5 Ways to Make the Most of Being an Expat

5 Ways to Make the Most of Being an Expat

In our globalized world, more and more people are taking the opportunity to live and travel overseas.  Whether it’s teenagers taking a gap year before university, young professionals accepting a work transfer abroad, or seniors retiring in the sun, there are more and more reasons for people of any age to settle in a different country. 

Old Quebec City

But what exactly is an ‘expat’?  Good question.  An expatriate is a temporary or migrant worker who lives and works in another country for a set period of time.  The difference between an expat and an immigrant is that expats usually plan to go back to their home country at some point.  Countries and cities with a lot of migrant workers often have a vibrant expat community, who provide security and support for people who are feeling far from home or who are experiencing culture shock. 

Expat communities are a great way to get to know the local area, but they are not the only way.  Social media can come to the rescue and help people make the most of their travel experience.  So here are 5 ways that social media can help you make the most of being an expat.

Travel Blogs

No matter where you go in the world, you are sure to find someone who has blogged about it.  Travel bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the advantages of bloggers’ pages is that they tend to be a bit more honest than most travel literature.  Your travel guide is all well and good to get a general impression of a place, but bloggers often live in the places they write about and have some up-to-date inside knowledge on how things work.  They’re often good sources of tips and tricks for surviving in a foreign land.  Many travel bloggers are migrant workers themselves, often living there on temporary work visas and doing bar work or teaching English.  Blogs can not only give you inspiration for local places to visit, but can also give you some realistic expectations for what living in a lace is really like. 

Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan

A lot of blogs cater to specific needs as well as specific places.  For example, JourneyWoman is a blog that caters to solo female travellers, with tips on what to do and how to stay safe.  For couples, Practical Wanderlust gives some insight into navigating travel for newlyweds.  For seniors, Life Part 2 can inspire people to get out of their homes and make the most of their twilight years. 

There are also blogs that follow specific themes, such as eco-friendly travel, LGBTQ+ advice, and outdoor adventures.  Expat blogs are more detailed than travel blogs, such as Travelling Mama’s adventures in Morocco or Diary of a White Indian Housewife, which describes a white Australian’s life in Mumbai, India.  So, wherever you move to, be sure to check out the local blogs and get the inside scoop!

Social Networks

Most people are familiar with using social networks on a regular basis.  They can be a great source of information when you are living and working in another country.  For people who are comfortable using Facebook, there are usually groups they can join that are specifically designed for expats in certain parts of the world.  Facebook groups come in all shapes and sizes, so chances are there is a group for your nationality based in any major city in the world.  These groups can be useful for a variety of purposes, such as organising social gatherings, passing on local news, or giving people a head’s up about where to buy familiar imported goods locally. 

St Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

For the more adventurous expat who would like to mingle more with the local people, you should check out any local social networking sites that are specific to that country or language group.  Facebook is international and is used in most countries around the world, but in a lot of places there is a local equivalent that is much more popular.  For example, expats in China who have some knowledge of the language should check out Sina Weibo or WeChat, people living in Russia or the former Soviet Republics can find friends on VKontakte (VK), and Skoob is a source of local info for people in Brazil.

Expat Forums

Forums, like social networks and blogs, can provide expats with a lot of good local information and tips.  As well as local advice on where to shop, how to find a plumber, and if there are jobs available, there are usually boards dedicated to specific purposes, such as making friends, offering and seeking services, or asking for advice.  Like Facebook groups, forums can bring expats together and form a community, but can also give local people access to that knowledge as well.  Unlike Facebook groups, which are often closed and are specific to one nationality, forums are open and can include people from different backgrounds.  They can also allow locals to search through and find services offered by expats, such as language lessons or translation work.

Mosel Valley, Germany

As with other forms of online information, you have to go through and search for a forum that is specific to the country you will be living in.  For instance, if you live in Russia, you might want to join Expat.ru, or if you’re an American living in the UK, then UK Yankee is the way to go.  A useful resource is ExpatForum, which has an extensive list of forums for different countries worldwide.

