Work-life balance has always been something that I’ve struggled with. When I worked at Free The Children, they pushed the term “work-life integration” instead of work-life balance. Basically, the idea was that the stuff you do from 9 to 5 should … Continue reading
I think it’s safe to say that 2016 really wasn’t anyone’s year; I mainly blame Trump. But even though it wasn’t a stellar year, I still love to look back to recount the highs and lows and see what’s coming up for 2017.
I usually start my annual round ups by looking back at the previous year’s and seeing how well my predictions played out. Except, this year I took an accidental blogging hiatus from September 2015 until April 2016. Whoops! So I didn’t actually write a round-up for 2015. But I think I can safely say that my life is pretty different than what I thought it would be at this time last year. That actually seems to be a trend every time I write one of these reviews! Should I be surprised that my life is constantly changing?
So here’s a quick recap of my 2016:
In January, I had just finished spending my first Christmas with the Marriotts in Vancouver and had just moved into my new apartment. I was a month into my brand new job at UBC and was hosting Sophie, my previous roommate, on the couch in my studio apartment. Things were squishy but it was a fun-filled month.
Sadly, Sophie returned to Ontario in February and I was roommate-less for the first time in a year. Besides that, February was business as usual as far as I can remember.
March was a busy month! My mom came to town so I got to enjoy lots of quality Moo time with delicious dinners and outings around Vancouver. We also celebrated Colin’s birthday and at the end of the month, we took off to LA!
We started the month of April in Los Angeles where Colin, his mom Margie and I spent 6 days thanks to a amazing flight deal. We packed in a lot during our short trip such as a basketball game, hockey game, city tour, beach day and visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Later that month, Colin and I celebrated our one year anniversary.
May was another busy month. We went to Victoria for Victoria’s Day, saw Macklemore and Matt Corby in concert, watched Billy Elliott and I started my new gig at the Allard School of Law at UBC.
If I thought May was busy, just wait until June! I spent the first couple of weeks getting settled in my new job. We also had Colin’s aunt, who had been sick, pass away, which was tough for the family. At the end of the month, it was off to Toronto for Colin and I where I got to be a co-maid of honour at my friend Kimberley’s wedding. We then took off for a quick couple of nights in Montreal. We got back to Vancouver, unpacked, repacked and left the next day to spend the long weekend in Pender Harbour.
Our original plan for July was to do a roadtrip out to Calgary to visit Colin’s family and hit the Calgary Stampede. Unfortunately, with Colin’s work schedule, it didn’t happen this year. Maybe in 2017? But we did manage to get away to Harrison Hot Springs for my birthday weekend where we indulged in massages, courtesy of my mom, and a fancy birthday dinner. July was also the month where I got to see Newsies, Rock of Ages and a Vancouver Festival of Lights fireworks show!
In August, I headed back to Toronto where I was in yet another wedding. This time, I got to watch my best friend Andrea marry the love of her life. When I got back to Vancouver, my cousin Ryann and
her boyfriend were in town thanks to med school placements that brought them out west. It was so fun to hang out with Ryann and Alex, go out to some great meals and experience Vancouver with them. Adding one more show to our year (we really see a lot of theatre!), Colin and I went to The Book of Mormon (his second time seeing the show, my fourth) with his good friends from high school.
Unfortunately, September was the big low of 2016. Towards the end of August, Colin’s dad Randy entered the hospital and on September 8th, he passed away. The short 11 days we spent in the hospital is still a bit of a blur and doesn’t quite feel real. Even though it’s been months, I still sometimes find myself waiting for Randy to come in from his workshop in the backyard when I’m staying in Surrey.
October was a month of a lot of changes, definitely spurred by the great loss our family suffered in September. I decided to quit my job, booked a fairly spontaneous trip to Vietnam and finally said out loud that I want to be a writer. We ended the month with my last day working a 9-5 at UBC (maybe forever!) and a complimentary stay on Granville Island thanks to a contest I had won earlier in the year.
