No Passport? No Problem.

Subathing in Maui. Riding camels in Marrakesh. Shopping at markets in Phuket. Yes, I want to be doing it all.

It’s summer. Many people are travelling across the various corners of the world. You name it: Europe, Asia, South America, Africa… no matter the place, I can assure you I’ve seen posts of friends on social media who are there and loving it!

Unfortunately, travelling wasn’t a possibility for me this summer.

Ah, the art of a staycation.

Yes, it is the inferior cousin to an actual vacation but it can be extremely fun, nonetheless. Moreover, I’m a big believer in everyday-adventures. No matter where you are, everyday holds the potential to be unforgettable and life-changing.

So, this summer, I’ve been trying to incorporate experiencing different cultures and places from around the world – all while in the comfort of my own country. Let me take you on a trip across the planet – all from home:

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1. All aboard? We start at home base: Canada, home sweet home. This summer I experienced Canada in a brand new way by completing the CN Tower Edge Walk. The CN Tower is a staple of Canada and I got to experience this wonder in the most exciting, enthralling way: by hanging 1,168 ft from the ground. You can read more about it here.

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2. Next up, I got a dose of Latin American heritage when I went ziplining this summer. Although it’s hard to be sure, many believe ziplining originated in Costa Rica.

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To this day, ziplining is a huge industry in adventure tourism in the rainforests of Costa Rica. It’s also a ton of fun!

 

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1) Next stop: Asia. This summer, I tried an Escape Room for the first time. An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit. The games originated in Asia and are modelled after “escape the room” video games due to the extreme gamer culture in countries like Japan. Unfortunately, I lost but I still had a ton of fun doing it!

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2) Cats and coffee – what’s not to love. As previously mentioned, I went to a cat cafe this summer! The first cat cafe opened in Taiwan, and since, these themed cafes having been popping up all over.

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Patrons were allowed to pet the cats and it was such a fun experience. Definitely more memorable than any other cafe I’ve been to! They even  offered cat latte art – how cool!

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1. Moving onto Africa! I got to experience a bit of Middle Eastern culture when I went to a hookah bar. As I wrote about in my previous post, I smoked shisha for the first time in many years this summer. Shisha is a staple in many Middle Eastern countries and I came across it very often when I travelled to Egypt.

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2. This summer, I also got a henna tattoo. These temporary tattoos are very popular in Indian culture (often worn by brides) however, henna is thought to originate from Egypt. In fact, there is even evidence of henna tattoos on Ancient Egyptian mummies! I loved my beautiful design and had a great experience getting this temporary tattoo. But be warned – HENNA SHOULD NEVER BE BLACK! Black henna can cause severe allergic reactions and requires immediate medical attention.

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3. Lastly, I got to experience some African fauna at the zoo! The zoo hosted animals from all over the world. Some African natives are the elephant and the zebra – two of my favourites!

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We were lucky enough to see the elephant (whose name is Lucy, by the way!) while she was taking a daily stroll so she was very close to us and not in a cage. It was awesome!

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1. Last stop: Europe! I got to experience a beautiful element of Europe in latte art. Latte art is presumed to have been first developed in Italy. Delizioso! I was a woman on a mission this summer trying to find a cafe that did latte art. This elegant addition somehow – I’m convinced and you can’t convince me otherwise – makes the coffee taste even better!

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2. Europe is known for their beautiful churches. In fact, Le NotreDame de Paris is viewed as a staple in French culture, history, and architecture. It even appears in famous literary works such as Le bossu de Notre-Dame (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). This summer, I visited two cathedrals which boasted beautiful columns, stained-glass windows, and amazing details. All without stepping foot out of my own country!

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You can read more about my visits to these churches here and here.

 

Do you have any hacks for a great staycation? Leave them in the comments below. ‘Till next time!

You Have the Right to Say No

We were sitting on a patio, enjoying the balming rays of summer. We’d been sitting for hours, in fact, chatting about life, our bowl of nachos sitting ignored and forgotten.

“Are you guys staying at this table?” a man asked, interrupting our exchange of gossip.

“We can leave if you want,” I quickly replied. Why did I say that?

So we did. We left our table in favour of another because for some reason I’d blurted out that we would.

What the hell?

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When I was younger, I never used to have a problem with assertiveness. Or confrontation. Or rather, if I did have a problem, it was that I was “too assertive” (known in most communities as “aggressive”) or too confrontational (I always got accused of loving a good fight.)

For reasons unknown to me, I’ve grown soft in my old age (I’m 22, by the way). I’ve become a little too complacent, a little too passive, a little too much of a – no other word for it – doormat. And I don’t like it.

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More importantly, I’m scared of it. Currently, I’m about to begin my last year at university before entering the ever-dreaded “real world”. My major? Business. When’s the last time you saw an accomplished business person bowing their head and not standing their ground? I fear that my people-pleasing ways (I actually am not a people-pleaser, I hate like 90% of humanity) will get in the way of my success.

I’ve always had this vision in my head. Me. (Slightly) older. Wiser. Walking down the halls of some giant corporation in a pair of killer heels and a sleek pencil skirt. Kicking ass and taking names. Being hugely respected (and a little feared) by the people in the “biz”.

