“So you’re graduating: WHAT’S NEXT?”

It’s been months since I’ve been asked, but the hatred I have for this question still lingers: what’s next?? You’re asking that to a student currently contemplating how she’s going to finish an assignment and study for a final exam in the same night, Sharon – don’t ask me what’s next.

Save for the fortunate few, job-searching sucks. There, I said it. It’s a lot of putting yourself out there, realizing you’re not that special all while realizing just how special you truly are. Though the results are different for everyone, I learned a few tricks and tips that I thought might save someone else (like you, fellow reader) from wasted time and torture. So, if any of this resonates… de nada.


Before I begin, let me just inform you that job-searching is a job within itself. Even in this day and age, with a tonne of digital search tools at your fingertips and endless free, accessible resources, job-searching still takes hard work and a lot of patience. Depending on where you want to work, what you want to do, and who you know (yes, this matters), finding a job can take a long time. So, it’s important to set aside a good chunk of time to find a job because doing something well is never a quick process.

Still, the first thing to know is this: you will find a job.

Hearing this while unemployed can be hard. How do you know I’ll get a job? Can you see the future? Well, no. But unemployment is literally one of the worst signs of an economy’s well-being (thanks Professor Dungan!!) so your time will come, however long it takes (if you keep searching!).

A second, perhaps more important, tip is to figure out exactly what it is you don’t want.

Yes, you read that right. Of course, knowing what you want is very helpful and can make the process so much easier; but knowing what you don’t want to do or where you don’t want to work can really help narrow your search, save you time, and make you more confident in your decisions. Try this: write down a list of the qualities and tasks of a job in your field that you would never want to do, and go from there. It might just do the trick. So might a personal SWOT analysis. See what works for you.

Also, if you’re like me, and you’re really bad at faking enthusiasm (for jobs or really bad birthday gifts), don’t just take any job: look for something you’ll actually like. Though your first job out of graduation does not define the future of your entire career, I do think that it can help guide you into your next step; or hold you back.  This advice may not work for everyone, as the pressure to pay bills and other personal responsibilities may not allow all of us to freely choose how we support ourselves. Nevertheless, if you have the flexibility – and the patience – I highly recommend working towards finding a job that you like, if not love. The energy, creativity, and enthusiasm of new grads should not be put to waste, so making sure the first job you land fulfills at least some of your passions can truly make the process worth it. Plus, life’s too short to waste 40% of your time on this planet doing things that don’t make you happy!

Now that you know what you’re searching for, the next question is: “Where to start looking?” Sometimes, it’s in unlikely places:

  • Of course, Google and general job boards are a given.
  • If you’ve recently graduated or are about to graduate from a program, university and college job boards and career centers are great tools, too.
  • Your friends and colleagues: spread the word that you’re actively looking for employment! You never know who they might know.
  • And social media: as unhealthily addictive as they can be, social media has its benefits.
    • A good Twitter search with the right key words can reveal jobs you haven’t yet discovered.
    • LinkedIn is another great tool: the basic account features are very useful and can help you find jobs straight from a company’s official LinkedIn page.
    • Tip: use LinkedIn’s “Jobs” page to bookmark specific jobs, receive regular job alerts based on key job search terms, and cater your feed to what jobs you would like to have recommended to you. Like Twitter, you can use LinkedIn to reach out directly to important people, like hiring managers! And make sure to keep your profile updated, neat and active, because you never know who might be looking!

Once you’ve found a job you’re interested in applying to, it’s time to craft a good resume and cover letter! (Wow, that enthusiasm…just…came out.) Resumes can be tough, but they’re easy once you get the hang of it. And with this, my advice is brief:

  • Place a 2-3 lined personal statement right at the top of the first page of your resume to quickly summarize your experience, career goals and what kind of work you want to do (catering it to the field you’re applying to).
  • Unless you’re 90 years old or in academia, limit your resume to two (2) pages maximum. Have no fear: you can use your cover letter and interviews as opportunities to expand on some of your other experiences you weren’t able to mention in your resume. Employers like to learn more new, great things about you at every stage of the process.

