couldn’t wait:)

And, it totally lived up to the reviews! Colin and I got the chef’s prix fixe menu that included an antipasto plate, raspberry sorbet, entree plate of meats and sides, and a trio of desserts. It was all really tasty (except the mushrooms and artichokes on the antipasto plate, but mainly because we are picky when it comes to vegetables).  We were stuffed but even the next day kept talking about the tender beef and delicious chocolate hazelnut square.

Enjoying our dessert

Enjoying our dessert

But the best part was the dancing. Colin and I didn’t dance but I loved listening to the live band (picture 4 guys in their 50s/60s) who played songs by request so couples (also in their 50s/60s) could get up and dance.  There were lots of birthday and wedding anniversaries being celebrated that night and it was so cute to watch couples celebrating their 30th or 50th wedding anniversary slow dance to their wedding song. And these couples were killing it! It’s obvious they have been taking lessons and practicing just to show off their stuff at The Copper Room.

They requested "Moon Rive" - Awwww!

They requested “Moon River” – Awwww!

After dinner we walked along the beach and around a little lake.  Back in our hotel room, I was content to spend my last hours of 23 watching House Hunters on HGTV.

The next morning I woke up to lots of texts, calls and birthday cards.  I thanked all my well wishers while Colin slept in.  When he finally got up, we walked over to a cute mom and pop restaurant for a nice big breakfast.  After our meal, we walked out to see the actual hot springs sight.  It wasn’t actually much to see but the smell was pretty memorable (and not in a good way). Finally, we said our goodbyes to Harrison and started our journey home with a short detour at Bridal Falls.

Bye Harrison!

Bye Harrison!

Bridal Veil Falls is a cute little mini-hike (don’t worry, I still complained the whole walk up as if it were a real hike) to see these gorgeous waterfalls that are meant to look like a bride’s veil. It was a nice stop and only 20 mins outside of Harrison. From there we got back into the car and I introduced Colin to the musical “In The Heights” as we drove back to his house in Surrey.

Bridal Veil Falls!

Bridal Veil Falls!

Back at Colin’s, his mom had planned a really nice birthday dinner for me.  Unfortunately, she had pinched a nerve in her shoulder and was bed-ridden.  We had a delicious BBQ chicken satay with corn and potatoes.  For dessert, she had made a jello cake for me – I had never had one before but it was so tasty! We walked it into her room so they could sing happy birthday to me all together.  It was a really sweet end to a wonderful birthday weekend! And to make matters even sweeter, my friend Andrea sent over a delicious box of chocolate covered fruit.

Jello Cake with exactly 24 candles!

Jello Cake with exactly 24 candles!

Chocolate goodness from Andy!

Chocolate goodness from Andy!

***

Here’s to another year older and (hopefully?) wiser!

A weekend in Pender Harbour

Every year, my boyfriend’s family gets together in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast.  His mom’s cousin, Larry, and his wife, Marnie, own a water-front property up there.  Every July long-weekend they invite everyone and their dogs up in trailers, RVs and tents for a week of kayaking, fishing, marshmallow-roasting and drinking. The highlight of the week is the big horseshoe tournament and roast dinner where the winners get their names added to the coveted trophy.

***

Last year, after my China misadventure, I came home and was lucky enough to be able to join Colin and his family for the last few days of their 2015 Pender Harbour trip.  It was the perfect China antidote: clean air, lots of love and family, and a perfect escape back to nature. I elected to keep my phone off and just enjoy the people and the place.

This year, Pender Harbour fell just one day after we returned from our Toronto wedding and quick trip to Montreal.  We arrived back in Vancouver around 10pm on Tuesday, I worked Wednesday and Thursday, and then Colin picked me up Thursday after work to drive to the ferry terminal.  It was a crazy week for sure but Pender is the perfect place to relax after some crazy.  Unfortunately, Colin and I were only able to stay for the long weekend as we both had to work Monday, so it wasn’t quite as long and relaxing as we would’ve liked.

View from Marnie & Larry's deck

View from Marnie & Larry’s deck

We arrived Thursday evening and got to work pitching Colin’s brand new 8-man tent.  He had previously bought a 3-man tent but I nagged him relentlessly until he upped the size.  8-man may have been a bit large but it was nice to stretch out and have lots of room for our stuff.  Colin forgot our bedding, but we were able to borrow lots of blankets, sleeping bags and a miraculous piece of foam to keep ourselves dry and comfy.

By Friday morning, most of the other relatives had arrived and everyone had claimed their spot around the property.  We took a quick walk down to the dock and spent the rest of the morning watching the guys chop down some trees, enjoying Marnie’s homemade fish head soup and playing with baby Kennedy. After some lounging, we decided to drive over to Skookumchuck and hike in to see the rapids.

Colin's Instagram shot of the Skookumchuck Narrows

Colin’s Instagram shot of the Skookumchuck Narrows

I’m not a big hiking person but this actually wasn’t a terrible time.  Looking back (and acknowledging that I have probably repressed the worst parts), I actually enjoyed myself.  The hike was really pretty – there were Jurassic Park-like glades, a beautiful lake and it ended with the natural phenomenon: the Skookumchuck Narrows where differences in water levels creates insane rapids and whirlpools that a handful of brave kayakers take on. There were a few moments of uphill that my thighs were upset about and poor Colin got stung near a very active wasp nest but all in all, it was a great time.  In fact, the hardest physical part of the hike was being squished into Colin’s backseat with his two 15 year old cousins who were all limbs for 30 mins there and back.

Colin and I after the first couple hours of hiking

Colin and I after the first couple hours of hiking

My favourite part about Pender Harbour is ending each night by the fire. I love looking up at the stars and just taking in the quiet with everyone in lawn chairs seated around the fire.  Of course, making s’mores is part of that fun as well!

