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.

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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:)

New York: Must Sees & Maybe Passes

Way back in August of 2015, Colin and I went on our first trip together. We started it off by meeting all of my friends and family in Toronto and then exploring New York City.  It was both of our first trips to New York so we wanted to see as much of The Big Apple as August humidity would allow.  Below is a list of some of the main spots we went to, why they were awesome, why they sucked and what we would do differently next time.

*Disclaimer: there was a lot of New York we missed so this list is by no means comprehensive!
**Another disclaimer: despite not being comprehensive, it’s still a fairly lengthy list. You may need to break for water while trying to get through it. 

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Grand Central Terminal (not Station)
PROS: Grand Central Terminal (only tourists call it Grand Central Station) was our first New York stop. The building itself is gorgeous and so iconic from all of the movies it has featured in.  There is also a cool room with “whispering walls” that is worth checking out and a pretty sweet food court in the basement.

CONS: I had this overly romantic idea that I would pull Colin into the middle of a throng of busy commuters and kiss him passionately as if we were getting on two different trains. Only, the throng of commuters ended up being a bunch of overtired tourists staring at maps and busily snapping photos.

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VERDICT: Definitely an easy stop to check off your New York bucket list but at the end of the day, it’s just a train station.

Shake Shack & Magnolia’s Bakery
PROS: Shake Shack and Magnolia’s are two of New York’s most iconic food chains.  And they definitely produced solid food.  We enjoyed our burgers and cupcakes.

CONS: But we didn’t enjoy them that much.  Maybe all of the hype had raised our expectations or maybe we visited the wrong locations but we weren’t blown away or rushing to visit either place again soon.

VERDICT: If you happen to be passing a Shake Shack when you’re in the mood for a burger, sure, head in and grab one. Or if you’re a cupcake connoisseur and want to scope out the original Magnolia’s Bakery location, why not? But if you visit New York and don’t make it to either, I don’t think you’re missing much. (Native New Yorkers, please don’t kill me! I also don’t think much of California’s beloved In-N-Out, if that helps.)

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
PROS: Full disclosure, the sweet frigid air conditioning wafting out of this place is what initially drew us in.  But it ended up being a really fun time!  We loved posing with all of the celebrities and sipping on the frozen margaritas we bought (in souvenir cups, of course).  And there’s actually quite a bit to see!

CONS: It’s definitely not the cheapest place to visit.  You get a very clear feeling that you’re walking right into a tourist trap as you hand over your credit card.  And I assume the original Madame Tussaud’s in London, with the never-ending line to get in, is way better.

Ahhhhh!

Ahhhhh!

Looking fierce with Kim K

Looking fierce with Kim K

VERDICT: If you visit New York in August, this is an amazing place to get out of the heat.

Time Square
PROS: Um, it’s Time freaking Square! The most iconic landmark in New York! Our first visit to Time Square was actually in the middle of a downpour.  You’d think that would make it on the cons list, but it actually was a huge pro.  Firstly, it helped break the disgusting humidity. And secondly, we got to watch crazy tourists do cartwheels through puddles and huddle under a yawning with local mascots Batman and Spiderman.  After it was all over, the Square had pretty much cleared out so we could snap pictures and marvel at the signs to our hearts’ content.

Hanging with the NYPD in Time Square!

Hanging with the NYPD in Time Square!

CONS: Because it’s so iconic, you know it’s going to be packed.  That’s part of the magic, so you just have to embrace it.  Also, everything within eyesight is marketed to tourists and you’ll be paying way more for it.  We had the pleasure of overpaying for a pretty gross Italian meal just off of the Square.

VERDICT: You definitely need to see it.  You don’t, however, need to eat anywhere near it.

Alice’s Tea Cup
PROS: You’re probably wondering what this is.  It’s not a New York landmark.  It is a hidden gem that Colin found for us one morning.  It’s tucked between some adorable brownstones on the Upper East (or maybe West) Side and features the most extensive list of teas.  It’s an adorable place for lunch, brunch or high tea.  Also, if you bring a small child there, they will offer her fairy wings to wear during her meal.

CONS: No one offered me wings😦

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VERDICT: If you can get there, I definitely recommend it for a brunch date.  It’s a great local spot and nearby to all the museums and Central Park.

American Museum of Natural History
PROS: This museum is INSANE.  Honestly, if we had actually stopped to read every plaque and check out every exhibit, we would probably still be there.  The place was fascinating.  Bonus: it’s pay-what-you-can so is definitely affordable.  Double Bonus: their air conditioning game was real strong.

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CONS: It is A LOT to take in.  I get museum-ed out after about an hour or two.  I think we lasted three hours in this place but I was definitely feeling it by the end.

VERDICT: If you’re into museums, it’s a great one to hit.  Plus, you can pretend like you’re Ben Stiller and co from Night at The Museum!

