After two days of exploring São Paulo, Preeya and I are off to explore the island of Florianopolis in southern Brazil. Everyone here in São Paulo has nothing but amazing things to say about the island, so I’m really looking forward to arriving there. We never would have even heard of this island were it not for our couchsurfing host, Amanda. She has turned out to be a godsend for us here, not only opening up her home to us but also taking us out in the evenings, showing us the Brazilian culture we otherwise might have missed had we taken a traditional tourist approach.
Yesterday we took the opportunity to sleep in, a luxury one rarely has while employed, so our newfound unemployment has seemed the perfect time to take advantage of this. We took our time getting ready and then headed out to meet up with another couchsurfing friend I had made prior to coming. After being treated to a delicious lunch in the side streets of the old downtown in Sao Bento, we explored the neighbourhood, it’s architecture and it’s history.
After a few hours there, we made our way over to Paulista Avenue and decided to check out Augusta street. We found some really quaint shops and cafes, stopping in one particularly cute cafe for a quick drink and snack. Preeya jokingly commented that we should look up where the closest Outback Steakhouse was – for anyone who knows me, you know my love for the Outback is unparalleled. So when we realized there was one only .8km’s away, it was destiny. We went over to the Outback for some salad and appetizers (alas, my beloved soup was not available) then headed over to Consolacao station to meet up with Amanda. We headed over to her cousins place where he and his friends were cooking up a Brazilian feast and immediately put caipirinha’s in our hands. We spent a few hours there, making new friends, enjoying amazing food, and laughing until our cheeks hurt.
Since we decided to go to Florianopolis this weekend, we thought we’d save our samba dancing plans for the island. After another amazing sleep, we woke up to a day of exploring the local neighbourhood where we are staying, on the blue line just off the Santana stop. The one thing I will say has surprised me about Brazil is I really was expecting more people to speak English. I have no idea why I thought this, as I had no similar presumptions traveling to Germany, France or Italy, where conversing in English turned out to be no problem at all. Yet here in Brazil, it seems as though no one other than our host – and the random homeless lady that yelled at us in English when we ignored her Portuguese plea – speaks English! That said, we seem to be getting by just fine, using our basic knowledge of French and Spanish to be able to sound out and figure out words in Portuguese when possible. And of course when on wifi, a Portuguese/English translation app. We’ve picked up the basics, obrigada (thank you), Quonta por favor (cheque please), oi, Tudu bien? (Hi, how are you?), vamos (let’s go), saida (exit) and more everywhere we go. My goal is to have conversational Portuguese down by the time we head to Africa, which will be on June 3.
As I finish writing this, I am about to board the twelve hour bus ride to Florianopolis. I’m so glad I downloaded lots of TED talks for excursions like this where I’ll be without wifi. And sleeping pills. I am very glad I thought to bring sleeping pills. Until tomorrow friends!
I don’t know about you, but red eye flights generally drain the life right out of me; but this time, the combination of having the middle row to myself and investing in some proper sleep medication, I must have slept at least eight out of the ten hour overnight flight from Toronto to Sao Paulo. Add on to this that the dinner served following take off and the breakfast served just prior to landing were both delicious, I can definitively say that my around-the-world trip got off to a great start.
When Preeya and I planned to start this trip in Sao Paulo, people told us we were crazy. They filled our heads with visions of being mugged immediately after leaving the airport, being attacked on the streets, any kind of awful scenario really, people liked to assure us it would happen. But what we found instead is only the loveliest of people, from finding the bus we needed to get on at the airport, to strangers helping us find our way in the Metro station, to meeting up with our Couchsurfing host. Sao Paulo has most definitely welcomed us with open arms.
As I sit and reflect on my first day in Brazil, on day one of this around the world venture, I am so excited for the unknown that lay ahead of us. We purposely left our trip mostly unplanned, having only a place to stay when we land in Sao Paulo and a flight from Rio to Buenos Aires on May 14. Everything in between now until then will unfold as we go, coming together by suggestions and recommendations from the locals we meet. Having landed with no plans, we already have lunch plans with newfound friends, dancing lessons at a local samba bar, etc. Amanda, our host, has entrusted us with her house keys, leaving us to make her place our own home during our time here. The couchsurfing culture here is incredible; we must have had at least fifty people offer to host us, with countless more offering to take us out and show us the sites. While most people at home in Canada thought I was crazy when I tried to explain couchsurfing to them, if you ever have the opportunity to try it, be it a host or surfer, I highly recommend it, as you meet the most incredible people.
Tomorrow we will head out to really explore the city, and I promise there will be pictures, as I’m told I don’t post enough! Until then, I will sleep tight in my new home away from home.