The next day was all about the horseshoes and the roast! More friends and family poured in for the annual tournament that would consist of 30 games and last apx 7 hours (with a dinner break) thanks to a 2-loss elimination rule.  This is also where I learned that my horseshoe skills have not improved since last year but had, along with my enjoyment level, seriously decreased. But the partner that I bailed on after two games (sorry, Dave!) did go on to win the tournament with his new partner, so I really did them both a favour:)

On our final day in Pender, we didn’t get up to a whole lot. We had a nice breakfast and then started taking down our camp, packing up the car and saying our goodbyes.  Unfortunately, we never did find the time or perfect temperature to go swimming and Colin missed out on the guys’ big fishing trip.  So hopefully next year we’re both able to take a little longer off work and extend our stay.  But it was still nice to have our short and sweet visit this year.

**I decided to go phone/internet free for this Pender visit as well so unfortunately I only have a couple photos snapped on Colin’s phone to share**

9 Things I Learned as a Maid of Honour

Two weekends ago, I had the absolute honour of standing next to my dear friend, Kimberley, as she vowed to spend her life with her best friend, Joe. Kim and Joe have been together for over a decade so it was really no surprise that they would make it to the altar one day. But I didn’t know how special it would be to witness their day up close. And by special, I mean exciting, tear-inducing and incredibly exhausting!

For their wedding, I served as one of Kimberley’s co-maids of honour (co-MOH) along with our childhood friend, Sasha. Sasha and I have both known Kim for over 20 years – which is pretty insane to think about.  Together with the other two bridesmaids, the four groomsmen, twin ring bearers and twin flower girls, we made up the wedding party. And while I have attended many weddings and even been in a few as a flower girl, junior bridesmaid and unofficial best man (as a 9 year old at my dad’s wedding), I’ve never been in one as an adult with actual responsibilities. So here is a quick run down of what I learned:

#1. Weddings are expensive
Before this year, I never really thought about wedding costs. I remember vaguely hearing that my parents had spent $10,000 on their 200 person wedding (which now sounds incredibly cheap) but over the last few months I have learnt just how much things add up – and I’m not even the one getting married! But after gifts, a dress, alterations, hair/makeup and travel costs, a wedding will leave a pretty significant dent in your wallet. For more on bridal party expenses, I wrote a few pieces on what it all costs and how to save money

The dresses!

The dresses!

#2. You can do a lot on a little sleep
The night before the wedding we were up until past 3:00am folding programs, fixing seating charts and helping Kim write her vows.  Now 3:00am doesn’t sound too bad, except that our hair and makeup team arrived the next morning at 5:00am! Meaning a few of us were up around 4:30am to shower and wash up before it was our turn in the chair. I was terrified that the <2 hours of sleep would result in me passing out mid-ceremony but luckily the adrenaline kicked in (that, or the McDonalds coffee we guzzled). And with a full day and night of go go go, it’s hard to even find a moment to be tired. It probably wasn’t until closer to 11:00pm that I realized how exhausted I was. But even then, I managed to find a second wind to get back on the dance floor and eat leftover lobster in bed back at the hotel.

#3. Aisles are really long
Like seriously loooooooooooong! I couldn’t believe how long it took to walk down and how long people were staring at me.  Luckily, I had some familiar faces in the pews and thank goodness, I didn’t trip! And I guess the long aisle was just preparation for standing throughout the longer ceremony.

#4. Your main job: keep the bride calm!
Getting married is super stressful.  I knew going into this that I would want to do whatever I could to keep Kim as calm and worry-free as possible. Which is why, when we were running super late for the ceremony (it was supposed to start at 11:30am and we arrived closer to 1:00pm), I received all of the worried calls from the wedding coordinator and made sure to relay the information to the hair stylist and photographer, not to Kim.  This job also involves trying to make the bride eat something, staying with her when she just wants company and trying to fix any issue that comes up without letting her know. As I kept telling Kim, her only job that day is to get married; we’ll handle the rest.
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#5. Your next job: remember the little things
I was actually really honoured to be standing right next to Kim at the church and to have the important job of holding her bouquet, fluffing her train and hanging onto her vows.  It also fell to the bridesmaids to make sure we had Kim’s shoes (there were a few pairs worn throughout the day) and helping to get them on and off her feet, adjusting the veil, and always having a supply of tissues at the ready.

#6. Make time for tears
Speaking of tissues, one thing I found really important about being a co-MOH was taking a break from the tasks of the day to think about why we’re there and what we’re celebrating.  It was so nice to participate in the worship songs and to watch Kim and Joe sing them to each other. And it was very sweet to hear the loving words the fathers of the bride and groom had to say about their children. At the end of the day, we’re there to celebrate Kim and Joe’s love and it’s important to make time for that, and the face-ful of tears that follow.

The father-daughter dance

The father-daughter dance

#7. The speech isn’t all that terrifying
Sasha and I wrote the majority of our MOH speech via Google Doc. We would both post ideas and then leave comments for each other. It was probably the most effective way to do it with us living three time zones apart but it was a little scary delivering it on the big day knowing we hadn’t really practiced saying it out loud. But it went well! Or I was too hungry/drunk/squished into my dress to realize if it went poorly. But we got laughs, cheers and applause from the audience, which is a success in my book.  And the game that followed, which we put together the night before, was also a huge hit!

#8. The day is never over
As soon as I saw the schedule with hair and makeup starting at 5:00am, I knew it was going to be a long day.  But the day truly did not end.  We went from getting ready to the ceremony to pictures to set up to the reception with only a quick limo nap in between.  And even when I thought it might be over, it wasn’t.  Sure, it’s easier to rally when everyone is doing shots and they’re playing a fun song but trying to pack up the sign in table, load gifts into the car and distribute leftover cake at the wee hours of the morning is no easy feat.

Always time for a silly photo!

Always time for a silly photo!

And then a nice photo

And then a nice one:)

#9. It’s all worth it
But despite all of the exhaustion, money spent and meals missed, it was so worth it.  All in all, I had an amazing time. I loved being helpful and taking care of little tasks on the big day. And I love that Kimberley wanted me there by her side as she said her vows.  It’s pretty exciting to be standing at the front of the church and sitting at the head table – front rows seats to the most magical moment in your friends’ lives.  And it was also really cool to see so many people from my childhood who I hadn’t seen in many years.  The dinner was delicious, dancing like a fool with everyone on the dance floor was hilarious and the entire day was beautiful.  For every task I took on, Kimberley had to take on 1000 more just to make the whole thing possible.

