Since being in this job, I’ve spent most of my time on the road. The thing is, though, that when I’m on the road, it’s hard to keep track of office things – I get to spend time in person with my staff, and get to know the communities that my program works in, but then I don’t really spend time at the computer. This month is my busiest work month, so I’d already decided to stay home for a few weeks. I’m really lucky that I get to work from home, but I’ve been working most days for about 9 hours, and all on the computer. The work isn’t hard, and I don’t mind the hours, but it’s fiddly and annoying and makes my head hurt. I can’t wait until next month, when my job is to travel and hang out with kids all summer!
This morning, I was woken up by a phone call at 7, and I stared at a computer screen until 5pm. By the time everything was under control, my first thought was to go to bed, but I was feeling too restless. Based on the state of my kitchen, I knew that I wanted to get pizza for dinner, so I forced myself to get out of the house and go to the beach on the way to the pizza place. That’s right, I had to force myself out of the house. I’ve been inside for five days, and I always feel like the longer I spend time inside, the less I want to do anything.
This is what happens when I bake while I work at home.
Well, I’m happy that I went out – a sunny day and the sound of the waves reset my brain to a more restful place, and I know what I’m doing tomorrow – more beach!
Here are some pictures of the place that I’m lucky to call home. I can’t believe that I forgot how nice it is to get out there.
I was recently tagged by @turnipseedtravel to be part of the #MyCanada bloggers’ roulette, and I’m happy that I get a chance to contribute.
The concept is that Canadian bloggers write a post about why they love Canada, and what they think travelers should do when they visit Canada.
This exercise has given me the opportunity to really think about what Canada means to me. My job involves quite a bit of travelling around Canada, and it’s been nice to think about what this means. Rather than wish I was travelling abroad, this is a good chance for me to look at all that I get to do here.
As you can see on this map, I have been lucky enough to travel across Canada. I’ve done this more than once – I’ve flown, driven and trained from end to end.
Coming to Canada for the first time, or living in Canada and wondering where to staycation? Here are some favourites!
1. Take the train or drive where you’re going
I’ve taken the train from Vancouver to Ottawa, and from Ottawa to Halifax. I’ve also driven from Halifax to Ottawa, and from Ottawa to Vancouver. The train and the highway take different routes, so they both allow you to see different things. I feel like I’m the only one who thinks this, but my favourite part of the cross-country journey has always been the prairies. On my latest drive across, it took me forever to get from Winnipeg to Regina, because I kept stopping to take pictures.
2. The East Coast
By far, the East Coast is my favourite region in Canada. Rough atlantic ocean, mild winters, and the friendliest people you will ever meet. The towns are small and colourful, and there is so much to see everywhere you turn. In Nova Scotia, make sure to check out Halifax (my #1 city in Canada), Lunenburg and Wolfville (where I hope to live one day). And if you’re in NS, you need – need! – to make the trip up to Prince Edward Island!
This is where I’m from, and it’s always harder to identify great things about your hometown. I have two favourites around the Capital region – walking around parliament, which offers amazing views of the river and Gatineau, and a drive through Gatineau Park to go to Champlain Lookout. When I first started driving, this is where I would go whenever I could. Toronto is also worth checking out – a lot of people don’t love Toronto, but I actually do. If you have time, you can walk everywhere, and it really doesn’t feel busy for a big city, more like a lot of little neighbourhoods all stuck together. Our region is also renowned for beautiful fall colours. If ever you are around in the fall, make sure to check out the forests. Ontario is also bordered to the South by the Great Lakes. I really feel like these are underrated. I drove by Lake Superior on my way across in October, and it was really incredible.
For those of you who don’t know, the ‘middle’ is Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Yes, I love the Prairies. I think that they’re beautiful. Unfortunately, I have yet to fall in love with any of the cities there. I’m going back to Saskatoon next week, and Winnipeg in April, maybe that’ll help. In the meantime, if you’re in this area, I’m going to invite you to check out McNally Robinson, Canada’s biggest independent bookstore. It’s actually the best.
5. The West
And we’ve reached the other end of Canada! I am lucky to call this place home at the moment, but I don’t see myself living here forever. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy – and invite you to enjoy – the immense beauty of this place. Go see the mountains – walk, bike, or fly across. Spend time outside, by the ocean. Go into the forest, see the giant trees. And Vancouver really is a beautiful, beautiful city.
I want to thank Vanessa for inviting me to take this journey across Canada! Every time I think about everywhere I’ve been, I think about how lucky I am that I’ve gotten to see all of these places. You should to, when you get the chance!
At this point, there is no one for me to tag, but I am hoping that my buddy Christie will take up the subject on her blog – she’s from the Prairies, and I’d love to hear about the part of Canada that I know the least. I also want you guys to check out this guy. If these pictures don’t make you want to go to Canada, or take up hiking, or photography, nothing ever will!