I started this month by living with Colin and Margie in Surrey for 12 days before heading off on a three week trip to Vietnam with my friend Emilie! It felt great to get on a long haul flight and check somewhere new off of my bucket list. There were definitely moments that I did not enjoy – when I was too hot and just wanted to lie in bed with air conditioning all day. But overall, I loved the trip! Highlights include our perfect day in Hoi An where we hit the beach, went to a cooking class and got dresses made, cruising beautiful Halong Bay, going on my own writer’s retreat to Phu Quoc Island and all of the delicious and cheap food we enjoyed!
I got back to Vancouver just in time for the most festive month of the year. I had a couple weeks in Vancouver where I split my time between my Kits apartment and Colin’s place in Surrey and tried to fit in as many social catch ups with friends as I could. And then it’s back to Toronto for Christmas. I didn’t get to go home last year, so it’s really nice to know I’ll be spending the holidays with my family and Toronto friends. But it’s also very hard to leave my Vancouver family behind, especially since they’re a smaller group this year after some pretty significant losses. December was also my first official month of what I like to call “fake employment.” I’m really giving this freelance writer thing a proper shot. And, a bit to my surprise, it’s working out. I’m not rolling in the dough, but I am making a decent amount of money from something I only got serious about in the last two months of the year.
I’m posting this on the eve of my flight to Toronto, so I assume the last 8 days of the year will be filled with chilly Toronto temperatures, lots of happy reunions with friends and family, all of the Christmas songs and decor I could want, and more food than one should reasonably eat in 8 days.
This is my favourite part! I love looking ahead and trying to predict what the next year will bring me or writing down some of my hopes and goals. I used to do resolutions; I’m not sure I’m going to make any for 2017. I like the idea of setting goals and having affirmations to guide me through the year, but I don’t want to rush to come up with a list just to meet an arbitrary deadline.
So what is happening in 2017?
Career: I would love if I could be a full-time freelance writer in 2017. It would be the dream to make my living just from my writing. However, that might not be realistic, especially since I’m just starting out. So I’m looking to pick up clients and get some steady gigs. But I’m also applying to some part-time stuff so I can still focus on writing but have something more steady on the side. I hope by the end of January/February, I’ll have that a bit more figured out. But if I could end 2017 confidently saying, “I’m a writer” when people ask what I do, that would be huge. I can’t even put into words how happy that would make me to be able to boldly say that.
Living: Surprisingly, I managed to stay in one apartment for a whole year (I can’t say the same about any of my jobs…). But as I shared previously, the plan is for me to give my notice when I get back from Toronto because Colin and I will be moving in together in March. We’re looking for a spacious, modern and affordable apartment in New West, preferably right by the skytrain. Any leads?
Travel: My first trip of the year will be in February. Colin and I are joining his mom and some other friends and relatives at an all-inclusive in Huatulco, Mexico for a week. I’m not usually a fan of all-inclusives but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a country I’ve never been to, hang out by the beach with my boyfriend and escape a dreary Vancouver February. Other potential travel plans include a family trip to Europe in May with my stepmom’s side, a possible trip with my mom in September and a little surprise I’m working on for the summer!
Anything else? I think that’s all I’ve got planned for 2017 so far! I kind of love that the year is open and that I can take advantage of any opportunities that come my way. You know I can’t resist a good deal on a flight! But I’m really stoked for the things that I do have planned. I’m trying out my dream career as a writer and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m months away from moving in with my boyfriend and getting to live out my domestic fantasies in decorating a new place and maybe stepping up my cooking game. And I’ve got lots of exciting travel plans on the horizon. 2017 is sounding pretty stellar already.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! All the best for your own stellar 2017 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
So if you’ve spent any time with me in the last year, you know I’ve spent a majority of that time cooing over adorable puppies on the street, stalking dog shelter websites and longing to bring home a fur-ball of my own.
But am I ready?
I grew up with a dog, the beautiful and berserk Yoda. Yoda was a big puppy – over 100lbs! He was a barker and a shedder. But he was also the most lovable goofball and definitely added a lot to our family. It was amazing growing up with a dog. However, I’m the first to admit that our parents did most (all) of the work with Yoda: morning walks, grooming and buying huge bags of dog food all fell within their responsibility.