Central Park
PROS: Again, so iconic! And maybe the only truly green space in the whole city.  I love how huge this park is and that there’s something for everyone.  We really loved the John Lennon memorial (across the street from the hotel where he died and where Yoko Ono still lives), Bow Bridge and Bethesda Fountain (the fountain from Friends!).

CONS: It’s highlights are it’s downfalls – the park is just so big! We were there for quite some time but we barely saw any of it.  Also, it’s very hard to explore a park in gross weather, especially when you’re coming from a beautifully air-conditioned museum.

Bow Bridge in Central Park

Bow Bridge in Central Park

VERDICT: Definitely go to Central Park.  And if you can go when it’s not sweltering or freezing out, all the better.

Mets game
PROS: I’m not a huge baseball person but I had an amazing time at the Mets game! I bought a shirt and Colin bought a hat so we could truly support the team.  There were tons of fans so the atmosphere was electric.  And they won, which didn’t hurt!

Go Mets!

Go Mets!

CONS: It’s a bit of a ways out of the city.  It’s not too hard to get there by transit but it is a long ride.  And, of course, it may have been more iconic to see the Yankees play.

VERDICT: If you are into baseball, I would definitely recommend it.  I can loan you my shirt:)

Staten Island Ferry
PROS: In preparation for our trip, I searched through all of my favourite travel blogs for NYC tips.  One that kept coming up was taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and I’m really glad we did.  First of all, the ferry is FREE! Nothing in New York is free so that in itself was cool.  And you get the most amazing view of the Statue of Liberty from the boat.

CONS: Because it’s free, and used by non-tourists for actual commuting, it’s pretty busy.  We went early and still had to push through the crowds for a good sightline to Lady Liberty.  Also, there is nothing to do in Staten Island (sorry to any natives! But I’m right, aren’t I?).  They enforce all passengers getting off the boat so we literally walked off the ferry and then joined the line to walk right back on.

VERDICT: If you have the time, this is definitely the cheapest way to get a good view of the Statue of Liberty.  If you have the money and interest to see her up close and personal, I’d suggest a boat tour instead.

Brooklyn Bridge
PROS: This was probably my favourite part of New York.  I love bridges! I don’t know why but I think they are so beautiful and love being able to walk across them.  In fact, the only New York photos I have printed and framed are of the Brooklyn Bridge.  The bridge itself is gorgeous but it also offers some amazing views of Manhattan.

CONS: It’s not a short bridge.  And there are lots of other tourists, vendors, bikers, etc. on it so expect some crowding.

One of my top 3 fave bridges

One of my top 3 fave bridges

VERDICT: If you’ve brought the proper footwear for bridge walking, I definitely think this is a must for a trip to New York.  Plus, unlike Staten Island, there is actually stuff to do on the other side!

NY Pizza
PROS: What’s more New York than authentic New York pizza? I did my research on this one too and had us try two different places: Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn and 2 Bros Pizza in Manhattan.  Grimaldi’s was delicious! Honestly, it rivals the pizza I ate in Naples (different, but almost as delicious).  And 2 Bros was simply known for being tasty and cheap ($1/slice!), which it was!

CONS: Grimaldi’s is an authentic pizza place – right down to their long waits, slow service and lack of air conditioning.

He loves that I'm using this picture of him :)

He loves that I’m using this picture of him:)

VERDICT: You have to try authentic New York pizza when you visit New York.  I’m not 100% sure we went to the very best places, so I would suggest doing some research first.

Broadway
PROS: If you know me (or read any of my blog posts in London), you know that I love musicals and Broadway. The greatest allure of New York for me was the chance to see a show on Broadway.  We lucked out and got to see two shows very affordably.  We visited the TKTS booth and scored cheap seats to Hedwig and the Angry Inch and then Colin won us two seats to Book of Mormon during the daily ticket lottery!

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CONS: There are no cons, it’s Broadway.

VERDICT: I think taking in a Broadway show is an essential part of the New York experience. Luckily, we got to do it on the cheap.  Not everyone gets to win the Book of Mormon lottery (of course Colin wins on his first time meanwhile I lost every time I entered in London).  But the TKTS booth is a great way to score cheap seats.  They don’t have all of the shows but you can check out the listings online.  Also, pro tip: visit their location near Water St and not the one in Time Square to avoid the lines.

Top of The Rock
PROS: After some more careful research, we opted to do Top of The Rock instead of Empire State for our view of the city.  I’m really glad we did, though I can’t say we definitely made the right choice since I have nothing to compare it to.  But we decided to do Top of The Rock because it was less busy, less expensive and included a view of the iconic Empire State building.  It’s sort of like when people go to Paris and go up the Eiffel Tour to see the view – you’re missing the most iconic building in Paris in your view because you’re standing in it! We also decided to do our Top of The Rock experience at night.

CONS: While I listed it as a pro, I think going at night was also a con.  Don’t get me wrong, we got amazing views of the city all lit up.  But I’m sure we missed out on the awesome sunset view.  Also, it’s not such a good time if you’re not into heights.

