On My Way Back Home

I haven’t done a life list in so long (probably because I’ve actually been writing real posts about my life) but the times they are a-changing so I wanted to do a quick update post:

  • I leave Canada in four days. My head can’t comprehend that I’ve been here for almost an entire year and that it’s almost over.
  • This also means it’s been nearly a whole year since I’ve driven a car.
  • All the Northern hemisphere blogs I follow keep saying things like “Summer is almost here!” whereas the kiwi ones are saying “Bye summer, see you in December!” Having a real winter with actual snow and freezing temperatures has been really cool, but it’s also felt kind of interminable, and I’m a little gutted that I won’t see summer until the end of this year.
  • I’m really going to miss the awesome veggie restaurants in Vancouver, and the ease with which I can find decent meat alternatives. Gardein crispy tenders, how will I survive without you??
  • I’m also bracing myself for the moment I log into Netflix in NZ and see there are half as many shows available.
  • Canada has been amazing and I’ve loved living here, but I’m so ready to go home. I miss my friends, I miss my cat, I miss my piano, and I really miss Wellington. It’s fun to travel and see new places but I’m convinced Wellington is the best place in the world (especially when I haven’t seen it for a while).
  • I’m a little concerned about how my body will function when I get home. I’ve been road tripping with no real schedule for close to 5 months so I don’t know how I’ll cope with a regular 9-5 job (which, hopefully, won’t take me too long to find).
  • Actually, coffee will help. Delicious, consistently perfect Wellington coffee.
  • Everyone seems to love telling me how difficult it is to find housing in Wellington at the moment, which has to be the least helpful thing you can tell someone who is looking for a place to live. Pro-tip: if someone is about to undertake a task that is possibly difficult, wish them luck and give them optimistic thoughts, instead of a boring and unhelpful “that’s going to be really hard, you probably won’t find anything”.
  • I’ve essentially only hung out with Lox for the past year so I’m going to have to make sure I haven’t got too weird and I’m actually still okay to be around. He still likes me when I’m mean and grumpy but other people probably won’t.
  • The title of this post is, unsurprisingly, a song title from a band I’ve seen live, and I’m really hoping some decent concerts will be happening in NZ this year.
  • In 5 days I reunite with this tiny man and I am so excited to see him again:

🐱 #mactomnom

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Dreaming of a White Christmas

All my life I’ve wanted to experience a white Christmas. The Northern Hemisphere idea of Christmas permeates culture everywhere, so much so that typical emblems of the holiday are basically synonymous with winter. And now, I’m in Canada and it’s Christmas Eve, there’s snow outside, the temperature essentially demands you wear that ridiculous jumper – and it just doesn’t feel at all like Christmas to me.

Something that I probably should have realised is that traditions are a big part of how you define things. To me, Christmas has never been about snowflakes and woolly jumpers – it’s been about 25°C sunshine, being mildly annoyed about waking up at 8 to go to church, sleeveless dresses, the inevitable game of backyard cricket, pohutukawas in full bloom, and being surrounded by all of my family. It’s lovely here in Ottawa (plus our Airbnb has 4 cats, a definite bonus), but it doesn’t feel any different to any other day. I’m excited to finally get my white Christmas, but I’m preparing myself for the homesickness that’s bound to hit pretty hard tomorrow.

Merry Christmas 🎁🎅🏽🎄 #flossumthepossum

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Nobody likes you when you’re 23

The title of this post is purely because I just turned 23 and I love making somewhat relevant musical references, not because I feel unloved. If there is another song referencing being 23, please let me know so I can expand my age-related references!

This birthday felt like a lot of firsts. I’ve never had a birthday anywhere other than Wellington, NZ. Every birthday has been prefaced with a prayer for clear skies, which was usually answered. This year, for the first time, I had my birthday in winter, complete with an opaque white sky and even snow (snow is still so exciting to me – you can’t understand how exciting snow is unless you’ve grown up in a place where it doesn’t happen). Lox and I are currently in Winnipeg, Manitoba, so we spent the day at the Assiniboine Park Zoo where I saw polar bears for the first time ever, as well as arctic foxes, sloths, and sleepy red pandas.

For my birthday dinner, we went to Boon Burger, a vegan burger place, which was exactly what my heart craved. In keeping with the theme of first times, it was the first birthday I’ve spent as a vegetarian, and I’m still totally happy with this new-for-me lifestyle. We finished the festivities with ice cream, which wasn’t new, but it was perfect.

As I’ve always been home for my birthday, this was also the first year where I didn’t spend it with my family. My parents FaceTimed me while visiting my grandmother with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece, so I still got to see most of my family. I also usually spend the day with friends – being a kiwi with a December birthday means classes are usually done, so my friends and I are nearly always free – so it was also a little different to not see anyone other than Lox (fortunately, I’m a little bit fond of him, so it wasn’t a bad difference).