Twitter

Twitter is a powerful tool that can be used to share and receive ideas at a lightning fast pace.  Avid users are skilled at hashtagging their way through life and being constantly connected to the latest news, celebrity gossip, and political scandals.  But how can it help us with living abroad?

Budapest, Hungary

When we use Twitter, our content is curated by algorithms and the people we follow.  So, if you live abroad, the best way to keep your finger on the pulse is to follow some local users.  National celebrities will give you an idea of pop culture in your host country, local news stations will keep you up to date on what’s happening in your city, and fellow expats and immigrants will give you the best of the best when it comes to local gossip.

Instagram

Everyone likes photos, that’s why when we travel, we always have our phones out, snapping the best bits and posting them online for our friends to see.  Instagram is a great place to keep all of those carefully posed snapshots and spontaneous pics that will haunt us forevermore.  However, how can this enhance the expat experience?

Nashville, Tennessee

By following some local Instagrammers, expats can get some suggestions and ideas for places to go and things to see that will help them to make the most out of their stay abroad.  After all, what’s the point in going half way around the world if you don’t get out and see anything?

Igloo complex, Nunavik, Quebec

So what do we take from all of that?  The life of an expat can be full of twists, turns, and missteps, but by taking full advantage of all that social media has to offer, you can make the most of the experience and maybe find some hidden gems while you’re at it.  So next time you think about taking the plunge, head on over to some expat forums, blogs, and Facebook groups, and see if you can’t get to low down before you go.

Facebook: Find out the best ways to make the most of your expat experience. Read my tips at: https://bit.ly/3s80yWo

Twitter: See my 5 ways to make the most out of your #expat experience in my new blog post. Find it here: https://bit.ly/3s80yWo

COMM0014: Blog #1 – Out West is Best.

COMM0014: Blog #1 – Out West is Best.

With the promise of a new year, I’ve been thinking about the first place I’d like to visit for travel as soon as it’s safe. Coincidentally, this destination is also the last place I visited before travel essentially ceased.

I love exploring out west. One of my oldest friends moved to Calgary, Alberta a few years ago and it’s been my goal to visit as much as possible ever since.

My last trip out West was in May of 2019. This trip was particularly special because we decided to take a road trip and visit Kelowna, British Columbia instead of just spending all of our time in Banff, Alberta.

The drive from Calgary to Kelowna is approximately seven hours and it covers some of the most picturesque views I’ve ever seen. So, like any good road trip we packed the car with our things, snacks, some tunes and hit the road.

Fast forward seven hours and we arrived at our Airbnb. Kelowna is GORGEOUS (and very warm) so we were immediately smitten with our destination. While in town, our only goals were to spend our mornings hiking and our afternoons hitting the local wineries (ps. if you love wine, put Kelowna on your must-visit list).

We immediately found a local winery that we loved called The Hatch. This winery was within walking distance to our Airbnb so it was a perfect place to accommodate our tipsy travels home. As the wine newbie, I had no idea what to expect from a winery; but I have to say the friendly staff and the tasty wine at The Hatch converted me completely. I even considered moving to Kelowna to work at The Hatch for the summer because I loved it so much!

After a full weekend (literally, my stomach was always full) of hiking, wine tasting and soaking up the sun we made our way back to Calgary. Shortly after our return, it was time for me to head back to Ontario and return to everyday life. I’m grateful to have a friend that’s willing to adventure and truly appreciate any time that we’re able to see each other. Until the next adventure!

I’d love to know more about your last vacation, feel free to leave me a comment down below with the last place you visited and why it was special.

