Last year was filled with travels in twos. Beautiful British Columbia twice – once at the beginning of summer and once at the end of the year. Flamboyant Florida twice last winter – for an escape from the brutal cold in Canada. Never-endingly-thrilling New York City twice – once in the spring and once in the fall. Mon coeur Montreal twice last summer – for a break from my life in the country. And in all these travels, in every adventure and every day spent in these wonderful places, the one thing I felt consistently was complete awe at the very existence of so many different worlds within this one world of ours.
The same thought inevitably found its way to the top of my mind whenever I boarded a plane to fly back home and I kept asking myself the same question: How can it be that I am leaving a location so magical and special, where life and the energy of that place will continue to exist and go on when I am gone? At this very moment, some of my favourite people are in these locations going about their day-to-day lives, interacting with people in those worlds and experiencing a completely different reality than the one that I am in.
What’s incredible to me is that inherent difference in space but unity in time – that these different worlds exist across expansive spaces on the same plane of time (even when there are three hours separating me from BC). I remember very distinctly thinking how strange it was to be lounging on a beach in Florida while there was a totally different world back home that was cold, grey, and snowy. I can still feel the wonder welling up inside of me as I walked the streets of NYC, taking in the enormous buildings and frenetic atmosphere around me as I contemplated that my house back home was sitting quiet and empty on a quaint little road. I hiked up mountains in British Columbia and questioned how this magical and overwhelming scenery could be part of Canada when so much of what I know from home is minuscule landscape, comparatively. And even only 45 minutes from home when I stayed in the charming city of Montreal, it was still apparent to me that my life in the city was drastically unlike my life in the country.
We go along in our lives operating in a very specific space, building a world around us that is shaped by our environment and the people in it. But with every movement to a different space, we are allowing ourselves to experience a whole new world that runs in parallel with our own and in those different worlds, anything and everything is possible. Our world at home continues to exist but in our travels and transportation to a different world, we engage with an alternate universe that is comprised of a space that is not our own but simultaneously made our own in that very instant. Even if only temporarily, that world belongs to us and we are active participants in that universe, separate and detached from our world back home.
That transportation to another world is powerful. We leave behind the familiarity of home, of routine, of the known world we occupy daily and we enter into a realm of infinite possibility. Some might refer to this as a sort of alter ego on vacation – a person who is away from home and in an unencumbered state, fully free to do as she or he pleases, shedding responsibility and the mundane while welcoming freewheeling and the unknown. The world we know is behind us and a new world is available to us to explore and fall in love with in every trip to an alternate universe.
It’s not just me feeling this, right? There is something about visiting a different world that loosens something up inside us. And certainly me on vacation > me at work, but it’s not just a simple equation that we are happier and having more fun when we travel or leave home. The underlying magic is in our capacity to remove ourselves completely from the world we know by adapting to and wholly embracing the new world we find ourselves in… Not to mention the people in it.
Have you ever stepped back for a moment in a crowded space far from home to appreciate how many people there are on this planet? And in that moment of appreciation, have you recognized that every individual has a world of their own that could potentially intersect with yours in that very instant, or even more incredibly, at another point in time in your life? Mind. Blown. In our travels to different worlds, we interact not only with a new space but with new people, who might come into our lives for a fleeting period of time or become an essential part of our existence moving forward. Who knows who will cross your path when you explore a new world?
This year is shaping up to be another filled with travels (turns out selling your house and paying off your debt gives you an unforeseen freedom and drive to do all the things and go to all the places and have all the adventures). It started early with my last trip to BC rolling into 2017, an impromptu weekend with my best friends in Miami at the end of January, a too-short long weekend in NYC just a couple weeks ago with my Miami Mamis… And the feeling grows stronger with every trip: These alternate universes within the one world I live in are astounding. I’ve already got other trips lined up in the coming months to visit friends and family who are spread out around this incredible planet in a series of different worlds and while I don’t have a magic carpet, I know the secret to accessing a whole new world – you just need to open your eyes and see it. Seriously, Aladdin had it right – don’t you dare close your eyes.