I don’t know exactly what 23 holds for me, but I’m looking forward to the vague plans I have for it. I have a few months left in Canada, a whirlwind European holiday, and then back to reality in NZ – where I will continue figuring out what on earth I want to do with my life.

Road tripping around Canada: The Prairies

Whenever I told anyone that Lox & I were going to drive across Canada, every person said to get out of the prairies as soon as possible (as well as “Oh, it’ll be cold!”, as if we were unaware that Canada gets cold in the winter). Everyone had sold the “flat, boring” prairies as the worst part of Canada, so much so that I was actually really excited to see them.

We left the beautiful Banff for Calgary, and noted along the drive that everything seemed to vanish around us. The hills slowly flattened and sunk into the ground, letting us see hundreds of kilometres into the distance. The flatness was so absolute that my first impression of Calgary was a vague sense of feeling unsettled, though I got used to it pretty fast – you kind of have no choice, as there is nothing else around. The highlight of Calgary, aside from the three cats at our Airbnb, was going to Studio Bell, which is like a museum dedicated to Canadian music. As well as learning a ton about Canadian musicians (Alanis Morissette is Canadian?), they also had a few different pianos on display (including the white piano that Elton John composed “Your Song” on!) and tech stations where you could practice mixing tracks.

We then headed to Drumheller, population: 8000, and known as the Dinosaur Capital of the World. We went solely to go to the Royal Tyrell Museum because we are both mentally 8 years old and dinosaurs are still so exciting. It’s a fantastic museum with a lot of really astounding fossils, so if you’re a dinosaur nerd/were ever an excitable child, you’d absolutely love this place.

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Drumheller was also great because it had hills. Dinosaur Valley is obviously not flat so I immediately felt much more at ease. I didn’t realise just how much hills meant to me ’til we were surrounded by them again. NZ is mainly mountains and volcanoes, so evidently I need some variation in the landscape to feel at home. But we didn’t stay in the hills for long – Edmonton was calling our names.

We spent most of our time there at the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America. Often being in a big city will highlight to me how little NZ is, and this mall really brought the message home. In my experience, a mall is a place with lots of clothing stores, a foodcourt (just one), the odd café, and there might be a movie theatre if you’re really lucky. The West Edmonton Mall has all the normal features of a mall, plus a theme park, a waterpark, an ice rink, two mini golf courses, an aquarium, a bowling alley, a mirror maze, and a hotel. We got two-day passes and managed to see pretty much everything the mall had on offer, including riding the world’s largest indoor rollercoaster, which we later learned crashed in the ’80s – pretty glad I didn’t know about that beforehand.

Saskatchewan was next, so we spent the past few days in Saskatoon doing very little, other than see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (non-spoiler thoughts: overall it was very good, I loved the costumes, Eddie Redmayne was great, disappointed in the Grindelwald casting, also I would like a niffler please), and we’re now in Regina. The prairies have definitely not been terribly boring like I was led to believe, but I wouldn’t want to stick around for long – I’ve discovered I really love my hills.

Road Tripping through Canada: Vancouver Island

On November 1st, Lox and I packed all of our belongings into Cindy Lou Beluga (the name of our van), left our lovely little house in Vancouver, and started our road trip across Canada. Our plan of attack was to first go west to Vancouver Island, and then head all the way to the east coast of Canada, so our first stop was Victoria, BC – just a quick ferry ride away from Vancouver. We had four nights staying with a friend’s parents in Victoria, which gave us a good amount of time to check out the area.

We went to the Royal BC Museum and saw an exhibit on mammoths, wandered around the beautiful Butchart Gardens, saw tortoises and so many butterflies at the Victoria Butterfly Garden, and walked around Beacon Hill Park, eventually hitting Mile 0, where the Trans-Canada Highway begins. We also got to a hockey game – I’m not one for sports, but ice hockey has to be my favourite one to watch. I still have no idea what the rules are, so to me it’s a bunch of people flailing around on ice, occasionally getting into fights, and every so often scoring a goal. It makes no sense to me, and I love it.

We also learned a lesson in driving in unfamiliar areas: after exploring Beacon Hill Park, we headed back to the car and it was nowhere to be seen. We spent a few minutes panicking, until rational brain kicked in to say “it’s probably just parked on a different street”. After a bit of wandering, we found it three blocks away from where we originally thought. Lesson: when you’re unfamiliar with the area, make a note of where you’re parked.

After Victoria, we got in the car and drove a few hours to Ucluelet. There we spent the night in a completely empty campground – I was a little apprehensive about sleeping in such an isolated area, but the view we had was magical and I discovered that sleeping in a van is actually much more comfortable than a tent.

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In Ucluelet, we woke up to this view.