Now, for the more dreaded of tasks: cover letters. How does one craft a good cover letter? you ask. It’s impossible. No, but seriously; the list of suggestions is truly endless, and, quite frankly, subjective. So here are my personal tips that have worked well for me, and may just work for you, too:

  1. Use the first 2-3 opening sentences to reel in the reader.
    • Start with a general statement that shows you know about the company’s mandate. For instance, “With a personal mission to improve the world’s climate by proactively engaging in wildlife conservation, I am eager to join the WWF Climate Task Force …”.
    • Connect your experience to the goal of the position and close with how adding your experience to the team will be a brilliant opportunity for yourself and the company.
  2. Use the next 1-2 short paragraphs to expand on your professional experience (unlike your resume), linking it directly to the job posting. Here, it’s important to use similar language to the job posting – but don’t copy and paste, as it will be obvious.
  3. Tip: Employers have little to no time to read your cover letter so make sure it is 1 page maximum. Also, use bullet points, bold and/or italics to highlight key information about your skills and how they match the qualifications necessary for the role.
  4. Close with why you want to work for [said] team at [said] company to achieve [said] goal, and that you look forward to hearing from the employer soon.

Next: the interview! PREP AHEAD. Grab a friend, a partner, a mirror, anything. Just prepare yourself verbally and mentally as much as you need for the conversation about to take place. Make up questions or have your partner improvise. Preparation helps to ease the nervousness of interviews, so practice indeed makes perfect!

Other interview tips I learned over the course of my job-search:

  • Bring a notebook. Use it to write down the questions interviewers ask you before answering them, as well as to take down key notes and thoughts during the interview. If you’re nervous about looking away while they speak to write, let the interviewers know before you begin the interview that you’ll be taking notes. This also shows them that you’re actively listening.
  • Look up the average salary of this role before the interview so you’re prepared when they ask about salary expectations and you don’t over- or under-sell yourself.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time to ask the interviewer during or at the end of the interview. Here are some great examples.
  • Follow-up with thank-you emails!! It may seem lame or over the top, but trust me when I say they work! Follow-up emails will remind the employer of your interview and name, and truly show that you’re keen on getting the role. Use them strategically, especially for the jobs you’re really eager to get. You can structure them like this:
    • Open with a statement of thanks for being invited in for an interview;
    • Mention a particular high point in the interview discussion, reiterating how you hope to contribute to the team/tackle the company’s current pressing issue; and
    • Close with “I look forward to hearing from you” to let them know you’re available and ready.

Now, for the worst.

I hate this word.

I know you hate this word.

I know you know we all hate this word.

Networking.

Like the cover letter, networking is oftentimes a necessary evil. It can feel forced; it can be nerve-wracking; and – when you’ve been doing it constantly for months – it can start to feel like a waste of time. But, like everything else I’ve listed here, I truly believe it helps. Here are some tips to make the process a bit easier:

  • Approach networking as a conversation, because it is!
  • Prepare your 3-sentence “elevator pitch” ahead of time. Who are you? What are your top skills? How do you hope to make an impact?
  • Be confident in your job-search: know what you’re looking for and communicate it confidently with the people you meet. Everyone job searches at some point in their life, so there’s no need to be shy about it.

Fun-fact: it’s hard to realize in the moment but there’s a lot you can learn while job-searching that’s not necessarily related to the process itself. You may learn more about your own personal strengths and weaknesses; discover new skills you never knew you had and cool organizations you had never of before. You may even meet new friends and brilliant mentors (for the love of Gouda, please find a mentor, they’re the absolute best!). Most of all, you might just find your purpose in this little thing called life. Not too bad, eh?

And while you’re learning and doing all those things, remember to do other things in the process too. Volunteer! Go to a party! Attend free seminars and workshops!!

Job-searching can be a difficult, frustrating period; but whatever you do, try your best to avoid getting stuck in a sad, impatient head-space. In times of intense change, it’s continued hope that gets us through. So keep it up and best of luck to everyone! GO. GET. EMPLOYED.

**Regularly scheduled travel blogs to be resumed.**

Music for the Moment:

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Say goodbye to “evidence-based” decision-making, and hello to the “research-guided” approach

Interesting take.

Perspectives

P1020861 When doing research, get all your pigeons in a row. (Or is it ducks?)