 

Can’t wait to see what new lessons I learn when I  try it again in a few weeks serving as a bridesmaid for my friend Andrea’s wedding!

Montreal for a minute

A week ago Colin and I drove from Toronto to Montreal for a quick 36 hour stay in the French Canadian city. It was a bit of a whirlwind coming off of our wedding weekend in Toronto and knowing we had to fly back to Vancouver just two days after we arrived but I think, despite the heat, we both had a good time.

***

We left Toronto shortly after 12pm on Sunday and didn’t arrive in Montreal until closer to 7pm. The trip was pretty smooth sailing for the most part: we listened to the Hamilton soundtrack, counted roadkill (11 and 1/2 on the way there, 8 on the way back) and stopped in Belleville for lunch. But things turned hectic as soon as we entered the outskirts of Montreal.  It seemed like almost every road was under construction and our GPS didn’t know to route us around it.  Poor Colin, who had already been driving for 5+ hours on little sleep, kept getting thrown onto different freeways and one-way streets until we finally made it to our hotel (which we had to circle twice due to lack of parking). Once we got checked in, we flopped on our bed for a quick breather before heading out for a late night dinner.

A couple friends had recommended we visit Montreal’s famous smoked meat restaurant, Schwartz.  We walked the 20 minutes from our hotel and found ourselves in a packed, hole in the wall diner sharing a table with two large Russian men. We ordered a smoked meat sandwich each while admiring the countless newspaper reviews and celebrity photos on the walls. Verdict? Colin loved his sandwich and I was just meh about it. I don’t think smoked meat is really my thing.

First stop: smoked meat!

First stop: smoked meat!

We headed back to our hotel and cut through the Place des Arts.  This outdoor area is completely pedestrian-run and taken over by festivals in the summer. Unfortunately, there weren’t any festivals going on while we were in Montreal but it was fun to stroll through, listening to street performers play their instruments and watching little kids run through the fountains.

Heading out the next “morning” (I think it was past noon by the time we left), we were met with a bit of muggy weather. We decided to walk down to Old Montreal. From a handful of trips to Montreal, I think this might be my favourite part of the city. I love the cobblestone streets and cute little shops. We stopped at Chez Suzette and indulged in some delicious breakfast crepes. So yum!

YUM!

YUM!

After eating, we walked up to Notre Dame and I was pretty blown away. It reminded both Colin and I of the gorgeous churches in Europe. We paid $5 to go inside and I think it was well worth it. From there, we strolled down to the Old Port.  We happened to stumble upon this really cool amusement park-type thing that had a bunch of inflatable bouncy castles – except they were all different pirate ships. And on the other side, it had an insane ropes course (easily 3-4 stories high with 20+ obstacles) that ended with a zipline across the water. If Colin and I weren’t scared to death of heights, it would’ve been a lot of fun to give that a try.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

We walked back to the hotel for a mandatory air conditioning break.  It took quite a lot of cajoling by Colin to get me back outdoors but we finally did make it back out. We took an Uber (because Colin was done with driving in Montreal) to Mont Royal to check out the scenic viewpoint. And I guess all of Colin’s cajoling was worth it because the view was stunning!

Overlooking Montreal from Mt. Royal

Overlooking Montreal from Mt. Royal

From there we took another Uber to St. Joseph, Montreal’s most famous church. When we first got there, the sight of the stairs almost had me turning back but I made it up and we found an escalator for the last bit.  To be honest, I wish we had seen St. Joseph before Notre Dame as I was actually a little unimpressed. This is the church where Celine Dion was married but I didn’t find the inside nearly as spectacular as Notre Dame.

St. Joseph

St. Joseph

One cool part about St. Joseph was the gardens outside. You follow a path through a dozen or so statues that depict the crucifixion of Christ. It was actually really interesting because they set it up so that you’re walking uphill just as the statues would show Christ carrying his cross up a hill.

After all that sight-seeing, it was time for dinner. We headed to La Banquise so Colin could get his much sought after Montreal poutine. We had planned to visit another poutine place but our hotel concierge insisted that La Banquise was the best poutine in the city.  The restaurant itself was really cool and, of course, really busy. We managed to snag a table and ordered our poutine. Colin got a smoked meat version (he’s hooked on that smoked meat) while I opted for one with cheese sticks and marinara sauce instead of gravy (I don’t actually like poutine, so this was my compromise).  And since I’m not a poutine lover, I’ll have to trust Colin’s verdict that this was the best poutine he has ever had.

Colin enjoying his poutine!

Colin enjoying his poutine!

Following dinner we dragged our full bellies one store over for  dessert at La Fonderie.  We got a small chocolate fondue and it was delicious. I’m sure there is better (and cheaper) fondue to be found in the city but we were satisfied – so satisfied that after our fruit was gone we kept sticking our fingers in the bowl to get more of the yummy chocolate!

The next morning we had to pack our bags and get started on our long drive back to Toronto. While we didn’t get super lost this time (just one wrong turn out of Montreal), we did hit some crazy traffic coming back to Toronto making our journey another 7 hours.  But before we left Montreal, we had to sample some Montreal-style bagels!

Bagels for the road!

Bagels for the road!

We headed to Fairmount Bagel, the oldest bagel shop in the city, and picked up two poppy seed and two chocolate chip bagels.  They were extremely dense and we both enjoyed them.  Though eating them in the car without a knife to spread the cream cheese did prove a little difficult.

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And that was Montreal! It was a short little trip but fun to play tourist and fill our bellies with all of Montreal’s finest.  I hadn’t been to Montreal in about 7 years so it was nice to head back and Colin definitely enjoyed his first trip. We were both big fans of the architecture and the food but decided that the humidity and language barrier would be enough to discourage us from moving cross-country permanently.

My week in China, one year later

About a year ago, I was  packing for a six-week trip to China where I would be facilitating two groups of youth sight-seeing and volunteering in Rural China.

Except, one week later and I was back home.

Even though a year has passed since this trip-that-never-was, I still find myself going over things in my head, processing events and questioning what happened.  I have told my story about why things happened a million times to a million different people – I don’t care to tell the story again at this point. But there’s definitely still a lot I haven’t made up my mind about.