In Ucluelet, we hiked the Wild Pacific Trail (the Lighthouse Loop & the Artist’s Loop – I highly recommend both!) and I was pretty overcome by how beautiful everything was. The weather was cool but clear, and every single view was more beautiful than the last. I’ve never been much of an outdoor person, but spending my time on trails like this just may convert me.

After that, we headed to Tofino, sleeping in the van in a campground again. The stunning weather we had on our hike in Ucluelet didn’t last, so unfortunately we were treated to constant pouring rain. We spent our time there holed up in “Tuff Beans”, where we drank filter coffee & caught up on our internet needs. It was a little disappointing that the weather was so awful because Tofino is a very cute surf town, and I imagine being there in summer would be a much different experience.

We left Tofino for Campbell River, where we stayed in the adorably named “Friendship Inn”, chosen purely because I fell in love with its name. Campbell River is another tiny town that I’m guessing comes to life in summer, but I actually really enjoyed being there in the sleepy off-season. We went hiking in Elk Falls (getting a little lost due to the unmarked trails) and also saw the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge. I didn’t know much about it so had no expectations, so I felt pretty awed when we came upon a huge waterfall. It rivals Huka Falls in its power and definitely beats it in size (though Lox and I are at odds with which is prettier).

Campbell River was the final stop in our Vancouver Island adventure. Now we’re headed back to the mainland to explore more of BC, and then onto the east!

Thankful

img_9620Canadian October feels strange to me – I’m used to October holding longer days, temperamental spring weather, and not much else. Obviously, the seasons here are flipped, but even North American fall is a far cry from NZ autumn. I’ve never felt the change in seasons so distinctly, or seen leaves with such vibrantly different colours. (I also never realised that those giant orange pumpkins were what pumpkins actually look like over here.) October in Canada also means Thanksgiving, a tradition that doesn’t exist in NZ. I know Thanksgiving doesn’t have the prettiest history, but I think the idea of a holiday based on being thankful is really beautiful, so here are some of the things that I’m thankful for:

  • Minus the turkey, most Thanksgiving food is actually completely vegetarian-friendly (I think yam fries are my new favourite thing), and on Friday night I had a delicious meal with my flatmates (and I had tofurkey and didn’t feel left out at all!).
  • My flatmates are a really great group of people, and I don’t think I could have been luckier to fall into this living situation.
  • Pumpkin pie.
  • On Monday, a friend of mine hosted a vegan Thanksgiving, and it was really cool to try a bunch of foods I ordinarily wouldn’t – who knew that vegan ice cream was actually almost as good as the real thing?
  • I’ve been working in a really cool job with a wonderful team.
  • Fuzzy socks.
  • After many years of struggle, I think I’ve finally mastered how to french plait my own hair.
  • I’ve spent the past 6 months living in a beautiful, vibrant city that has so much life (as well offering so much delicious food – I’ll definitely need to do a food post about Vancouver soon!).
  • Tim Horton’s double doubles.
  • Even though it’s still a ways off, I’m excited about how my life will be when I’m back in NZ.
  • I can afford to travel the world with my favourite person and I cannot wait for our next adventures.

Vancouver living

I’ve been in Vancouver for half a year now, which means my working holiday is halfway over, and that there are only six months left until I head home. This post is kind of a little life update, as well as some of the things I’m feeling about this strange and beautiful city:

  • October is my last month in Vancouver, after which Lox and I will head off into the great unknown (which means travel around the country, take pretty pictures of the Canadian landscape, and hopefully find work in a mountain town).
  • This also means that I have just over 2 weeks left at my current job, which is conflicting because I really like my work and my coworkers, but simultaneously I’m so excited to take time off from having responsibilities and to spend all my time exploring this country with my love.
  • I made a reservation at the Catfe (exactly what it sounds like) and even though it’s not for three weeks yet, I am so pumped.
  • Over the weekend I went to the Whitecaps v Colorado game, and despite the fact I’m not into sports and know next-to-nothing about soccer, it was actually really fun (I particularly enjoyed how, in true Canadian style, the commentator thanked the crowd for cheering, and in return the crowd yelled back “you’re welcome!”).
  • I was super excited about having access to makeup brands that we don’t get in NZ, but I’m scared of falling in love with a product I can’t easily get back home, so I haven’t bought any ~fancy makeup since arriving here.
  • It’s only just turned Autumn, but it is already getting really cold, and I’m just realising that I mainly packed summer clothes and my winter wardrobe is woefully inadequate.
  • The leaves changing colour gets me way too excited – I didn’t realise just how much of NZ foliage is evergreen.
  • Vancouver is both weird and wonderful, and it’s strange thinking it won’t be my home for much longer.

#nofilter because Vancouver doesn't need one ⚓️

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