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So, I’ve committed myself to trying to work on this. Here are some of the things I’m going to practice.

  • Learn to say no. It’s just a two-letter word and yet somehow it can be so daunting to say. But it’s crucial – in business and in life.
  • Take a breath. Sometimes, I agree to things I don’t want to do – immediately and without thinking. Oh, you want me to jump off this bridge. Why, golly gee, sure! I’ll get right on that! I need to take a moment before I immediately launch into an agreement. To think, to evaluate, to object if I want to. That moment of collecting myself and my thoughts will make all the difference, I think.
  • Be confident. This all comes down to me not being confident. Not confident that I’m worthy of getting what I want. Not confident that I can stand up to others. Not confident that I can be both strong and kind, assertive and understanding, combative and likeable.
  • Find my inner warrior. Here, I’m taking a little advice from Mindy Kaling. Hear me roar.

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Have you ever experienced similar problems with being assertive? What helped you out? And remember, kids:

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Big City Dreams

What self-respecting Ontarian hasn’t visited Toronto?

This girl right here.

Well, up until recently, I should say.

Since the beginning of summer, I’d resolved that I wanted to visit Toronto. I finally got around to it and it did not disappoint! Here are some of fun things I got up to in the span of just one day!

1. Upon arriving at Toronto, I immediately did the first thing any ordinary person would do: I dangled off of the CN Tower 1,168ft from the ground. Just your casual Saturday! That’s right – I successfully completed the CN Tower EdgeWalk and I couldn’t be happier. For me, the experience wasn’t scary in the least but it was exhilarating.

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What am I doing with my precious life?

We were lucky enough to be doing the walk during a Toronto Blue Jays game. Below us, the Rogers Centre was full of thousands of chanting fans who we could hear – even from so far away. Their roars of approval and groans of disappointment added an interesting element to the whole experience. We also had an incredible view of beautiful buildings, gorgeous water, and even a plane landing below.

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Walking a fine line

 

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It’s crazy to see how high up we actually were!

2. After an adrenaline-inducing experience, I decided to change gears and do something a lot more relaxing. Ergo – boat tour! My sister and I enjoyed an hour long boat tour with quick-witted, funny narration, gorgeous sights, and fun-facts about the beautiful city. The captain was pretty cute, too. 😉

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Perfect view of the iconic Toronto Skyline
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I was unusually fascinated by the boat’s wheel

3. A trip to Toronto could not be complete without a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. The exhibits hold 13,500 exotic sea and freshwater specimens from more than 450 species (Wikipedia always to the rescue!). Jelly fish, sharks, stingrays! I can’t pick a favourite and I thoroughly enjoyed them all!

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He looks so happy 🙂
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I found Nemo and Dory and it didn’t even take me 2 movies to do it
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Shark Tank

Apart from looking at these amazing sea creatures, I also got to put my hand in a tank with Cleaner Shrimp (they eat the dead skin off your hands – delicious!) Finally, the aquarium also had a live dive show. A man dove into a tank (which had sharks in it by the way!!!) to feed the stingrays and provide an entertaining show.

4. I solemnly swear I am up to no good. We ended the incredible but exhausting day at The Lockhart – a Harry Potter themed bar. All my Potterheads out there will understand just why I was so excited about this place.

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Could this be Snape’s personal stash?
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The Shacklebolt
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All was well.

It was a great way to end the evening so it’s safe to say  – Mischief Managed. 

I’ve just landed in Edmonton and I cannot wait to explore Alberta for the first time. Follow my blog to read about my experiences in this beautiful city. You can also read about my trips to Ottawa and Montreal earlier this summer.

‘Till next time!

The Shooter

In all the years he’d gone to the school
No one had liked him, they thought him a fool
Day after day, he heard taunts in the halls
They pushed him around and laughed at his falls
His father kept guns in the house in a cell
And he wondered if they would free him of hell
He went back to school and the jokes were the same
The kids continued their endless, cruel game

And then, one day, he’d had enough
He wanted to show them he too was tough
He opened the cell and held up the gun
He knew with the weapon, the games would be done
The next day at school, they tripped him again
He held his breath and counted to ten
He reached for his gun and shot at them all
They began running the length of the hall

The gun had not freed him, but sent him to hell
And now, he belonged in jail, in a cell
He turned the gun to his very own head
He pulled the trigger and then he was dead

**Disclaimer: This poem was inspired by an episode of One Tree Hill and is intended for artistic purposes only. This poem is not meant to condone or glorify violence. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others reach out for help. Talk to someone or contact this Mental Health Helpline: http://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/

Dark Moon

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Night painted the sky and waited
Heart beating, breath abated
For a single sign of the familiar glow
Of the light she had come to love and know

The seconds crept on as she counted the Stars
Or looked down below to follow the cars
But there she remained in the abyss
Tired and weary and impatiently restless

She called out to the Moon but got no reply
And welcomed the dawn with a sad little sigh
And the Moon let out a cry of despair
But no sound echoed into the night air

For the Moon had been there, calling out every hour
But had lost her voice an all of her power
Invisible to all, she whispered goodbye
As the Sun shone her rays, piercing the sky

 

 

Wanderlust? Wandersatisfied.

