Travel planning and Traipsing through Canada

Current status: hanging out with Kim Crawford on the couch, listening to Spotify and mucking about on the internet. Not all that different from a typical Tuesday night except that I am in an Airbnb in Ottawa and there are no dogs.

I’ve quit facebook, quit my job and taken leave of my husband and animals and home to travel to India and Nepal but I lined up a bit of “practice” traveling, wrapping up work remotely and visiting friends. The day before I left a friend told someone I was off to India the next day and I had to explain a bit ruefully that I wasn’t going to be in India for a little while still. Leg #1 was Seattle to White Rock, leg #2 was to Vancouver, leg #3 Montreal, leg #4 Ottawa, leg #5 Toronto, leg #6 London (with a layover in Iceland) and then Mumbai from where I will make my way north to Delhi (as well as east and west and a bit farther north, and finally home through Hong Kong. I can write that now because although I’ve been on the road for 10 days, I only just booked my flight home.

It’s kind of exciting, really. As a project manager and therefore usually a super-planner. I often make reservations months in advance but this trip I am kind of making things up as I go along and that has meant some scrambling (for visas, passport renewal, giving my company enough notice, figuring out outfits that will work across cultures and climates and landscapes, etc.) but it turns out that most of these things can be done in a rush and / or online – something that I am finding out at a whole new level now that I have lost my wallet.

New credit and debit cards overnighted to me? Don’t mind if I do. New green card and Nexus rushed to me so I can get back in the country later? Yes please.

I’m consider myself a fairly seasoned traveler so this is an embarrassing and rookie mistake but I had an errand at the embassy where they require you to bring no bags, sunnies or cell phones so I was literally carrying everything in my pockets, in the pouring rain, in a country that I feel safe in so I wasn’t really on my guard. And so I’m grateful for these weeks of practice travel while I ramp up and get my sh– together.

One gets old and set in one’s ways and even in my home town I was glad of free public Wifi, Google maps and friendly bartenders. In Montreal even more so. as I spent a good portion of the week dealing with rudeness, apathy and ineptitude as they tried to fix my notebook. In Ottawa the response to me losing my wallet was “not my problem” or “I need to get paid” but I’m sure it will not be long in India before I’m laughing at how infuriated I have been about the noise and construction and lack of WiFi, customer service and kindness. It’s tough out here in the world.

Travel is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. That is how we grow.

Instead of grumbling, here are some of the many new and / or cherished experiences I’ve had this week:

VANCOUVER:
Sorting through all kinds of old nostalgia and photos with my mom, a great sleep with her tiny dog curled up in my armpit (as compared with my mediocre sleep most nights cramming between my two enormous, snoring bulldogs), a ride to the bus stop on the corner (literally 3 blocks away) so she could see me off, the ahhhh-mazing Apple customer service and quality program fixing my laptop on the road – for free, high quality delicious and sustainable sushi at Hapa Izakaya, inventive vegetarian Chinese comfort food at Bao Bei, delicious and creative cocktails in beautiful rooms at Nightingale and The Botanist, and finally a ride to the airport from my sister.

MONTREAL:
Being met at the airport by my lovely friend who I’ve not seen in a while, who fed me all kinds of delicious food and wine, snuggles and kisses and playtime with the second loaner dog of the trip, happening across an amazing Chagall exhibit at the art gallery and another Amazonian one at the archeology museum, surprising sunshine allowing for wine and burrata on a terasse with a good book, more wine and deliciousness at Vin Papillon, and then even more wine and more deliciousness at Nora Grey, teaching the loaner dog to waltz, brunch at the spectacular Satay Bros. and finally coming across an urban “cabane à sucre” in a park.

OTTAWA:
Arriving at my Airbnb to find it so charming and lovely and heart-warming that I didn’t even want to leave – and that was before I saw that my hostess had left me some chocolate, ducking in out of the rain at a cosy pub to have some seriously good pizza and beer.

TORONTO:
Having said credit cards arrive over night – with a photo that my husband had included of him and all of our animals, catching up with more good friends I haven’t seen in a while, delicious cocktails and dinner at Byblos, mind-blowingly amazing peach beer at Momofuku (and lunch to go with), the availability and ease of hailing cabs, interesting and sumptuous flavours at Banu Iranian restaurant and cafes with good coffee that haven’t minded me hiding out from hours from the rain. And tomorrow we dance! I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.

I am feeling very loved, cared for and connected…and this is another reason one must travel – so that we can spend time connecting with people in person. As I have learned from working from home this winter, video chat and IM just don’t cut it.