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VERDICT: I really enjoyed the experience and the view but I don’t think I would fork up the cash to do it again.

 

Places we just saw the outside of (and that was okay):
The following places were only outwardly graced with our presence – aka we stood on the opposite street corner and took a picture. And, to be honest, a picture from the outside was all I needed.

  • The MET, Radio City Music Hall, 30 Rockefeller Center, Wall Street (Raging Bull, Trinity Church, New York Stock Exchange), Empire State Building, Flat Iron Building, Tiffany’s

Places we just saw the outside of (because we couldn’t get in):
The following places were places we wanted to see but due to early closures, long lines, expensive admission, etc. we were unable to. Until next time!

  • New York Public Library, Serendipity Cafe, Yankee Stadium, World Trade Center Memorial (tour)

 

*****

And that was our New York trip! I knew I would get around to posting about it at some point:) We had an amazing time and saw a lot in only a few short days. I would love to go back (and score tickets to Hamilton!) sometime soon.  But there are also lots of other amazing places on my list to see!

Guess who’s back?

Back again. Riana’s back. Tell a friend.

***

Okay, no more Eminem. But yes, I am posting on this blog again! My last post was way back in September about a trip to Toronto I took in August.  It is now April.

Whoops!

It seems I forgot I had a blog again. I started to write a few times but I would get distracted and then forget about it again.  But I’ve realized that writing, whether it be travel-related or not, is really important to me.  I love to write. And I love to have a place to chronicle events of my life and share.

So first, a little recap of the last almost 8 months:

September:

Colin and I started off September by travelling from Toronto to New York.  It was both of our first time in New York and we had a lot of things to cross off our inaugural Big Apple bucket list.  New York was a great trip – with big highs and a few lows. I said in my last post that I would write something separate about New York and I still want to do that. I can’t say much for a timeline but I want to say it’s coming soon!

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Walking the Brooklyn Bridge in New York

In September I started working in an administrative role at a counselling office.  It was very different from my role and the environment at Free The Children.  It was a nice change of pace and I learned a lot from the experience.  Most notably, I started to foster an interest in counselling as a career.

October:

I think October was just business as usual. Colin and I carved pumpkins (pro tip: use an electric drill!) and started attending Canucks games. I had never been to an NHL game before then but have now been to 9 or 10! I’m almost ready to call myself a fan.

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Viking & Minnie Mouse for Halloween

November:

In November, my beautiful friend Andrea came out to Vancouver to visit me.  In the five years that I’ve lived out here, I’ve only ever had my parents and siblings come out to visit, so it was very special to have a friend here.  I tried to show her around Vancouver as much as the weather would allow. And I got to see her try on her wedding dress, which really made the trip.

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Andrea & I took our picture with Santa!

November was also when Sophie and I started house-hunting.  It was a big adventure of trying to end our lease early, looking for places together, me looking for a place by myself, etc.  In the end, we got out of our lease (with much effort), Sophie made the decision to move to Toronto for school and to be closer to her family, and I found my own place.  But more about that in the coming months!

December: 

Christmas is my absolute favourite holiday. I start my countdown with a Christmas playlist as soon as Halloween ends. But last year I made the decision to not go home to Toronto for Christmas for the first time.  This was a really tough decision for me.  My favourite part about Christmas is all of the family traditions I have. Being part of a blended family, I actually get to participate in no less than four Christmas meals/gatherings usually stretching from Dec 22 – 28.  But due to finances and work, I decided to spend the holiday in Vancouver. Making that decision easier was the fact that I had been invited to join my boyfriend and his family in their Christmas traditions.  I loved spending the holidays with him and his but definitely missed all of the Christmas love in Toronto.

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The Marriott Christmas Tree

Because I wasn’t able to go home for Christmas, I actually flew back to Toronto for a quick long weekend in early December thanks to a last minute flight sale. So I did get to be a part of choosing the tree and trimming it.  I also got to try on bridesmaid dresses for a June wedding I’m in. And when I got back to Vancouver, I started a new job! For anyone keeping track, this would be my 4th job of 2015 (in my defense, some overlapped). I started working at UBC as an Admissions Coordinator in Enrollment Services.  It’s only a 7-month contract so I’m actually coming up on the end of it now.

January:

After all of the excitement of the holidays and starting a new job, I moved! I moved into a studio apartment in Kitsilano and I am in love with the place. It’s spacious and super close to UBC. I like having my own space and I loved decorating and organizing. I’m sure Colin, who suffered through many trips to Ikea, Walmart, etc. would beg to differ. My wonderful girlfriends moved me in on December 28th and by New Year’s I was fully unpacked.

I rang in 2016 on a couch in Surrey. Colin and I had a pretty uneventful New Year’s but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it with anyone else.

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2016!

