2016: A Year In Review

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.

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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:

January
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.

Colin's birthday on the Canucks big screen!

Colin’s birthday on the Canucks big screen!

February
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
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!

April
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.

Venice Beach, California

Venice Beach, California

May
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.

June
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.

Colin & I at Kim's wedding

Colin & I at Kim’s wedding

 

July
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!

August
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

Andy's wedding!

Andy’s wedding!

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.

 

Montreal

Montreal

September
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
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.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

November
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!

Christmas light maze

Christmas light maze

December
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.

What’s next?
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.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! All the best for your own stellar 2017 🙂

9 Things I Learned as a Maid of Honour

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

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

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

The dresses!

The dresses!

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

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

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

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

The father-daughter dance

The father-daughter dance

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

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

Always time for a silly photo!

Always time for a silly photo!

And then a nice photo

And then a nice one 🙂

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

 

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

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 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.

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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.

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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.

Getting on board with on-boarding

I spent the last week back in Toronto (again) for Free The Children training aka on-boarding.  I was also able to fit in a few dinners with friends/family and experience some frighteningly frigid temperatures.  The whole week was kind of a whirlwind, but I’m flying back to Vancouver (literally, I’m typing this on the plane) with a ton of information about FTC, new co-workers I’m happy to call friends, an extra blanket of love from my friends and family, and a re-invigoration for my job.  Not bad for a week in -11 degrees, eh?

*****

Bianca (my co-worker from the Vancouver office) and I arrived in Toronto on a rainy, mild afternoon that looked and felt suspiciously like the Vancouver we had just left.  But Toronto was quick to show its true colours: we bundled up in double socks, mittens, hats and scarves every time we left the hotel room that week.

On-boarding started Monday at 9:30am where we met the rest of our cohort (Cohort 34 – what up!) of new (or new-ish) FTC and Me to We employees.  We were also introduced to our on-boarding leaders: Matt and Nabeela.  The rest of the week was a series of sessions designed to give us a greater understanding of the organization’s history, the different departments that make up FTC & M2W and how we fit into the bigger picture.  Needless to say, it was a lot of information!

Coming from a very small regional office – the BC office is currently 17 people strong – it was incredible to get a taste of the 400-person operation at our Toronto headquarters.  I had no idea how big FTC and M2W were! We own 13 buildings in Cabbage Town and are still bursting at the seams.  I love that in an age of charitable exhaustion and tough financial times, I’m working for a charity and social enterprise that is thriving and expanding, without spending more than 10% of any donation on admin costs.

I learned A LOT this week.  Some of it I already knew.  But most of it was brand new and extremely eye-opening.  We were introduced to a bunch of different departments, most of which I had either never heard of or had very little idea as to what they did.  It was incredible to see how every facet of the organization works together so seamlessly to support Free The Children’s mission: working internationally to free children from exploitation and poverty, and working domestically to free youth from the idea that they can’t do anything to change their world.

Raiding the M2W Style closet!

Raiding the M2W Style closet!

One of the most incredible parts of on-boarding was meeting so many of the superb staff in Toronto.  Every person we met was full of energy, full of information and so full of passion and purpose for their work.  It’s equal parts intimidating and inspiring to work alongside such a high caliber of person.

A few moments of on-boarding were particularly impactful for me: the quick friendships I was able to make with my cohort; the dedication, familiarity and wisdom of our leaders, Matt & Nabeela; getting to hear from Spencer West in a casual and conversational environment; meeting FTC senior leadership staff like Scott & Dalal; taking part in facilitation training with Morgan, who the day before agreed to meet with us (and stay late) purely out of the kindness of his heart; and learning about the incredible M2W trip experiences we offer to youth.

I was seriously so blown away by Jeff’s presentation on the service learning trips we offer to youth.  Not only do the trips allow young people to visit Free The Children communities and take part in meaningful service, but they give youth a chance to immerse themselves in a new culture, make connections with community members and go through leadership training.  My own experiences with travel have been beyond transformative in my life.  And it all started with my service trip to the Dominican Republic at 17 years old.  It would be an absolute dream for me to be able to take any part in facilitating that life-changing experience for another young person.

And after full-days of inspiration and information, I spent my evenings catching up with a small number of friends and family members.  It was kind of funny, since I had just been home for Christmas, but I will always take advantage of any opportunity to see my loved ones.  And, who knows when I’m going back to Toronto? At this point, it may not be till Christmas!

So on Monday, Bianca and I joined my mom and cousin Megan for indulgent steaks and other yumminess at The Keg.  Tuesday I met up with Kimberley and Sasha for tacos, overly alcoholic drinks, popsicles and board games! Wednesday I got to see Andrea, Pamela, Lea and Zab for pizza and dessert.  And then on Thursday, my last night in the city, I went to dim sum with dad, Ali, Jade and Lee and then on to more board games and dessert.  I didn’t get to see everyone (sorry!) but I tried my best to squeeze in as many people as possible in my very quick 5 night stay!

Board games & dessert with the Canning family

Board games & dessert with the Canning family

Yummiest tacos at La Carnita!

Yummiest tacos at La Carnita!

And during that 5 night stay, I had a few different thoughts about Toronto.  Walking around Cabbage Town with the afternoon sun, finding an adorable card shop and amazing sandwich store – that’s the Toronto I love.  A Toronto full of sunshine, shopping, cute neighbourhoods and new friends.  But that quickly turned into blustery cold nights, waiting for unreliable transit, streets filled with traffic and lots of work waiting for me when I returned to the hotel.  I guess if there’s any city I have a true love/hate relationship with, it’s Toronto.  As much as I rag on the weather, crowds and lack of majestic scenery (what do you mean there are no mountains or an ocean?), I can’t help but keep Toronto in a warm spot in my heart.  In fact, I had a physical defensive reaction when a friend of mine expressed how much she doesn’t like the city.  No one can talk bad about my city….except for me! 😉

<3

******

So that, in a very long-winded and detail-overloaded blog post, was my week in Toronto! Now it’s back to my 2 jobs (and very full inbox) in +9 degrees, rainy Vancouver.  My next few weeks will be catching up on the work I missed while in Toronto, trying to take advantage of Vancouver’s Dine Out and getting ready for my next short excursion…to San Francisco!

And I’m off again!

So after anticipating a slow travel year for 2015, what with my full-time job in Vancouver and no convenient school holidays to take advantage of, it struck me that I’m already off to a not so slow start.

***

In less than 24 hours, I’m headed back to Toronto (wasn’t I just there?) for a week of training at Free The Children HQ.  I’m pretty excited to go through this FTC process and meet a bunch of new long-distance colleagues in our Toronto office.  But I’m a little nervous for keeping up with my on-going work in the Vancouver office at the same time.  And the onslaught of out-going people I’m sure to meet is a little daunting.  However, I am really looking forward to catching up with a few friends and family members during my short 5 day visit.  If only the frigid negative temperatures could stay away for those 5 days!

And then I’ll be back in Vancouver for a week and a half before taking off to… San Francisco! I found a pretty cheap flight (less than $200 roundtrip, leaving from Bellingham) and wanted to take advantage of our Family Day long weekend.  It was a fairly spontaneous decision, and I’m sacrificing 3 vacation days (of my 10 for the year), but I’m so stoked to be going to SF.  I first visited “Frannie” back in 2012 with my mom.  In fact, it was one of my first blog posts and moments of solo travel.  I’m really excited to revisit a city that I love and to spend time with some awesome friends who call Frannie home.

I cross back into Canada during the wee hours of the morning on Feb 10, only to return to the States two days later! This time, it’s for work.  And, it’s only to Mount Vernon (2 hours from Vancouver).  But I’ll be meeting with some of my Washington State youth and educators for the first time and get to practice some facilitation skills. Plus, I’ll be going down with my Team Washington crew and rumour has it we might stop at the outlet mall on the way back 🙂

Granted these upcoming trips (to Toronto, San Francisco and Mount Vernon) kind of pale in comparison to where I was headed in Jan/Feb of 2014 (5 days in Iceland before moving into my new apartment in Amsterdam and spending a long weekend in Milan).  But that’s okay.  Now that I’m more settled, I anticipate many more small trips to closer places.  There are a ton of places around Vancouver I’ve only been to once (like Victoria and Whistler) or haven’t explored at all.  And with my position at FTC, I have the opportunity to head down to Seattle a few times a year.

That’s not to say I’m turning my back on big trips and far off cities.  My scratch-off world map isn’t going to scratch itself! But I do plan to appreciate the more local travel opportunities that I can take advantage of at this point in my life.  I get to be a tourist in my own backyard and keep the ever-present travel bug at bay!

***

Holy blog updates, Batman! Seriously, this is like the 3rd post I’ve written this week! I doubt I’ll keep up this publishing schedule, or stick to any schedule religiously, so bare with me during my wordy weeks 🙂 

Coming home?

Okay, I’m way behind on blog posts. Like 3 weeks behind. But in my defence, I’ve been really busy!

***

In the last couple of weeks I’ve flown to Toronto, celebrated Christmas, flown to the Dominican Republic for a family vacation, rang in the new year, flown back to Toronto and (finally) flown home to Vancouver.

And while I’m no stranger to flights and coast-hopping, this time felt a bit different.  To start with, it was a whirlwind visit.  I only had about 4 days in Toronto before we left for the DR.  In those few days I managed to squeeze in quite a few family and friend catch ups.  My Toronto days essential broke down to: gift wrapping, brunch with James & Zab, gift shopping, x-mas dinner with my high school girlfriends, Brantford visit with my grandma and cousins, dinner with Auntie Hayley & Kaitlyn, brunch with Shelby, more gift shopping and wrapping, dinner with Kim & Sash, lunch and shopping with Simon, hair cut, dim sum dinner and sleepover with Pamela & Andrea, brunch with mom and, finally, Christmas Eve dinner with the Angs before getting to the airport for 4am for our DR flight! So, you could say things were busy 🙂

Christmas Eve with the Angs!

Christmas Eve with the Angs!

Donated 10 inches of hair!

Donated 10 inches of hair!

Dinner at Origin with Kaity, Mom & A. Hayley

Dinner at Origin with Kaity, Mom & A. Hayley

Headed to Brantford full of Christmas cheer

Headed to Brantford full of Christmas cheer

Christmas dinner with PRALM

Christmas dinner with PRALM

Brunch with my favourite Toronto boys

Brunch with my favourite Toronto boys

But busy was beneficial; I got to see so many people who I love and haven’t seen for a little while.  My dearest (but not necessarily nearest) are still in Toronto and it’s so important to me to be able to catch up with them whenever I can.  But, something did feel a bit different this time.

Toronto will always be my home. I’ve spent most of my life there.  All of my family and childhood friends are there. But this time didn’t feel like a homecoming. It felt like a tour.  Part of that is definitely due to the crazy schedule of dinners and brunches I set up for myself.  It’s hard to feel like you’re home when “home” is a series of meals with different people all around the city.  But the other part was my new definition of “home”.

Home has always been a bit of fluid term for me.  I attach it pretty loosely to just about anywhere.  The hostels of Europe became home to me in the Spring, my tatami mat bedroom was home for a month this summer in Japan and now, Vancouver is definitely home.  I don’t know if I could rank one home as more “homey” than the others, but there is definitely a new permanency with my Vancouver home that is pushing the status of Toronto home.

Now that school is done and I’ve started a full time job and am living in my own apartment, my Vancouver life is a bit more established.  My residency here is no longer determined by a four month school term.  There isn’t a set date when I’ll be leaving Vancouver.  And there isn’t a set date when I’ll be returning to Toronto for anything more than a week-long visit.  That both terrifies and excites me.

Sitting in my apartment, lunch packed for work tomorrow and a mountainous recycling box staring at me, I do feel at home. I’ve put up some photos, and my treasured scratch-off map, and things are really starting to feel homey.  I’m excited to get into a work routine and start some non-school after work activities.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my family and friends in Toronto.  And it doesn’t mean I’m done with Toronto or closing the door on ever living there again.

***

Because no matter where in the world I’m calling home, Toronto will always have a huge part of my heart.

A Birthday Surprise in Toronto

Toronto: a very cold city where I got to spend this last weekend with my friends and family eating, drinking and trying to keep warm!

***

My mom turns 50 this year and in celebration of that, she planned a Hawaiian-themed party: Hawaii 5-0 (my mom is brilliant). Unfortunately, me being a 5 hour and $500+ plane ride away meant I would not be able to attend. But some very kind relatives of mine helped me do something about that. They bought my ticket and planned for me to surprise my mom at her party on Saturday!

So on Saturday night I called my mom to check in on her party.

“Hi Moo! How’s the party going?”
“Good! Thanks for calling, Boo. How are you?”
“I’m good. Your dress looks nice.”
“Thanks. Yeah, I told you I was wearing the long red one.”
“And your hair looks nice too.”
“What? My hair?”
“Yeah, it looks beautiful!”
“What do you mean? Did someone send you a photo?”
“Nope!”

By this point I had snuck up the elevator, passed the security guard and had inched my way into the party room. I rounded the corner and tapped her on the shoulder.  And then our conversation turned into lots of hugs, camera flashes and my mom continually exclaiming, “What! How?”.

SURPRISE!

SURPRISE!

Rocking our best Hawaiian gear!

Rocking our best Hawaiian gear!

All in all, the perfect surprise 🙂

The rest of the weekend was pretty wonderful too. I spent Friday with my sister: we got sushi, watched Mockingjay and finished the night with Menchies (basically the 3 things in life that bring us joy). On Saturday I went out for dim sum with my girlfriends and we did a little shopping around the city. On Sunday, mom and I did brunch in the morning and then dinner with some other friends that night.  And then Monday was spent packing, pretending to do homework and spending a little bit of time with my aunt and baby cousin.

We <3 Menchies!

We ❤ Menchies! 

Not sure if they're impressed with the dim sum options...

Not sure if they’re impressed with the dim sum options…

Beautiful Mama at brunch

Beautiful Mama at brunch

***

I loved being able to come home and celebrate with my mom on her big day. And it was great that I was able to see so many other friends and family members on such a quick trip. As much as Vancouver is becoming home to me too, a large part of my heart is always going to be with my loved ones in Toronto.  See you guys in less than a month!

 

 

2.0.1.3.

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.

We Day

Team Washington taking charge at Seattle We Day!

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!

Hamsley

Hamsley ❤

May:

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).

lioness

One of the highlights of our night drive through Kruger Park

horseback riding

Taking our host brother horseback riding!

cape point

Cape Point, Cape Town, South Africa

hbd madiba

Happy Birthday Madiba! Such a privilege to witness some of your work. Rest in peace.

Durban

Beautiful Durban 🙂

September:

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.

004

Molly taking a dip in our local river

October:

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.

wild koala

Spotted! Koala in the wild!

fireworks opera house

Fireworks over the Opera House!

November:

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.

Halloween shenanigans

Halloween shenanigans in St Catherines

December: 

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.

Christmas with PRALM

Merry Christmas from freezing (literally, see #icestorm2013) Toronto!

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!