A brand new year – new adventures and experiences to look forward to. But first – let’s rewind a little.
Sometimes, you don’t even realize how fast life is moving. The rhythm of everyday life seems to take over, and you find yourself in a routine.
I haven’t been able to write recently because I have been stuck in the monotony of the adult routine. Since I graduated university, my life has been a series of days where I wake up, go to work, come home to relax and sleep – only to repeat the process the next day. And sure, there are weekends and evenings. But when you work a second job (as I currently do), there is not a lot of time left to go on adventures. Or even to catch up with friends.
But I have also been quite lucky.
In the brief term between my two contracts, I was able to go on one bigger adventure.
If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat – any of those social media sites – you probably would have seen my barrage of posts from the beautifully captivating Hawaii.
In October, for 10 days, my family went to Waikiki, Hawaii. I have traveled with my family many times throughout my life, but this trip was special. We also traveled with my aunt, my cousin and his wife, and their 2 kids – all of whom had never been before.
It was so cool to experience Hawaii again. I absolutely loved it the first time. In all honesty, I had wanted to go somewhere else this trip, like Mexico or Central America, but I’m so glad it was Hawaii. We had such an amazing time!
From relaxing at the beach, to shopping until we dropped; from luaus and the Polynesian Cultural Center, to waterfalls and hiking volcanic craters; from zip lining in the valley, to doing yoga at the beach. Every experience was made far more interesting and enticing with my awesome family.
We all had such a great time adventuring together. Levi got to do flips all over the island; Madison and I got to hang out as cousins, chilling in floaties on the ocean, shopping, and zip lining. Everyone had such a great trip (except maybe my brother who was sick with the flu for most of the time – but he still made appearances on outings).
Some highlights, you ask? Well, there were too many good adventures, but I will try to limit it to a few amazing moments.
Our day at Kualoa Ranch was definitely a highlight for everyone. Madison and I went on a zip lining adventure in the valley. We hiked, curled up like coconuts to make it down a line, bet ice cream to drop a kakui nut in a bucket, and made it across a suspension bridge with some difficulties. The rest of the family toured the ranch, seeing numerous filming locations for movies, like Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park, King Kong, 50 First Dates, and soooo many others. It is such a cool place and I highly recommend it! On our way back, we even had time to stop at Waimea Falls for Levi to swim.
We spent an entire day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, learning about all of the Polynesian cultures, watching shows, eating amazing food, and seeing a luau. It was a long day, but fun and interesting! Other days – we hiked Diamond Head, an inactive volcanic crater that was used as a base during the wars; we shopped at Ala Moana mall, an expensive outdoor shopping mall; and we toured Pearl Harbor and hit up the flea market at the stadium.
The others went on an excursion to swim with dolphins and the turtles one day, while my family went on an amazing catamaran boat ride along the southern coast of the island another day. We all got to have our amazing adventures and experiences, enjoying the beaches, the views, and the fun.
Funny enough, we were in Hawaii during Canadian Thanksgiving. While my friends ate turkey dinners at a table with their families, my family sat down to a lovely meal at Cheeseburger in Paradise – yes, that was our Thanksgiving dinner, and it was awesome.
It was a truly awesome trip, and I will cherish the memories forever.
Of course, I tried to have other small adventures after that.
Around Halloween, I went with my brother and friends (the twins) to check out a corn maze that had craft beers! Long story short – there was a really long line-up, but the corn maze had fallen over due to a storm. Somehow, we lucked out and were given tickets to get in for free! It was a pretty fun day.
I went on a “date” with my grandpa to see Mary Poppins when my grandma was sick. Funnily enough, a friend of mine from high school was in the show! It was a fantastic show and a great night. Just before Christmas, I went out on a Friday night to stand in the snow for the CP Holiday Train. Even though I couldn’t feel my feet, and feared losing a toe to frostbite, I got to see Dallas Smith (one of my favourite country artists) live for the second time in 2016. It was a great night (I mean, once I gained feeling in my feet again, haha!).
The holidays came quickly, and for me, they were all about relaxing now that I’m working full time. But that didn’t stop me from a little adventure either.
One of my best friends, Brittany, had never been to Victoria. As it is one of my favourite cities, I decided that I wanted to show her around the amazing city!
For those not from the area, you have to take a ferry to get to Victoria, which is on Vancouver Island. As we had an interesting experience with a ferry ride in Ireland, ferries have become kind of a joke in our group of friends. Nonetheless, we had a great trip over and back, enjoying the views from the ferry.