As an analyst at a research and advisory firm, I come across a lot of articles that provide what some call “evidence-based” or “research-informed” advice. These are white papers, blogs, and thought models written by professionals and consultants who offer specific stats to back up their advice. While neither the advice nor the stats are necessarily wrong, these articles take an approach that I think is very dangerous if taken in isolation or out of context by readers.

Take an example from the field of corporate learning: the 70-20-10 model is a broadly-accepted thought model suggesting that 70% of learning should come from challenging assignments (experiential learning), 20% from other people (relational learning), and 10% from coursework (formal learning). While this model has a time and a place, it has become so mainstream that many professionals…

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Fish, Chips, and the Meaning of Life.

One of the reasons I encourage everyone (especially students) to travel is because traveling, I’ve found, helps you to discover yourself; and my latest adventure – to the East coast of Canada – proved just that.

Since calling this country my home, I have longed to visit Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and other must-sees of the Atlantic. Still, it took the end of a master’s degree and a need for something new and inspiring to push me over the edge and towards the other side.

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Point Prim Lighthouse, Point Prim Road, PEI.

Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island are capital cities for a reason. Both tell the stories of the greater pieces of land they represent all too well: Halifax, a bustling city, guarding the history of many cultures beyond its surface; and Charlottetown, as quaint as it gets in the best way possible, and the tip of the iceberg of a beautiful island.

In addition to the change of scenery, the timing of this trip coincided with a very deep train of thought that took over my mind: what is the meaning of life?

Without much explanation, once my studies terminated, I began to contemplate the point of it all: the purpose of living; a reason for having dreams and goals if, at some point, life ends anyways. Very morbid to say the least, but I thought a getaway from my current world of endless job applications would help me find an answer. And surprisingly, it did.

What helped me find that answer was a brilliant non-fiction book I purchased before my departure called, Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. In it, Frankl describes his time during WWII in Auschwitz, the people and things he lost while there, and the power and inner strength he relied on to survive inside the camps and later, back in the world. There were so many quotable parts of the book, so many “ah-ha” moments that I wish I could copy and paste here. But a few of them really stood out, not just for their message, but also how they seemed to coincide effortlessly with my travel discoveries:

By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche”.

Charlottetown taught me quite well that our purpose lies beyond the interior. The quaintness of the city is lovely but limited. Eventually, we rented a car and immediately experienced the benefits of going beyond our (financial) limits. Point Prim lighthouse, Anne of Green Gables, Brackley Beach, and Cow’s Creamery – we saw so much! Even better was the fact that our trip took place at the cusp of tourism season; so it felt like we had the entire island to ourselves! Bliss.

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Anne of Green Gables, North Coast, PEI.

“We can discover [meaning in life] by creating a work or doing a deed”.

I saw the purpose and passion of a community – Africville, Halifax, one of the oldest settlements of Black Loyalists and freed peoples in Canada – in the fight for land ownership and cultural reclamation.

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Map of Africville, 1964, Africville Musem, Africville, Halifax.

In 1958, the Halifax government began a process of forcibly removing Africville residents to use the land – located by ideal waterways – for commercial industry and transport uses (one tactic included placing a garbage dump right by the community). Though most residents have now left the area, one resident remains: Mr. Eddie Carvery, a former resident of Africville, has continued to protest the extradition of his community for decades since its redevelopment. On entering the on-site Africville Museum (which is highly inaccessible due to negligence by the City of Halifax), it’s hard not to notice the big sign that reads “AFRICVILLE PROTEST” in all white letters.

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Just outside Africville Museum, Africville, Halifax.

Finally, love.

Of course, Frankl spoke of love, one of the most powerful qualities of life that continues to pull us through:

“The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is.”

Relating back to the first quote, one can find meaning outside of themselves, either through a cause (like Africville) or a person. I traveled to clear my mind, yet from that, I also realized that the world is much bigger than me. There are so many other people on this Earth that are familiar only with their own lives, their own community and their own problems. Traveling exposes us to other cultures, other people and other hardships unlike our own. It creates space for patience, understanding, empathy … and love.