One thing that really shook me up was that this was a “travel failure”. I’ve had lots of mishaps and changed plans on past trips but I’ve never really cut a trip short – I’ve never failed a trip. But this one, I failed. And it wasn’t just a personal trip, this was a work trip.

That freaked me out. Actually, it still freaks me out. Travelling was my thing. I prided myself on my travel stories, my countless airplane rides, ability to pack everything in a carry-on bag, etc. How could I be bad at travelling?

And, if I’m being perfectly honest, it embarrasses me. Like most humans, I don’t like to fail. Those next couple of months at work were really hard.  Everyone knew I was supposed to be in China for 6 weeks but all of a sudden, I was home and no one, including myself, could quite explain why. I hated coming into the office everyday and I hated telling the story of what happened to every other person in my life.

Now if I’m being really really honest, this whole thing scares me.  My experience in China was a first time for me. I’ve never been so emotional, have never had so many uncontrollable events happen and have never wanted out or needed out so badly. And that terrifies me. What if that happens again on my next trip?

The idea of relationships comes up a lot when I think about China.  While I was struggling over there, I relied so heavily on my friends, family and co-workers. I had many a teary Skype conversation with my parents and boyfriend, and countless messages of support from my friends and co-workers. And after its all happened and I’ve left my job there (not solely due to the China trip), I definitely feel that I’ve lost the closeness I had with those same friends and co-workers. I guess that is a natural part of leaving a job but I miss those wonderful people being such a huge part of my life. The last relationship part about China is one of the fears I’m not even ready to admit to myself: a small part of me thinks my new relationship was pulling my heartstrings home a little too hard and I hate that I may have let that happen.

A year later and I’m still full of questions. I haven’t finished processing this whole thing; I don’t know exactly what it means. And I don’t know exactly why it happened. I don’t know if I made the right choices. I don’t know if my emotions got the best of me.  I don’t know if I will feel this way again with some other experience in my life.

I do know that I’m a lot happier a year after the China debacle. So much in my life has changed since then: new job, new apartment, new neighbourhood, new friends, etc. that I’m not sure would’ve happened had I stayed. I had a great summer with friends and Colin in Vancouver – something I would’ve missed if I was in China.  I have some regrets, and definitely some questions, but I do think, overall, that coming home was the right decision for me.  I’m slowly learning to think of my week in China as less of a travel failure and more of a life lesson – I just don’t think I’ve figured out all of the teachings yet. And I’m confident that one day in the future I’ll be able to look at a flight deal for China or picture of the Great Wall and not cringe:)

Victoria Day in Victoria!

Since moving to Vancouver in 2010, I’ve been to Victoria a handful of times.  It’s always a quick day trip (except one overnight for work, that doesn’t really count) where most of my time is spent commuting. Which is probably why I’ve always said that my favourite part about Victoria is the beautiful ferry ride.

Now, the ferry is no longer the favourite.

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That’s not to say I don’t still love the ferry, because I do! I love the giant soft serve ice cream, strangely alluring need to browse the gift shop and ability to always see some awesome aquatic wildlife from the deck. But now I’m coming around to so many other cool things in Victoria itself.

I convinced Colin that it would be really fun for us to spend Victoria Day in Victoria.  Sorta like how my dream is to eat a nanaimo bar in a Nanaimo bar. So we decided to head over to the island for a quick Sunday/Monday trip.

A few highlights from our trip:

We arrived early on Sunday afternoon and got to check out a cute outdoor market and the famed Munro’s Books. I love outdoor markets – I would literally plan my days in Europe around which markets were open when. And Munro’s Books is a place I could spend hours and millions of dollars in.

Munro's Books

Munro’s Books

Our next idea was to find a brewery. We had one selected, but it ended up being closed on Sundays (one of the downsides of Victoria – there was also a high tea place I wanted to visit that was closed Sunday/Monday). So we headed to Phillips Brewery. To be honest, I was expecting a cool little tasting section but it was just a place to fill up growlers. Oh well, next time!

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After that we stopped for lunch at this cute pizza place with giant glass windows. I think it’s a chain but I’m forgetting the name of it. Anyway, it was delicious!

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After pizza we walked towards the Empress Hotel. One day I want to really splurge: spend the night there and go for their $80 high tea.

From there we walked over to the parliament building. I’m always struck by how gorgeous our parliament building is – to be honest, it sorta puts the Empress to shame.  We were really lucky that just as we were strolling by, a high school band was setting up. We figured it might be fun to listen to a song or two. We actually ended up staying for their entire set and having the best time. The band performed modern songs, like Uptown Funk, Bang Bang and even the Game of Thrones theme song, and the kids were loving it. They were all dancing and really getting into their music. It was so much fun – maybe the highlight of the weekend!

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Next we walked over to Fisherman’s Wharf. I didn’t realize Victoria also had a Fisherman’s Wharf and it was sorta reminiscent of San Francisco’s. And there were seals!  Three gorgeous seals were hanging out right by the dock and putting on a little show for us tourists who were only too happy to buy them fish to eat and snap their photo.

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We walked around and checked out all of the float homes on the wharf with our ice cream cones. The homes are really cool! Though I can’t imagine the home owners appreciate a bunch of nosy people walking within feet of their homes at all times of the day and night.

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To finish off the night we got some mouth-watering fish n’ chips and took a cute little water taxi back to our hotel. We watched Game of Thrones on a very tiny phone screen and then headed to bed.

Selfie from the water taxi

Selfie from the water taxi

The next morning we headed out to watch the Victoria Day parade! I love a good parade. I’m hesitant to call this one a good parade, but probably because I was raised on the crazy float-abundant Toronto Santa Claus parade.  But what the Victoria Victoria Day (VVD) parade lacks in crazy floats, it makes up for in marching bands.  Whoever said quality over quantity, clearly was not a part of the VVD parade committee. We watched from the sidewalk and again from our breakfast table at Cora’s and saw no less than 8 different marching bands.

After breakfast, we headed out of town and stopped at the Highland Games festival. We watched Scottish dancing, sword fights and a strangely enticing goose maze where an elderly Irish man and two dogs would very slowly attempt to herd a group of scared geese through various obstacles.