The two days we spent on the island were perfect. I got to show my best friend all my favourite places to grab sandwiches, get a great shot of the Parliament Buildings or Empress, and my favourite pub to grab a pint to finish a great day. Not to forget walking the breakwater and checking out the little town of Sidney before heading out.
And a sort of precursor to something even bigger.
Again, if you follow me on any social media, you will see that I posted some exciting news not so long ago. Brittany and I are going to be backpacking Europe for 2 months this spring!
I couldn’t be any more excited.
Ever since I left Ireland and Europe two years ago (I still can’t believe it’s been two whole years), all I have been thinking about is going back. There are still so many places to explore, cultures to encounter, so much food to try!
As Brittany didn’t get to do the backpacking thing like I did, we are going to a couple places that I have already been to – but I’m ecstatic! The places I am repeating are some of my favourite cities. Plus, we will be going to many more countries and cities that I have never been to before.
But as I plan and prepare for this amazing trip, I have resolved not to neglect this blog again. Although I might try writing some different kinds of posts – more focused on travel itself instead of simply my travels – I want to continue to write about adventures that I take leading up to my trip and during.
Otherwise, look for me on social media, as I am ever-present in one way or another.
So here’s to the adventures that I will seek in 2017, and I hope you all live the adventure, too.
Yesterday was the culmination of my five years at university: I was finally able to walk across the stage, only worrying about not tripping, and shake the President of UFV’s hand as my name was announced in the endless list of 2016 graduates.
That’s right, after five years of turmoil, sleepless nights, history and English papers, and multitudes of unfinished readings, I graduated university. It was a great moment – even if it only felt like a fleeting five seconds when I crossed the stage.
For some people, this seems a great accomplishment. For others, not so much. But here, let me put it into perspective…
Jumping from elementary to high school, and university immediately following, I have been attending institutionalized schooling for 18 consecutive years. That’s a lot of school! I did not take a year off between high school and university, and no gap years were taken during my degree. I have worked hard to get through university in one go – even if it took me a little longer than the average four years.
On top of all that schooling, I have been working one or two part time jobs since grade 8. Working these jobs, I was able to pay for half of my university schooling, including a semester in Ireland, and with the help of my parents, I am graduating with no debts from school. In today’s world, I feel like that is a huge accomplishment alone.
My university experience wasn’t like the ones you see in movies or on TV, or probably like many other students you know. I was the student who went to every class, except when extremely ill. I always handed in my assignments on time, I (usually) did my readings, and I wasn’t really involved in clubs or events on campus. My school was more the commuter school – or so I thought.
My semester abroad changed my perspective of who I could be and who I am. I decided that I wanted to meet more people, and become more involved – even if I only had a year left in my degree. So, that’s why I became more involved with study abroad and began writing articles for the school newspaper. It was great to have new experiences, meet other people who had similar interests like me. It was just too little too late! I wish I had found these out when I first started university, having a better opportunity to meet new people instead of striking of conversations with students in classes – students who you might not see again the entirety of your degree.
But to me, that’s not what’s important here. Despite not having the “ultimate university experience,” I still loved my time at university and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yesterday, I was really proud of myself when I got to walk across the stage in front of my family. I was excited to tell them and others that not only was I graduating, but I graduated with distinction (a GPA higher than 3.6) and outstanding achievement. I worked really hard to keep grades that I was proud of through my time at university, just like all my previous school years.
Of course, there are some people I love and miss who couldn’t be here to celebrate with me. My gramma was always proud of me when I brought report cards to her, excited to share my good grades, or to show her the grades I received on papers or midterms in university. I know she would be proud of me, like she always had. And as I went through graduation, I thought of my cousin who was supposed to start university at the same time as me, but never had the chance. And I thought of my great-aunt, who fostered my love of writing by being my pen pal for countless years. I know that they were all there in spirit, with me and watching as I crossed the stage, my inspiration.
Now, the question I find myself facing every time I tell someone I am now a graduate:
“So what’s next?” “What are you going to do now?” or some other form of the same words.
The honest answer: I don’t know. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I am not sure what I want to do career-wise. I know what I enjoy, and I know what I’m good at – hopefully I can find something that balances or brings together the two.