So for the month of January my studio apartment played host to both me and Sophie. She came back after the Christmas holidays for a final month in Vancouver. I loved having her as a roommate for one month longer but I know it was stressful for her to be living out of suitcases in a shared small space.

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Putting on our fancy clothes for the wedding

I also started an online course in counselling in January and I attended Colin’s cousin’s wedding in Fort Langley.

February:

February was also business as usual.  Sophie headed back to Ontario for good and I had to get used to being by myself for the first time in about a year.  Colin and I also celebrated our first Valentine’s together which was a very sweet day.  We attempted another escape room (because nothing says romantic holiday like trying to get out of a locked room) but we didn’t make it out.

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V-Day breakfast

March:

March was a busy one! My mom came to visit for a few weeks so there were lots of delicious dinners out with friends and family.  Colin also had his birthday in March which was a lot of fun to celebrate.  We went to The Keg and a Canucks game with my mom, where I put a birthday message for him up on the jumbotron.  And then we went out downtown with his friends to celebrate some more.

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And at the end of March, we took off to LA for a week!

April:

So far, April has just been our wonderful trip to LA.  Colin, his mom and I were there for a week and fit a lot in.  We had great weather and were able to hit all the tourist sites, take in some games and spend time relaxing on the beach.  Just like New York, I’m planning to do a separate post about LA too.  Again, no promises on when that will actually get written.

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Santa Monica Pier

What’s next? 

So, there’s quite a bit coming up! I have my final exam for my course next Saturday, meaning I should really start studying.  Next Saturday is also Colin’s and my first anniversary.  And then to finish out April I will need to get on filing my taxes and looking for a new job since my contract is almost up.

In May I start another counselling course.  This one is in-class, twice a week for a month so it’s going to be a lot of work very quickly.  And then in June, we’re heading to Toronto for Kimberley’s wedding where I am co-MOH.  In July, I’m hoping to be employed.  I’m also hoping that the roadtrip to the Calgary Stampede that Colin and I are planning comes to fruition.  I’ve never spent time in Alberta or seen much of BC’s interior so I’m really excited. We’ve mapped out some cool spots we’d love to stop.  And then in August, I’m back to Toronto for another wedding!

I’m sure there’ll be some changes to the stuff I’ve just predicted and lots more thrown in. I’m looking forward to an exciting, busy and probably a little stressful summer.

And what’s next for the blog? 

I don’t want to commit myself to writing a certain number of posts per month or writing exclusively about travel.  This blog was born out of desire to share my travels with loved ones but it’s also my place to share myself and foster my love of writing.  So I don’t know exactly what that is going to look like.  I don’t want to limit myself.  You might see some different styles on here: listicles, fiction pieces, short stories, etc.  You might see a lot of posts all at once and then radio silence for a while as life happens.  You might see me being a bit more open and candid.

But I do want to keep writing – not necessarily for readers, but for me.  I love to write.  My greatest passions were, are, travel, writing and helping people.  I’ve focused on different aspects of those passions for most of my adult life.  But lately, they’ve all sort of fallen to the back-burner and I hate that.  I’ve gotten distracted by some of the tedious aspects of life.  But I’ve also found new things that are important to me: focusing on relationships with friends and family, settling into an apartment, working a job that pays the bills, trying to go to the gym, trying to learn how to cook, etc. But I don’t want to forget my passions.  Because those things, travelling, writing and helping people, still really excite me.  I want those to be main components of my life.  So if continuing to publish on this blog is a baby step in that direction, I want to do it.

How to visit everyone you know in 4 days flat*

*So “everyone” might be a slight exaggeration, but let me have it

In the last week of August, my guy and I headed back to my hometown of Toronto for an absolute whirlwind trip of family, friends and (of course) food.  We also had to sneak in a few tourist highlights, as it was someone’s first trip to #the6ix.

***

Wednesday (Day 1)

We started with a delayed red-eye on Tuesday evening that didn’t have us flying out of Vancouver until 2 in the morning! My family met us at the airport and greeted our groggy bodies and blood shot eyes with giant hugs.

Back at home we dined on a lovely homecooked breakfast before passing out hard for a much-need mid-morning siesta.  By 1:00pm we were awake and on our way to the Toronto Zoo with my siblings.

Getting to know the wildlife at the Toronto Zoo!

Getting to know the wildlife at the zoo!

The zoo was actually a great time. I’m not always a huge fan of zoos and I hadn’t been to one in about a year, and not to the Toronto one in many years.  We took in the special exhibit on the Giant Pandas and then made sure to see everyone’s favourites: gorillas for me, wolves for my sister, careful following of the map for my brother, and a Beaver Tail snack break for my guy.

After a few hours at the zoo and right about when we had had it with Lee’s complaints of sore feet, we headed back to the car and home for a Lee Family BBQ!

It was so nice to catch up with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents from the Lee side. I love our family get-togethers and know I had missed quite a few. It’s always tough to find time to actually chat with everyone especially when there are dogs trying to steal food, baseball games to watch, adorable babies to play with and way more food than necessary waiting to be consumed.