3 Restaurants that will make you travel to Iceland!

Often when we decide on taking the adventure of a lifetime and travel to exotic and foreign lands, one of the factors that dictate our choices is food. Many people travel to Italy because of their deep love for pasta. After my last post introducing you to the Aperitivo, it gave you have more reason to want to go there aside from the spectacular sights. Food can also go further in being that lifeline that connects us with different cultures and helps us understand the people and what drives them when we travel. Even if you don’t speak the same language, sharing an Aperol Spritz with the local Italians helps us see life from their eyes and how they live. In my last post, I introduced you to the Italian pastime of Aperitivo, but today I’d like to bring you back to my home in the Nordic and show you why if you are a foodie, Iceland should be the next stop on your journey.

Photo by Tomás Malík on Pexels.com

Iceland’s known for its unmatched nature and has become a real hot spot for adventure travel. But what isn’t paid as much attention to are the culinary strides the country has made. People often stop when they hear about food in Iceland and get a grim image of fermented shark and Svið (please don’t google it if you have a weak stomach. Its sheep’s head, It works well in soups). Because of the abundance of geothermal water, greenhouses have grown the wildest foods that our climate would have never allowed for before. Inspiring chefs to craft absurd creations like 100% Icelandic Wasabi Ice cream. That’s right; we grow nordic wasabi. It changed many fish-specified restaurants deciding to take on Asian cuisines that incorporate this ingredient and make them a little more Icelandic.

Below you can find my favourite places with classical Icelandic cuisine and those pushing the boundaries to craft something inspirational

Pakkhúsið
Langoustine Restaurant

Giant red Atlantic lobster is alright, and all but haven’t you ever thought what if it was sweeter and even more delicious? Well, Pakkhusid offers just that and some history with it. The building was built in 1932 and was refurbished in 2012 to serve as a restaurant. But before this, it was an old warehouse used for both storage of fishing equipment and the fish itself before it was shipped to other countries. The walls still showing old stamps used back in the day for organizing the fish.

Located right on the port, you can enjoy a very authentic Icelandic meal from a local chef who studied abroad to refine old school dishes with a beautiful view. What makes this restaurant unique is its location in the East. Höfn is a small town with a population of 1800 that has been celebrated for fishing the ever-elusive Icelandic langoustine. The town hosts a Langoustine festival every summer where locals will come together to the port just in front of the restaurant and cook their version of Humarsúpa, which translates to langoustine soup. If you wanted to try the Icelandic seafood, I recommend starting at Pakkhusid and working your way into the city of Reykjavik.

Pakkhus Port. Photo by Bríet Savard Gudjonsdottir

Friðheimar
Tomato Greenhouse Restaurant

A family-run restaurant started by a couple who had a lust to do something different and against the grain. With the wife interested in agriculture, they located themselves on the trendy and geothermal active region in Iceland known by foreigners as the golden circle. The restaurant was initially just a greenhouse powered by geothermal energy that’s found in abundance nearby. They focused on growing vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers for the Icelandic public, and they still do with the greenhouse, accounting for around 11% of all the vegetables sold in Iceland. But now they’ve created an experience like no other where guests can enter a real Icelandic greenhouse have themselves a seat amongst the tomato vines as they enjoy a hot bowl of tomato soup at the buffet before continuing on the circle to see phenomena like Geysir and Gullfoss. 

Dinner Date at Fridheimar. By Bríet Savard Gudjonsdottir

ÓX
Micheline guide restaurant

Picking a single restaurant in the capital is difficult, but one that still leaves me drooling for more is ÓX. Noted as the smallest restaurant in Iceland with only 11 seats, it’s a fine-dining experience done very relaxed. You get a very personalized experience with the head chef Þráinn Vigfússon cooking and crafting your dinner in front of you and cracking a few jokes as he tells each dish’s stories and how they connect with the land. What makes it still fit with the above recommendations is its warm homely vibe. With the interior of this tiny space decorated with Þráinns grandmother’s old kitchen cabinets that his grandfather built, it feels like he has invited you into his home. But his ground-breaking twists on Icelandic classics are what makes them stand out, and their menu changes frequently to adapt to what’s in season or frankly just available in Iceland.