And that pretty much wraps up our trip! From the Highland Games we drove back to the ferry. Being a long weekend and us not having a reservation, we were expecting a long wait. And we did wait for a couple of hours, but we managed to squeeze in (second last car!) on the 3:00pm ferry back to the mainland.

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Next up: I serve as a co-maid of honour (co-MOH) at my friend’s wedding in Toronto next weekend.  Stay tuned for details on that adventure!

 

A little life update

I wanted to share a little life update and some upcoming plans (and, probably, posts) for the summer.

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So, first up, I have an update on the job front. I’ve been working at UBC in Admissions for the last 6-ish months.  However, it’s a contract position that ends in June so I was starting to look for something new. And, I’ve found it! As of May 30th, I will be the Student Services Program Assistant with UBC’s Allard School of Law. I’m excited that I found a position on campus and with more student interaction. It’s a brand new position, so I’m really looking forward to being able to add my input and see where things go.  As well, this job is just one building away from my current job, so I will still be able to stay in touch with old friends.

Yay for employment! This is a full-time on-going position so I don’t have to worry about a contract coming up.  Also, with an on-going position, I become eligible for tuition credits so I can take more of my counselling pre-reqs to one day apply for my Masters in Counselling (maybe? we’ll see!).

Besides a new gig, I’ve got lots of amazing plans upcoming for this summer. When I first came back to Vancouver, after spending the previous 1-2 years adventuring through Swaziland, Australia, Europe and Japan, I was a little disoriented. I was really excited to finish off my degree and begin a more settled life in Vancouver. But I was also itching to get back on a plane, pack a bag and take off somewhere new. I decided that I could still satisfy my travel bug by getting in some local travel.  And I’ve done that: with trips to Seattle, LA, San Francisco, etc. And I’ve got a bunch more planned for this summer!

May: So starting it off, Colin and I will be spending Victoria Day in Victoria!  I have been to Victoria a few times in the past but never overnight (except for work, which doesn’t count). And my favourite part is always the ferry ride there and back where I spend the whole time looking for sea creatures. So I’m excited to see what else Victoria has to offer.  And, outside of travel, Colin and I will also be attending a few concerts in May: Matt Corby and Macklemore!

June: And then in June, Colin and I are heading to Toronto to celebrate Kim and Joe’s wedding! Kimberley is the first of my friends to get married and the first time I’ve been a co-maid of honour so I’m all sorts of excited and nervous.  After the wedding, and a very quick visit in Toronto, we’re trying to plan a short few days in Montreal before coming home to Vancouver.  And we’re also seeing Billy Elliott in June, which I saw a long time ago in Toronto and loved.

July: As soon as we get back from Toronto/Montreal, we have 2 nights to rest and then we’re off to Pender Harbour.  Colin’s family has a place out there and every summer all the relatives come up with their trailers and tents for a little family vacation.  Last year, I got to spend a few days there when I got back from China and it was beautiful.  It was so nice to hang out by the water, sit around a fire and play lawn games.  I learned that I am horrible at horseshoes, terrified of kayaking and probably not ready for any deep sea fishing or paddle boarding.  But, I had an amazing time nonetheless and can’t wait to go up again this year.  And, in more theatre news, I’m seeing Newsies in July as it’s touring in Vancouver for 5 days.

More July: Not set in stone, but Colin and I are planning a roadtrip to Calgary for the Calgary Stampede.  I am super excited because I have never been to Calgary and haven’t done any roadtrips since I was a kid.  We have all of these wonderful places mapped out for our stops and have already begun work on our playlist and list of snacks to bring.  Plus, we’re planning this trip for my birthday weekend, which will be really special.  Hopefully we can get the time off work to make this one happen!

August: For the August long weekend, we’ve got another family trip in the works.  To celebrate Colin’s aunt’s birthday, we’re planning a few nights at a resort in Semiahmoo. I have never been or heard of this place but it sounds like fun and I’m excited for yet another local adventure.

More August: And, two nights after we get back from Semiahmoo, I’m off to Toronto again.  This time, for Andrea and Nader’s wedding.  I’m thrilled to be celebrating with them and to see my friends/family again. I haven’t been home for a while now – I was back in early December – so it’s nice to be going back twice this summer (despite what my wallet will argue).

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And I think that’s it! I am so excited for my new job and summer plans.  Knowing my life, there’s a good chance that some of this will change, things will be added, extended, etc. But that’s sorta the fun of it:)

How to travel with a partner

In my 23 years, I have been fortunate enough to travel widely, deeply and with a range of companions. I travelled with my entire family on cruises around the Caribbean, Disney World adventures and to resorts in the DR.  I’ve travelled with another family to meet more of their family in the Philippines in Korea. I’ve travelled with friends I’ve known forever and friends I’ve just met. I’ve travelled with my mom. And I’ve travelled solo.

But until last summer, I had never travelled with a partner.

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I was so excited for the ten-day trip Colin and I planned to Toronto and New York last summer.  First of all, I hadn’t been home since January, so I was really looking forward to seeing all of my family and friends.  I was also really excited to introduce them all to Colin and vice versa.  Secondly, I had never been to New York, despite always wanting to go. Colin actually suggested we tack New York onto our Toronto itinerary and I’m so glad he did.  I was also really excited to share this experience with him.  I relished the idea of introducing my love (him) to my other love (travel).

And it was a really amazing trip.  One of my favourites, by far.  But I also learned a lot from this trip – about myself, about Colin and about travelling as a duo.  I’d like to think I was able to implement some of that learning into our most recent trip to LA, even though that wasn’t strictly a couple’s trip. And I look forward to learning more about our travel style in preparation for a big trip we’re both dying to take sometime in the near-ish future, finances willing!

Tip #1: Consider what they want to do
So I had already booked my ticket to Toronto in August before Colin decided to join me.  When he did, I made a really big effort to make sure this felt like his trip too.  It’s not cheap to fly back to Toronto so I wanted to make sure we were making the most of it.  Starting with Colin’s suggestion to add a New York detour to our trip!

