So, I haven’t been really good at posting this year. Constantly travelling made it harder for me to sit down and write, and travelling to places like Saskatchewan and Alberta made it difficult to find the motivation. Maybe that’ll be my 2014 resolution! In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of my year, in numbers and pictures!
200: Nights spent in various hotels, houses, buses, trains and airports around the world
165: Nights spent in my own bed. It’s kind of insane that I spent more nights away than home!
33: Number of airplane rides. It’s come to my attention that I have flown more times this year than most people do in a lifetime. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty tired. But I’m still, as always, itching to go on my next adventure.
100: Number of hours spent on trains. Taking the train across Canada does that! What a great experience, and I can’t wait to do it again next summer. My job really does come with awesome perks!
50+: Number of awesome new friends I’ve made, lucky me!
4: Number of new countries visited
Looking back, I realise how great this year has been! I got to go to California twice, once with an old friend and once with my mum, I got to spend an amazing 10 days in Amsterdam with my bestie, I got to visit Ukraine with some awesome new friends, I met my all time favourite singer Passenger, I had a job that allowed me to really see and get to know my own country (like hiking around Lake Louise for work!), I got to visit family and friends across the country more than I ever thought would be possible, and I had a cozy house to come home to at the end of it all.
Happy new year to all of you, and here’s hoping for an even better 2014!
Turns out I was a bit delusional when I thought that I could spend the summer backpacking across Western Canada for work, and blog all the way. This was especially challenging because I thought that an iPad would be enough to write on every couple of days. It turns out that a lack of time, and no dependable WiFi connection, made this impossible. So I’ve just decided to put together a short post of pictures highlighting what I’ve been up to so far, and in the fall, when things have calmed down, I will be able to write longer posts about where I’ve been this summer. These pictures aren’t in chronological or geographical order because frankly, I’m just too lazy to sort through them.
Reconnected with old students and ate a lot of fudge in Moosejaw, Sask.
Discovered that Calgary is, in fact, a lovely city
Spent enough time on the Prairies that I began to feel like a bit of a cowboy
Went for a drive in the countryside of Saskatchewan, and found an abandoned bus
Participated in a full on Mantracker activity
Went sailing off the coast of Victoria, BC
Went for a drive in the countryside of Saskatchewan, and found an abandoned bus
Went to see the giant dinosaur in Drumheller, AB
Discovered that Canada is even more beautiful than I thought, in Drumheller, AB
Got to spend a day (of work) swimming in a lazy river in Kelowna, BC’s H20 centre
Met the beautiful Marshall from Walk Off the Earth
Hiked around Lake Louise
Got to spend a day (of work) playing on bouncy castles
Wore my first ever cowboy hat at the Calgary Stampede
I was so excited to go to the Calgary Stampede, really really excited. I planned my entire summer around it, and told everyone I was going. By the time it finally rolled around, I couldn’t handle the excitement!
The day started off really well with a Stampede Breakfast – for two weeks, all around town, you can have a free pancake breakfast. We ended up at one place that made bacon pancakes, which was a bit of a dream come true.
We got to the stampede, and I was really excited because the first sign that we saw was for all kinds of fried food – I would finally be able to try things that I had only heard about!
Highlights of the Stampede included: pretending to birth a calf, a pretty cool water show, the opening act to the rodeo (not really the rodeo itself, that was kind of sad and scary) and meeting Walk Off the Earth. Turns out that the Stampede is pretty much one big fair, and I probably wouldn’t plan on going again unless I was in Calgary at exactly the right time.
Otherwise, the most exciting part of the stampede was the food. We decided to photo document our food journey. As a team, we ate pizza, poutine, mac and cheese, chicken on a stick, schnitzel, frozen yogurt with all the toppings, cotton candy, donuts, and fried snickers and mars bars. Not bad for a day’s work! Our biggest regret is that we weren’t able to try the fried butter.
In 2003, I spent three months in Mexico, where one of the traditional dishes is Mole. When I first had it, I thought it was the worst thing ever, but it wasn’t long before it became my favourite meal. I’ve only ever had the real things once since coming back, when a friend brought some back from a trip to Mexico, so I decided that now was the time to make it myself. I made it once in Mexico, in preparation for the day of the dead festivities (it was a three day, multi-ingredient process), so I figured that I could fumble my way through making it here. I browsed the internet, used four different recipes to put together an ingredient list that resembled my days in Mexico, and got to work. Mole is not easy work!