Having become accustomed to quick 3-4 day trips, where I land, see the sites quickly and then head out, mostly to maximize my vacation days over the course of a long weekend, the idea of spending ten days in California boggled my mind. What could I possibly do for ten days? Fortunately I had the opportunity to do so many things I normally would not have, primarily due to the generosity of my friends Jess and Jonathan, who live in Beaumont, California, which as it turns out is quite central to a number of major sites. Here are some of the highlights for your perusal!
Kayaking & Sea Cave excursion, La Jolla, San Diego
Before Caitlin and I got to California, Jess found a Groupon for kayaking and sea cave exploring out in La Jolla, San Diego, which was the perfect way to kick off Day 1 of our trip. We arrived at Everyday California in the AM to check in, grab our helmets, life jackets and kayaks and head out. For anyone who has been to San Diego, you already know how beatiful it was, but there’s a certain peace of mind that comes with checking out the sea lions and other animals which the South Western Ontario weather doesn’t allow for. The only downside to the day, which thankfully didn’t impact me, is Everyday California is in the transition of switching from old kayaks to new ones. So while some of us were fine and dandy in our shiney new(er) kayaks, a few people were stuck in older ones which actually sank out in the water and saw them flip upsidedown! I would not have been a happy camper if that had been me. But since it wasn’t, all in all Day 1 was a definite a success!
The Price is Right, Los Angeles
There is so much to be said for the Price is Right day! This was an experience like no other – check out my feature on the Price is Right by clicking here.
The Spring Resort & Spa, Desert Springs
This was an experience like no other! To read more about my day at The Spring Resort & Spa, click here.
Hard Rock Hotel, Palm Springs
The Hard Rock Hotel, to be quite honest, was a bit of a miss for me, rather than a hit! The staff were pleasant in person but seemed disorganized and unaware of the amenities they had to offer. The hotel itself, the pool and the view were all absolutely astounding. The food at the restaurant was to die for. They had every aspect of an amazing, stand out hotel, but what was missing was the kind of fun environment I’ve come to expect from the Hard Rock Hotel, having stayed at many others throughout the USA. We were the only people in the restaurant for most the time, the only people at the pool for most the time, and the only people in the lobby while we were there. With the exception of a few stragglers here and there, it felt like a ghost town staying here. Thank goodness we bring our own party everywhere we go, because we still had an amazing time nonetheless celebating for Jess’ bachelorette party! When I got home to Canada howeveer, I noticed the hotel had overcharged me for both the room and the in-room services we ordered, and while they refunded me the difference when I called, I still took an over $30 hit on the exchange rate from the bank due to the Hard Rock Hotels staff error.
Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip
What started out as just a day heading to Dana Point to relax at the beach turned into the most unexpected, wonderful little road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway for a few hours. As traffic on the highway was going to be a nightmare on our way back to Beaumont, Jonathan asked if we’d be okay taking the long way, which might just be one of my favourite parts of the trip. As much as I try to fight my shallow tendencies, the sites of Laguna Beach (The Hills!), Newport Beach (The O.C.!) and Huntington Beach (Helllllloo Tito Ortiz) were far more exciting to me than perhaps they should have been, getting just a glimpse of the life of those on some of my favourite shows.
The Grand Oaks Resort & Lavender Field
The beauty of the location and the deliciousness of the food made this stop an absolutely treat. It was a little gem Jess has discovered since moving out to California so we decided to head over there to take some wedding photos. Fortunately for me, Jess is completely understanding of the fact that I will be missing her wedding so while the entire bridal party was together we decided to get some pictures. Following photos, we were treated to an amazing dinner by the bride & groom where we all toasted to our amazing friendships that have and will continue to stand the test of both time and distance.
IPIC Theatre, Pasadena
On my final night in California, Jess and Jonathan treated me to the IPIC theatre in Pasadena. Now this theatre is something that needs to come to Canada. Our VIP theatres in no way compare to what IPIC has to offer. Reclining lounge chairs, pillows, blankets, full meal and drink service before and during the theatre, the whole movie-going experience was an entirely new one to anything I’ve done before. But what really captured me was the quaintness of Pasadena. My next trip in California will definitely require more time to be spent here, from the village type feeling, the humming sound of people talking and just the warm small town feeling it gave me. I just loved every minute of my very short time here and left wanting so much more.
Call me crazy, but airports are my happy place. I love them so much that I have convinced myself I can actually feel the energy of excitement buzzing through the expansive space of gates and waiting areas. The excitement of adventures just on the cusp of beginning balanced only by the dimming afterglow of adventures coming to an end. Even for those with less enthusiastic reasons for traveling, there’s a beauty that comes with their unknown. Those travelling for business hoping for potentially positive economic and personal outcomes; those travelling to visit someone who is ill or passed, about to be surrounded by the love of those known and unknown to them; someone breaking away from a troubled present, about to get a fresh start. Everyone’s story is so different, our lives taking place all over the world, interacting with different cultures, in different languages, with different thoughts and opinions and viewpoints. Yet here we find ourselves, all brought together by this magical place that can literally allow us to travel anywhere in the world. It’s mind blowing to me how so many have come to take air travel for granted. The world is at our finger tips here, far beyond the figurative grasp of the internet, but literally within reach.