Since finishing Frankl’s book, I’ve had several conversations about this heavy question with close family and friends – some of whom have lost loved ones or come close to losing their own life – and for the most part, it seems everyone is still trying to figure it all out.

The Maritimes is a heavenly part of the greater beauty that is Canada and, over other adventures, it’s surprising to learn what you can discover in your own backyard. There is meaning outside ourselves and in the world. And there is purpose in one’s passion for a cause or one’s love for another. Eddie Carvery found his.

And I continue to find mine.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

An Internship in Ottawa, Season 6, Ep. 1

(Late Post: Summer 2017)

One of my all-time favourite TV shows is NBC’s Community, from creator Dan Harmon. It remains the only show I’ve ever willingly bought the DVD box set for. I remember randomly coming across the pilot episode one evening and thinking to myself, “This is hilarious!” A group of diverse characters who attend the same community college and who themselves form a community. Brilliant!

Like typical TV viewers, I generally just watched Community to be entertained; and it did that very well. I recently came to realize, however, that there was more to the show – a big fat (important) travelling message – that I had never quite clued in on until now, in doing a four-month internship away from home in Ottawa this summer: The key to discovering where your place is in this world lies in discovering where your community is.

And no, I’m not saying to go to community college. I am however suggesting that the people you’re with can really make a place you’re in.

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Be it the country’s capital, Ottawa is a beautiful place: very clean, close to nature and outdoor activities, and very family-friendly. All great features which would seemingly make it the perfect place to live. Yet when people continually asked me, “How are you liking Ottawa?” I could only tell them the truth. It’s a great place – but it’s not for me.

For most of this summer, I’ve struggled to understand why I’ve felt this way: I rented a beautiful apartment on the edge of downtown, not too deep in the mix but not too far from it either. I have a fascinating job that has taught me lessons for my professional (and personal) career which I will carry with me forever. And I’ve been given the chance to relax and get in touch with my own self-care after a year of doing a lot that wasn’t always the best for me.

Yet, all I can recall feeling every other day this summer was just a strong want to return home and be with my loved ones. Shocking for me, the self-proclaimed lover of travels and eternal wanderer. Still, the feelings were there, and, as much as I tried to go out, meet new people and discover new spaces, they never went away.

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Things became a bit clearer after attending a party with an old schoolmate. While there, I got into conversation with a young woman who reiterated to me my exact feelings, but from the opposite end. Unlike me, she had moved from Ottawa to Toronto to do her schooling. And unlike me, her core community of friends and family were here, not in Toronto. She proceeded to tell me how difficult it was for her at times to stay positive in a city where you can’t find your place or your people.

And so, it all made sense. Being a part of a community wherever you are is so important, even when far from home.

I had never truly understood this before because I had always been at stages in my life where I was open to discovering new places and people, and developing new, deep – though brief – friendships. However, I realized this summer that I’ve taken a shift in how I develop and maintain relationships, and I’ve come to realize a lot of who I am and my sense of belonging really flows from those who I love and surround me.

And that’s what it was like in Community too. Though the characters were in a community college overflowing with new, different people to meet and get to know, the dynamic energy between Troy and Abed was unbreakable. When Troy (aka Childish Gambino) left the show, things weren’t the same and Abed wasn’t his full creative, loony self. Furthermore, when Piers got sick, the mood of the group changed because one of their own could not be fully present.

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Community is a hilarious show. It’s got wit, oozing creativity and a weighty moral of the story to boot.

If you’ve got a community, cherish it. If you don’t, keep searching to find yours.

À la prochaine. #SixSeasonsAndAMovie
Moi

Music of the Moment:

An Ode to the Trips

You know those friends that always say they can’t chill because they’re “busy”? Well, travel blog, sorry for being that friend for a while.

This year has indeed been a busy one. Still, I did manage to get in a bit of site-seeing and linguistic exercise when I could catch my breath. As such, before the year starts afresh, I thought it best to take a look back at some of the traveling I forgot to mention but which were nevertheless unforgettable.

The last time we spoke, I described my beautiful adventures to the #westside in Vancouver, B.C.; yet, that hadn’t been the rest of the best.