This is what the mole looked like about half way through blending all the ingredients.
Thank god I had made it before, otherwise I would have been REALLY concerned.
Anyway! I put it all through the food processor (if any of you ever attempt to make this at home, don’t believe them when they say that a blender will do. It won’t, and you’ll just have to wash extra dishes), and put it in the Crock Pot, as per Martha‘s instructions.
– It’s only the second time I’ve used my slow cooker, so maybe I just don’t know it well, but the edges kept burning, so my mole has an (unintentional) burny taste to it
– It’s lumpy – as fine a job as the food processor did, it can’t break up the nuts as well as a good old fashioned Mexican mill can
– It’s really sweet
– It’s not spicy enough (even though I used 12 peppers, of 4 different varieties)
– There’s a large pot of slightly off mole sitting in my fridge that I will likely not eat
Conclusion: I ain’t never making it again
Take it from me: if you want genuine, delicious Oaxacan mole, go to Oaxaca, or go to this website – Phil has offered me the BEST customer service that I have ever received, and I will be getting a few containers of genuine Oaxacan Mole Soledad in the mail in 2-4 weeks.
Well, I missed the boat on the original game, but since this is Travel Photo Tuesday, I thought that I would play, albeit a little bit late!
A photo that…takes my breath away. I took this in Peru, in the Colca Valley – it was very early in the morning, and we were on our way to Colca Canyon to see the condors fly. The scenery and the mist (and the altitude!) took my breath away.
A photo that…makes me laugh or smile. This picture was taken on Lake Nicaragua, on the ferry that took us to Ometepe Island. I talked the captain into letting me steer the boat – those are his sunglasses that I’m wearing, and the sign says ‘authorized personnel only’. One of my prouder moments!
A photo that…makes me dream. Me: 21 years old, sand surfing in the peruvian desert, no responsibilities, still two months of travel ahead of me before heading back to real life. My dream right now is to get back to that state – planning a massive round the world trip!
A photo that…makes me think. This is the Inti Raymi festival in Saqsaywaman, Peru. We decided to spend less time in Bolivia, to make sure that we wouldn’t miss it. As far as I know, it’ a re-enactment of an ancient royal event… although it all happened in Quichua, so I don’t actually know what happened. It makes me think about travel priorities – I still wish that I had spent time in Bolivia, but I’m also happy that I got to witness this event!
A photo that…makes my mouth water. Ok, there are two of these, because the first picture is nothing special to look at. But you don’t understand. This is the best cheese sandwich you will ever have. In 2005, the bus ride from Quito to Canoa was 9 hours long, and about halfway into the journey, I would start thinking about this sandwich. Poor Marina had to listen to me go on about it for 5 hours. But she understood.
The second picture is from my first ever paid photography job. I took this picture for Taste, an excellent catering company based in Ottawa. This Burmese tomato salad tastes as amazing as it looks.
A photo that…tells a story. Kids will be kids will be kids. I met these boys at an orphanage in Bamako, Mali. They were the ones who were too old to be adopted, and had been living there for most of their lives. Doesn’t matter – they were silly and hilarious and happy, like any other kid I’ve ever met.
A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot). Come on, Nat Geo or Lonely Planet… I’m ready for you!
You know that awkward travel photo that didn’t work out the way you wanted it, but it ends up being one of your faves? Well, here’s one of mine.
This was on my last day in Mali – I was walking through the city with a friend when we saw these giant cows lying around, and I decided to pose next to them. Just as I was getting close, one got up, and scared the shit out of me! Look at how huge they are! Anyway – as it got up, I jumped and sort of ran away, and a couple of men behind me started laughing and teasing me about it. What you see in this picture is my reaction to them, and it always reminds me of how much people in Mali love to joke around and have fun.
This also gives you a good idea of what many street corners look like in downtown Bamako!
In 2006, I spent a week in Dakar. There was a 12 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco along the way, and the airline provided us with a bus into the city and a hotel room. Now, I am not the type to miss out on seeing as much as I can of a new city, no matter how tired I am. So, I dropped my luggage off in my hotel room and powered through, and went exploring with a girl that I met on the plane.
