Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In My Own Backyard

It took some time away to make me fully aware of it but I've come to the realization that the place I call home is incredibly awesome. For world-class skiing, killer mountain biking and stunning scenery, I don't have to stray much further than my own backyard. Whistler, made famous for all of these things and more, is just a mere two and a half hour drive away (along a stretch of very scenic coastline I might add!) from my hometown.

In addition to the activities I just mentioned, there are countless walks and hikes to do in and around Whistler, a good 99% of which I have never taken the opportunity to explore - even though I've been to Whistler loads of times! While I was at home this summer, unemployed and waiting around for my British Work Visa to be processed, I decided it was high time to do something about that.

My dad, my sister and I decided our destination would be Garibaldi Lake, located roughly 20 km south of Whistler. The hike itself is 18 km round-trip and while it's definitely no walk in the park, it's not ridiculously strenuous either. It was one of those hikes where you're not rewarded with any kind of view until you get to the very end, which is always frustrating at the time but especially satisfying when you finish. It was a cloudy day which was a bit of a shame but I enjoyed it nonetheless: mountain views, placid water that at some angles looked electric blue and a day spent with two of my favourite people.

That's another thing I love about traveling: Not only can it give you a greater appreciation of where you're from, but it makes you want to take advantage of what's right in your own backyard.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Photo Blog: Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver

West is Best

The West Coast of Canada is commonly referred to as the Best Coast and (in my biased opinion anyway!) it's not hard to see why. Intricate inlets, vast fjords, lush temperate rain forests, gigantic whales leaping out of the water, bald eagles perched in trees watching bears eating salmon on the shore... these are just a few of the things you'll find in this magical little corner of the world. Scattered up and down this gorgeous coastline are 40,000 (mostly uninhabited) islands, over 200 of which comprise a group known as the Gulf Islands. 

Each Gulf Island is unique, and they vary greatly in both size and population. To give you an idea, the most developed and populous island (Salt Spring Island) has 10,234 inhabitants, eight schools and even their own currency, the Salt Spring dollar! The most sparsely inhabited and least developed is Saturna Island with a mere 350 residents, a small shop or two and one elementary school. 

While some people call these islands home year-round, for many they serve as a great getaway on weekends and during the summer months. If you're looking for adventure, you'll find it here: The islands offer a wide variety of activities including camping, hiking, kayaking, biking and even scuba diving but if you're wanting to just relax and enjoy some peace and quiet, they are perfect for that too.

As the crow flies, most of these islands really aren't that far away from major cities like Vancouver and Victoria. However, because they're not so easily accessible (some can be reached by ferry but many are only accessible by water taxi, private boat or floatplane) it can feel like you're a million miles away. I always feel instantly calm when I arrive and incredibly refreshed when I leave. I think the Gulf Islands are a big part of what makes West the best!

Some photos I took while staying on Mayne Island with my Mom and Grandma a couple of weeks ago

Love that sky

Cheeky deer in someone's front garden

Georgina Point Lighthouse

Three generations enjoying some island time

Best seat in the house


Japanese-style garden

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Should I Stay or Should I Go

Whenever I write a post after neglecting my blog for a while, I always like to start it off with some type of greeting. So, a big 'hello!' to anyone still interested enough to be reading my blog nearly two years after I started it (time flies doesn't it?!)

After another nine month stint abroad (mostly spent working in Australia and doing a bit of traveling around Europe) I'm back at home once again. Much to my parents' dismay however, I'm still not home for good; I'm here to apply for a British Working Holiday Visa, which would allow me to live and work in the UK for up to two years.

The idea of living in the UK first appealed to me years ago while studying abroad in France. I traveled to many countries that year and while I absolutely loved places like Italy, Greece and Morocco, I couldn't really picture myself living in any of them long-term. Cultural differences and language barriers are a fun challenge while you're traveling but (as I discovered while living in France) can be slightly more frustrating if you're trying to pay your rent, see a doctor or open a bank account. In the UK, however, I realized that although the cultural differences and language barriers weren't entirely non-existent (That couch you sit on? Brits sit on 'settees'. Pleased about something? A Brit would say they're 'chuffed'. Toilet paper = bog roll. I could go on and on...) they were far less of an issue for me being a Canadian. It was a lovely place, different enough to still be exciting but similar enough that I never encountered any major difficulties and I remember thinking to myself, I can imagine myself living here some day.

Although the idea of moving there has been in the back of my mind for some time, the main reason I'm (hopefully) going there now is Ben. Luckily he absolutely loves Vancouver and is not opposed to moving here BUT you can only apply for Canadian Working Holiday Visas at certain times of the year (ie. not right now) whereas I can apply for a British one at any time. As a result, the plan is for us to try living over there for a while to see how we like it. (I don't know exactly where yet, we'll see what happens!)

Luckily the visa process wasn't too difficult, just tedious. My application package (along with all of my current/expired passports) has been sent away for processing and I'm now waiting to hear if I've got it!

 My passport collection - guess the Brits want to see where in the world I've been!

Like the last time I was home for a visit, I'm trying to cram a bunch of visiting/activities/errands into a very short amount of time and have been pretty busy, hence the lack of blogging. But I'll be updating the blog again soon with what I've been up to. Until then, fingers crossed I get this visa!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Aix Marks the Spot

As I've mentioned a few times on this blog, I was lucky enough to have the chance to spend my third year of university studying in Aix  (pronounced ex) en Provence, a charming town in the South of France.    

To this day, it remains one of the best experiences of my life: I was living in a gorgeous city where I got to speak French everyday, I got to meet like-minded students from all around the world, I spent far more time galavanting and cafe hopping than I ever did studying and I had Europe at my fingertips. It was an almost entirely carefree time, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will surely never experience again.

With so many fond memories of that year, the city of Aix held a very special place in my heart. Four years down the line I found myself on holiday with Ben's family in the French Alps, with Aix just a five hour drive away. I wanted so badly to re-visit the place I'd once called home but was also apprehensive; Would it still seem as magical as it once had? Would returning spoil the near-perfect image I had of the city, and of that year as a whole?

I decided to chance it, and so Ben and I made the five hour drive south. I was anything but disappointed. The city was every bit as wonderful and special as I remembered (and Ben enjoyed it too, which was a plus!) Some things had changed (like the addition of several bagel shops - four years ago bagels were nonexistent in Aix!) but for the most part it was just as it was when I left.

Pavillon Vendome

Place d'Albertas

Sunflowers at the market

Bagels are coming!

Whether it's sharing street food with locals in Myanmar or spotting wild cassowaries in Australia, travel experiences can rarely be replicated or recreated. They're unique, one of a kind, and my year studying abroad was no exception. Be that as it may, visiting Aix this time around was a beautiful walk down memory lane, one that I got to share with Ben. And I can't ask for much more than that.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Wonderful Beaches of Oz

There are many things I miss about Australia (the high wages, awesome wildlife and Vegemite, to name a few) but none more so than its glorious shores. With 25,760 kilometres of coastline, this country-island-continent has no shortage of beautiful beaches perfect for swimming, snorkelling and watching the sun go down. I'm still amazed by just how many exquisite beaches I came across during my time down under, especially since I only made it to four out of Australia's eight states!

These were some of my favourite beaches around New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland:

Bondi Beach, NSW

Ventnor Beach, VIC

Killarney Beach, VIC

Adder Rock, QLD

Manly Beach, NSW

12 Apostles, VIC

Cowes Beach, VIC

Freshwater Beach, NSW

Wineglass Bay, TAS

Shelley Beach, NSW

Myall Beach, QLD

Albert Park Beach, VIC