After all that family fun, our fivesome (who were six for the night) decided to fit in a little more bonding over a friendly game of Texas Hold ‘Em. My sister and I spent the majority of our childhood trying to convince our parents to play boardgames with us or attend disco parties we had planned.  It was kind of nice to spend a few hours doing the adult version of that.  Everyone enjoyed it, even Lee, who I think ended up winning a few hands and then pulling a Robin Hood (stealing from the bank to help his sisters out).  I don’t know who won but I’m pretty sure I came top 3:)

Day 1 recap: arrival, zoo & family bbq
Day 1 total # of fam/friends visited: 14

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Thursday (Day 2)

We had to head out straight away Thursday morning to make it downtown in time to join the Ladies Lunching (my mom, aunts and a few cousins) at a cool spot between the financial and entertainment districts.  The food was a bit strange and the company was all female, but my guy pulled through.

After lunch, we loaded my mom up with our suitcases (sorry, mom!) and headed over to The Hockey Hall of Fame. I was preparing for 3-4 hours of absolute boredom.  Turns out, it was actually a good time (and only 2 hours!).  I needed a lot of interpreting but even I could appreciate some of the awesome trophies, the 4D movie and the interactive areas.  Partners of hockey lovers: do not fear! The HHOF is not all that bad!

From there we headed up to Nathan Phillips Square to pose with the newly iconic Toronto sign (courtesy of the Pan Am games) and to meet my wonderful friend, Kimberley, over a few beers.  We got to catch up with Kim, I got asked to be a co-MOH and then we jumped on the subway en route to the Annex.

 

#typicaltourists

#typicaltourists

Reunion over board games!

Reunion over board games!

In the Annex we met up with some more of my high school friends for a great night of cheap food and board games at Snakes and Lattes. I’ve been to S&L lots of times but it’s always more fun with a big group. The 7 of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves over a number of fast-paced and quick-witted games.

Day 2 recap: lunch, HHOF, beers, boardgames
Day 2 total # of fam/friends visited: 13

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Friday (Day 3)

Friday started with Toronto’s must-do tourist attraction: The CN Tower! Again, I hadn’t been for years so it was a kind of cool (and horribly expensive) experience for me to go back up.  The security is tight (at one point, you walk through a machine that blasts air at you while supposedly searching for explosives) and the views are awesome.  It was fun to get a great view of the city on a non-cloudy day and to try and point out different spots (“I used to live right there!” “Where?” “Look where I’m pointing!”)

View from the top!

View from the top!

We stopped for lunch at the Jack Astor’s outside the big ScotiaBank Theatre and then carried on to Yonge and Dundas where Buskerfest was in full swing.  It was a pretty great time to experience the area, though the mob we got stuck in on the way home (when I desperately needed to pee) was not the best.

Back at my mom’s, we packed up our stuff and caught a ride with my cousin.  Thanks to rush hour traffic, we got to Mississauga about 90 minutes later.  In Missisauga we picked up my other cousin and then headed on to Fort Erie where the Ang Family would be cottaging for the week.

Around 9pm, we pulled into the cottage site and got to explore our new home for the weekend. It was too dark to head down to the beach so we lazed around the living room and got our butts handed to us in a few rounds of Big 2 by my pre-teen cousins.

Day 3 recap: CN Tower, Buskerfest, cottage
Day 3 total # of fam/friends visited: 9

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Saturday (Day 4)

On Saturday morning we woke up and got to appreciate the beautiful lakefront cottage we were staying in.  Our room that night looked right out to the water and we decided to take our breakfast out on the lawn.  A little while later (because it takes a while to get 10 people going) we headed out to Niagara Falls!

Another off the tourist bucket list: seeing the falls! We got to experience them up close with a ride on the Hornblower (formerly known as the Maid of The Mist which apparently the US has copyrighted for boats leaving from their side). I remembered the Maid of The Mist as, just that, misty.  I knew you got the plastic ponchos but I didn’t remember actually needing them.  Well, either I was wrong or something has changed because on the Hornblower we got SOAKED! Even in our ponchos, it felt like we had gone swimming. But it was a great time and no better way to appreciate the beauty and power of Niagara Falls.

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We followed our swim with a walk up Clifton Hills and lunch at the world’s slowest burger joint.  From there we headed back to the cottage for the main festivities: Grandpa Ang’s 80th Birthday! The rest of the family started pouring in and the cooking began in earnest.  We feasted on fish, chicken and 4 different cakes until our stomachs ached.

When you turn 80, you get 4 cakes

When you turn 80, you get 4 cakes!

Family by the fire

Family by the fire

After dinner and dessert, we headed down to the beach so my man could earn his keep by building us a campfire.  12 years in the Boy Scouts proved useful and soon we were roasting marshmallows, singing along to a ukulele and praying the rain would stay away.  There’s something about singing with my family, whether it be to Jason Mraz tunes around a campfire or classic carols on Christmas Eve, that always warms my heart.