So am I ready for a dog of my own?
What kind of dog? As much as I love Yoda, I know I’m not ready or inclined to bring home a dog of that size. Ideally I’m looking for a small dog with a shorter coat. And I really want a senior dog! Senior dogs have a harder time getting adopted, because they aren’t as appealing as the puppies. I love the idea of being able to provide an awesome home for a dog’s final years. Senior dogs are also usually lower-energy, housetrained and (lucky for me) more affordable!
Where will the dog live? So I’ve recently moved into a new apartment. And while I love my new place, it’s definitely small. I don’t know if this is a deal-breaker for a dog or not. Some dogs, especially small senior ones like the kind I want, are more than happy to have their little dog bed area and don’t need much more than that. I think as long as I’m able to give my dog the time he/she needs outside, having a small inside space will be okay.
Am I allowed to get a dog? Right now my landlords are in the “considering” phase, due to a bad dog experience with a previous tenant. I definitely want to be respectful of the other tenants here and would never go against my landlords’ wishes. Their concerns (not letting the dog do his/her business in the front yard, not having a dog home who barks all day) are valid and things I would need to consider before bringing someone home.
Do I have time? How will the dog fit into my schedule? This one is a bit of a pickle. The FTC office I work at actually allows dogs, so I would be able to bring my buddy to work with me. However, I wouldn’t want to bring my dog in everyday, so I’d need to have a back-up plan. Do I bus home at lunch (do-able, but not ideal)? Hire a dog-walker (expensive)? Or hope my dog can make it without a bathroom/exercise break during the work day (possible but uncomfortable)? And then there’s my shifts at the Arbutus Club on the weekend, where I definitely can’t bring a dog. Would my dog be okay if he was walked at 3:00pm and then not again till I got home at midnight or (if either of us are too tired) the next morning?
Can I afford it? While I’m far from rich, I do think I would be able to afford a dog. I understand that there would be some big ticket items at first and then monthly/yearly expenses. The dog sites I’ve looked at estimate anywhere between $700 and $1200 per year for proper dog care. And proper dog care is obviously something I wouldn’t want to cut corners on. It would be a big expense, but I’m confident in my current income and ability to manage money. However, senior dogs do tend to err on the more expensive side of healthcare…
And what about my travelling? One thing that’s kept me from clicking the “adopt” button on all the shelter websites has been my near-constant nomadic status over the last year. Now that I’m more settled, I feel a bit more ready for permanent changes to my life, like a dog. In the next two years, I don’t see travelling for longer than a couple of weeks (crazy, right?), during which my dog could stay with a dog-loving friend or at a doggy daycare. Of course, a dog, even a senior dog, is more than a two year commitment. And right now I don’t exactly know where I’ll be in two years. A big contender: moving to London. But regardless of where I go (or if I stay), I think my next move would be long-term. I learned while living in Amsterdam that I prefer slow travel with a homebase. So wherever I go next, I plan for it to be a long enough move that I could do the work to bring my dog with me!
So, am I ready?
I used to love that question. For the last 4 years, there has always been an upcoming trip for me. From interning in the Dominican Republic after graduating from high school, to my most recent summer month working in Tokyo, Japan, I’ve always had some new locale marked in my calendar.
But for the first time in a long while, I’ve had to answer that question with, “nowhere.” I don’t have any upcoming trips, exchanges, volunteer or work opportunities scheduled anywhere around the globe. Most people get anxious when they have a big trip coming up; I find myself getting anxious that I don’t have one.
I’ve settled into a pretty good routine here in Vancouver with work, school and social things. I go to church. I visit the library. I have a neighbourhood grocery store, and an infinitely cheaper grocery store a short bus ride away. It would be more than fair to say I’m comfortable with my Vancouver life as it stands.
And usually when I get comfortable, I get that itch to go somewhere new and try something slightly uncomfortable and unknown. I usually scour travel deal websites with abandon and don’t stop until I’ve found some obscure contest or job posting. I’m usually open to that next adventure.