Finally, being away from home is an opportunity to appreciate the things one normally takes for granted. I am so happy to have my high quality pack / boots / Goretex with me, my Canadian passport, to be free of allergies and allergies and have a relatively good ability to adapt, to be hosted by so many lovely people (both because it helps my travel budget but also because it’s a new perspective on how others live, not to mention extra time to catch up). Conversely I have loved and needed the downtime in between staying with friends, appreciated the flexibility to work remotely…and of course to have enough health and wealth and courage to be able to take this trip in the first place.

Next stop: Londontown.

The Month of June Trembled Like a Butterfly

Hammock

“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”

~Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

Sometime in June while I was living in my car, I saw that piece of poem written on a sign. I sighed happily (as I often do when I encounter unexpected poetry) and then wondered if June was trembling because of anticipation, or fear or just speed…and then it was gone and I forgot all about it.

Maceo
I don’t remember the first time I saw the city of Vancouver. I was probably too young. I was born there, in Grace hospital (that burnt down and was rebuilt as Women & Children’s) but grew up in the suburb of Langley. The first few visits to the city that I do remember felt like a long journey – over the big orange Port Mann Bridge and then a seemingly endless stretch of nothingness until we were off the freeway. But even when I was asleep (probably most of the time), I always knew we had reached the city because I woke up when we stopped at 1st and Commercial and I would marvel at the gritty urbanness of the gun shop at that intersection, fiercely gated and barred up. Much later I lived right across the street from where it had been and felt completely safe, always wondering if I had just made it up. Our trips into town seemed to revolve around something my dad had forgotten at his office on Hastings Street or a Chinese food dinner at either Wok With Yan or the Beijing House. I remember trying so hard to get my hands around the chopsticks and playing next to the koi pond in the floor but I am suspicious of memory. Even though I can picture Wok With Yan’s restaurant where the White Spot is now on Georgia Street, I know I was very young. I feel like I must be getting something wrong – not least because I haven’t seen either of my parents eat Chinese food in maybe 25 years. To think of them making such a long drive into town with small children to eat it boggles the mind.

Vancouver
The last time I saw Vancouver was at Crab Park early in the morning. I took a photo because it was gorgeous out and it felt poignant but truly I have many photos of our dog park, a place that I have been to almost daily this past year. This time though, we were in a rush. We had cleaners to deal with, cars to pack, and then a whole lot of paperwork to fill out at the border because finally, after a long wait, we were moving to Seattle.

Riley
I went to university in Victoria but I’ve always thought of Vancouver as my home. I read a poem once in which ‘home’ was defined by wherever you had your heart broken. In a way, I think that’s true…it’s where you had your formative experiences. I lived in the West End, East Van, Cambie Village, Commercial Drive, Main Street, Oak Street and Gastown. I ate at SO many restaurants (sometimes even consecutive businesses in the same storefront), hiked in the forests, dove all over the coast, got married, worked for several different companies as well as started my own, and made lots of friends…for all of these reasons Vancouver will be home but also for all of those reasons it was also time to leave.

Moving van
It’s always been a dream of mine to live abroad and I’ve dabbled in it (multiple home-stays in France an Germany and a lot of travel) and prepared for it (I’m a certified TESL instructor and a dive master and I have a filing cabinet worth of books and maps) but there has always been something holding me back, usually a boy or a girl, sometimes debt, at times common sense.

Lake City
But we are finally here, just barely abroad, and that’s ok. It’s a step. From here we can go elsewhere and even this border hop has had its share of paperwork and problems. Had we moved to say, Poland or Japan, we would currently be standing in a drug store hoping we were buying toothpaste and not hemorrhoid cream, walking everywhere for fear of driving or taking transit and ending up in another city, and eating all kinds of interesting new food. Instead we are driving around in our same cars (minus one motorcycle and one truck), speaking English, eating sushi and burgers at the two decent restaurants in our neighbourhood and when we get lost, we pull up google maps to tell us where to go. Easy Peasy.

We are glad of the adventure, in any case, and ready for all the next ones.

Seattle

A better quote for this month might be this famous one:

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

~Anais Nin

Home
Wish us luck. And come visit.

 

 

The Reluctant Cyclist

bike

In December I got my bike out of storage (which I consider an important first step) and bought some fancy cycling pants. But then it was snowing and there were holidays and I was beginning to think that I would never actually get to the point of riding it, which is a problem because in December I also signed up to ride my bike 220 km from Vancouver to Seattle for the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

I’m not really sure what I was thinking. This year I am putting some time into self-discovery and I’ve learned a lot about myself. Mostly as it pertains to careers and etc. but I was also made aware that I am not very good at sticking with my exercise plans. I mean, I knew that before, but as I get older I have less time and less patience with new ideas. I thought I could push myself through CrossFit by sheer determination and the fact that it’s less than a block away from my house, but I don’t have determination when it comes to exercising. I love to be active and especially outside, but there are few sports that can get me out in the rain regularly training for something and there are many lofty goals in a mucky trail behind me that can testify to that fact.

