London, England

A Hop Across the Pond to Kick off a 3 Week Tour of Europe

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Less than 24 hours after arriving back home in Canada from my summer spent in Nicaraguamy friend Meghan had convinced me to re-pack my bags and accompany her on a 3 week-long tour of Europe. Surprisingly, my boss was very supportive of my new travel plans, and also urged me to get out and explore more of the world.

34 days later, Meghan and I would be running through the JFK International Airport in New York with our luggage as we struggled to make our connecting flight to London, England’s Heathrow Airport.

I had been to Europe before when I was 17 as part of a high school Latin class trip to Italy and Greece, but now I was more mature and able to appreciate the history, architecture and culture of my foreign surroundings. And of course, what I looked forward to most of all for this trip would be the varied cuisines between countries — my last trip to Europe resulted in a trip to the hospital when I’d arrived back home, as my then “vegan diet” included an abundance of sweets in place of any animal products, which lead to an unhappy gallbladder. But now I knew better, and understood the importance of a healthy lifestyle that included  lots of vegetables but treats in moderation.

We arrived in London, slightly disoriented and jet-lagged from our 6 hour flight across the Atlantic ocean. Weeks of carefully planning what to pack  and sharing clothes and other necessities between our bags, we were certain that we hadn’t overpacked. But, already exhausted and having to haul our heavy luggage from the airport to the Underground rail systems and then through the streets until we finally found our hotel, we were starting to second-guess our need for certain items in our suitcases. To make matters worse, we became further irritated once we arrived at the hotel, and were told we wouldn’t be able to check in for another 3 hours.

Desperate to make the most out of a less than ideal situation, we decided to duck into an authentic British pub, and indulge in some fish & chips and wash it all down with a pint of English lager (despite the fact that back home in Canada, it would have only been 5:00am our time)!

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Eager to “sample” every country’s traditional dish, I made a simple promise to myself: not to overindulge in unhealthy foods — whether it be fried, dairy, red meat, or savoury sweets. I knew my digestive tract and my inflammatory trigger foods, and didn’t want to waste any time sitting in my hotel room with gastric cramping and nausea. It’s funny how after over 10 years of not really being able to go near certain foods, I’ve pretty much lost interest in junk food and anything that at one point in time had a heart beat. It was somewhat of a chore for me to eat half of my fish & chips, but I happily inhaled my side salad (or was that a garnish?) along with what Meghan left behind.

Once our bellies were full, we sleepily tried to make our way back outside to marvel at the city streets of London. Everything was so foreign: cars driving on the opposite side of the road, double decker buses whizzing by, the different noises the sirens of emergency vehicles made, fruit vendors on every corner, the currency (and sadly, our measly dollar comparison), the friendly locals,  the gorgeous architecture and  building character…it was all so much to take in, yet we could barely keep our eyes open. We realised that we had spent a fair amount of time in the pub, and as it was finally time to check into our hotel, we would go back to our room for a short cat nap. We would be able to appreciate more of our surroundings once we were better rested, had clearer heads, and were no longer carrying our various heavy suitcases.

Of course, our bodies craved more than a 45 minute nap, and we somehow both managed to sleep through the alarms we’d set to wake up at 2:00pm. Instead, we woke up several hours later and it was already dinner time, the sky pitch black and daily sight-seeing tours ended. We hurriedly got dressed, and made our way back to the streets to try to find something “British” to do before the day had ended and the shops had closed. Out of luck, we settled for a nighttime stroll through one of the beautiful city parks to  appreciate its gardens, and then we made our way to a tea shop to partake in some scones, bikkies and sweets.

As London was our first stop, we unfortunately were only in the UK for a mere 24 hours before we had to embark on our European tour and check into our next hotel in Amsterdam. Fortunately, England wasn’t at the top of our Travel Bucket List, so we weren’t too concerned about missing some of the major attractions. In hindsight, I do regret not at least doing the Hop On Hop Off tour on one of the many double decker busses to see Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben and the London Eye. I suppose part of me feels guilty for not wanting to explore more, especially since I grew up in Stratford, Ontario — a community obsessed with William Shakespeare and his life.

But, I have an entire lifetime ahead of me if I so choose to go back and see what I missed out on.

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A Year of Reflection

Spending your birthday by yourself is a chance to focus on your goals and appreciate how far you’ve come

In 3 hours I’ll be 27 years old.

It’s so strange to think about where I thought I’d be by now. When I was a kid, I always imagined that I’d be married with 2 kids by the time I turned 25 years old. I suppose I had based this thought around the nuclear families I’d seen on TV, and the stories I’d heard of my grandparents marrying and having children of their own in their early 20’s.

The times however have changed. Now, it seems somewhat out of the ordinary to learn of anyone I know of or grew up with, as getting married and having babies of their own. In a sense, I still feel like so many people my age are still children themselves. Nonetheless, I feel as if for me 30 is just around the corner, and that there’s a push to start getting my life more in order…in terms of relationships, career, and responsibilities.

Looking back, I’ll consider the year I was 26 as a whirlwind adventure. I experienced what feels like a lifetime of ups and downs in a mere 365 days. I took my first solo trip and lived in Nicaragua for the summer, I became a certified Yoga instructor, I spent 3 weeks travelling through Europe, I made new friends, I spent more time with family, I left my job, I impulsively moved to Australia, I re-evaluated relationships , and most importantly I learned more about myself and how to love myself.

Although I’ll be spending my birthday this year 17,000km away from my friends and family, I look forward to turning 27 and to what this year has in store for me. I feel through this past year’s experiences, I’ve gained more wisdom and clarity to be able to truly decide on what I want in life.

Ageing is inevitable, so why not make the most of this short time we have on Earth? 

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Bitten by the Travel Bug

You can’t put a price on experiences

After I arrived back in Canada from my trip to Nicaraguawithin 24 hours of hopping off the plane I received a text message from a friend excitedly asking me if I’d accompany her to Europe. I tried to protest that after a summer-long hiatus from work, my bank account had seen better days, but she (among many others) reminded me that it would be a once in a lifetime experience, and what better time to travel than now — while I’m healthy and in good shape, and before I had started a family.

Besides, the new mantra I’d adapted while obtaining my yoga teacher training certificate was after all Om sri ram jai ram jai jai ram which my guru had loosely translated to “don’t forget, you’re going to die!” and I had interpreted as “live life to the fullest, and don’t have any regrets on your death bed.”

Many others reminded me that I can’t take my money to the grave with me, so why not experience all that you can when the opportunity arises? After much consideration and planning, we took the plunge and decided to book a 3 week trip to Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Vatican City, France and Monaco, commencing in only 45 days.

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Surprisingly enough, I had no reservations about booking such an impulsive trip. I had never taken a girls trip and was really curious as to what our time together would be like, since I’d usually only ever travelled with family or my boyfriend. And although my friend did end up becoming homesick a few days into our travels and had to cut the adventures short by catching an early flight home, I didn’t resent her at all for leaving me alone in a foreign country. Although I’d just spent the summer to myself in Nicaragua, most of my time was spent studying and intensely training. Here in Europe, I was free to explore and have my own adventures (and now having the hotel rooms to myself was just an added bonus) !

And of course, had I not come to Europe, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet new friends who had travelled from Australia…which lead to the next chapter in my life of moving to the land down under.

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