I was talking to a friend the other day about having a plan for the future, and wanting something so badly. He was saying that he has a plan to follow to finish school, find the job he wants, and start his life as an adult. It got me thinking about my life and where I am. When I was younger, even through high school, I always knew what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher. Many people always told me that I’d be good at it, too. I did a lot to try to help that plan. Going through university, though, my mind started to consider this plan: was that really what I wanted to do? Almost every class I was in, there were so many students going into the teacher education programs – usually it was more than half the class. How was I ever going to compete with that many people, let alone find a job locally?
Plans have a way of changing – and we all know how change can be terrifying, debilitating. But sometimes, the change is for the better. Sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that perhaps the plan that you had made for yourself, isn’t the plan that will play out. Sometimes, God, or the universe, or fate, or whatever other greater forces, have a bigger and better plan for you than you could imagine, and that’s what you need to follow instead. And even though you don’t know what it is or where it could go, you have to give up control and see where it takes you.
About a month and a half ago, my dad helped me get a job through his company. The day after my last exam, I began work full time as a technical writer. It’s been an interesting change to the type of work I’m used to. I’ve enjoyed learning a new kind of writing and process, and using different computer programs. I’m just not used to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day…
Basically, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but I don’t think I necessarily need to decide right now. I just want to be happy – and if that means that I need to try out different jobs and careers, then that’s what I’ll do.
Anyways, CONGRATULATIONS to all other graduates of 2016 – whether you are graduating preschool, kindergarten, grade 7, high school, or university! Good luck, go for your dreams, and for fellow university grads, remember: you don’t need to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life in this moment. It’s alright to try different kinds of jobs, have multiple jobs, have non-paying jobs to eventually get to where you need to be – at least, that’s what I tell myself (awkward laughter).
And last update, as mentioned in previous posts, my blog posts might get fewer unless I have more adventures to tell you about in the next little bit. Hopefully some climbing and hiking and things, maybe a little travel like before.
Recently, lots of people have been posting pictures and Facebook statuses to express how they felt about this year. So, why not recap how my year has been?
It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions – I am thankful, remorseful, saddened and happy when looking back on 2015.
The beginning of this year brought me some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. I flew to Ireland, ready for adventure and meeting new people. It’s funny – I went with Brittany, someone I had only met twice before taking a 17 hour journey with. And after that, we became best friends. I couldn’t be happier to have her in my life as my friend, former Ireland roommate, and fellow traveller and adventurer. I think the transition was much easier for both of us, experiencing those first freezing cold nights far from home and having someone – even just a little bit familiar – while meeting so many new people.
And thus began probably the best 6 months of my life. Going to school in Ireland was an adventure in itself. 100% finals, classes cancelled all the time, and having classes only the 2 first days of the week. It was an experience I’m glad to have had. The parties and get-togethers are all so memorable, each one sticking out in my mind for specific reasons – like the time I got locked outside on the roof, or the first international students party, or even the very first party we had at our place (the one that security came to).
I had the best time because of the people I met. I am so thankful to have met incredible, smart, amazing friends from around the world. And honestly, there are too many of you to name – but you guys know who you are, and the hilarious and amazing memories that we have.
Of course, it was because of a lot of these amazing friends that I had incredible adventures. Brittany and I were lucky to travel each weekend with great people – going to Kilkenny, Tramore, Dunmore East, Blarney, Cork, Dublin, Belfast, Kerry, Wexford, and so many more. As I wrote in posts earlier this year, I was lucky to travel around Ireland on one of my weeks off from school. We went to so many amazing places, including Cahir, Cashel, Limerick, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, and Inis Mor. Guys, even though we had only known each other for a couple weeks, that trip was amazing!
On my second week off, I travelled with Brittany, Bert and Carlos through 5 European cities, before going to Nice by myself. We had a couple bumps in our travels – almost missing trains, getting a little lost, and I got sick with food poisoning – but it was an incredible adventure! I think it was one of the best trips, as we all got along so well and never had disagreements.
Ireland was one of the greatest experiences of my life – I got to fulfill my dreams of travelling to Europe, living abroad, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. But it definitely had its bumps along the way. The first few days were incredibly hard, as I had no internet and no way to contact my family. However, Brittany was amazing and the people there were super helpful. The hardest moment was when I learned that my Gramma had passed away back home. Before I left, she had been in and out of the hospital with a heart attack and health problems. I knew it was a possibility, and I was scared that it would happen – but she always pushed me to go after my dreams. I was lucky to Skype with her a few times before she passed away. It was definitely hard going through this by myself, missing the funeral and being so far away from all of my family. I tried to stay positive, and a few of my friends were incredibly supportive – I think it would have been much harder without you guys being there for me, making sure I was alright, so thank you.