At the end of November, I embarked on a 10-day trip to the Great West for a little time with family and a lot of time with a best friend who lives too far away for my liking. This was meant to be a vacation to allow me to decompress after several stressful and busy months at work. It definitely delivered that and so much more – it feels as though I was served up a new epiphany almost daily, so much so that even a month later, these lessons resonate with and infiltrate my psyche on a regular basis. The itinerary consisted of a flight to Calgary, a road trip to Banff, a short stint in the suburbs of Calgary, a flight to Los Angeles, and then several days spent in many corners of LA including Venice, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Burbank, Beverly Hills, Malibu, and probably many other locations I can’t even name – the city is enormous.
Now, 10 lessons for my 10 days:
1. Canada is spectacular. This isn’t the most groundbreaking of the lessons learned on my trip, and probably would be better referred to as a refresher since I’ve lived in this great country my whole life. But there is something about standing at the top of a mountain and breathing in that thin air – it is intoxicating. This was my first trip to Banff National Park and I am certain it won’t be my last. We drove into the park directly from the Calgary airport – quite the change in scenery over just a few short hours: from rows of houses tightly packed into flat valleys, to sweeping grasslands with the occasional coyote, to looming grey mountains approaching slowly yet simultaneously with increasing speed, until suddenly you are on a highway in the park that winds tightly between two enormously tall mountains capped with snow and littered with jagged deep green trees. Every view is breathtaking and that’s just on the ground – on our second day we took a gondola up Sulphur Mountain and being eye level with some of the peaks of these mountains was even more spectacular. Sure, it is damn cold here. And after spending the rest of my trip in sunny California where the sun shines down incessantly on a reliably balmy climate, it is easy to see why people escape this vast country with its seemingly endless winter. But then I remember the view from a balcony of our hotel, or the overwhelming sensation of being a tiny speck at the top of the world in our huge country, or how it felt to look down at the world with bright eyes, and I fall in love with Canada all over again.
2. Modern times are also pretty spectacular. At the top of Sulphur Mountain we peeked into the windows of the tiny stone shack – the exterior of which is covered in decades of graffiti, while the interior remains un-touched, with a tiny cot and even tinier chair for the brave (insane?) man who hiked up the mountain once a week to gather weather data in the early 1900’s. We read an informational sign explaining that this man, Sanson, would climb the mountain in an 8 or 9 hour hike, stay overnight and then hike back down in the morning. We took an 8 minute gondola ride to the peak of this mountain and groaned at the hundreds of stairs we had to climb to get to his shack, and this guy scaled a mountain. Modern times, when a quick trip in a tiny pod will transport you up a mountain, and you can instantly share the moment around the world with the tap of a finger. As with lesson #1, this isn’t necessarily a new lesson for me but it felt increasingly prevalent in my mind throughout my entire trip – particularly once I reunited with my best friend and we found ourselves in a three-way WhatsApp chat with our other best friend who happened to be travelling in France for work. The fact that we can talk in real time and instantly exchange photos to share exactly where we are and what we are doing is quite simply astounding.
3. History doesn’t have to be boring. (See lesson #2.) Learning about Sanson was surprisingly fascinating, as was the history of our hotel, which felt more like a medieval castle. Too often I think we forget to appreciate everything that has come before us and this trip served as a great reminder for me. Wandering around our castle, we stumbled upon a mini museum with old photos from the last hundred years showing us what life looked like in the hotel over the last century. It was hilarious and strange to see snapshots of couples dancing in the 1950’s – both the activity and the clothing looked outdated. This trip was bookended by history. It started with our castle hotel and ended at a beautiful little restaurant nestled in the mountains about an hour outside of Los Angeles, in a building that is over a hundred years old filled with vintage photographs and decor. Of course, in between these relics were modern buildings but really, those are boring. The stories behind an old building and the detail in the construction is palpable history, and about a thousand times better than the dry history textbooks of my education.