When I moved to Ottawa for university, I was so excited about the prospect of visiting Montreal (just a 2 hour bus ride away) regularly. I thought my friends and I would go there for weekends and special occasions. I had never been there before and I absolutely could not wait to see it!

If you know me, it won’t surprise you that in my four years at university, I’d only ever visited Montreal once. ONCE! Even though it’s so close by. Well, this summer, I decided to change that. I took my second-ever trip to Montreal.

Here are some of fun things I got up to in good ol’ Nouvelle France!

1. For me, I knew Old Montreal would be a must-see. And it did not disappoint. The beautiful architecture, the cobblestone streets, the French bustle. Comme c’est romantique ! I felt for a moment as though I’d been transported to Europe. It was truly magical and a stark contrast to the modern buildings I’m used to seeing.

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2. Whilst in the heart of Vieux-Montréal, my sister and I happened upon Château Ramezay. This museum was named one of the 1001 historic sites you must see before you die by UNESCO. Luckily, we checked it off the list. (I guess that means we can die happy now?)

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3. Like in Ottawa, I also visited a beautiful church in Montreal. La basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal is so stunning, intricate, and beautiful. Unfortunately, Quasimodo was nowhere to be found. (So it’s come to this… literature jokes.)

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4. Le Biodôme de Montréal est tellement splendide ! The Montreal Biodome is a facility that allows visitors to walk through replicas of four ecosystems found in the Americas (thanks, Wikipedia!) There were so many beautiful animals (and one very spastic bird). The penguins were my favourite!

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5. We ended the night at a cat cafe! Simply put, Latte Art + Cats = Happy Me. It was the first step in me becoming the cat lady I was born to be. (The cats were total divas. I loved it!)

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Not bad for a day’s work, I’d say. I am so happy I got to experience all these fun things and places this summer (to read more about my summer click here). I’m hoping to visit Toronto soon. Fingers crossed!

If you have any suggestions of places to visit in Toronto, leave them in the comments below!

 

Summer Loving: Checking Off the Bucket List

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I’ve spent an unfortunate number of summers sitting at home, waking up at ungodly hours, and doing a whole lot of nothing. I decided this summer would be different. This summer, I was going to have adventures. I was going to do something with my time. I was going to be happy. And I am.

Here are some of the fun things I’ve gotten up to so far!

1. Somehow during my four years at university, it never occurred to me to go up to the highest floor of the tallest building at school until my sister suggested it. Here’s a picture of the great view!
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2. Although I’ve visited Parliament before, I haven’t appreciated it nearly as much as I should. Sitting on the grass at Parliament, drinking Tim Hortons, and eating a Beavertail is quite possibly the most Canadian thing I’ve done. And this summer I did it!

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3. Even though I’m usually a cheapskate when dining out, I spent a whopping $120 at dinner with my sister. We went to an expensive restaurant I’ve always wanted to try but never did because it’s pricey. The halibut and maple salmon was good but I’m not sure it was $120 good. Still, it was a great experience and I can’t say no to sangria!

4. This summer I also tried Indian food for the first time. The spice hurt so good. Also, naan bread is my new religion.

5. I finally went to the National Gallery of Canada! I’m by no means an art buff but there were a lot of cool things to see. The gallery also had a temporary exhibit with some of The Great Pablo Picasso’s pieces (sadly, no pictures were allowed in that exhibit). I feel quite cultured, if I do say so myself.

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6. I took a lot of walks along the Rideau Canal this summer. Usually, I’m in Ottawa during the cold months (the upside? The Rideau Canal becomes the world’s second largest skating rink!).  But there’s nothing quite as relaxing as walking along the canal in warm weather.

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7. On a related note, I also FINALLY got to see the Love Lock Bridge. I got lost getting there but it was totally worth it. There were locks that had proposals written on them, locks that were years old, locks with adorable inscriptions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll put one up there someday.

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8. I also smoked shisha for the first time in many years. The last time I did, I was in a cafe in the heart of Cairo, Egypt. The hookah bar I went to recently had a great vibe but was quite literally the worst customer service experience of my life. Just goes to show – smoking is bad, kids!

9. Take me to church! I visited an amazing cathedral that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It had stunning columns, stained-glass windows, and impeccable details. Standing in the church, I felt overwhelmed by the history and beauty surrounding me.

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10. This summer, I finally stopped to really appreciate the giant spider statue that was erected outside the National Gallery of Canada. I have no idea who made this statue, why it’s there, or what the symbolism behind it is. Personally, I just like to call him Aragog and leave it at that (shout out to my fellow Harry Potter fanatics!).

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11. One night, as my sister and I were walking along Byward Market, we came across a man playing guitar on the street corner. A horde of people were gathered around him, listening to him play and sing. He was absolutely amazing. Standing there, listening to the music, feeling one with the crowd, I thought life could literally not get more perfect.

I’m really grateful for the amazing experiences I’ve had this summer so far. I plan to continue to write about my fun adventures in the coming months – next I will be writing about a trip I took to Montreal a few weeks ago.

Stay tuned!