Photo submitted and published by mbl.is

So, if you’re someone who likes to travel with their stomach, be sure to stop by in Iceland and taste for yourself the new normal for this exponentially growing food mecca. I promise we have so much more to offer than just fermented concoctions and fish. Where would you like to eat from the examples above? Leave a comment below telling me how you like to travel!

Facebook – Do you travel with your stomach? Here are 3 restaurants that are sure to make Iceland your next stop for a delicious foodie fix!

Twitter – Do you travel with your stomach? Find out what country is calling you next! https://bit.ly/36AvNlc

Global Bread: from Yeast to West

Join me on my journey around the globe in search of freshly-baked artisan breads in countries far and wide. Every week, I will introduce you to a different country, share one of its traditional bread recipes – and as a bonus you will get to know the baker and their story. 1 country, 1 bread, 1 person.

About me

Hello and welcome to my blog, Global Bread: from Yeast to West!

My name is Kristina. I have three passions: baking bread, travelling the world and collecting stories about different people. It all started with my grandmother’s bread. She baked it weekly. I remember waking up in the morning to the delicious smell of fresh buns. Buns with butter – what can be better?! Perhaps, only buns with butter in Paris. As I grew up, I discovered the beauty of travels. I explored a number of countries in Europe before moving to North America. I met many wonderful people along the way and was inspired by their stories.

Destination baking

Corn bread in Canada, baguette in France, ciabatta in Italy, naan in Pakistan, pumpernickel in Germany, black bread in Belarus, etc. Is there such a thing as destination baking? If not, then let’s invent it.

Based on research, “culinary activities such as “trying local food and drink” is one of the top leisure travel activities that travellers choose to do when visiting”. France and Italy are the first to come to mind when we think about this type of tours. Bread is baked around the world. Combine bakery tours with wine and cheese tours – what else does one need?! Ancient Romans might’ve added “circenses” (from Latin, “panem et circenses”, means bread and circuses, or bread and spectacle) to the list.

1 country, 1 bread, 1 person

Country: Belarus

I would like to start my journey around the breads of the world with my home country, Belarus. It is a country in Eastern Europe with a population of just under 10 million people. Belarus has a variety of traditional breads made with wheat or rye flour. Some of the recipes are recognized as a “non-material heritage” of the country. Fun fact: some bread is baked on top of oak or birch leaves, this adds a beautiful flavour and a pretty pattern.

Хлеб – pronounced “khleb”, means “bread” in Belarusian language

Bread: Belarusian rye bread recipe

Source: Kristina Stankevich Photo

Starter:

  • 50 g rye sourdough
  • 300 g rye flour
  • 300 g water

Mix sourdough, flour and water and leave to rise for 12 hours.

Dough:

  • Starter
  • 150 g rye flour
  • 150 g wheat flour
  • 150 g water
  • 12 g salt

Mix all the dough ingredients with a wooden spoon first, continue with wet hands. The batter should be moist and slippery. Grease your bread pan with butter. Put batter into the pan, cover with a plastic bag and let it rise for 1.5 hours. Pre-heat the oven to 490 degrees and bake bread at this temperature for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 460 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 395 degrees and bake the remaining 40 minutes. Spray the top of the bread with water about 10 minutes before you pull it out of the oven.

Baker: Veronika

Source: Kristina Stankevich Photo

Veronika’s baking was inspired by her grandmother. She is a nurse and works hard during these difficult times of coronavirus. About five years ago she decided to pursue her passion of making cakes. It didn’t stop her that she lives with her husband and two children in a one-bedroom apartment with a shared kitchen. She worked hard and now creates magnificent and delicious masterpieces. A few years ago she ventured into bread baking. After months of trials and errors she became a master baker. She treats her family to a few fresh loafs every week.

Bonus: Bread around the world

Source: https://youtu.be/K2dQxnoy-I8

Let’s talk

What is your favourite type of bread? Who inspired you to bake? What is your favourite country to visit? Would love to hear your thoughts – share via the comments below and find me on social @Yeast2West.

COM0014 – Blog #2: I shoot people for a living, and I brag about it.