Two years ago, I was living in Gatineau and teaching high school. I had the landlord from hell, and had to break my lease and move back in with my parents (Don’t get me wrong – I know I’m lucky to have parents I can live with. But who wants to move back home at 25?). I had just found out that my teaching contract wasn’t being renewed. It was cold. Basically, I wasn’t super happy.
So I started thinking about ways to get out of the house and cheer myself up. Somehow, I came up with a plan called Marchmywords. For the entire month of March, I would be taking one picture per day, based on my interpretation of a word. I made a blog, posted the words, and invited people to email me their pictures every day so I could post them on the blog.
The first year was great – 40 people participated in the project! The second year was a bit of a bust – I was too busy working in Moncton with Katimavik to take pictures and run the blog, and not too many other people were playing. The 2011-2012 pictures are still up on the blog, but this year I decided to take a different approach by making it a Facebook page. People can contribute directly to the page, and all I have to do is focus on taking my own pictures.
I just moved to the Coast, and once again I need a reason to get out of the house and explore, so it’s been great so far. Below are my pictures of the first week of March. Head on over to our Facebook page – like us, join us, take your own pictures. I promise you’ll have fun!
One of the questions was ‘Who or what do you turn to for positive reinforcement?’ I had a hard time answering it, especially as everyone was talking about friends and family. It’s rare, when I’m down, that I turn to anyone – I usually try and sort things out by myself, when I’m not feeling 100%.
Today, I was feeling good – work is busy and going well, I’m happy to be home after a long trip, and it was a beautiful, sunny 10 degrees on the Sunshine Coast. The days are getting longer, and I was able to go to the beach after work. That’s when it hit me that yes, I need time alone to feel positive again, but the beach definitely helps as well.
And the beach is even better when you’re already feeling good. Plus, I came home from the beach to an amazing smelling house – I made muffins this morning and forgot about it! Win!
I took this picture this afternoon with my iPhone. It doesn’t even come close to doing this place justice. Go here and see the most amazing pictures of where I live.
I’ve been in Vancouver for 3 weeks now. Things are going well. I had the opportunity to spend a week in Victoria, I’m currently planning trips to my work projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as a trip to Toronto in January. I’ve got a few friends in the community, and I’m hoping to get involved in a couple of volunteer opportunities. I’m loving the weather – sure, it rains, but everything is so green, and it hasn’t been below 10 degrees yet. My job is challenging, and once the ball starts rolling, I know it’ll keep me busy. I have friends and family here that I am excited to reconnect with. My stuff has just shipped from Ottawa, and I’m excited because my little apartment is starting to feel more and more like home.
You know how things always happen in a weird way? Here’s a bit of backstory.
In March, when we found out that Katimavik was going to be cut by the government, I started looking for a new job. It needed to pay relatively well, and I needed to not pay rent. I found a sick job opportunity :
Job # 1 – Teaching on a tall ship that travels around the world. The interview went really well, the director seemed really interested. In the end, though, my teachables didn’t fit with what they needed. Sad moment – I was not going to circumnavigate the world (not yet, anyway)
So, I kept looking. And then!
Job # 2 – A position as a tour manager, based in Cuba. Full time, permanent, benefits. I even drove to New York City (24 hours of driving in a 48 hours period) for the interview. It went SO well. They loved me. But then, they had a problem with their license renewal. I kept getting encouraging e-mails, asking me to be patient. And I tried! I kept looking for shorter contract positions, and hoping that Cuba would come through. Imagine! I could live in Havana, and actually put my Hispanic Studies degree to use!
But, as I said, things always happen in a weird way. At the end of this summer, I heard about a new position at the YMCA of Vancouver, running a cool student exchange program for Canadian teenagers. I applied, and lo and behold, I got the job! Finally! After months of interviewing and coming So Close, I finally got a job! I set everything in motion – bought a new car, shipped all of my stuff, drove across the country, and started working at my new job.
Oh! Wait! I forgot something. Three days (three days!!) after I accepted the position in Vancouver, I got an e-mail from the Cuba job. That’s right. “We got our license! Let’s talk!” I regretfully told them that I had just accepted a new job. We promised to keep in touch – you never know, and I’m not one to burn bridges.
So! Where was I? Oh yes, I was moving to Vancouver. So, by the time I’d been here for two weeks, I got another e-mail! (Whaaaaat?!!!!!), this time from the tall ship! That’s right! “Will you come teach for us? We need someone to meet us in the Canaries, mid-November” Same deal – I made a commitment here, yadda yadda, keep me in mind for later.
Still good – job in Vancouver is taking shape, starting to get a better handle on my responsibilities, and then…
YOU GUESSED IT!!!
“Hi Alex! Just e-mailing you in case your new job isn’t working out, can I tempt you to come to Cuba from mid-December?”