Day 4 recap: Niagara Falls, birthday dinner, campfire
Day 4 total # of fam/friends visited: 8

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Early the next morning my extremely kind cousin drove us to Pearson so we could catch our noon flight to NYC.  I love every opportunity to see my family and I think we really made the most of four very short days in Toronto.  We got to see a lot of people and fit in a few tourist classics.  Granted, it wasn’t the most relaxing trip and it sucks that I could only see most people for a single meal, if that.  But any chance to be with my loved ones in Toronto is always worth it.

Grand total: 44! We managed to see 44 members of my friends/family in only 4 days! And that’s not double counting; 44 different people were graced with our presence😉

Until next time, Toronto!

6 months worth of updates

So about a year ago, I realized I had been neglecting my blog.  It kind of made sense, since this blog was born out of dream to travel and I wasn’t doing too much traveling a year ago.  But I found new things to write about: simple pleasures of everyday life, moving to a new home, family vacations and enjoying the on-going adventure that is living in Vancouver.

***

And then in March, I forgot I had a blog again.

This time, it wasn’t for any lack of travel or adventure.  In fact, too much was happening in my life and I kept forgetting to write it all down.  So here are a few of the biggest updates from the last few months:

March: In March, I moved (again!) into an adorable and cosy 2-bedroom with my wonderful friend from work, Sophie.  Sophie and I had only met in January but barely a month later we were already looking at places together.  While it was rushed, here we are 6 months later and I couldn’t be happier.  Living alone was exciting, but I do tend to hermit when I’m solo (read: late nights in front of the TV with take-out and week-old dishes in the sink).  But now I have someone to watch TV with! We’re in a bit of a suburban neighbourhood of East Van but we’re enjoying it so far.  This was the first time either of us had signed a year lease and was the biggest step in settling that I’ve ever taken.

The bed I ordered and put together myself in my first unfurnished room!

The bed I ordered and put together myself in my first unfurnished room!

April: April was a pretty busy month for me! Unfortunately, it started on a sad note with my grandmother’s passing.  I flew back to Toronto for a quick weekend visit to be with family.  But back in Vancouver, things did seem to turn around.  I met a very special someone and we’ll be celebrating six months together in October.

Grandparents Canning on their wedding day :)

Grandparents Canning on their wedding day:)

May: May (and you might start to notice a trend here) was also incredibly busy.  It started with me fostering a gorgeous little puppy named Waffles who was the cutest and most clingy dog in the world.  We only had Waffles for 3 weeks and I still miss her, but I think I realized I’m not quite ready for full-time dog ownership.  Maybe when I live with a partner and have a flexible work schedule, I can revisit the dog situation.  But I wouldn’t be opposed to fostering again!

How cute is this puppy??

How cute is this puppy??

May was also the month where I officially graduated from UBC! My parents and siblings made the big trek from Toronto to watch me walk across the stage with 300+ other students at the ungodly hour of 8:30am on a Friday morning.

Quick snap of my diploma while I get ready to walk the stage!

Quick snap of my diploma while I got ready to walk the stage!

June: June was a bit of an up and down month.  Most notably, I set off for 6 weeks of facilitating in China through my job with Free The Children.  And while I have no desire to rehash the details, suffice to say that trip did not really work out and I was home shortly after Canada Day.  I also finished up my 10 months of serving at the Arbutus Club in June!

Last shift selfie!

Last shift selfie!

July: Coming home early was actually a huge blessing in disguise.  I got to take part in so many amazing summer activities and finally spend this season in beautiful Vancouver.  Bonus: I also got to see my mom who was in town for a wedding! Some of those summer activities included: concerts (One Direction, Journey and Taylor Swift (in order from worst to best performance)), camping (without running water, unless you count the insane amount of rain we got), kayaking (not my forte), FIFA World Cup soccer games and visiting Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast. I turned 23 in July and got to celebrate with my mom, my guy and some wonderful friends in my beloved city.

The beautiful Pender Harbour

The beautiful Pender Harbour

Kayaking: not my sport...

Kayaking: not my sport…

Swifties for life!

Swifties for life!

I don't know about thee, but I'm feeling 23!

I don’t know about thee, but I’m feeling 23!

August: August was a month of some big changes.  I decided to move on from my position at Free The Children to try something new.  And I got to go on another trip! This trip was a whirlwind 10 days in Toronto, Fort Erie and New York with my guy along for the ride. **I’ll probably do a separate blog about this trip, so more stories & photos to come!**  We did a lot of family bonding, friend meeting and sight seeing in a crazy but so wonderful 10 days.  I can’t wait to see my loved ones again, do New York in a less humid season and get in some more air miles with my new travel companion.