4. Ocean people are (sometimes) good people. In my family, we share a common perspective about “ocean people”. Those fortunate enough to live by the sea seem to have a different way about them; they move slower, suggesting that they’ve learned the secret to stopping and appreciating one’s surroundings. They’re more relaxed and generally seem happier. The salty air and rhythmic crashing of the ocean’s waves must instil some inner calm that we’re lacking inland. All of this I already knew – but things are never black and white. So I learned on my very first night in California as I sat eating dinner on a patio along the boardwalk of the Pacific and watched two desperate individuals grab an expensive camera off a table and sprint down a dark alley. What really sticks with me about this story (apart from the fact that the victims of the crime serendipitously happened to be from Montreal – just like me!) is that every single person sitting on that patio collectively felt an immense amount of empathy for the guys who lost their camera. Nobody shrugged and went back to their drinks – we all looked at each other with wide eyes and questioned what we could do to help. We all consoled the victims when they returned from their chase and commiserated that the true loss was the photos on the camera and not the equipment itself. And when we spoke with the victims it was clear that this outpouring of empathy and concern is what would stay with them – not the loss of the camera, not the twisted actions of the thieves, but instead the care and sympathy of strangers. To the guys who lost their camera: I hope you found another gorgeous sunset to make up for the photo you lost, and if not, perhaps this will suffice!
5. NoNeToFigO. This one is huge, perhaps the most important realization of my fleeting twenties. I’m letting the world in on a secret here. Forget about YOLO. Forget about FOMO. It’s all about NoNeToFigO: No Need To Figure It Out. Six small words, but somehow they feel hugely important. The overarching concept of NoNeToFigO is that we should avoid spending time worrying about what has happened and what will happen, because the moment we live in now is the only one that matters. My friend and I stumbled upon and made up this mantra over the course of several conversations about the meaning of life and what we’re both doing with our own lives. And what we agreed to is that there’s no need to figure out the meaning of life, because it is impossible to really know and there is no way to come to a conclusion that works universally for every single person of the billions on this planet. There is nothing to gain from dwelling on and worrying about those things that we need to “figure out”, because ultimately, things tend to work themselves out anyway. The future isn’t real because it is a period of time that has yet to happen so it is pointless to waste time in our present worrying about what will happen, especially when we can spend our time in the present enjoying what is directly in front of us. The same goes for our past. What’s happened has happened – we can learn from it but should never find ourselves preoccupied by it because what’s behind us is no longer real. Memory is a strange, strange phenomenon and we can easily fool ourselves into remembering things differently, only to find that dwelling on our history prevents us from living in the very real present. No need to figure it out – just live.
6. Steps and circles are better than decisions and straight paths. This lesson aligns really closely with the NoNeToFigO mantra and jumps deeper into the idea of letting it be and actively not figuring things out. Our whole lives we are made to believe that we must make huge life decisions – study X at school, find a career in X field, marry person X, have X number of children. But really, it isn’t possible for everyone to fit into that exact mould. And if we force ourselves to make these sweeping decisions we might find ourselves going down an uneasy path that is nowhere near where we want to be. Conversely, taking small steps on a circular platform that is always moving in an upward trajectory feels like a better way of managing the unmanageable chaos that is life. (This blog is a perfect example of a step instead of a decision. I know I don’t want the job I have for the rest of my life, but I am not ready to decide on a different career path – in fact, I’m not sure I ever will be. So instead I took the step of starting something new outside of work and each time I write a new post I feel things becoming clearer in some obscure and mysterious way.)
7. Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. Also known as PLUR – this is apparently a huge part of rave culture. You read that right – rave culture. Those who follow this blog and especially those that know me would probably be surprised to hear that I attended a rave in California – or, a “good party with dancing” as one of the attendees called it when my friend and I excitedly told her that it was our first rave. We ended up at this rave / party by chance on a quiet Wednesday night and it turned into one of the greatest evenings of my life. And let me be clear that no illegal drugs were consumed at this rave. There were other mood-enhancing elements at play: Red Bull, yes. The natural high of dancing with my best friend, yes. Over-the-top thrill at being given my very own hand-made flower crown, double yes. (See below photograph of the gorgeous table where all my dreams came true.) In any case, the lesson learned from this night is that rave life is not at all what I thought it would be, and that PLUR life is a beautiful concept. I’m told that the attitude at a rave is all about PLUR – Peace. Love. Unity. Respect. Now imagine if we could translate this worldview into the real world and our everyday interactions. It would be incredible and it is a concept I try to carry with me as much as possible, because the world needs a little more PLUR, don’t you think?
8. The evolution of a lifelong friendship is beautiful. I have the misfortune of maintaining two long-distance friendships in my life. These two friends are intelligent, gorgeous, exceptionally talented women – so of course both have relocated to fabulous cities and thrive as they live their dreams. Begrudging them for leaving is impossible; although I miss them and wish they were here for normal girlfriend activities (like brunch on the weekend, or shopping, or catching up after work) I recognize that they are my free birds living life to the fullest, so it fills me with melancholy joy to miss them and love them all at once. During my visit with one of these two ladies, it struck me that the growth of our friendship, even at a distance, has been remarkable. We’ve had ups and downs like any relationship does, but after each block of time spent together, our bond grows stronger and we learn more – about each other, from each other, and sometimes from others around us. The other of these two best friends was practically with us the whole time through the magic of technology (see lesson #2) and I feel in the last few months that we have all grown closer despite our physical distance. I should also add that many of the lessons contained in this post are the direct result of endless discussions and discovery with my friend on this wonderful trip. She is wise beyond her years and I owe so much of my 2014 enlightenment to her.
9. Facial = Painful! A less critical lesson from my trip, but something I will take with me for the rest of my days – facials are painful. I’d never had one before and can safely say that I will never have one again.
10. Never stop trying new things. (See lesson #9.) Sure, the facial hurt and the lady accosting my face made me feel like I have spent my entire life deliberately not washing my face (not true!) but if I hadn’t tried to get a facial at least once in my life, then I would never know that it just isn’t for me. It felt like a lot of my trip was about trying new things – my first gin and tonic, my first whiskey and ginger, my first facial, my first full spa day, my first experience with PLUR life, my first American Thanksgiving, with strangers… and the list goes on. Someone asked me on my trip if I like to try new things, and my response was: “Not really, unless I’m with this girl!” pointing enthusiastically at my bestie. We all laughed, but in retrospect I’ve learned how important it is to never stop trying new things and that I shouldn’t limit myself to doing this only when I’m with one or two specific people. I do this happily and blindly with my best friends to go along with whatever fun plans they’ve made when we get together, but in my own day-to-day life I tend to err on the side of the boring and monotonous. So many of my lessons from the Great West stemmed from new experiences and if I want to continue my journey up the circular platform then I must (and will!) try new things so I can keep learning.
And of course I categorically include travelling as part of trying new things. Travelling and seeing = learning and growing.
It’s (finally!) that time of year…the pilgrimage to Vacationland was not without a few obstacles this time around, but we arrived in one piece and I am ready to relax and enjoy my peaceful two week vacation. The salty air has already given me a rejuvenated sense of being, and the view doesn’t hurt either! Got to go, must get sand between my toes and lobster in my belly.
In the graduating year of my Creative Arts degree at the junior college crossroads between high school and university, one of the final mandatory courses required that students create their own final project in the medium of their choosing. It could cover any topic so long as it would demonstrate skills and knowledge acquired from the program. A teacher would supervise and be available for consultation, approving our proposals at the start of the semester and guiding us along the way.
For most it was easy and fun to select the direction for their project, but not for me. I hate making decisions and love it when I have clear direction and boundaries. It took quite some time to settle on what exactly my project would be about – but I ultimately decided one thing. It had to be about New York City. At the time, I had never seen the big city but felt that I knew it as well as any other because of the countless representations of New York in film that I had collected in my mind throughout my lifetime, and more recently in some of my classes at school. (And I suppose it should be obvious that since I was a female living in the early 2000’s, Sex and the City might have had an impression on me.)