So! What’s next? Here’s my thought process :
– It’s not a black and white question of Go or Don’t go. It’s Don’t go, and continue to have an amazing experience here in Vancouver and develop new skills and contacts that will take me far. Or Go, and maybe have an amazing experience in Cuba or on the ship and develop new skills and contacts that will take me far. Honestly, if it was Cuba or nothing, the answer would be obvious. It’s not that easy when the flip side is something completely different, but just as awesome in it’s own way.
– Please don’t tell me to go. I mean this in the least bitchy way possible, but you’re not in my shoes. I understand what I’m missing out on, I really do. But I also know what I’d be missing out on (and who I’d be letting down) if I left.
– “Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.” Yep, that one’s eating away at me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will always regret not going to Cuba. I mean, come on! I would get to live in a communist country on the brink of change, interact with locals like I never could otherwise, get to live in Latin America again… It’s heartbreaking. It really is. But, I also know that if I left Vancouver, I would regret that too. Live on the Sunshine Coast, participate in a program that helps young canadians learn about themselves and their country, get to know various canadian communities like I never would otherwise. The bottom line is that while I would love to teach on a ship, or live in Cuba, I believe in this job in Vancouver more than any other. I really feel that I can make a difference, by staying here. It doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving, but believing in what I do makes everything easier.
– As I’ve said, things happen in a weird way. But I’m also a super, super strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and that life will always take care of you (gotta thank my mama for that wisdom). There’s a reason I didn’t get those jobs in the first place, and there’s a reason that I got the Vancouver job when I did. I’m ok with not knowing what that reason is, but I feel better just knowing that there is a reason. (For more on my beliefs, read The Alchemist. I love the idea that the universe has grand plans for your life.)
– I am so, so, so, so, so, so, so proud that I not only found, but applied to, and GOT these two three jobs. I think that we don’t spend enough time feeling good about ourselves. So I’m going to take these minutes to think “Wow, I’m pretty fucking awesome. Check me out – I put myself out there, and I got all of these amazing opportunities.”
Which brings me to my final point. I don’t believe that the world has a finite amount of amazing opportunities. Some just fall into your lap (like this job in Vancouver), and some you work for (like the job in Cuba), but there will always, always be more. I’m excited to see what life is going to continue to throw my way.
“Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.” “That,” I said, “is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go.” “It is all room away from the pavements…”
I got a job. A real live grown up one, at that. With a pension plan and all the bells and whistles. My oh my, things is changing.
It all started ten years ago. *cue rewind noise* When I was 17, I heard about a program called Summer Works Student Exchange, where Canadian youth aged 16 and 17 get to go to another province for the summer to learn about different parts of Canada and improve their other official language, and they get a job and a salary and a wonderful experience. So, without telling my parents, I signed myself up. You see, this exchange involves actually swapping places with someone your age – you go to their house and they come to yours for six weeks. You never meet them, but they effectively take your place within your family for a short period of time. My parents weren’t too hot on the idea, but by the time I got accepted, somehow they ended up with two kids, even though I still don’t think they ever agreed to anything.
Regardless. I went, I saw, I conquered. Imagine this: the day after graduation, 17-year-old me takes the train with 500 other 16-17 year-olds for a six day train ride across Canada. Epic, to say the least. I was placed at YMCA Camp Howdy, just outside of Vancouver, BC. I had a fantastic summer, and I made friends that I am still in touch with ten years on. The following summer, I returned as a full-fledged staff member, and then various decisions, university programs and job opportunities took me everywhere around the country and the world, but never back to BC.
Which brings us to June 2012. After Katimavik’s funding got cut (see previous post), I was actively (read : desperately) looking for work, when a supervisor from Camp Howdy (where I worked 10 years ago!) told me about a summer postion that opened up at the last minute at YMCA Camp Elphinstone, on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. Things worked in my favour and I got the job, and a great experience in a beautiful place. The summer ended, and once again I was looking for work… And once again, opportunity struck!
You are now looking at (the words of) the new Coordinator for the West, for the Summer Works Student Exchange program. That’s right – the exchange that I took part in in 2002 has led me full circle to a job coordinating the very same exchange program. Sometimes, I sit back, I look at my life, and I wonder how this is all possible. And although I can’t figure out how or why it’s happening, I’m going to take everything as it happens!
So here I am, roughly 48 hours from leaving home (again) to head out on a new adventure. This one doesn’t have an expiry date, and that’s equal parts scary and exciting. The idea of permanently moving across the country is also equal parts terrifying and exciting – I can’t wait to call Vancouver home, but I haven’t been settled anywhere in the last three years or so, and I’m not sure how that transition is going to go.
In the meantime, before Vancouver becomes home, I will be taking a 6 day road trip across the country, but that’s a story for another blog post. Stay tuned for pictures and stories of Alex’s next great adventure!