Just after that trip, I was whisked away by my knight-in-shining armour (boyfriend) to the wonderful island of Hawaii (Boston, Massachusetts) for a relaxing vacation (a week-long business trip). At first, I was less than enthused: “You mean the place with those donuts, yeah?” Craving for more adventure, I went along anyways.

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Downtown Pier: Best clam chowder ever.

Surprisingly, it was an absolute blast! Our Airbnb was near to everything: the universities; historic monuments; and the various downtown cores. Boston is also very walkable, a feature we loved and took advantage of.

But the best part of the trip came right at the end.

One of my favourite podcasts to listen to, made in part by the New York Times, is produced at a local Boston radio station, WBUR, called Modern Love. Earlier in the week, I had the idea that maybe we could drop in to say hello and fangirl for a few minutes about how great the show is to the show’s host.

Unfortunately, once we got there, we were told that the host was busy. Instead, they invited us to meet the show’s producer, Anne Marie Sivertson, who spontaneously gave us a tour of the station. Cool!

But it gets better.

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Harvard Stadium: the American Dream.

She then proceeded to sit us down and offer us the chance to ask her anything about the show, a great treat as I had so many questions. To top it all off, she offered us free tickets to see a live taping of another popular podcast, The Moth, and gave us her contact info to stay in touch.  Much better than donuts. Awesome.

The next destination took me just across the border to Connecticut (pronounced /CONNECT-IT-CUT:/ according to my ever stubborn, Jamaican mother) for a cricket tournament. Boy, was that a trip.

Though it coincided with my birthday, the trip was anything but celebratory. Stuck on a bus full of country, city and “farrin” Jamaicans all-in-one from morning till night; I can still hear the slams of dominos echoing in my ear drums to this day. Between the cricket matches and discount shopping stops, not much time was left to explore the city.

Again, what a trip.

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La chute Montmorency: une belle vue.

Fast-forward a few months, it was as if I took a trip back in time to visit the place where it all began: Vieux-Quèbec, Quèbec.

My travel bug really took its first bite when I worked at a musical camp there in Gr. 11 for five weeks, away from anything I really knew. That trip was the first, since migrating, that really made me feel different, and which forced me to open my eyes to the differences between cultures; even one that was just about a day’s drive up north.

This was probably the best trip to end on, too, for this year, as it brought back a few of those feelings and thoughts of discovery I experienced during that period of my life. In fact, as I write this post from my family home for the holidays, I recall a night a few days ago I spent going through some of my old creative writing pieces and chemistry quizzes, stuffed in my closet, from high school.

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“The more they search, the more they doubt.”

High school was definitely something, but it was a lot of other things too. Please leave the acne, “emotional turmoil”, friendship break-ups and all other unnecessary (though entertaining, now looking back) drama in the past. But do bring back the excited nervousness of school plays; the joy of vocal classes; the passion to complete magnum opus projects and english essays.

2016 was not a bad year, though it was definitely uninspiring. And so with that, 2017 will be The Year of Creativity.

It will be the year where I do the absolute most with the things I love: singing, dancing, cooking, baking, traveling, writing. When we are our most creative, I find, we are our best selves. It’s human nature. All that we do that is different, innovative, transformative, and progressive, is creative.

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Quèbec Pride Week – allons-y les gars!

This year, I allowed myself to get lost in the popular societal, adult habit of focusing on what I have to do and how to do it, severely neglecting what I love to do and when to do it. But not this round.

Next year is gonna be good as hell.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

att.

Have you ever dreamed of doing something? And it comes to pass and still feels like a dream?

My week-long journey to Vancouver, British Columbia has temporarily come to an end and I’ve just begun to resettle. Though the purpose of my visit stemmed from a sustainability conference, it was rooted much more simply in discovery.

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#EELF2016 – Leading Change: the future is sustainability!

Exploring more of Canada has been on my bucket-list for a long time; Vancouver was right on top. Before I left for my latest adventure, all my loved ones and friends who originate in B.C. told me of all the wonders of the area. Above all else, they warned me that I would love the place so much, I would no doubt want to live there – which was a first for me.

I had never been told, before I could discover for myself, that my unknown destination might be my final one. Though I took the remark lightly, I noticed it grew into a small but ever-present fear: how could they just assume this place is for me? Is that even possible to have a place so lovable exist?