Colin had never been to Toronto before so I knew there were some things he’d want to see besides my family and friends. So we added trips to the Toronto Zoo, Hockey Hall of Fame, CN Tower and Niagara Falls to our itinerary to satisfy his inner-tourist. It was actually fun for me to experience/re-experience some of these attractions and play tour guide in my own city.  And we were able to fit in all of these experiences in just four days while also meeting most of my friends and family.

Tip #2: Be respectful of the purpose of the trip
Colin knew the reason I had booked my ticket to Toronto was to spend time with my friends and family, particularly in attending my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration.  He also knew that since we weren’t sure when we would be back in Toronto, this was his opportunity to meet all of the important people in my life.  He was such a trooper as I dragged him to countless meals (in four days I think we only ate alone once) and activities with 44 different members of my family and friends.  I can only imagine how overwhelming it was to meet all of those people in such a short time span.  He was amazing! He didn’t complain once, made a great impression (my friends and family were raving) and made sure I got the time I needed to reconnect with my loved ones.

Tip #3: Have a plan
This isn’t necessarily specific to travelling with a partner, but I think it is always good to have a plan for your trip.  Depending on the trip, this can be as flexible or as rigid as needed.  With this trip, since we were trying to see many people and many things in a short amount of time, it needed to be pretty rigid.  In fact, I had a google spreadsheet going for the Toronto portion of our trip.

Tip #4: Be on the same page
In relation to having a plan, it’s important that you both have the same plan.  We had to figure out what worked for both of us in terms of budget, accommodation, transportation, itinerary, etc.  This was something we worked out in advance, which I think is really important.  We spent a lot of time on the computer together looking up hotels (Colin is anti-hostel, but I’m trying to convert him), the best way to get around, what attractions we wanted to visit, etc.  Luckily, we were on the same page budget-wise (cheap without being scary) and had a lot of similar places on our to-see lists.

Tip #5: Play to your strengths
So as evidenced by tip 3, I like to plan ahead.  For New York, I had made a giant list of everything I wanted to see/do and plotted it all out on a map.  Each night I would pull out that list, with accompanying research about opening times, costs, etc., and Colin would pull out our New York map and we would finalize our route for the next day.  I was much better at the planning ahead and Colin was much better at the last minute planning.  We worked well together.

Playing to our strengths came up in other situations too.  I’m more comfortable in airports and on planes, given how much experience I’ve had with them whereas Colin hadn’t flown for a while (to the point that his passport was expired when I met him, shocking, I know!). So I navigated us through security and customs and was available to hold his hand during take-off.  Colin was more savvy with the transportation in New York – helping us learn how to use our transit passes and ensuring we were getting on the right trains. He was also more cautious with our hotel, which saved us from sleeping with bed bugs for 5 nights!

Tip #6: Know how you handle stress
This tip was one I had to learn the hard way.  In what we affectionately refer to as my “5 o’clocks”, we learned that when I get stressed I get quiet, short/non-responsive and very close, if not there already, to tears.  We first discovered this on our 2nd or 3rd day.  It was about 5:00pm and we were planning to head to Wall St to see the sights. After a full day of walking in the August humidity, I really wanted a drink, a seat and some air conditioning.  Apparently, I didn’t state that clearly enough because Colin suggested we keep walking to the subway to try and get to Wall St.  So as we’re heading to the subway platform (aka the hottest place in New York), I have basically stopped responding.  Poor Colin can tell I’m upset and tries to make it better by over-talking.  Except I’m too stressed to explain myself, so I just end up crying on the platform.  Eventually, I’m able to explain enough and five minutes later we’re sitting in an air-conditioned Dunkin’ Donuts with iced coffees in our hands. And I was all better.

A similar incident happened the next day: we had a bit of time to kill between museums/Central Park and heading to the Mets game.  It turned into a long goose chase to find a specific coffee shop when all I really wanted was a cool drink, place to sit and air conditioning.

We’ve gotten a lot better with this one since.  I’m working on being more communicative when I’m stressed or upset. I know it’s not helpful to completely shut down.  And Colin is learning that I’m more of a secondary processor and might not be able to fully explain my emotions in the moment.  The thing I love is that we’re both very quick to apologize and make sure the other person is okay.  As stressed as we (or, let’s be honest, usually me) get, our first priority is always each other.

Tip #7: Take a break
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a ton of break time during our New York trip.  It was, and probably still is, the most time we’ve spent together just the two of us with nothing like work or other people to break things up.  It was just me and him 24 hours a day for five full days. And, besides my 5 o’clocks, it worked. I don’t think (you’ll have to ask him to check) that we got sick of each other or upset with one another.  That being said, I think it is important to have that time apart, especially if we do longer trips.  Even taking small moments, like both reading our books back at the hotel or splitting up to shop in Time Square, were important so we didn’t feel like we were stuck to one another and completely responsible for keeping the other person entertained.

Tip #8: Be flexible
Again, I think this is a tip that serves any trip, but is especially important when travelling with a partner.  A lot of items on our itinerary changed last minute: our flight leaving Vancouver was delayed to 2 in the morning, Wicked stopped doing afternoon matinees, the New York Public Library closed much earlier than it should’ve, etc.  But we rolled with the punches: sleeping in shifts at YVR, heading to the Book of Mormon lottery (which we won) instead of the Wicked one, being satisfied with just a picture of the outside of the library, etc.

Tip #9: Enjoy each other’s interests
Since meeting Colin, a lot has changed in my life.  I have been to 8 (or maybe 9) NHL hockey games.  I have watched multiple Marvel movies on opening night and regularly follow TV shows about superheroes.  He’s adopted some of my interests too; we’ve been to at least 5 live plays/musicals and have memorized every word of  the “Hamilton” score.  So it was with this same sense of openness and adventure that we willingly added each other’s suggestions to our itinerary.  This was how I ended up spending hours at the Hockey Hall of Fame and how Colin ended up walking blocks and blocks to find the Tiffany’s from Breakfast at Tiffany’s with me.  But we both did it willingly, knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel (Tiffany’s was followed with pizza lunch and a coffee re-fuel).  And, if I’m being honest, I actually enjoyed myself at The Hockey Hall of Fame. Who would’ve guessed it? 