We were told ahead of time that it was Eid, a religious holiday, and that everything would be closed and we were likely to see a lot of dead sheep everywhere. We were not disappointed! I asked these two boys if I could take their picture, and they were so excited to pose for the camera! Afterward, they asked us what we were doing, and we told them that we had been hoping to visit the city, but that everything was shut. The man standing behind them to the right was their uncle, and offered to drive us around the city and show us the sights. Airplane girl and I jumped at the opportunity, and got a private tour of different Casa neighbourhoods, including a stop at this man’s mother’s house where we watched her clean and prepare the sheep (we were invited to dinner – a great honor – but had to decline because of our flight) and a private tour of a palace, where we ate sheep intestines with the guards. What a great day!
I was in Toronto this week for three days of meetings, and yesterday evening, I met a friend for dinner and offered to pay for our first round of drinks. As I reached into my purse, sure enough, my wallet was missing.
I’m not the type of person to freak out about this kind of thing, so I stayed pretty calm and pulled everything out of my bag and looked at the ground around me, just to be sure. My next step was to mentally retrace my steps:
– I took my wallet out at the office to take out a subway token
– I left the office, and took the subway
– I stood on the subway for 30 minutes.
– I walked West on Queen to University, waited there for my friend for 15 minutes, then continued on to my final stop, Queen and Spadina.
I called my boss, who was still at the office, because I figured that that was the most likely place for it to be (while fervently hoping that I hadn’t dropped it on the subway), but checked and found nothing.
I decided to retrace my steps back to the subway station. I knew that there was no way that it would just be sitting on the ground, but I felt better knowing that I had done everything I could. An hour later, I met up with my friend again – lucky for me, she paid for my dinner!
I started thinking about the next step – what did I need to do about the situation right now? Step 1 was to put a hold on my credit card and confirm that I could get a new debit card in the morning, and step two was to figure out how I could fly home next week without ID. I had no idea what to do – Air Canada tweeted back to me, which was really nice, but only to wish me luck. When I was mugged in Peru, my situation was much worse, but at least I knew to go to the embassy and get myself a new passport. Does anyone know how to fly domestic with no ID?
Beyond that, there was nothing I could do until I got home, so there was nothing else that I needed to worry about, and I got on with my evening.
As was lying in bed last night, I started trying to think about everything that was in my wallet, to figure out if i had anything irreplaceable. All I could think of was my credit and bank cards, a couple of gift certificates, and some cash. I was also thinking about all of lost receipts for my travel expenses.
I got up early this morning and went straight to the bank, where they gave me a new debit card after asking a series of very specific questions. I got to the office, and was still hopeful that someone had turned in my wallet. My plan of action was office -> subway lost and found -> Eaton Centre lost and found -> give up hope. My wallet hadn’t been turned in, but I was still hopeful. I went into a meeting, and by the time I came back at 11am, my wallet had been returned! Someone found it late last night, and put it in their desk. She was late coming into the office because of subway delays, but she had it!
Everything turned out really well, in the end! But I still wonder what I would have done to get home.
Just for fun (I’m currently sitting on a train), I decided to figure out what I would have lost, had I actually lost my wallet.
– Two credit cards and one bank card
– Health card + insurance information
– Driver’s license
– $310 in gift/cash cards
– $80 in cash (I never carry cash! This is the first time I’ve had any in months! Figures.)
– $150 in work expense receipts
– A bunch of loyalty cards
– An mystery 8Gb SD card containing 1500 photos, most of which I haven’t seen since I took them. Thanks to my misadventures, I discovered cool things!
I was just on a Gogobot Twitter chat yesterday, talking to Jenny about her upcoming RTW trip. Her first stop is the Inca Trail, which had me looking back through my pictures of Peru. I thought I’d make you smile today with this picture. There are llamas in so many pictures and postcards of Peru, and especially Machu Picchu. However, Marina and I weren’t able to frame a shot of a llama in front of Huayna Picchu, so we took matters into our own hands.
We decided to rent a car for a day and drive down Highway 1 to Big Sur, and I’m really happy that we did! I LOVED San Francisco, but nothing says holiday to me more than the ocean, and I was so happy to see the wide open Pacific Ocean. It was a three hour drive south of SF through beautiful scenery, and worth every minute of it. Big Sur itself was a bit confusing – it’s a national park, with hard to access beaches, but we found one and enjoyed ourselves. It was really cold and windy, but so lovely to get out of the city for the day.