But this time, I’m not feeling the itch to leave. I’m not on travel websites or scrolling through (too many) destination guides. I’m not blindly applying to jobs I’m unqualified for, just because they happen to be set in insert cool city name here. And I think it’s because instead of going somewhere new, I’m trying something new. I’m committing to live in an awesome city for at least two years. I’m starting a full time job. And I’m going to be signing a proper lease on a new place. A part of me is scared that I’ll get too comfortable and forget to leave again. But honestly, I don’t see that happening.
So for now, I’ve traded in Lonely Planet guide books for the IKEA catalogue and weekend breaks to the cheapest European cities for new restaurants and gorgeous views around Vancouver. I’m excited to try this “settled” thing for a while, knowing my version of settled will probably still involve a few globe-crossing trips whenever I have the time (and excuse).
Okay, I lied. I do have a family trip coming up this Christmas, so I guess that counts as where I’m headed next. I’ll be back in Toronto mid-December for job training and then take off with my step mom’s side of the family for a week in the Dominican. We had a few awesome days together at the cottage this summer and I’m excited to do that again but with more sun and more open bars 🙂
One thing I’m trying to do more often is to take note, and be grateful for, the little things. The last year+ of my life has been about a lot of big things: new school, new jobs, new friends and new countries. But now that my life is settling a little bit more into a routine, I think it’s important that I still have those things that make me smile when I get up in the morning. My life has always been filled with a lot of wonderful, and now it’s time to appreciate it all!
I love fresh flowers! They instantly brighten a room and brighten my mood. My friend, whose room I’m subletting, welcomed me back to Vancouver with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and I’m vowing to keep that vase full until her return. So every week or two, I treat myself to a small bouquet and watch the petals and pollen fall onto my dresser.
I’ve always loved candles but that love grew to obsession during my months at Bath & Body Works. While I (somehow) resisted buying the entire candle inventory, I do have a few great smelling ones on hand. Currently burning: Winter Cranberry (delicious, I highly recommend you sniff it, if given the chance).
So after trying for about a year to get into tea, I finally made the conversion! It took living for 5 months with two tea addicts in Amsterdam to get me into the routine of brewing (almost) nightly. I stocked up on some delicious flavours from David’s Tea (my favourite: Forever Nuts) and get to feel a touch more sophisticated when I sit down in front of Netflix with my loose leaf cup of heaven.
Yes, it’s dated and practically useless but I LOVE snail mail! I love sending letters and I love receiving them (hint hint!). If I ever won the lottery, a good chunk of it would go to stationary and cards so I could send to my heart’s delight.
If you’ve ever seen my room, you know it to be covered in photos. I still haven’t graduated to a more adult sense of interior design so my walls currently have about 50 photos and postcards lovingly taped and sticky-tacked to them. I love reliving my best memories and seeing the smiling faces of friends and family who might be quite a few miles away. Eventually, I’m hoping to refine this habit with some fancy frames and artistic lay-outs, but for now it’s mainly a smorgasbord of smiles and very little bare wall space.
I’ve always been a huge reader. Having so much reading to do for school has put a bit of a damper on my leisure reading these last few years but whenever I travel, I love having a book in my bag. So I decided to continue that tradition here in Vancouver by getting my own library card and becoming a regular at my local library (just 2 blocks away!). Currently reading: Three Cups of Tea.
I was first introduced to Coastal Church way back in 2011 by a UBC friend. I immediately fell in love with the passionate worship, uplifting sermons and beautiful people. While my attendance has been spotty (at best) over the last few years, I’ve committed to making the Sunday trek to Coastal a part of my life this year. I enjoy it every time I go and am hoping to get more involved with the church once school lets up.
Of course, there are many more awesome things in my life: a line-up of new TV shows, wonderful friends, a new workout, interesting classes and lots to learn at work. But when I get stressed, for example by a midterm and essay due on Thursday that have gotten very little attention, it’s the little things above that keep me smiling.
Week 3 – I’m not doing too bad so far!