Tip #10: Love it, learn from it and plan the next one
I am by no means an expert or experienced partner traveller. Colin and I have only been on two trips together, with only 5 days when it was just the two of us.  I know we have so many more adventures, and lessons to learn, in our future.  And I am so excited for them! Travel definitely has moments of high-stress, fear, anxiety, exhaustion – things that can be heightened in a pair and things that have to be dealt with together. But I look forward to taking on those challenges if it means going on more adventures together and learning more about myself, my partner and our relationship.

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This summer we’re headed back to Toronto in June for a wedding and hopefully a couple nights in Montreal with my family. And then in July we’re planning to do a roadtrip over to Calgary for the Stampede, to see Colin’s family and to hit some cool spots (like Banff!) along the way.  And I hope we also fit in some mini trips this summer to Seattle, Pender Harbour, the island, etc.

I can’t wait:)

LA: Must Sees & Maybe Passes

I figured since I did one for New York, I might as well do one for LA! I just came back from my second-ever visit to Los Angeles.  Colin, his mom and I were there at the end of March for a quick week of sight-seeing and relaxing on the beach.  Read on for the highlights and lowlights of our itinerary!

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Uber
PROS: Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that Uber is a popular ride-share program.  You also know that LA traffic and transit are notoriously horrible. Uber was absolutely our saving grace.  We got all around LA, from Anaheim to Venice Beach, via Uber.  We saved a ton of money and met some interesting drivers – from world travelling photographers and ex-racecar drivers to our very own LA tour guides.

CONS: We don’t have Uber in Vancouver.  The worst part of Uber is that we couldn’t bring it home with us.

VERDICT: Uber is definitely the way to go when visiting LA.  It’s cheaper than taxis (and sometimes cheaper than renting a car) and way more convenient than public transit.  I couldn’t be a bigger fan. Uber, please come to Vancouver!

The Farmer’s Market
PROS: The Farmer’s Market has been a staple in LA since it opened in 1934. I really loved this space – so many stalls with all different types of cuisine.  We sampled gumbo, pizza, gyros and bbq in our two visits and barely cracked the surface.  Plus, it’s a covered outdoor market so we actually got to eat next to a giant tree.

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CONS: It’s not your traditional Farmer’s Market – it’s more like a diverse sprawling foodcourt.  And I do wish we had done a bit more research to make sure we hit up the best stalls.

VERDICT: Definitely check it out! There is something at the Farmer’s Market for every taste bud.

The Grove
PROS: The Grove is the beautiful outdoor shopping centre right next door to the Farmer’s Market.  There are lots of shops and a gorgeous fountain right in the middle.  I love that LA weather is so pleasant and rain-free that an outdoor mall is actually a viable option.  An outdoor mall in Vancouver would be open for max 2 weeks a year.

CONS: While the Grove is beautiful, it’s also beautifully expensive.  We were pretty much priced out of all of the shops.  But we did enjoy lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, splurging on a Michael Kors purse for Colin’s mom and window shopping.

VERDICT: If you can afford it, definitely check out the Grove for some fun shopping.  And even if you can’t afford it, it’s still a fun place to visit.

Trader Joe’s
PROS: I know Trader Joe’s isn’t LA-specific but I could wax poetic about this US chain until the cows come home.  I love Trader Joe’s.  I love the fun snacks, chalkboard signs and funky re-usable bags.  But most of all, I love that they sell wine for $2.49!

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CONS: Again, the biggest con is that we don’t have this wonderful chain (with its wonderful liquor prices) in Vancouver.

VERDICT: Always go to Trader Joe’s. Always.

Going to a show taping
PROS: We went to a taping of The Late Late Show with James Corden (we were hoping to see Ellen but she wouldn’t give us tickets).  It was fun to be at a live taping and see how the production of a show comes together.  James Corden was hilarious and we really loved seeing his guests Sam Heughan (yum) and Luke Bryan (yummier). Plus, we were on TV!

CONS: There were so many lines! We arrived at 2:30 and stood in line (outside in the sun) until past four.  And then we were brought through security only to sit in another line.  We were taken upstairs to the studio where we, you guessed it, stood in line, until they finally took us to our seats.  Another con, musical guest Rita Wilson performed her song not once, not twice but three times.  There are certain songs I would love to see performed three times in a row – this was not one of them.  Also, we didn’t get any free swag😦

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VERDICT: If you’re prepared to wait a while in lines, it can be a fun experience. It would probably be best if you’re really into the musical guest, just in case they have to perform 3+ times.

Universal Studios
PROS: We decided that instead of Disney, we would go to Universal Studios during our trip.  This was a great call since Disney is way busier and neither Colin or I particularly enjoy rides.  Universal was amazing! We went to a bunch of shows to see stunt people, special effects, animal actors, etc.  We went on the studio tour and got to see lots of movie sets, more special effects and even sat through some 4D rides.  But the best part was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We had checked online before our trip and saw that TWWoHP wasn’t opening until April 7th and we were leaving on April 5th. But when we arrived at Universal, we were told that it had been “soft open” for a few weeks! Actual tears came to my eyes. I was so excited! I literally skipped into the magical world and was just blown away by the whole place.

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Butterbeer!

Butterbeer!

CONS: I thought I would be listing long lines here but strangely enough our Saturday visit to Universal Studios was not too busy at all. So I guess I would say the cons of the day would be the food (overpriced and lacklustre, which is to be expected of fast food at an amusement park) and the one ride we went on: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. As I mentioned above, neither Colin or I are ride people.  We don’t do roller coasters, heights, and you would probably have a hard time even getting us on a merry-go-round.  However, we decided to be brave and try the Forbidden Journey.  There were a bunch of cool Harry Potter artifacts along the way, no lines and many ride-goers had assured us it would be nothing like a roller coaster.  They were right.  It was worse.  Needless to say, we did not enjoy ourselves.  I spent the entire ride muscles straining to hold on as tight as possible to my seat, eyes practically glued shut and silently willing myself not to cry.  We made it through, but I don’t think we’ll be risking it on any other rides again soon.

VERDICT: Universal was great! I would definitely recommend it. I think it’s better for an older crowd and there’s tons to see/do if you don’t love rides.  If you’re happy to skip meeting Mickey Mouse, this would be my recommendation.