Unconciously, upon arrival, I began to search for all the things out of order with Vancouver that would prove my comrades wrong.

Of course, the beauty of the landscape is undeniable so there were no faults there.

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A View: North Vancouver.

Other things were not as easily dismissible: a lack of diversity and the surprising contrast the poor, dispirited East End brings to the classy downtown core were difficult to turn a blind eye. But then again, nothing is perfect.

Later in my stay, however, I came to realize that my judgements were in fact made too quickly. I soon had a tribe of friends from all walks of life; and a friendly conversation with a stranger at the bus stop reassured my heart that not all was as it seemed. To think of how much these judgements could have inhibited me from fully experiencing what Vancouver has to offer, had time (or I) allowed it, is a shame.

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Lynn Canon Park!

Yet,what I am most grateful for from this trip is how much it made me realize where I do belong: right at home. And that can be anywhere; after all, our adaptably is what makes us resilient. I told my wonderful friend, who helped guide me during this adventure, that my dream is to always go somewhere else, but at the end of the day, come back to the same place. And this trip just proved it.

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Canada Place: Home away from home.

Vancouver is a wild dream and a great time. And I loved every minute of discovery.

Once again, it never hurts to learn what you already know.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

Lost & Found.

You’ll come to realize that sometimes when lost, we find things we never thought of looking for.

I came to this realization this past weekend whilst traveling on what I thought to be a simple journey to Niagara Falls, but which turned into quite an adventure.

The theme is Fall.

The theme is Fall.

My father’s birthday was this week and my entire family booked a trip to go down south to spend some time in luxury. Beyond my hint of jealousy, I was disappointed that I could not go because I had work. I finally decided to beg my boss to let me go and off I was on Friday morning.

Everything was planned and I left home for a doctor’s appointment before the journey really started.

When the first bus was late, I knew things were not going to go as planned. An hour and a half later and I’ve missed my first bus on the route to Niagara.

This isn’t good.

Frustrated and hungry, I walked to the bus stop with all my things and emotions and slouched onto the bench in the bus shelter. Along comes a woman, who I soon discover is Jamaican, and we begin to talk about everything we miss about the island and what we don’t understand about it.

Casino: class is in session.

Casino: class is in session.

Once the bus comes, we both hop on but it’s a full bus so I sit where I find space: beside a man who I soon discover just moved from India. After asking him if I’m going the right way (and getting a confused response because he didn’t really know), we talked about India and Canada and everything we love about it and what he understands about English.

Once at the next bus station, we part ways. In a flurry, I’m on my next bus going to where I should be. Things are looking up.

But this is where I get (properly) lost.

Thanks to terrible signage, I miss my stop. “Hi, Mr. Bus Driver,” I said. “You’re still going here right?” He gives me a dazed look. “I already passed there; were you sleeping or something?”

Panic flows over me. Unlike the stress that comes with being lost in an unknown country as I’ve experienced many times before, there’s something about being lost in a place you thought you knew that can throw you off just the same.

“Here, get on that bus over there and go back to the stop you missed.” The bus I should get on leaves before I do. Damn.

So I wait.

And then a girl comes up to me and asks if I know when a different bus is coming. And so I tell her my whole story and I soon discover she comes from where I do and we talk about that place and how it’s special and what I understand about buses to Niagara.

Then my bus comes.

I get on and ask specifically where my stop is and what the sign will say to get off. The driver tells me a slightly-less wrong answer but I manage to get off at the stop I initially thought was my stop that is my stop.

Almost there.

I ask a girl in the bus shelter when the next bus is coming. She says she doesn’t know because she’s not taking it. I soon discover she’s going where I just came from and we talk about my difficult trip, the bus company’s confusing signage and what we don’t understand about it.

Pellar Estates: The theme is Fall.

Pellar Estates: The theme is Fall.

She leaves and it’s just me. Alone in that lot, waiting until my bus finally came and I’m reunited with my family.

Sometimes when you reach your destination, you get just that: exactly what you were expecting. But rarely is every two journey the same. My trip didn’t go as planned, no. But think of all the people I met and their stories I heard. I can’t recall if I’ve ever openly spoken to so many strangers before in a day. It’s as if I traveled the country (and a bit of the world, too) just through their words.