Because I had learned how to make videos in my filmmaking class, the project evolved into what I thought would be an amazing documentary about NYC on film. It would feature clips from the classic movies I had seen in classes at school where the city was inherently a character in the film, and I would have an entire section dedicated to exploring why romantic comedies work so well in New York. The video would mirror the “talking head” documentary style by interviewing some of my favourite teachers at school who were knowledgeable about cultural studies and film. It was going to be fun and interesting and complemented by a soundtrack of songs about New York, personally selected by me.
It was ambitious. Overly ambitious. As the semester wore on, I realized that I was running out of time. I had conducted the interviews, done my research, and selected the clips I wanted to include. I had started editing and putting everything together, but the amount of material I was working with was overwhelming. As my presentation date loomed closer and closer, it became apparent that I was not going to finish my project on time. (For some, this may sound like any other day at school, but the studious perfectionist in me considered an incomplete project to be an abomination.) I emailed my teacher in a panic and she responded that I should at least present what I had completed.
When I stood up in front of my classmates for the final showcase, I was embarrassed and nervous but in the moment, a brilliant thought came to me: Of course I didn’t finish this project on time, because New York City is huge! How could I possibly capture everything there was to say about New York in film when the city itself is so endless? My endless video was a metaphor for the city, I stated proudly. I got a lot of blank stares from my classmates, but my teacher smiled knowingly and I ended up with a pretty good grade on my project.
Now, a decade later, it has been one full week and two days since I returned from my second trip EVER to New York City, and I can’t stop yearning for the city. (What was I thinking? Why didn’t I just drive there the day I got my final grade so I could see for myself if my perceptions about the city were true? I will have to make up for it over the next decade of my life by visiting as much as possible.) And, just as I inferred ten years ago, the city feels endless. I am certain that I only saw a tiny percentage of everything there is to see. The places I’ve idolized on film were just as magical as I imagined, although much more crowded with people.
Every neighbourhood feels distinctly different from the next and Central Park is beautiful, enormous, feeling endless and uncanny considering its location in the middle of the thriving city. There are people everywhere and a constant flow of lively energy that gives one the impression that anything can happen at any moment. It is thrilling, and makes me makes me wonder, does this feeling about the city eventually wear off? Do people living there know that they live in a vibrant and gorgeous city? I don’t think it will ever get old for me, and I cannot wait to go back.
Fortunately, one of my best friends is now living in the Upper West Side (or UWS, if you’re in the know) and I am already plotting my next trip(s) to visit her and magical NYC. I look forward to exploring new areas in the never-ending city, and for once I am happy to have no boundaries or set plan. I am happy to wander aimlessly from one neighbourhood to the next, taking in the sights and discovering hidden treasures. Somehow I got it right ten years ago; New York can’t be treated like a project – this is a place for adventure.
Lots of travel this week, first for work but now for pleasure. Off to New York for an adventure!!!
For some unknown reason, I have a thing for maps. Of course, they are extremely practical when it comes to navigation, but I prefer my maps on the walls at home. Instant art, as far as I’m concerned. There is something special about printed maps – they are beautiful renditions of our geography and can be absolutely fascinating if outdated, when borders or names are inaccurate.
Perhaps my love for maps is strange form of nostalgia – map reading is almost a lost art these days, given the proliferation of GPS devices and map applications or online services. Don’t get me wrong, I love my map app as much as anybody else, and I can’t even remember the last time I had a real map in my car. But maps at home? Yep, I’ve got lots.
As I started planning my next show and tell featuring some of my favourite things on Pinterest, it was not surprising to see the recurring map theme on my board, so I figured it was probably time to share some thoughts on cartography and a few of my discoveries from the always inspiring Pinterest.
First, a truly amazing online work of art. Browse around this site and you will be mesmerized by all the incredible maps on here. The watercolor layout is especially stunning.