 

Following a VIP in Ma’Sum Ghar, Afghanistan, in 2010. Photo by a friend.

I bet the picture with me and a camera de-fused that violent image you initially had in your head. That is the power of images.

It is my job as a photojournalist to tell stories. My story is simple. My assignments as a photographer take me anywhere and everywhere, therefore allowing to share what I experience along the way. I also have other passions like trail running, martial arts and traveling. On my blog, I want to portray myself as an accessible person who likes to share his adventures and challenges, that’s why I write in first person. I try my best to remain positive and prefer experience to opinions.

Covering the RCMP Sunset ceremonies in Ottawa, 2015. Photo by Rick Millette.

Luckily photography is a medium that is easy to share. They tell a story or show something in a way that is a lot easier than having to explain it; hence the cliché quote: “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

My intent is not to teach nor speak about the science behind photography, or at least not really in depth. There are plenty of people that do that very well in YouTube already. I try to keep it simple, and just give a bit more details about the photographs. I tell my story, very much like a journal, or a conversation I would have with my friends. It also serves the purpose of building credibility to the people who might be interested in hiring me down the road, allowing them to get to know me better before they make that first contact.

Would you allow me to shoot you now?

 

Documenting the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, France. Photo by my boss.

 

COM0014- Blog 1: Vacation in a city where you have problem communicating

I am not much into travelling as I am more of a stay at home person, who enjoys comforts of home and tunes away from entire world during my vacation. However, two years ago I went to Shenyang in China for three weeks for a teaching assignment. It was an interesting experience to be in city where barely someone could speak English. Have you ever had that experience? How did you cope with that?

img_0327.jpgShenyang, is located in the central part of Liaoning Province, is a beautiful city with clear air and natural scenery. This city bordered by the Liaodong Peninsula on south side and Changbai Mountains on north side belongs to Bohai economic circle. It is a relatively small city in comparison with China with population of 8.29 million (https://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/liaoning/shenyang/)

I wouldn’t lie, for the first week, it was bit nerve wrecking to go out on own without fear of getting lost and unable to ask for directions as no one would understand. I was hesitant in going out as even hotel staff could barely speak English. The Shenyang city does not see many foreigners and every time I would approach someone with a smile gesture or hello, they would run away!  IMG_0318

Finally, I came with an idea of using a translator app and I had a screen shot of translating so I could show the taxi driver and locals of which hotel I was staying. Another interesting experience I had was that no social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) or Google worked in china. Can you imagine your life without Google considering how much we depend on Google for information? 

 

IMG_0378Beside teaching, I had evenings and weekends to stroll around the city. While strolling, I was surprised to see how active the senior population of this city was. Every day and at every few blocks, they would do square dancing, and anyone could join. I joined two groups on two separate occasions, and it was a lot of fun. What a creative idea to get socially and physically stimulated.

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Have you ever crossed a road that is full of busses, cars and no one is letting you cross? How would you cross? Well, that is how roads are crossed in China. Group of people get together on one side of road and then they all start crossing the roads at same time forcing cars to stop. It was scary!

img_0391.jpgImagine ordering food from a menu that is all in their native language and you are unsure what to order. When I would walk to a restaurant to eat, I would look a menu and see if they had pictures as I am a picky eater and cannot try everything! Eating out is very popular in China as food was cheap and fresh at same time. My favorite place was a small noodle restaurant that was operated by a husband and wife and they would even make fresh noodles. At one restaurant, another patron even bought some beer for us as we were foreigners visiting his city and he decided to welcome us. Isn’t that sweet?

When I reflect my experience of being in a new country, it was bit scary but an interesting one and I would do this all over again.

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Social Media and The Insta-Traveller

Balcony view at Outrigger Reef
Waikiki Beach
Christine Harper / Flickr

Scrolling through Chris Burkard’s awe inspiring instagram feed has me ready to pack my bags in search of a pristine glacial lake, a rolling wave, or a sunrise over the peak of a mountaintop. With over 3 million followers on his Instagram, it’s clear that I’m not alone in my Burkard fandom. Instagram (and other social media sites) are changing the way people travel by being a source of inspiration, information, as well as a creative outlet to share their travelling experiences with others.