This very short trip taught me a lot; but most of all, it taught me to speak up and to listen. There’s a lot going on out there, beyond ourselves. A lot.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

A Look Around the Bend

Travelling is a gift, I’ve said it time and time again.

Travelling is also a task. I recently read a brilliant book titled, The Geography of Bliss, where author Eric Weiner describes his mighty adventure in search of the happiest place on earth.

Lock and key: on the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany.

Lock and key: on the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, Germany.

Deep into the text, Weiner explains the history of travel: “The word “travel” stems from the same root as “travail”, the word for ‘work’ in French. For centuries, traveling was equated with suffering. Only pilgrims, nomads, soldiers, and fools traveled.” To think that travel was an unfortunate destiny for many in the past is an odd thought for this generation; travelling is deemed a luxury, a dream, something only the rich and lucky can do often.

When I say that travel is a task, I don’t mean the same tedious measures as it was back in the day; travelling demands commitment, dedication and enthusiasm. Travelling tests you to see how much you will do to make it work: will you wake up early on a Wednesday morning to get the best flight prices? Will you suck it up to stay in nothing more than a budget-hostel? Will you turn down expensive transit for sole sight-seeing with bikes? on foot?

Politics isn't always pretty: L'Hôtel de la Chambre (Chamber of Deputies), Luzebourg City, Luxembourg.

Politics can be pretty: L’Hôtel de la Chambre (Chamber of Deputies), Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then travel is what you want.

Travel may seem like it also tests your finances (which it does, sometimes), but there are ways to get around that: travelling to work.

Old habits die hard, yes, but the burden they bring are long past. With the development of technology, travel methods are no longer a burden, but quick and easy, allowing work and travel to go hand in hand. I mean, you get to discover while you get paid; it’s genius! And if your dedication still runs thick, the task of finding outlets to do this that meets your needs can be tricky but possible. To help with your search, check out these sites:

International work and travel organizations – http://www.gointernational.ca/work-and-travel-abroad/overview.aspx, http://www.swap.ca/out_eng/index.aspx
For the environmental worker – http://www.wwoof.net/
For the Canadians looking for work – http://www.international.gc.ca/development-developpement/partners-partenaires/avail-internships-stages-dispo.aspx?lang=eng
For those who want to work without the cash reward – www.lattitudecanada.org

So travelling is work, but it’s fun work; and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

hustle and flow.

Travelling is useful for a boundless amount of reasons: it helps you discover new places, wonderful new people, new cultures, new foods and even a new life!

Just the same, travelling can also help you discover what isn’t for you.

This past week, I’ve been visiting one of the world’s top cities in one of the world’s greatest states, New York, USA, and I’ve never more in my life concretely justified that I can never and will never live in a place.

A trip down...

Carr: A trip down Madison Avenue?

That’s a hard thing for me to say as I am a traveller at heart and a strong believer that there’s the good and the bad in every spot on this Earth. However – and I say this after deep consideration – this state (and country, for that matter) is not for me.

From the struggle to find a store that would trade dollar bills for quarters to get on the bus (because apparently change is really hard to come by for shop keepers) to the lingering smells and polluted sewer drains throughout the streets that made me sneeze at every intersection to the countless-hours search for a parking spot somewhat near your cousin’s house or spending an hour (or more) just getting onto the George Washington Bridge, being a tourist in New York state has been my life’s current greatest challenge.

No trip will be perfect, if there’s anything I’ve learned from all my recent travels. Yet, no matter what we tried to do to minimize issues, others always appeared. But that’s the beauty of travel, too: it continually puts you out of your comfort zone, out of normalcy, which makes you appreciate it even more.

9/11 Memorial: A must-see.

9/11 Memorial: A must-see.