Second, this adorable DIY concept – Places We’ve Been Together. Sadly the URL on Pinterest directs to an empty page so I am not sure of the source, but I think the idea is sweet. One day, many years from now, after my man and I have travelled the world…I will re-create this little framed homage to our travels.
And finally, saving the best for last, this amazing video time-lapse of a drive across America. 12,225 miles in five minutes! Watch and adore:
So cool. My initial attraction on to this pin was this map that shows the route the photographer took on his wild road trip. I added it to my board because a long-time dream of mine is to drive across the continent, through both Canada and America.
If ever I can make my dream a reality, I will absolutely buy some classic printed maps for the ride…and then turn them into little framed hearts or simply pin them to my walls at home.
Driving along the I-95 in New Hampshire, you will cross a bridge and enter the beautiful state of Maine. A small green sign discretely lets you know, you’ve arrived in Vactionland.
It has become a small tradition for my parents, sisters, and significant others to make an annual pilgrimage to this lovely state for a week of lobster eating, beaching, shopping, rest, and time together. I just got home over the weekend and have been slowly returning to the real world – but wanted to pause and share some treasures from my time there. (Sidebar: Is it possible that every person, at some point in their life, has a desire to become a travel journalist or work in some field that allows them to travel copiously? I definitely had this dream in my younger years, but more recently learned that I wouldn’t want to travel full time; it turns out that I am not a huge fan of flying.)
We rent a house steps from the beach near the very charming town of Kennebunkport. The beaches are absolutely gorgeous. There are many to choose from: Fortune’s Rock, Goose Rocks, Biddeford Pool, and many more that I haven’t even had the chance to visit. While the water is very cold this late in the season, we usually get some hot and sunny days, on which we dig into the sand with some blankets, beach chairs, bocce balls, and Scrabble.
Lobster is a must, obviously. We’ve got some Maritime blood in us, so we’re all huge fans of lobster, either freshly caught and cooked or in a classic lobster roll. There are countless delicious places to eat and I could probably go on for quite some time about each and every dish that I’ve tried (either myself or picking off my family’s plates), but I might start drooling all over my keyboard, so I’ll just give a few highlights.
Nunan’s: Literally a lobster shack, with the freshest and tastiest lobsters out there. I hear that there are huge lines to get in during the high season in the middle of the summer, because it is THAT good. They serve the lobsters on a tin tray with a small bag of chips, a dinner bun with butter, and some pickles – and lobster bibs, you will need them!
Federal Jack’s: Overlooking the water in the heart of Kennebunk, the men in my life love this place for the large variety of draft beers, made on site. They usually enjoy pub snacks and a few cold ones while the girls enjoy the many adorable shops in town. We’re always wowed by the special patrons who have a beer mug on the wall, put aside just for them – we don’t know much about this mug club, but the guys want in one day!
The Ramp: A new favorite in our family, one of the best things (besides the mouth-watering menu) about this place is waiting for your table. The restaurant is quite tiny, but well worth the wait – especially since you can grab a drink on their patio and watch the sun set over a multitude of rainbow colored fishing boats and houses. We love the menu because there’s something for everyone, especially those who don’t adore seafood.
Tides Beach Club: This is a lovely old hotel across the street from the beach, updated with a really modern, relaxed beach vibe. Their menu features ingredients sourced from local farmers, and the cocktails are really fantastic. On our last night before heading home, we enjoyed drinks on the patio ahead of our small feast in the dining room.
Cape Porpoise Kitchen: We can never resist visiting the Cape Porpoise Kitchen at least a handful of times – they craft gourmet sandwiches that are always wrapped up perfectly for a picnic on the beach. “Great food to go” is their slogan, and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. In addition to the sandwiches (that we can never get enough of), they have beautiful salads and catering. They also sell amazing dips, chips, crackers, cheeses, cooking sauces, wines, and so much more…how I wish I had stocked up before I came home!
The above shot is back home in my kitchen. We always grab sandwiches for the road on our drive home, which we eat glumly as we cruise through the mountains of Vermont. It is never easy to leave Vacationland, after all.