Brooklyn Bridge! One of my fave NY spots

Brooklyn Bridge! One of my fave NY spots

September: September has been all about settling into my new routine.  I’m working in an admin role at a counselling office which has a much different feel and different hours than my previous job.  I’m enjoying my new position, but it’s definitely a change from what I had been doing for the last nine months.  I think it was a good change, and important for me, but it does come with a few low points – such as missing all of my wonderful colleagues at my old job.

What’s next? I can almost guarantee that whatever I predict here is going to change but here I go!

I definitely want to continue blogging.  I love to write and use this medium to express myself and share my life with loved ones far away.  I should problem tie myself down to a schedule, but I’m not quite ready to make that commitment.  Can we tentatively say 2x per month?

I intend to continue in my current position and keep learning and growing in it.  But I also want to take on some side projects.  In January, I’ll be taking a course online at UBC in preparation for hopefully applying for a Master’s program in counselling.  Less than a month working at a counselling office and I’m already seriously considering a future in this field.  I’m still doing my research and won’t apply for some time, but I do want to start lining things up to make it happen.

In addition to my school course, I want to look for a volunteer or part time job opportunity.  I’d love to get some counselling experience, maybe through a mentorship or crisis line volunteer position.  I’d also love to do some freelance writing.  I’m still in the research stage on this too, but I’m definitely open to some new opportunities.

And then, in terms of my personal life, I definitely want to be more intentional.  Now that I don’t spend my 9-5 with most of my friends, I have to put in the effort to make plans to see the people I care about.  I have so many amazing friends here, one of the reasons I feel at home in Vancouver, and I want to cherish those relationships and not let them slip away.  I also want to do some things to better my daily life: try new recipes and pack lunches for work as much as possible, plan fun date nights that take advantage of this awesome city, head to the library and always have a book in my purse, keep on top of house cleaning, institute some sort of workout regime (my new office has a gym in it that I really need to take advantage of!) and still find time to indulge in take out sushi, my colouring book and nightly ritual of Jeopardy and House Hunters.

I used to write.

I used to write.  I used to write for online magazines and wellness blogs. I used to write how-to guides and gift guides. I used to write music reviews and movie reviews.  I used to write interviews and list-icles. I used to write for so many websites, unpaid of course, and one or two paid ones.  I would write what to buy your boyfriend for his birthday for $20-40 and think I had hit the big time.  I would write a short paragraph on a new lawnmower for one of those freelance dashboards earning a measly $5.05 and still think I had made it.  I was being paid to write.  Take that BFA program that couldn’t see my genius in last year’s application: I was now a paid writer.

And I used to write for me.  I used to update my travel blog weekly, if not more often, whether travelling or not.  I used to keep a list of story ideas on my phone and a dozen story beginnings on my laptop; I would finish them one day.  I used to write every night in a journal.  I used to write every morning using an online writing prompt (or two or three if the first one sucked).  I used to write short stories, letters, plays, movie scripts.  I used to write for classes: essays were always preferable to exams, even if the subject was an analysis of that one research paper I had skipped and the other I had skimmed.

I used to write.

I used to be defined by my writing.  In grade 12, I was an editor of the school newspaper.  I had written (and directed) a one act play and won an award for the script-writing.  I spent a day in the literal dumps with a Haitian refugee and wrote words that still bring me back to the sweat, sad and sweet of that moment.  I was off to UBC to major in Creative Writing (with a minor in business of course, because I wasn’t crazy!).

I used to write.

I used to tell people I wrote.  I used to share my blog posts, articles and reviews.  I used to share the posts with friends and retweet the publications.  I used to copy the URL links and screenshot the homepages where my name was prominently (or, at least legibly) featured.  I used to hole up with my computer and announce that I had a deadline.  Or carry my computer to my bedroom stating that I just wanted to write something for me.

I used to write.

I miss writing.

I miss having these inspired ideas.  I miss seeing characters come alive in my head.  I miss having deadlines.  I miss having a topic to research and synonyms to discover.  I miss checking a word count and editing my work.

Reading my writing brings back a new nostalgia (and an ever-present editor: did I really use that word?).  Story beginnings that ache to be finished and published articles that yearn to be filed into a portfolio.

It’s hard to start writing again.  Just like it’s hard to find inspiration or, maybe in my case, motivation.  I used to write regardless or in spite of talent.  I used to write even though the BFA program wasn’t sure I should.  I used to write even though jobs one through thirty refused to respond to my inquiry email or sample articles.  I used to write like it was my job.

I used to write.

On the move again

So it seems like since I came back to Canada in August of 2014 with no lingering travel plans, I’ve still managed to do quite a bit of moving! I’ve been back and forth between Toronto and Vancouver, on vacation to the Dominican Republic and down to the States.  I’ve moved from my parents’ places in Toronto to a 4-month sublet near UBC to my own mini bachelor pad in northeast Vancouver.

And here I go again!

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That’s right, I’m moving! After just two and a bit months in the Closet, I’m packing it up and heading elsewhere.