After my semester ended, my brother, Zach, and my long time best friend, Kirstin, came to meet me. We would start our 6 week adventure in Ireland before travelling to 12 countries, 17 cities, and countless famous landmarks and places. This trip had a few more bumps than previous ones, and I had to learn to travel a little differently. It’s interesting how travel changes when you are travelling with people you haven’t known very long, compared to people you have known your entire life. We had so many hilarious moments and adventures, inside jokes from the trip, and we met so many cool people. I was lucky enough to meet up with many of my friends I had met in Ireland, and I got to introduce them to Zach and Kirstin. I am incredibly grateful to have had the adventure, and to have shared it with so many amazing friends, new and old.
When I got home, I was a part of my cousin’s lovely wedding. I was very lucky to be a part of a huge step into her new life with an amazing person. I am so happy for them. And then, my summer was mostly spent outdoors and with friends. I had multiple days of outdoor climbing and hiking, catching up with amazing friends, and trying to keep up with my friends in Europe and their lives.
Unfortunately, another tragedy occurred. My great aunt, the only remaining sibling from my Gramma’s family, passed away. She had been sick for some time, but it was still hard. My mom had been incredibly close to her when she had lived in Arizona, and their relationship had continued. I had been pen pals with my great aunt since I was little and had visited her in Arizona. I loved writing to her, and she was incredibly supportive and proud of everything I was doing. Her and my uncle were amazingly supportive of my travels and aspirations, and I was so thankful.
For the last few months, my life has been crazy with school and my two jobs – working at the rock climbing gym, and writing a blog about study abroad for the international office at UFV. Starting school again was a little stressful, as it was much more work than I had in Ireland. As I wrote in a previous post, I could have taken four courses and finished my degree. Being too stressed, I decided that I would take another semester. BUT – I did take one leap this semester, and wrote a few articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. It was interesting to branch out to something new, and I really enjoyed it. I hope to write more for it this coming semester!
But I still tried to have a full social life, like I had in Ireland. It definitely wasn’t the same, but I had some great adventures. Especially in the past few weeks, having gone to Stanley Park, Vancouver Christmas Market, Victoria, skating, and bowling. I have gotten to catch up with many amazing friends, and to see my family for Christmas. I have even re-connected with some friends from high school, who I hadn’t seen in years, as we all had a common connection of having studied abroad. It was cathartic and amazing to hear their stories, share experiences, and reminisce on the hilarious adventures we all had since graduating high school!
Now, with New Year’s, I am thinking of what I would like to accomplish over the next year. I am excited to spend New Year’s with my family and great friends. I will then enter my final semester of university – both exciting and terrifying. I went straight from high school to university, and have been studying for 5 years. I am excited to have some time off from school. But I am terrified because I have no idea what I want to do – do I want to travel more? Live abroad again? Find a job around Vancouver? What kind of job do I even want?
I have never been one to have a goal or anything for the New Year. I never found them helpful. So I am going to pick broad ones: in 2016, I want to be happy and to find what I want to do. Hopefully this will include some more travels, meeting new people and experiencing new things, and staying in contact with the amazing friends I have now. But for now, I’m going to have a little fun to finish off a great year.
Lastly, though, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has read this blog over the last year. I appreciate your support through my travels and with my attempt to navigate the blogosphere. I apologize that it wasn’t very interesting sometimes – my life does that once in a while – and that I wasn’t very organized with my uploads. I would love to say that 2016 will be different, but there are no guarantees in life. And no matter how hard I try, my everyday life is not always an exciting adventure. But bear with me – I will still be posting on Instagram, Twitter and occasionally Facebook, and I hope to find more opportunities to write articles and blogs online. Thanks for the support and patience, and hopefully for sticking with me in the future!
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I was also excited to try something new this past semester. I wrote two articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. I will put links to the articles here and here, just in case you would like to peruse them. 🙂
“You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.” – Pinterest
I knew that it would be hard coming home after 7 months away. I always knew. But I wasn’t sure how it would be exactly, just as I hadn’t been sure what it would be like to go abroad.