Still, then came the thoughts of how others function in such a society. Entering a 5-lane-merging-from-all-directions highway which takes at least half an hour must increase one’s stress levels somewhat, and on a daily basis, this is probably not very healthy. To add to that, the long, continuous work hours and the every-man-for-himself mentality, people here must seem to take every day as a literal survival course. But then again, it matters how you look at it: coincidentally on my way home, I was reading a book given to me by a friend entitled, Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by twentysomething author Alida Nugent, in which she described city-living in New York. One quote she mentions specifically stuck out:

“There is no open-armness about city life, no kind voices to tell you not to take a certain route at night or where to get the best sandwiches at 2 A.M. Instead, there is concrete. […] You become part of a big, uniformed fish school with no one destination but an underlying thought: keep going.” (p. 181)

Keep going.

Whether in New York or New Caledonia, keep going. Back at work after a week’s vacation, keep going. With all the ups and downs in life, keep going.

The Bronx: all the way up!

The Bronx: all the way up!

So, who is not to say that what I consider organized chaos another considers a comfortable routine? Like people and practices, some places take time to get used to, and New York is no exception. I will admit that even my home away from home was not an absolute haven at first glance. Time Square was bright (as expected), Central Park was right green (as ever) and Jamaica Avenue had deals I’ll never find again in my life. West Village has a piece of my heart and Wall Street, a bit of my change. Some of the people were not the nicest, but others sure put a smile on my face. The pace of the city keeps even the weakest in shape and all of these things are what make this place what it is.

Jersey read my mind.

Jersey read my mind. It was fun, NYC!

It all depends on perspective, and this time around I saw all sides of the coin. I’ll visit New York again, but I’ll never live there, and that’s okay. To finish off with Nugent’s just ending: “I hope you find your ‘here’ someday. I hope you know you’re already there.”

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Comme les Éléphants

While wondering the halls of the musée Dauphinois right by my French residence, I happened upon a quote by mountaineer, Caroline Villeneuve, that read, “Mon rêve, c’était de faire comme les éléphants, de revenir où je suis née” or in English, “My dream, it was to do as the elephants, to come back to where I was born.” For some reason, this has resonated with me since then and I did not really know why until now.

I recently returned from a fulfilling trip back to Jamaica. It was the first time I travelled for the holidays since moving further north, and I have decided that travel during the winter season to a warmer destination can cause some painful withdrawals, upon return, which I do not admire at this time.

Uptown Kingston at primet-time: Hop on while you can!

Uptown Kingston at prime-time: hop on while you can!

Still, though I have taken this trip before, I had never taken it like this. The fragile innocence of youth can blind one to the realities that they have lived, and this trip exposed me to many of these facts and figures I had not concretely defined before.

Simply put, it was a family trip to celebrate the start of the end and the end of the start.

Nevertheless I went into this with an agenda; comme les éléphants, I knew that there was much to rediscover and I only had two weeks. I prepared myself as I had during last summer’s European adventure: I made a list of destinations after a quick search on TripAdvisor and I made a promise to myself that no time would be wasted; at least once every day, the sun would shine on my face. Soon I came to realise that my agenda was becoming of something more.

Negril: Rick's Café at sunset is a must.

Negril: Rick’s Café at sunset is a must.

It is quite difficult to explain exactly my experience; to analogize, it is as if I have been telling a story I once remembered so clearly as a kid, as clear as real life. Every time I retold this story, something was added to it or taken away; and so everytime I retold this story, it felt less true, less authentic, like I had never really known it before. So once I began seeing characters and objects from this story again, things slowly came back to me, still faint but ever so familiar.

Unlike my European escapades where walking was a must, we drove everywhere; it was a blessing and a curse as the heat could kill, but I had to absorb everything in 5 seconds or less. Even so, for the things that took more time, like going to the supermarket or meeting my father’s friend from high school, I was like a sponge in water.

St. Catherine - Flat Bridge: on the road.

St. Catherine : on the road to Flat Bridge.

Conversations had more depth, people and places had more features, and my memories had more flavour. I concluded then that, in all my denial as a proud immigrant against acclimatization, I could now properly justify my multinationality as the proof was right there.

I did indeed live a part of this story, but a long time ago; when trees grow, their roots stretch out, reaching ends once unknown to that same trunk. So I may have lost my accent, and I cannot easily differenciate between uptown and downtown as other locals; but my roots all started from the same spot that I can and will always return to.

It never hurts to learn what you have always known.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment: