My last post was almost 3 months ago, partway through my Australia trip. Unfortunately, my blogging skills fell by the wayside since then. I completely forgot to recap my rainy but awesome week in Melbourne. The city is all about cool, culture and coffee. Luckily for me, it also involved visits with my good friend who was studying there and a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. We were able to see the 12 Apostles and koalas in the wild! Spotting (aka screaming so loud I scared my wonderful friend who was driving on the left for the first time) my first bundle of grey fur high in the tree tops was such a thrill. I had a perma-grin for about an hour.
After Melbourne, I flew back to Sydney and then to Vancouver where I spent a week catching up with friends and finishing up my final presentation from my international service learning trip to Swaziland. By mid-October, I was “home” (wherever that really is these days) back in Toronto where I have been ever since.
January – April:
The year started off with me working two jobs and taking an online course. Needless to say, I was busy! During the day, I got to experience my dream job, working as a Youth Programming Intern with Free The Children. The whole thing came together really fast during my Dec 2012 finals and started on Jan 2. I met some of the most committed, generous and friendly people who taught me so much both in and out of work. My four months at FTC were a wonderful opportunity that included multiple trips to Seattle and the chance to meet some of my idols (Hi Craig!). I really look forward to rejoining the FTC family in the not-so-distant future.
At the same time, I was still busy as a residence advisor at UBC. So every morning I would leave campus around 7:30am and return by 6:00pm spending my evenings and weekends with my floor & community. Despite my co-op schedule, I was still able to organize some fun events for my residents and stay really involved with our residence musical, 9 to 5!
May was a big transition month for me. I literally spent each weekend in a different city (5 cities, 4 countries!). I lived on my own, with my own kitchen, for the first time. I attended classes in the Psychology of International Development to prepare for my trip to Swaziland. And I got to spend a long weekend at home with my family after finishing my last trip to Seattle with FTC and before my week in London that proceeded my journey to South Africa/Swaziland.
June – August:
I spent the summer of 2013 in Mbabane, Swaziland volunteering in program coordination for SOS Children’s Villages. I lived and worked with the wonderful Ale and we had many highs (trips to SA, chicken wraps, movies, Kruger, certain workshops) and lows (the cold, waiting for transit, overly affectionate men and other workshops….). During our time with SOS we learned a lot about working across cultural borders and adapting our psychological background to development work. We also got to experience some amazing adventures from daily life with our host family to special events like Bush Fire and a traditional Swazi wedding/bull slaughtering. We also managed to fit in some awesome trips to Malelane (where we saw a lioness in Kruger Park!), Cape Town (the best birthday weekend ever), Johannesburg (visiting the Apartheid Museum on Nelson Mandela’s birthday) and Durban (for our final week of sun and fun).
I spent about 2 weeks back in Toronto; which was just enough time to wave hello to friends/family, unpack my bags and repack them again for Australia! On Sept 10 I started the long journey to Sydney, Australia (checking the 6th continent off my list). I spent the first two weeks dog-sitting in the small town of Yamba on Australia’s east coast. It was a quiet town but a nice introduction to Australia and a fun opportunity to live alone, take care of the beautiful Molly and appreciate some gorgeous Australian scenery.
After my stay in Yamba, I transitioned to the big city of Sydney. I had a full schedule for Sydney and was able to fit in everything (Blue Mountains, Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Koala Sanctuary, Fleet Review, beach time) except running into Prince Harry. Sydney was amazing and definitely a city I can see myself returning to and settling down in (for a little while). After Sydney, I flew to Melbourne for my last week in Australia. Melbourne was more laid back and more rainy, but it also offered a more cool-city vibe. Plus it had the added bonus of being temporary home to my good friend Malindi – who showed me around a bit. Highlights of Melbourne include discovering the hidden shops/restaurant-filled alleys, walking around the botanical gardens and our amazing Great Ocean Road road trip! After Australia, I spent a crazy (and jet-lagged) week in Vancouver catching up with a few friends and working with Ale to present our final piece on our Swaziland trip.
By November, I was back and settled into Toronto life. I was still getting through my 4 online courses and I had begun working (seasonal job at Bath & Body Works as well as tutoring a friend of my brother’s in French). It was a bit of a transition being home. I haven’t been home for 3 months straight in the last four years. It was odd trying to fit back into a routine of going between my parents’ houses and adapting to new schedules, new people (both of my parents “adopted” cousins) and being a 21 year old back home. I have loved being able to spend so much time with family and friends, but it’s definitely a very different life than what I was used to in Vancouver, Swaziland or Australia.
This last month has been a little crazy. I had exams in all four of my classes that kind of snuck up on me (and also had to be written in the far away land of Markham) as well as more shifts at work and lots of holiday prep. Both of my parents ended up hosting Christmas gatherings so there were lots of presents to buy and wrap, decor to hang and food to prep. Christmas is my favourite time of year (evident by my 400+ song Christmas playlist) and I always refuse to go away for the holidays, regardless of how cold Toronto might be. I love getting together with everyone and my extended family results in multiple festive meals ranging from Dec 21 to Jan 4.
Looking back on 2013:
This was the year I worked my first 9 to 5 (actually 8:30 – 5) and got to do that work at a company I absolutely love. It was the end of my time as a residence advisor at UBC. It was the year I had an opportunity to live by myself and cook for myself! In 2013 I was able to cross two more continents off my list and visit multiple amazing cities all over the world. It was the year I had the experience of long term development work and life in a foreign country. I got to travel with a group, with a friend and solo. I turned 21! I “swam” with sharks. I fed kangaroos. I watched Macklemore perform in his hometown. I spent time in 4 continents, 6 countries, 10+ cities and far too many hours inside a plane.
Coming up in 2014:
Looking ahead to 2014 (aka tomorrow!), I’m starting to get excited for the things that are coming up. I leave Toronto on Jan 22 (hopefully with a full license!) and start my European adventures with a 5 day stopover in Iceland. After that I head to Amsterdam for my semester abroad at UvA. I’m excited (and nervous) to get back into the swing of school in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language and don’t know a soul. I’m already planning lots of European travels for long weekends throughout my 5 months at UvA. I’m hoping some family and friends from North America will also be able to come over and join me. After the semester finishes in June, I’ll have a bit of summer to either continue around Europe or return home to catch up with friends and family. By Aug/Sept I plan to be back in Vancouver to finish up my last few credits at UBC and possibly rejoin the rezlife family.
So 2014 will pretty much be split between Amsterdam/Europe and Vancouver, with bits of Toronto thrown in. I’m excited to explore new countries/cities throughout Europe and take on a new school and new life in Amsterdam. But I’m also excited to return to Vancouver (it will be more than a year since I last lived there by the time I return), my second home, and a place I can definitely see myself settling down in. But after 2014, my life becomes a bit of a mystery. The current plan is to graduate by May 2015 the latest, and then the future is a bit of a question mark….which is scary! But also, exciting! I’ve got a few ideas but nothing set in stone. Hopefully 2014 will turn some of those ideas into something a little more concrete.
Very thankful for all of the love, learning and adventure in my 2013. Looking back, it’s so obvious that I had an incredible, blessed and global year. Can’t wait to bring these experiences and make new memories in 2014. Happy New Year!