The Insta-Influence – Digital Research

The link to mobile use and travel starts well before the booking process even begins. Users are logging into social media sites like Instagram to get inspiration on where to go, and what to do when they get there. 1/3 of US travellers currently look to social media when considering a trip, and 40% of travellers in the UK take into consideration how “instagrammable” a potential getaway is. 80% of all instagram users are outside of the US, which highlights the global reach that the tourism industry has via the social media site.

The Insta-Vacation – Digital Postcards

Some vacations have users logging off of their mobile devices, but many are choosing to stay connected to share their experiences with others. Up to 90% of young travellers share their photos on social media while on vacation! 

The Insta-Recap – Digital Memories

When the vacation ends, the digital memories live on. The photos shared on Instagram are an endless stream of content that helps shape and influence future travel for not only themselves, but for the other 500 million daily instagram users.

How does social media inspire your travels?

When you travel, do you stay connected, or do you prefer to log off? I have definitely used Instagram and other social media sites for trip planning, and I enjoy a healthy balance of being both logged in/logged off. One thing I would never travel without is my camera, so my logged off memories can always be shared at a later time. 

Social Media Blog Promo Example (Facebook/Twitter)

References

Chris Burkard. Lake Moraine. Instagram, August 19, 2016, http://www.instagram.com/p/BJTVO1cApIM.

Gigante, Michael Del. “Vacationing the Social Media Way [Infographic].” MDG Advertising, 28 Sept. 2018, http://www.mdgadvertising.com/marketing-insights/infographics/vacationing-the-social-media-way-infographic/.

“How Instagram Has Taken Over Tourism Marketing.” The Pixlee Blog, 2 May 2017, http://www.pixlee.com/blog/how-instagram-has-taken-over-tourism-marketing/. 

Salman.aslam.mughal. “• Instagram by the Numbers (2019): Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts.” • Instagram by the Numbers (2019): Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts, 6 Jan. 2019, http://www.omnicoreagency.com/instagram-statistics/. 

Motorcycle Diaries

They say you should do something every day that scares you… Well I don’t know about every day, but now and then it’s probably a good idea – especially as you get older, and getting out of your comfort zone is more difficult.

With kids out of the house and generally more time on my hands, I did something this summer I have been wanting to do for a while: I got my motorcycle license! It has been one of those kinda scary/kinda exciting things you do more easily as a young person, but here goes!

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 9.16.25 PM

My husband’s motorcycle has a new buddy!

 

So the idea is to take the bikes on a trip in the American South West – starting in Las Vegas. My husband has trailered them down already, so that we can fly down this winter and drive them back. Once I started researching the trip, I was excited to find out that this is one of the most beautiful areas to bike through, and that a whole lot of other people have already discovered this too. I found a website in the US called motorcycleroads.com  that is kind of a social media platform for people who LOVE to ride.

Members can log in and propose a route they found particularly beautiful or challenging, citing road conditions, things to see on the way and even restaurants and hotels. When I plan this trip, I simply indicate which state I will be travelling in, and then I click the route I’d like to take to get the details. Kind of like TripAdvisor for motorcyclists…

 

I have travelled a lot over the years, and I am always amazed at the things people create to create a community while they are on the road. Hikers have them, people who ride bicycles have them, they are everywhere!

So. If you’ve had a unique experience planning travel that you’d like to share? Or maybe you’ve travelled somewhere in a unique way? I want to hear about it, so go ahead and share!