Hollywood Tour
PROS: We took a tour on our second day in LA.  It picked us up in Anaheim and drove us around to Venice Beach,  The Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive, The Grove/Farmer’s Market, the Walk of Fame and then back to our hotel – all for $50! It was a great way to see a lot of LA in one day. I particularly liked our stroll along Rodeo Drive and seeing all of the stars on the Walk of Fame.

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CONS: The timing seemed a bit off.  We got off for an hour at the Santa Monica Pier – not during meal time or when the amusement park was even open – but only half an hour at the Walk of Fame.  We also wished our driver had pointed out some more sights to us during the drive.

VERDICT: I’m usually not a fan of tour buses but if you’re short on time and want to see the highlights of LA, this is a great way to do it.  It was nice to not have to worry about transportation or where we needed to go.

Anaheim Ducks game
PROS: So our initial reason for going to LA was actually to watch our Vancouver Canucks play the Anaheim Ducks.  Actually, this was Colin’s reason.  I can’t really condone going all the way to LA to watch a hockey game, but it was a fun experience.  And the Canucks won!

Go Canucks Go!

Go Canucks Go!

CONS: It’s kind of hard to cheer against the home team.  I missed being able to cheer along with the crowd.

VERDICT: If you happen to be in Anaheim during hockey season and you’re a fan, sure, take in a game!

LA Clippers game
PROS: Our next professional sporting game was in the famed Staples Center and we got to cheer with the home team.  I love basketball and haven’t been to a live NBA game in a long time so this was a real treat for me.  Plus, the tickets were fairly cheap and the Clippers won!

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CONS: We wanted to see the Lakers, of course.  Unfortunately, we got priced out of that game.  Sorry, Kobe😦

VERDICT: I might be a bit biased here since basketball is my favourite sport and we don’t have a team to watch in Vancouver, but I would definitely recommend taking in a game and cheering on the home team!

Olvera Street
PROS: This street is tucked away behind a large church by LA’s Union Station.  It’s referred to as the Mexican Market because it’s home to stalls and stalls of Mexican food, clothing and other wares.  As someone who has never been to Mexico, this was a pretty cool area to explore.  We ended up buying some beautiful blankets (for only $10!) and snacked on churros while listening to a travelling mariachi band.

CONS: As authentic as the stalls looked, I resisted my urge to buy some of the traditional Mexican items.  I would prefer to buy them in Mexico! So, I guess this isn’t really a con, but more of an increasing desire to travel to Mexico!

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VERDICT: Again, as someone who hasn’t actually been to Mexico, I really loved this little market and think it’s a great LA stop.

Marina del Rey & Venice Canals
PROS: The canals themselves are actually pretty cute.  They’ve got nothing on the Amsterdam canals but there are lovely homes all along and a bunch of little bridges.  It’s a quaint little community and sort of hidden off the main streets.

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CONS: The marina, on the other hand, was a pretty big let down.  We walked for quite some time to get there and then were pretty disappointed when we realized we had made it.  Maybe we didn’t go to the right part?

VERDICT: See the canals.  Skip the marina.

Venice Beach
PROS: We spent the last three nights of our trip at a beachfront hotel on Venice Beach.  It was awesome! The beach itself is beautiful – not too busy, great waves and nice warm sand.  And then the boardwalk and Venice Beach culture is so eclectic.  I loved walking around and seeing all of the vendors, street performers and shops.  It was the best place to stay and so much fun to explore.

Colin & his mom getting their wave frolick on!

Colin & his mom getting their wave frolick on!

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CONS: While we didn’t run into any issues, I probably wouldn’t recommend any midnight strolls in the area.  The locals are definitely fun and seemingly harmless but even when we went out after 8 looking for a late dinner, we ran into more open tattoo parlors than pizza shops.

VERDICT: Absolutely check out Venice Beach – and sample the fish tacos by Muscle Beach! They are, as the sign says, the best in Venice Beach.

The Santa Monica Pier
PROS: The Santa Monica Pier is really fun.  As soon as you spot the iconic ferris wheel, you know it’s going to be a good time.  There are lots of people, vendors and amusement park rides and games for all.  And, best of all, off the end of the dock you can spot seals and (so I’m told) dolphins!

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CONS: The pier is well-known and therefore, flooded with tourists and overpriced vendors.  I wouldn’t suggest it for too much shopping or dining if you can avoid it.

VERDICT: Being the end of route 66, it’s iconic, so you might as well see it. But I would go mainly for the seals:)

In N Out
PROS: Well, at least we can say we checked off a California must? All of our Uber drivers told us we couldn’t leave LA without trying In N Out.

CONS: I wish we had left this one out. I’ve had In N Out twice before and was not impressed either of those times. I don’t know why I thought this time would be any different. To be honest, the food is nothing special (sorry, Californians!). And to make it worse, we decided to go lie in the sun afterwards to let the gross food really take its toll on our bodies.

Yuck.

Yuck.

VERDICT: Hard pass.

****

Los Angeles was a great trip.  It was so nice to spend six days with Colin and his mom, to be in the constant presence of palm trees and to not have to worry about work or school or anything else.  We fit in a lot of fun stuff but also made time for relaxing on the beach and watching TV back at the hotel.

Since coming back to Vancouver in 2014 to finish my degree at UBC, I haven’t done a lot of big travelling.  It was  a change to be more settled and to not have future plans to move to so-and-so foreign country for 1-6 months.  But I have had so many other great life experiences and opportunities.  And I’ve really started to embrace the idea of local travel.  As much as I want to jump on an international plane every time I see a flight deal posted, with work, rent and two weddings this summer, I know it’s not realistic.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.  I still plan to see a lot of the world – there are so many countries I can’t wait to explore.  But in the meantime, there’s a lot of my own backyard to see.  The last time I went to LA, I was 12, so this was kind of like a first trip for me.  It was fun to play tourist and go on a little adventure, even if it was only a 2 hour plane ride away.  And we have other plans this summer to head down to Seattle, do our Calgary roadtrip and possibly even fit in a trip to Montreal when we’re back in Toronto.  So yeah, lots to see around here while I save up and countdown to the next big trip:)