After being a little too stressed through the first few weeks of school, I made a big decision. Instead of stressing myself out this semester by taking a full course load, I chose, instead, to drop a class. What does this mean? Well, I will now have to take one more semester… I won’t be graduating in December, but in June instead.
And this is okay.
For my own sanity, this was a good move. With my two jobs and the courses I’m already taking, I have been quite busy. But I love my classes and jobs. Coaching again is the best – my athletes are so motivated and I am incredibly excited for this upcoming season! The climbing gym is doing well, with exciting things coming up. And I just published my first official post as editor of the UFV Study Abroad Blog, a post about my adventure. (If you’d like to see the post, click here! I will also be writing stories for other students as well. Check my Facebook or Twitter or something for updates!)
With an extra semester, I will be able to take some more interesting classes hopefully, and sort out exactly what I would like to do after I graduate.
The other day, I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, in which Rory expertly described what it is like for a student graduating from university: ‘it’s like standing on a cliff, looking into an abyss of fog. You can’t see anything ahead of you and you have no idea where to go. This is the first time in your life that nothing is planned for you and you don’t know what is coming next.’
I know that I am not the only person that feels this way, which makes me feel a thousand times better. Not knowing is terrifying yet exhilarating. You just have to hope that something will come for you, that is just what you’ve been looking for.
Right now I have few goals: to graduate, to find a job that I don’t hate, and to go back to Europe in two years. Keep it simple.
As for all of this political debate happening and the refugee crisis, I am not going to voice my opinion.
Finally, for those of you who know me well, I’ve lost a few people now who were important to me. Four years ago, at the end of September, I lost my cousin. It was incredibly unexpected and she was too young. It was hard on all of our family, but especially my aunt. It still hurts, but we know that she is watching over us, and I know that she was with me on all my adventures in Europe, taking it all in with me. Losing her was really difficult, and I didn’t like to talk about it much. This year, both my Gramma and her sister, my great aunt, passed away. I was close with both of them and it was really hard again. Being home without my Gramma has been really hard – she would have wanted to see everything I brought home, heard all my stories. I am glad that I got to skype with her before she passed, while I was away.
But now I have three people watching over me, with my Papa who was already gone. And I know that they are all proud of me.
And now this post got a lot more serious than I had planned. Hopefully, though, you know me a little better now. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. But I’m moving forward.
“Time won’t make you forget, it’ll make you grow and understand things…” – Pinterest
It’s funny. When you’re young, you don’t realize how quickly things in your life can change. Opinions, situations, events, even people are all subject to the ultimatum of change.
Coming home, I had thought I knew what to expect. After all my time away, I was definitely excited to be stationary again, see all of my friends and family who I had missed for six and a half months. I was interested in sharing my adventures and stories, and many people wanted to hear them. And so, after all my time away, I am safely at home.
I am so lucky to have experienced and seen so many amazing things. I lived in another country, on another continent. I travelled through 12 countries, multiple cities, and have seen many famous sites. I am even more grateful that I met and experienced all of these things with such amazing people.
I already wrote about everyone that I met in Ireland. I am thankful to now have these amazing people in my life, and hopefully we will stay in touch (sorry, it’s a fear of mine). But I know that I will see them again. And then there was my trip with my brother and Kirstin. Of course we had our ups and downs, but we had such a great time. We have so many hilarious stories and memories from the great places we travelled to and the wonderful people we met!
But to be honest, being home is quite different from what I expected.
Everyone has been very kind, asking me questions about my trips and experiences. It has been fun telling my stories and adventures. I think people don’t realize sometimes though, that it is hard to explain exactly how study abroad can change your life when you haven’t experienced it. Sometimes, it feels like people expect me to be the same person, other times they tell me how much they see that I’ve changed. It’s interesting to see different reactions.
And again, being honest, it is hard to come home to the exact same situation you left when you are no longer the same. How could I be the same person after these amazing experiences?
Since being home, I have tried to stay busy. Staying home gives you far too much time to think.
Upon arriving home, my cousin was going to be married – and I was a bridesmaid in the wedding! It was a very nice wedding, and I had a lot of fun. Riding in a limo with my cousins and their friends, taking a million pictures in the ridiculous heat, dancing to great and terrible songs with friends and family, and just having a pretty fun night! It was nice to see two people I have known for so long, completely happy and ready to spend the rest of their lives together. Congrats Brent and Vee, I wish you tons of happiness in your new life and home!
