Brooklyn, NYC

USA

Day 271

Brooklyn Bound: Inspiration, Motivation & Rejuvenation

When a week unexpectedly turns out to be one of the most random weeks… those are my favourite kind. A few weeks ago, my coming back here so soon was an idea in passing. Next thing I know, I’m in New York again with exploratory interviews, lunch meetings with old colleagues, introduction meetings with publishers, and nights out with friends from past travels. It really doesn’t get better than that.

I decided to make the drive out here, not necessarily by choice but of necessity. I’m still technically deemed ‘unfit to fly’, so rather than jumping on a plane shortly before I have ear surgery, I thought perhaps it was time to start adulting and take my doctors advice seriously. I don’t know how I’d never thought to drive here before, since my car has taken me to Nashville, Philly, Chicago, Miami… so many places. It’s almost as if NYC  had been too close for me to consider driving it. I don’t know, I just don’t make sense when it comes to some things. I like to think my sometimes lack of sound logic is endearing. No need to tell me otherwise. Given how my car has always been my peace of mind as well, taking me to new places, calming me when I’m angry, overwhelmed or sad… the idea of spending seven hours in my car this week to head to NYC actually made me quite happy. There’s nothing like a beautiful drive to clear ones mind and discover a sense of renewed inspiration. The drive here was perfect. It rained most of the way, but the beautiful kind of rain, when it smells gorgeous and keeps the temperature warmer than seasonal. I managed to avoid the highways and took backroads the entire way here. I saw a lot of American back country and small towns, which brings a certain kind of contentness to ones heart. I love the feeling of the open highway, don’t get me wrong, but for seven hours, that could get monotonous. That said, doing a back road country drive across Canada or the US is seriously moving up on my bucket list priorities.

Any who, back to Brooklyn… One of the things I’ve learned about myself is I find my writing inspiration while lost in the mix of a foreign place. Now, Brooklyn ain’t that different from Toronto, I know. I’m aware, for all you judgey people who were already thinking that. But Toronto is too much like home for me. Walking around the streets of Brooklyn are new, every turn, every corner, takes me to somewhere I’ve never been. New cafes, new restaurants, new street art, new strangers to smile at as I pass them by… it’s a beautiful thing to rejuvenate ones soul.

As I write this, I’ve been here just over 24 hours and already I’ve been back to Times Square (which is starting to feel a bit too common now), had dinner with some Aussie friends I met in Berlin, went to a comedy show (where Louis CK showed up unannounced!) and finished a whole bunch of work – the actual purpose of my coming here. So suffice to say, an inspiring and worthwhile trip already. Here’s to whatever unexpectedness the rest of the week shall bring!

NYC Skyline

 

Toronto

Canada

Day 267

What 2015 Taught Me

2015 will definitely go down in my record books as the year I did a lot of cool shit. I stood under Christ the Redeemer. I marvelled at Iguazu Falls. I cried in the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. I stood in awe where two oceans meet but don’t mix at Cape Point. I watched lions and elephants and so many more animals in the Serengeti in Tanzania. The Temple of Ramesses II in Egypt literally left me speechless. I meditated on a yoga retreat in India. I climbed the Great Wall of China. I got stranded in Hong Kong. And I trained in Muay Thai for a month in Thailand. All awesome and fairly badass.

But what did I learn in 2015? There were some pretty solid takeaways from the year, applicable to everyone, made even more blatantly obvious to me during my travels.

  • Life long learning is a real thing. By the time I was leaving Argentina for South Africa, not quite two months into the trip, there was something off that I just couldn’t put my finger on at the time. Two weeks into South Africa I pinpointed exactly what it was. I had just come out of a full-time job, I had been taking courses on my own time for the past two years and I had just spent six months endlessly studying for my PMP exam. Basically, I’d been doing a hell of a lot of learning for the past few years, then suddenly I wasn’t learning anything. Sure, seeing beautiful sites and listening about the history of places may be considered learning, but it’s not intellectually stimulating. Compounded by the fact that I was no longer surrounded by people who were into international affairs, I was in need of some serious learning of some kind. Thankfully once I figured out what the problem was, I was able to fill this void with podcasts, TED talks, PMP webinars and documentaries for the remainder of my trip.

