Where I’m at: Travel Update, 31/10/16

Do your best to live in the moment.
Wherever you are will always be more important than wherever you think you’re going.

Me, 2016.

 

Right now, I’m in Ottawa; the capital city of Canada. It’s been about 4 months since I left Australia back in June: here’s a summary of what’s happened since then.

       I flew to New York* to work as a camp counselor at Camp Homeward Bound, about an hour’s drive away from NYC. CHB* is run by a charity called the Coalition for the Homeless; it’s a summer camp for kids that have come from homeless shelters or abuse shelters. Working there meant 9 weeks of singing camp songs, doing some pretty sweet camp activities, and hanging out with counsellors from all over the world. It also meant going through some tough times, some really extreme ups and downs, and a few very valuable personal lessons that I kind of had to learn the hard way.

 

chb
The sun setting over the waterfront at Camp Homeward Bound

 

When it ended in late August, I took off on an a bit of a trip*:  2 nights in Brooklyn, 1 night in Jersey City, 2 nights in Philadelphia and 4 nights in Washington, before finishing up again in Jersey City. (Quick note: Jersey City is where my mate Andy Brown currently lives – the absolute legend has pretty much been my home base in the US, and has really helped me out. Thanks Andy!). It was a pretty awesome week, and a beautiful way to say final goodbyes to some of the incredible friends that I’d made at camp.

Next up was Canada. I flew into Toronto airport where I was picked up by my friend May. From there, we drove straight to Niagara Falls; and they are absolutely incredible. We did a few touristy things, but the Maid of the Mist was by far the best: it’s a boat ride that takes you right up to the falls and into the spray, and it has to be one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done whilst travelling.

american-falls
The American part of the falls, as seen from Canada.

After 2 nights there, we finished off with a visit to Niagara on the lake (a cute little touristy village nearby), before our 5 hour drive back to Ottawa where May lives (and where I was planning on living for the following 3 months).

While still scoping around for a place to live in Ottawa, I decided to go check out Montreal. I stayed with my good mate Adelaide, who’s here on exchange from Australia. (She also loves to travel, so check out her travel blog and Youtube channel – she’s really good!). Montreal was cool and very artsy, and Adelaide was absolutely awesome to hang out with.

Back in Ottawa, I’d scored myself a place to live that was close to downtown, not too far from May’s house, and right next to uOttawa. My housemates are pretty awesome as well, so it was a pretty sweet score. I moved in, borrowed a guitar from a new friend (thanks Cat!), got a sports membership at uOttawa, and settled in to a nice little routine. So commenced a period of bludging, playing a heap of sport, fiddling on/improving my guitar skills, and trying to sort my life out.

I’ve been playing soccer with some Uni students like 3 or 4 times a week, and occasionally did a bit of badminton and kickboxing too. May organised for me to borrow her dad’s skates, so I also started ice skating a few times a week at the uni. (They have 2 skating/hockey rinks ON THEIR CAMPUS! Mind = blown!). Ice skating was kind of difficult at the start, and all I could do was go around forward in circles – but after just a few weeks, I think I’m ready to be drafted into the NHL 😀

Somewhere along the way, I had a job trial in the kitchen of a local café. It actually went really well, but I had to let the owner know that I would only be around for a few months. As much as he liked me, he decided that he needed someone a little more long term instead; but hey, I did get paid for 2 hours of work! Since paid employment didn’t work out, I decided to look into volunteering; but more on that later.

I’m really enjoying the awesome food adventures I’ve been going on too. There’s been good old Thai food that I’ve really missed (thanks MJ!); maple syrup flavoured soft serve ice cream dipped in cookies and cream chocolate; fancy wood-fired Pizza; cheap delicious wings; and even just sampling some of the many, MANY Shawarma places near by. Ottawa has the highest density of Shawarma shops of any city in the world – and I fucking love Shawarma.

wings
Wings night with Tiavii, my housemate.

I really wanted to use this time to get ready for the last year of my degree. I’ve been sending emails to a few of my professors at UOW for advice on how best to do this, but I knew I had to try to get my mind into the habit of thinking and working hard again. Ideally I’d be working on stuff that’s related to my course, but really, any writing project with a goal or deadline would help focus my mind.

With a little inspiration from afar (gosh I miss TimTams…), I decided to start this blog. It’s helped me to challenge myself with something I haven’t done before, given me a great platform to share my travel experiences, and provided somewhere for me to gather/explore/communicate my thoughts about matters both general and personal. It’s made my brain work, and forced me to face up to my bad study habits – mostly procrastination, staying up and waking up late, and too much perfectionism (which, surprisingly, isn’t always a good thing; nothing gets published until I’ve read over it like 1000 times).

My endeavour towards self-improvement has also been a massive goal for me. Notice that I say the endeavour, and not just the improvement on its own: to me, self-improvement is a process, one that has no clear end goal. As long as I am persistently and tenaciously doing as best I can, I know that I’ll keep seeing incremental personal improvements that I can be happy with. Right now, this applies to personal fitness and strength, working on my Spanish, becoming a better cook, getting better at playing guitar, and most recently, being able to create something that may inspire, intrigue and connect with people: That’s what I’m really hoping this blog will achieve.

Looking ahead, I’m entering the end game of my trip. I recently walked through my first ever snowfall, and kind of LOST MY SHIT – It was cold and beautiful and poignant, and i experienced it all with childlike wonder and excitement. I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon, but it felt pretty amazing. Unfortunately, it also means I have to brace myself for some seriously cold weather ahead.

dashing-through-the-snow
Turns out if you actually dash, you could slip and hurt yourself. Who knew!

I’ve just booked a trip to Toronto – I’ve heard great things, and just have to check it out. I also hope to meet up with a very close old friend of mine that haven’t seen since Exeter, so it should be a hell of a trip.

 

As with anything in life, my journey has had it’s ups and downs. Living on the other side of the world from the place you call home is definitely exciting, but will never be entirely worry free for anyone; I am no exception. There have been times where I’ve really just needed a hug, and realised that I have absolutely no idea where I could get one. I’ve had to find ways to get support from afar and pick myself up, and push on with my goals. So far, I’ve been able to do that fairly well, and I’m glad that things have been pretty incredible overall.

Without a doubt, my trip to North America – summer camp, travel in the US, and living in Canada – will be something I will look back on with pride, satisfaction, and longing; and it’s not even over yet. I’m so glad that I decided to do something so random.  I hope that the rest of it will be even more awesome – full of great food, adventures, connecting with people, personal successes, and a new sense of direction and invigoration for me to take back with me to Australia.

Lastly, I have to give a special mention to May.

May is an absolute angel, and has made my trip a thousand times easier than it would have otherwise been. Letting me stay at her unit for a while, helping me to find my place, little trips around Ottawa, lending me things that I’ve needed, or just occasionally hanging out and giving me the companionship that I really miss – I genuinely don’t know what I would have done without her. She’s an amazing friend, and I hope life sends amazing things her way. May, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for being so incredible; words can’t express how much I appreciate you and all that you’ve done for me.

 

*Things I promise to write about eventually*

  • Summer camp (preview: holy fuck, it was insane)
  • Being held up by US customs (preview: holy fuck, it was insane)
  • Niagara falls
  • NYC, Washington, Philadelphia, and general post camp travel shenanigans
  • America as a country/culture
  • Canada as a country/culture

I love talking about my travels – about people, culture and just life in general. If you want to know more or you’re just up for a chat, get in touch or leave a comment.

 

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