As I type this, I am sitting in LAX about to return to Toronto, and am reflecting of all the flights ahead of me. New York, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and so many more. I am so excited to see the world through the lens of airports all around the world. I have promised myself I will never lose my awe of air travel and I hope for you reading this that you promise yourself the same.
It is said it takes a lot of courage to pursue your dreams, which is why most choose to stay in a complacent comfort zone of mediocrity. Sure, big dreams take courage, no doubt, but there’s one other extremely critical element that can make or break your attempts of following your heart. When I decided to take the bold step of leaving my home, loved ones and career all behind me in order to travel the world, my ability (or lack thereof) to do so was determined by one thing: the backers and the lackers. The backers are the people who support you and love you in such a way that the obstacles your dreams will put in front of you are simply hurdles to overcome; not excuses as to why it can’t be done.
Thankfully for me, and why my dream is just days away from becoming a reality, is the people I have backing me, whom I feel need my acknowledgement because without them, I would not be doing this.
First and foremost, my parents. Right now it is March 2015, and in order to save and plan for this around the world adventure, I moved home in September 2013. I have no doubt in the past 19 months I’ve been living at home, I’ve tested their patience, pissed them off, and made them wish just a few times that at 29/30 years of age, their daughter was still out living on her own. But never once did they say that; rather, they tolerated and even supported me during my mood swings, my coming and goings, and my need for space. They genuinely believe this trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity and support me 100%. Being able to live for almost two years rent free is something not a lot of people have access to, so I’m already forever indebted to my parents for this reason alone (not to mention the plethora of other reasons!)
Secondly, my sister and brother-in-law deserve a special shout out. Meg has *always* been the one person who I will send her a crazy idea I wouldn’t tell anyone else and her reply would start with “okay, this is how you can make it happen…”. As they’re both well travelled, they really understand where I’m coming fom and have nothing but support and advice for me. Not to mention this website was created by my bro-in-law (shout out to www.ianclarke.ca!) This RTW would not be a reality without them.
And of course, my friends. Now this may be somewhat of a given, as my friends are so used to my crazy ideas, but they have genuinely been supportive and encouraged me on my planning journey to make sure it went from an idea to reality. There was potential for them to be lackers for sure. In 2010 I moved to England with the intent of staying there for a full year, maybe even longer. But as it turned out, I enjoy traveling moreso than permanently relocating, so I came home sooner than planned. It could have been so easy for anyone to throw that in my face, and not one single person has. Rather, they’ve been sending me links of “how to travel safely as a female”, “the top 10 things any traveller should do in India” etc. They’re excited for my journey, some living vicariously throw me, others taking the opportunity to meet up with me along the way. My friend Ashley is meeting me in Tanzania for our African safari, Andrea is meeting me in Egypt for my Middle East experience. And Preeya of course, who will be joining me for the entire adventure. Every single one of my friends has been kick ass. They (whoever ‘they’ is) say to surround yourself with positive people who support you, and I have without a doubt learned that I have surrounded myself with only the best people!
The Lackers (and backers who made it irrelevant!)
Honestly, I’ve been extremely blessed in that I haven’t come across many lackers. Only two work colleagues of mine have been naysayers, whom I don’t even believe are doing so because they’re ill intended. They are both people I have the utmost admiration and respect for; I think it comes down to the fact that they simply don’t understand. Or think I’m throwing my life away, or something to that affect. Which to be honest is fine, as there’s a lot of people who don’t understand or identify with what it is I’m doing; most just don’t care because it doesn’t impact them, whereas this did impact them. But with the doubters there always comes the supporters. Other colleagues who came to me privately to voice their support, to say they wish they’d had the courage to do this when they were younger, to say they think it’s incredible, and to remind me that if anyone who treats me poorly it is a reflection only of who they are and has nothing to do with me. These colleagues of mine I will be forever grateful for. They made what had been an extremely difficult decision for me a positive experience, and there is no way to repay that kind of kindness.
What’s My Point?
Other than being all ‘GO FAMILY, GO FRIENDS, GO WORK!’ in this post, there is a point I really want to drive home: be supportive. You have people in your life right now who are pursuing big dreams, big goals, big ideas. They need your moral support more than you know. You never know who they have surrounding them, doubting them, telling them “yeah but you’re probably going to fail.” You never know the difference having that one person in their life saying “go for it – I believe you can do it!” will make to them.