I didn’t always use to be that way. I used to run a lot and I did a couple of half marathons in amongst many, many shorter runs, but then I thought I would level up and do a full marathon. That’s only double the longest distance I had ever run! No big deal, and while I was making lofty goals, I may as well do one in Greece, along the original path of the marathon from the Marathon battle ground to the Olympic stadium in Athens. It was part of the Joints in Motion fundraising program for the Arthritis Society and so all of the travel and etc. was covered in exchange for raising thousands of dollars for charity. Piece of cake!

I’m not being very fair to my past self. At the time I had a lot of energy and I hadn’t had all the injuries I’ve had since. Besides, it was an organization that my birth mother had worked for and supported heartily and some of the participants were much, much older than me and also had arthritis. I really didn’t think it would be difficult, especially after my sister said she would join me.  And thank goodness she did. Honestly, I owe that girl beers for life. I wouldn’t have made it without her and in fact, I almost didn’t. I ran and ran and ran and when I wasn’t running, we were raising money. We did a fundraiser night at a couple of different pubs and invited all of our friends – all of whom had already given us money – and  we stood outside liquor stores. Everything short of having a bake sale. It was tough. The running part was going swimmingly in comparison, until I got a sharp pain in my hip at precisely the farthest point from a road in Stanley Park.

I will spare you the details of the months of chiropractor, bone scans, ART, acupuncture and whatnot but the short story is that I had developed a stress fracture and wouldn’t be able to run. Worse than that, I wasn’t supposed to walk. The running was obvious to me because I had been trying it every couple of weeks in spite of my highly trained team of caregivers, but the walking surprised me. I still walked to work and in fact, I walked into the place where I rented the crutches from. We all laughed when I said who they were for.

I healed enough to leave the crutches behind when we went to Greece but only barely. Yes, we met our fundraising goal and so we went on the trip and I cheered for all the runners. In the years since I’ve gotten back into running and have since done a starter triathlon but my body isn’t really built for long-distance running and I’m ok with that. The other things I really like to do – diving and hiking and snowboarding and yoga and riding my motorcycle (I know, not a sport) take up enough time and money and keep me active enough.

So why am I now deciding to embark on another incredible training and fundraising program? Because it’s not just about my spectacular past failure: I also don’t really like cycling on the road, my bike is squarely consumer grade and I know from experience that I am not generally encouraged by the incredibly overly cheerful people who tend to be involved in these things.

But my birth mom died of cancer and so did my grandfather and several friends have been lucky enough to recover from it. It’s a cause that I believe in and I am hungry to be a part of something. I’m sure in no small part I want to see something like this through. Also, in this process of self-discovery, I’ve learned that I like trying new things.

Finally, if Bif Naked can be as positive and lovely as this (posted on her Facebook page, Dec. 4th):

GOOD TIMES are found in everything I ever, ever do. Since I have been home in this gorgeous place, This Rainforest City of My Dreams (Vancouver-Home-of-the-Vancouver-Canucks), I have been in a bit of a pickle: cancer tests. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here to tell you that I am a PRO and that I find so much fun in the wards-n-wings of the Cancer Agency ( http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/default.htm ) in fact: I am downright LUCKY to live six minutes away. As I went in to the O.R. yesterday, I sang “Rock and Roll All Night” by KISS ( https://www.facebook.com/KISS ) at the TOP OF MY LUNGS whilst being wheeled in on my little bed/gurney and had such a great laugh with the lovely and loving nurses and staff. I had so much FUN! I believe, with all of my bursting, little heart, that finding the goofiness+fun makes ANY situation better. Anything is better WITH laughs. I want to share with you my wishes for YOU and YOUR laughs, today. I send you all my gratitude, my positivity, and my deep affection. I am ever thankful to have a computer and the desire to share together, with you all. We are so lucky, in this moment. Sending each and everyone a big, squishy hug and throwin’ horns, listenin’ to rock-n-roll, and generally finding my fun. Love and Light to you. Namaste.

then certainly I can ride my bike to Seattle – just please don’t ask what’s the worst that could happen. Please send me your kind words, advice and encouragement, and if you are so inclined, I will take your donation too:

http://www.conquercancer.ca/site/TR/Events/Vancouver2014?px=3601641&pg=personal&fr_id=1514

RTCC