I have loved living alone and I really enjoy my space.  It’s small, for sure, but it’s also modern and has everything I need; I’ve been spoiled with insuite laundry, a dishwasher and cable.  And my 15-20 min commute to work couldn’t be more ideal.

So why am I moving? A few reasons: 1) While I think the rent I’m paying is fair for what I’m getting, it is a little steep for my liking.  Working two jobs means my current rent is affordable, but I definitely could be saving more.  2) My current place is the perfect location for my Monday to Friday job but….far from pretty much everything else! It’s just a bit too far northeast, especially when I’m working late on the weekends. 3) Lastly, my place isn’t pet friendly.  I thought it was for a bit, but turns out, it’s not.  Now I may not be ready for a dog right this second, but it is something I want to consider in the near-ish future!

Luckily, I’m on a month-to-month lease with my current place.  My landlords are wonderful and completely understand that I’m looking for something dog friendly.

How did this happen? So this whole moving thing came about kind of suddenly; we’re talking like two weeks ago.  My friend Sophie, who works at Free The Children with me, just moved to Vancouver in January.  She’s got a place of her own, but isn’t crazy about the situation.  She caught me on padmapper one day (my favourite website) and asked if I was looking for a new place.  I told her I just check (daily) for dog-friendly places.  She joked that we should move in together: she was looking to leave her place, I was looking for a place where I could get a dog and we were both looking to save some rent money.  I laughed and then thought, wait a minute….

We both decided to mull it over.  “Mulling” quickly became sending each other craigslist links of available apartments which ballooned into emailing landlords to set up viewings.  Our first, and favourite, viewing was two Saturdays ago.  It was fun to be apartment searching.  Over the next week and a half, we visited a handful of places and chatted about our lifestyles and roommate preferences.  Despite how quickly everything was happening, I felt, and still feel, really excited!

Where am I headed? After seeing about 5 or 6 places, Sophie and I kept coming back to that very first place.  Even though they say never to go with the first one! It’s a small place but very modern and right across from a park (where I can walk a dog). The landlord seemed really nice and while it’s a bit far south, it’s right on the bus line to work! So we were thrilled when we heard back from the landlord a few days ago to find out we got the place!

So in two weeks time, I’m going to be getting the keys to my new place! I still have my current place till the first, so it’ll be a gradual two week move.  Which is perfect, because it gives me time to buy some furnishings.  Who knew a bed was going to be so expensive?

I’m really excited for this next little adventure! I’m excited (and scared for the credit card bill) to buy some new stuff and furnish a new place.  I’m stoked to be moving in with the wonderful Sophie, whose running, yoga and cooking skills I hope will rub off on me.  I’m thrilled to be heading to a new neighbourhood and get to discover some local gems.  And I’m psyched for the possibility of getting a dog!

Look out for your house-warming invite:)

Down by the bay

This past weekend I decided to tack on a few vacations days to our Family Day holiday and spend them down in San Francisco (aka Frannie) with some lovely ladies who I first met in Amsterdam a year ago!

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Carlie and I ventured down from Vancouver to meet our friends, Stephanie and Candy, who both live in Frannie and go to San Francisco State.  I’ve been to Frannie before but it was Carlie’s first time. And lucky for us, we had our own tour guides! It was the perfect way to see the city: enjoying the tourist highlights while also getting a bit of a local perspective. And while the forecast called for mostly rain, we did luck out with some awesome rays of sun. My blissful 5 days in Frannie were filled with friends, sights, fabulous food, photos and so many laughs.  It was an awesome way to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while and recharge before going into a pretty busy stretch at work.

And here is Frannie in photos:

Alcatraz!

Alcatraz!

Chilling with the sea lions on Pier 39!

Chilling with the sea lions on Pier 39!

It doesn't get more Frannie than clam chowder in a bread bowl on Fisherman's Wharf

It doesn’t get more Frannie than clam chowder in a bread bowl on Fisherman’s Wharf

JUMP! Our classic "jumping shot" from Europe made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

JUMP! Our classic “jumping shot” from Europe made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Take me back to the beach please!

Take me back to the beach please!

<3

According to Candy, the most authentic Mexican tacos in all of SF!

According to Candy, the most authentic Mexican tacos in all of SF!

Welcome to the Castro district!

Welcome to the Castro district!

That one time we ended up at a comedy show in a hidden bar in the Mission

That one time we ended up at a comedy show in a hidden bar in the Mission

One of my favourite Frannie neighbourhoods with my other favourite: a puppy!

One of my favourite Frannie neighbourhoods with my other favourite: a puppy!

Winding down Lombard Street!

Winding down Lombard Street!

Golden girls by the Golden Gate

Golden girls by the Golden Gate

The stunning view from Twin Peaks! Our first sight of Frannie was off to a good start :)

The stunning view from Twin Peaks! Our first sight of Frannie was off to a good start:)

The gorgeous Moraga steps!

The gorgeous Moraga steps!