Last week, I tried to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors of my home province! I met up with Brit for a day of hiking in Cypress Provincial Park. We had a great time hiking, catching up. Even though the view was completely covered by clouds and fog, it was a really fun hike! We got to catch a great view on the way down the mountain as well. We went into Vancouver to have dinner and walk along the inlet. It was such a great day!
With one day in between, I went hiking again! This time, I went hiking closer to my home, in Golden Ears Provincial Park. I went with my friend, Christy, who I have been friends with for basically my entire life. It was great to be able to spend so much time outdoors these past two weeks, as I had definitely missed my mountains in the time I was gone.
We had an amazing time catching up, and hiking through our beautiful rain forests and mountains. And the rain forest was in full swing that day, as it was absolutely pouring rain while we hiked. By the end of the day, we were completely soaked through! Of course, this meant a stop at probably one of our favourite food enterprises, the classic Canadian Tim Hortons! I was glad to go back to my Timmies hot chocolate – typically Canadian, right!?
Two other exciting things that have happened: I spent a day outdoor climbing with Christy in Squamish’s Smoke Bluffs, and I went to the Imagine Dragons concert. The climbing day was perfect, as my first outdoor day of the season. We got in some great climbs, new ones to both of us, and I scraped up my knuckles like a true climber. (The photos are Christy’s.) The concert was absolutely amazing! Definitely one of the top concerts that I have been to (which are few in numbers…). Christy, Zach and I had a great time, rocking out to the songs and yelling along at the top of our lungs. If you’re a fan of the band, definitely see them in concert!
Work and plans have thankfully kept me busy, and the wonderful technology of today’s century has allowed me to keep in touch with my amazing friends who are now so far away. With one semester left to go in my degree, I know that I will stay quite busy for the upcoming months. After that, who knows! I am constantly asked what I plan to do with my degree and future, but I am still kind of unsure. I have a lot to think about and plan.
Over the next little while, I will stay put in my hometown, working and finishing my degree. Once I’m done, who knows where I’ll be! I definitely hope to have more amazing adventures and travels to be able to write about, hopefully sooner than later. For now, there’s no place like home!
“Actually, the best thing you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Here it is. My final post from my trip, exploring my last adventures in Europe. The story I shall begin with is called “Helltrain,” as named by a few of us who were trapped on this train for many hours.
We boarded a train from Berlin to Amsterdam, excited for the next adventure. We were expecting a six and a half hour journey, our longest train ride yet. We were actually excited, settling in for the long journey. After a couple hours of relaxing, the journey quickly went downhill.
The air conditioning broke in our train car, causing a significant climate change within the very full car. After passing out some free water, we were notified that we should move to another part of the train. So, we crammed into another train car with multiple people – only for that air conditioning to break as well and we were forced to move yet again.
Sitting in a car completely packed with people, we began chatting with some guys sitting and standing near us. Brandon and Levi, who were from Texas. Brandon spoke German and began to translate for us. It was extremely helpful, seen as the people decided that the tourists might not need to understand anything they were saying over the speakers. In short, they told everyone to get off the train. While we were not near our stop. In some random area.
After finding out that we were actually in Rheine, we ventured to find someone who could help us figure out how to get to our final destination of Amsterdam. We hung out with Brandon and Levi, and got new information for which train to get on. We would have to take a train back in the direction we came from in order to catch another train to Amsterdam.
So, taking two more trains with free water, heat, and good conversation, we finally arrived in Amsterdam. What should have taken six and a half hours, turned into a more than ten hour day with a great story. You know, after we survived it and began to create great jokes about it. We left the guys at the station for all of us to find our accommodations.
Our apartment was only a few minutes’ walk from the station, and was also quite close to Dam Square and multiple other places. With a very steep staircase, we got to our room. It was quite nice and comfortable! We loved our location. But to be honest, we were so exhausted that we all had showers and fell asleep early.
The next morning was our first full day in Amsterdam. We got up, had a quick bite to eat, and headed to our first destination: renting bikes! We rented bikes and headed out on our adventure. I was very excited to be doing something so stereotypical and touristy.
I led Zach and Kirstin to Vondelpark, and we rode our bikes around the beautiful park. It took so much less time riding our bikes than when I walked it last time! I was so excited to be in Amsterdam again, as I had loved the city the first time, too.