 

  • Our food is shit. Seriously. Our food is absolute shit. Having worked in the food industry for most of my life and having travelled extensively around the globe, I feel mildly qualified to say this without needing a degree in it. In western society, food labeling is quite regulated, we see documentary after documentary about the adverse effects of eating fast food or consuming sugar and salt in exorbitant amounts, and yet we continue to do it. We continue to put this shit in our mouths, of which I was just as guilty of up until a year ago, even though we KNOW it’s harmful to our bodies. Food companies sell their shit products to us under the guise of convenience and we buy into it, even though we all know they’re just trying to maximize profits by extending shelf life and using cheap ingredients. I lost 50lbs in 2015, and I can assure you it wasn’t any drastic lifestyle change. It was eating real food all year that didn’t have chemical or any other kind of additives put in. Between that and drinking a hell of a lot more water, that was all my body has been craving. Ooh look, perfect segway into my next point!

 

  • People really need to care more about water. These days, it seems as if people treat the word renewable as interchangable with infinite. But renewable resources are not infinite. So many countries around the world are having serious water crises, a phenomenon by no means limited solely to landlocked nations. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, they’re under strict water restrictions. We went full days without access to water. We had to go to other sides of town where the water was still on to shower. I became severely ill after swimming in what I know now was (and still is) the dangerously contaminated water of Rio De Janeiro. Of the 11 countries I visited on my around-the-world trip, only one of them, South Africa, had tap water that I could safely drink. In India, even sealed water bottles weren’t safe: water bottles are regularly filled with their local contaminated water and resealed with a sealing machine to sell. Looking out into what is supposed to be the beautiful waterfront of Alexandria, Egypt, all I could see was garbage.  I strongly believe that access to clean water should be a universally acknowledged human right, yet companies like Nestle have made us think that even our own clean water in Canada isn’t good enough to drink. Then, we use insane amounts of water as if there’s water a plenty for the whole world! We manage to be excessively wasteful with the clean water we do have access to, contaminate the clean water resources that surround us, and do both with a blatant disregard of how invaluable it is to our daily survival. It’s ****ed up.

 

All that said. Let’s keep learning, eat clean, and be water-conscious in 2016! It’s easy to do when you make the simple decision to not be lazy anymore.

 

Florianopolis

Oh look. A beautiful beach that made me severely ill. Not so beautiful anymore looking back at it.

New York City

USA

Day 247

The lights are so bright, but they never blind me… Welcome to New York!

Traveling to the same place twice is an interesting phenomenon for me; it’s not something I do often and it’s not a decision I make lightly. I have a hard time justifying spending money to go to a place I’ve already experienced and I miss the rush of being somewhere new. I’ve only done it with three other places: Vegas, which was with different people for a different reason each time,  Dublin, where my family is from, and California, where my best friend moved to. But when one of your favourite people, who lives in England, reaches out and says they’re going to be in New York for 10 days and would I be willing to join them, how could I say no? The biggest part of traveling (for me) is the people you spend your time with, so it was an easy yes. Add on to that it’s a free place to stay, with free meals and site seeing… that makes it a no brainer.

I just spent my first day here wandering the streets, taking in the sites. While Times Square is a bit anticlimactic if you’ve already been to it, it’s still beautiful nonetheless. The lights, the shows, the shops… it’s an iconic place that so many cities around the world try to mimic but can’t quite pull off. What struck me this time around, which I didn’t get to experience before, was the side streets. Broadway was lined with European feeling Christmas Market stalls and rows upon rows of Christmas trees. I’m finally starting to feel that Christmas feeling in my heart, which over takes me everywhere, but amidst the crazy 2015 I’ve had seemed to have been delayed. I’m so looking forward to heading down to Rockefeller Centre to see the tree and all of the oversized decorations throughout the city.