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Twitter: Happy Trails – Unique travel stories http://bit.ly/2AyNZwx

 

COM0014: Blog #1 – West Coasting

I am, by nature, a homebody. I fought against my nature through most of my twenties; “Yeah, I’ll go to the bar with you on a Tuesday night!”… “Ultimate Frisbee three times a week? Why not!”… “I’ll sleep when I’m dead! Carpe Diem, amirite?” But now that I’m in my thirties I have embraced my spirit animal – the hermit crab. I’m really, really good at not leaving the house; as comedian John Mulaney said, “in terms of, like, instant relief, cancelling plans is like heroin”. It’s true, non?

That said, from time to time I do still get antsy to get out and see the world. So, back in April I flew out to British Columbia to see my brother for his birthday, and join him and a couple of his friends on what would be his farewell tour of the province, as he had decided to move back to Ontario.

Over the course of that five day trip, we covered quite a bit of ground: Vancouver, Protection Island, and Tofino. This was my third time in Vancouver, so I had a few favourite things I wanted to do while I was there: a walk along the seawall, sushi at The Eatery with its glow-in-the-dark décor, and karaoke night at Darby’s Pub. After ticking all three of these off my list in the first day, five of us and one big dog packed up in a Mercedes cargo van (a van that was outfitted with a bed and tiny, tiny kitchen, and was actually home to one of the friends and the dog), and headed off to Protection Island.

In the van

On the road in our tricked-out van.

DSC04448

Waiting for the ferry to Nanaimo

Protection Island is a VERY small island located about a kilometre off of Nanaimo. To get there, we had to drive, ferry, leave the van in Nanaimo, and then ferry again.

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Welcome to Protection Island

And it was so worth it. The place looks like it was built by Peter Pan and the Lost Boys; most of the houses seemed to have incorporated salvaged material into their build, the streets all had names like “Treasure Trail” and “Captain Morgan Lane”, and it was populated by aging hippies driving around in golf carts (no cars allowed on the island). In other words, it was the best. That night we partook of a pint at the island’s one pub, and then stayed the in one of these magical houses.

The following day we continued our trek to Tofino for two days of camping and surfing. Or, rather, a futile attempt at surfing on my part. It turns out that when it’s cold…and pouring rain…and you’ve never had lessons…and you have zero core strength…staying on the surf board isn’t going to happen. But when you follow that humiliation with a stop at the Tofino Brewing Company, all is right with the world again. Oh yeah, and the scenery isn’t half bad, if snow-capped mountains and ancient, quiet, pine groves are your thing (they’re my thing).

Cathedral Grove

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Cox Beach

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Flights at the Tofino Brewing Company

It was an exhausting and exhilarating few days, and I’m so glad that I went and got to experience it all with my brother, whom I’d been missing so very much. And I was definitely happy to return to my little cocoon when I got back to Ottawa.

What do you think? If you had five days in BC, what would be on your must-do list?

COM0014: Blog #5 – Independent and proud of it.

I’m independent. My mother has been telling me that since I was 10 years old. It felt like a compliment then, although I wasn’t sure. Now I’m confident that it was. So today when people tell me that, I just smile and say, “I know.”

My independent streak has what’s allowed me to book a flight to Europe and head out on my own, just me and my backpack. It’s what’s allowed me to travel the way I want and see the things I’ve always wanted to. What’s allowed me to sit alone in a cafe and people-watch, or spend a whole day at the Louvre when most people are breezing past the most famous works. Or eat a whole box of Ladurée macrons on my own.

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Who would really want to share, anyway?

I love not being dependent on anyone to do the things I want to do. I’m happy that I don’t have to rely on anyone else’s schedule to travel the world.

Not that it hasn’t gotten me into trouble. Because independence often goes with pride, and pride leads to not asking for help when you need it. Like asking for directions. Or asking which train is headed to Antwerp and which is headed to Amsterdam.

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Don’t worry, I made it to Amsterdam.

But independence is freedom. People often think independence means wanting to be alone, but it doesn’t. It means being comfortable with yourself when you are. And I’ve learned how to do that…and how to do that on a different continent.

People all use different words to describe me: dry and witty, quiet and shy, smart and capable. But the common adjective is always “independent.” And I’m definitely proud of that.

All pictures are mine.