We continued down to Museumplein, stopping at the iconic ‘iamsterdam’ sign, and looking at the amazing buildings for the museums. We then stopped to wander around the Flower Market before deciding that we were all quite tired from the previous day. So, we went back to the apartment and had a siesta for a bit.
Upon waking up refreshed, we contacted our new friends and decided to meet for dinner. We also invited another new friend, Josue. We had met him in Prague, and had ended up in the same cities since. He brought his brother, Juan, and another friend along. With a big group, we had a great dinner at a kitschy little restaurant and drank some beers. It was fun!
Kirstin and some others wanted to see the Red Light District, so we walked to the other side of the city to see it at night. It is exactly what you would expect – super crowded with drunken people everywhere, red lights and girls, and lots of coffee shops. After wandering through the insane crowds and having a lot of laughs at the ridiculous stag parties, we headed to another area to hang out at a bar. We had some drinks, some laughs, and then laughed even harder when we realized we had forgotten that it was Canada Day. Suffice to say, we did not really celebrate, but it was great fun.
The next day, I got up early and headed to the train station to meet my friend Bert. We hadn’t seen each other in over a month and I was excited! It was crazy to hang out in Amsterdam without our other travel buddies though. 😉
After getting Zach and Kirstin, we went out for brunch to try pannekoeken, Dutch pancakes. I ate one with apples and syrup, and it was delicious! It was a great start to our day. We wandered around Dam Square and saw the Red Light District in the day time. It was kinda gross, just in the way that there was garbage everywhere. We went back to the Flower Market, wandering through and buying souvenirs.
We walked to the other side of the city again – this seems like a common act in Amsterdam – and found a short line for the Anne Frank House. I was ecstatic and made everyone wait in line right away. Usually, the line is longer than 2 hours, but we only had to wait for 45 minutes.
The experience was extremely interesting and moving. I had always wanted to be able to walk through the Anne Frank House. It was amazing. We walked through the various rooms that they hid in, saw multiple artifacts. I was able to see the pictures that Ms. Frank herself had posted on the wall of her shared room, and the numerous versions of her diary in original handwriting. It was amazing to see that these had survived through so many terrible things. It was an incredible experience.
After the Anne Frank House, we grabbed something to eat before beginning some more wandering. Our last adventure of the day was to go on a canal cruise, similar to the one I had taken the previous time in Amsterdam. It was a lot of fun, to see it when the sun was setting. We also learned a lot about Amsterdam and the canals, and I listened to part of it this time – mostly because it was coming from a speaker instead of an older gentleman with a raspy voice. We grabbed a drink and then decided to turn in for the night, as we were all quite tired.
The next morning, we all headed to the train station. We said goodbye to Bert and boarded our train. It was hard to yet again say goodbye to another one of my great friends from Ireland. It was even harder when it became a repeat of saying goodbye to Carlos, and Bert boarded the train on the track beside us. Thanks, Bert, for making the trek to hang out with us for a day. It was a lot of fun!
We got to Sloterdijk station where we would catch our bus. And another snag in our travels occurred. I began to stress out a bit as I couldn’t access our bus tickets electronically on my phone. The bus had not arrived yet (it ended up being quite late), so I could not speak to the bus driver about it either. A kind older gentleman who was working at the station saw that I was stressed. He offered to let me print the tickets from their computer. Fearing for myself a little, I followed him through a few key-activated doors and down a hallway where he set me up at a computer in their break room. I was incredibly thankful for the kindness of allowing me to print the tickets that I had messed up on.
Our bus ride wasn’t too bad, and we arrived in Brussels. Again on familiar turf, I led Zach and Kirstin to the hostel we would be staying in. Which, funnily enough, turned out to be under construction. I guess that was a great culmination of our entire trip. Many sites had been under construction, so it was a little funny when our final hostel was the construction site. Something, probably a roof shingle, even fell from above. It was some great irony for one of the last cities of our trip.
We checked into our hostel, and set out to explore Brussels for our only partial day in the city. I led them to Grand Place, the main square. It was just as pretty as I remembered. Except it was louder this time, with a handball game occurring in the middle of the square. It was entertaining! It was also fun to see if they could pick out the building that is unsymmetrical. We found Mannekin Pis in the rain, ate frites and waffles, bought chocolates, and wandered the great city to see the cathedral and pretty views. It was a lot of fun to hang out in our last city of our travels.