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I will say the weirdest part about coming to New York is the irrational amount of fear people have about traveling these days. The amount of people who said ‘Please be safe’ to me for this trip is very confusing. I’ve backpacked through India alone, I traveled South East Asia alone, but for some reason, people are scared of me spending a long weekend in NYC. Weird. Pull it together people, I’ve got this. Xoxo.

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Pearson Airport

Canada

Day 246

That Airport Kind of Feeling

Another day, another airport. As I’m sitting in Pearson airports The Hearth, drinking my glass of Pinot Grigio, enjoying the most delectable bowl of onion soup, I must say: I am in my happy place. There’s something about an airport that I just love. Everyone is going to different places, for different purposes, but for a brief period in time, we all sit in this (large) confined area having a similar experience. While some may be pondering what the following days will have in store for them, whether they are off on an adventure, about to close a business deal, or on their way home, I find myself solely in the moment. Where I’m going is irrelevant right now.

Perhaps it’s because I see the airport as representative of our journey in life. People coming, people going. Happy people, sad people, confused people, frustrated people. People engrossed in their technology. People blissfully people watching. People like me, somewhere between the two. Parents trying to entertain their children through a long journey (bless their hearts!) Elderly people slowly meandering their way to their gate. People who patiently wait in line. People (the worst kind) who line cut because they just don’t have their **** together. People wearing their backpacks, about to set off on a Euro trip they’ll never forget. People with their full set of Louis Vitton suitcases, doing whatever people like that do (I just wouldn’t know lol) People enjoying a lavish steak dinner and swiping their expense card. People eating onion soup like a pauper in a fancy restaurant (me). I think all of it is just so blissfully fantastic. It’s the most organized form of chaos I can imagine, and for anyone who knows me… organized chaos is my jam.

It inspires me in a way. Not in any specific way that I can pinpoint, but in an overall way. It reminds me that in the chaos of this world, we find a way to pull it together. And in this world where the news can drag one down to lows they didn’t know were possible… it’s reassuring knowing that we can, in fact, pull it together.

17H

Detroit, MI

United States

Day 241

Detroit. A Place Much Like Thailand… But More Like Canada

So whilst in Thailand, I met two awesome women. You know the kind of people that sometimes when you meet someone you think ‘wow, you are my kind of people!’ That was these ladies. They’re my kind of people. They’re so awesome that the three of us have now found our own club. It involves adult colouring, friendly chatting and all around actually fairly innocent debauchery. We’re a badass club, clearly. And while one of us lives in New Zealand (dammit Rose!), the other lives in Michigan. A place that aint so far from Ontario. So while Jess was home for a quick holiday layover before heading back to Burma to continue her world-bettering endeavours, we decided to get together half way between Brantford and Kalamazoo, which as it turns out, is in Detroit.

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As a smug Canadian traveler, I’ve of course become accustomed to many an American stereotype and happily bought into them, as any good Canadian must. Add in that I was going to Detroit of all places, and bam, stereotype explosions were happening all over!

Imagine my shock when I crossed the border after a brief time spent in secondary screening, because apparently “I’m meeting a friend I met in Thailand and will be back tomorrow” sounds questionable, and experience something I was never expecting. For two countries who brag about having the worlds longest unprotected border… imagine my surprise when nothing was different, except perhaps the road quality.

I got to go out to a cute little hipster area of Detroit, then a little mini bar hop in Ferndale, before heading in for a night of girlie chick flicks (not really – we watched a documentary on North Korea, but that doesn’t sound as sexy now, does it?) What I saw and experienced in Michigan shocked me; it was as if I was still in the obviously wonderful land of Canada. People held doors open for me, people said excuse me, people said sorry if I bumped into them, people let me go first, people were just all around bloody awesome. As someone who likes to razz my American neighbours, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to give love when love is due. Murica… you aint so bad sometimes!

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