The next day, we caught a train to the airport and got checked in for our flight. Not very long, a little bumpy on landing, and an hour time change later, we were landed back safely in my beautiful Ireland. Kirstin and I walked to pick up my giant suitcase that had been stored at a hotel in Dublin. The man scared me when he began to use his Irish sarcasm to joke that my suitcase was not there. After collecting it and meeting back up with Zach, we caught a bus into Dublin. Kirstin’s dad had been generous enough to use some Honour points to give us a night at the Hilton for the last stay of our trip. It was incredibly nice and we were extremely thankful to be able to stay in a nice room, with comfortable beds, and somewhere that we could print off all the tickets for our flights (plus free hot cookies upon arrival – yum!).
From the hotel, we set out to spend our last night in the city. We walked to Temple Bar, where we picked up a few more souvenirs and ate some delicious burritos at Pablo Picante. We met up with my friend, Raul, to go to a few pubs to finish the trip right. Raul had been living in Dublin and led us easily through the streets and across the Liffey to a really cool pub – The Church. Yes, you read that right. It is a church that was converted into a pub. There is a bar in the middle, and a pipe organ at the back. It was such a cool place to be!
Our next stop was The Porterhouse. Probably one of my favourite pubs that I have ever been to. There was an awesome live band, yet again, and we got to have one last, Irish craft brew on tap. We had a lot of fun before moving on to our last destination, THE Temple Bar.
Somehow, I had not been to The Temple Bar itself, only in the area multiple times. So, for my final Guinness, on tap in Ireland, I went to the most famous pub in Dublin. I was not disappointed, as I found music, a fun atmosphere, and great company to hang out with. My only dislike of the bar: it was all tourists. I think the only Irish person was the guy working the bar that I ordered my pint from.
I said goodbye to Raul and thanked him for spending the last night of our trip with us. It was great to see him before going home! I wish him luck as he stays in Ireland, working and travelling Europe, and safe travels home! We walked back to the hotel and crashed into our amazingly comfortable beds.
The next morning, we caught a bus to the airport. We had to split up, as we were all taking different flights to get to Heathrow to fly home. So, while Zach and Kirstin got dropped off at one terminal, I went to another. We all made it through security and waited for our flights. Zach was first to leave, followed by me, and Kirstin last. My flight was wonderfully comfortable. However, I do have to admit that as I looked out the window and saw the coast of England, I teared up a little, knowing that my trip and time in Ireland were both over.
After a little trouble, Zach and I made it through security in London and set out to find Kirstin. Panicking, as our flight got closer to departure, we headed to the gate to see if she was there. The panic grew as boarding was starting and we couldn’t find her anywhere. Because her phone had broken, we had no way of getting a hold on her. Luckily, the universe was on our side, and she showed up just in time. We boarded the plane and began our journey home… after an hour delay on the runway.
The flight was 9 hours long. Thankfully, there were movies and shows to keep us occupied as we were sitting in different parts of the plane – Zach just behind me, and Kirstin on the opposite side of the plane. The two people I was between were friendly, and we talked for a while, passing the time. I also watched Into the Woods, and tried to watch the final Hobbit movie, but fell asleep merely ten minutes in. In my defense, I was very tired. And oddly enough, the food was pretty good!
We had a great landing, despite the recent forest fires in the area. Thankfully, the airport is close to the coast and the smoke is mostly cleared away there. After quickly finding our bags, it was time to be reunited with our families. There were lots of hugs and hellos, quick anecdotes about the crazy travel day, and I had to get my Tim Hortons Iced Cappuccino before we piled into the car. Despite it technically being far too early in the morning for us in European time, we had to stay awake to adjust our clocks. At home, I unpacked some things and talked to my parents for a bit, before crashing and sleeping for twelve amazing hours.
I have now been home for over a week, and it is definitely weird. I had expected to have culture shock, but perhaps the truth is I am experiencing reverse culture shock. Soon, I will write a post about it.
And there you have it. My entire trip has been put into words for you, in an attempt to document for myself and anyone who might read this. It has definitely been a moving and interesting journey, from living in Ireland to backpacking Europe for the first time. I am incredibly grateful for these amazing experiences and know that they have helped shape who I am now. And I apologize for the multiple references to pubs and alcohols. It’s a different culture towards alcohol in Europe from here.
As for this blog, I plan to continue it in any way that I can. Although my adventures at home may never be as grand as those abroad, I am not going to let that stop me from finding new adventures here. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m excited.
“In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” [Pinterest]