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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:

Backyard Fun for the Undone

Here’s a not-so trick question: where is home to you? Is it where you are now? Or is it where you want to be?

Upon returning from my trip, this question has been the most frequent and frustrating thought to ever take rest on my brain. Home is where I am now; home is here where I am, where my family is, where familiarity and history is. Yet at this stage in my life, I am in the midst of deciding where my own home will be, separate from my family’s but inclusive of my career and goals.

To be truthful, I don’t know where that is – still. I went away not just with the intention to imporve my language skills, but also to find out if my place was someplace over there. I still don’t quite know, which is what continues to fuel my drive, my need to travel. Traveling is a dream, it’s a gift I wish upon the world; but it’s also something that must be taken in moderate doses.

I can’t keep trying to “find” my place; a never-ending search isn’t really a search after a point.

Algonquin Park - Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

Algonquin Park – Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

My level of quiet frustration has grown even more whilst talking amongst friends who share similar tales of wanting to go away, away to the “Land That is Not Their Own”. These could be permanent displacements or temporary ones (i.e. an exchange, vacation). And that brings me to my next question: what is so bad about one’s own backyard, absent from terrorful wars and violence, that pushes them away from it?

I in no way disclude myself from this statement when I say that we, in the days of increased globalization and accessible shared medias, have the urge to move – it’s in our nature as once nomadic creatures. Before, however, we moved for survival; now, we move for convenience. Don’t get me wrong, many of us are in the position and the right to do so; but have you not ever wondered of the the wonders that are your own?

I recently visited one of the many national parks in this beautiful country just three hours north, and my experience was spectacular, to say the least. I may have explored almost an entire continent, but I would never consider myself a world traveller – and that trip proved I had much more to see, and not too far from home either.

Algonquin Park - Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

Algonquin Park – Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

The Earth is too beautiful a place to have what goes on within it taint its appearance; the grass is just as green wherever you go. We were rooted in our origins for a reason; where we come from has treasure all of its own, even in all its surrounding rubble.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

The Feels.

So I’m back home from my semester-long exchange in Grenoble, France; have been for about a month now.

At first, even actually before I returned, I longed for the familiarity I was once surrounded by day-in day-out. I longed for my family, my friends, my school, my old life while still holding tight to the memories of the near past.

But as time came and went at and around home, a certain feeling grew on me, one which felt inexplicable and unnatural.

Then, tonight, I read this article by Kellie Donnelley, and my feelings not so much subsided, but in themselves, felt comforted at the thought that they were understood; that I was not alone in these series of feelings, and that it was in fact somewhat normal to feel such a way.

Here’s the link to the short but ever so sweet article: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kellie-donnelly/2014/07/the-hardest-part-about-traveling-no-one-talks-about/

À la prochaine,
Moi

A Hug for My Teddies

To feel ecstatic and all the while solemn, that is to live out of a suitcase.

Even when staying at a home, and not a hostel; with family, and not strangers; in comfort not unease, I still can not shake the feeling of wanting to finally settle, to be home again.

To sit or to settle?

To sit or to settle?

While I was on my exchange in France, things were different: my residence room was mine – temporarily, yes – but still, for the time, mine. I also had a family; not blood-related, but close enough; and I knew I had to settle since I would be there for such a long period of time.

Now that I have been constantly on the move for about two months, the need to return home is ever-pressing.

But I’m conflicted: I want to go home so badly, in desperate need to hug my family, friends, and teddy bears, but I’m also saddened to distance myself even more from the family I have made as well as discovered over here. Before I left, I had the fear of missing out on the fascinating changes at home, but now more than ever, I mourn the loss of chances to experience the changes and growth of my family abroad.

Yet, there really is nothing to mourn about. Thanks to certain technologies like Skype and FaceBook, I am able to easily stay in contact with others miles away – so long as they are willing. But that’s the thing; how many of those which I have befriended are actually willing to keep it so?

I recently watched a Tyler Perry video, a clip from one of his Madea plays on broadway, and in the clip Madea spoke of something very important. She said,

“Your life is like a tree. Some people who come into your life are like the leaves on the branches, only there to take from the tree and give shade every now and then, that’s the only thing they can do. Some people are like branches on that tree: you think that they’re a friend who will stay but the minute you step out, they’ll leave you high and dry. But if you find two or three people who are like the roots of a tree, they’re the kind of people that aren’t going anywhere. If those roots weren’t in there, that tree couldn’t live.”

Thanks to travelling, I understand who are the leaves and branches in my life, and I know who are the roots. I know that once that plane takes off, many a hands will be waving goodbye, until next time; but I also know that once that plane lands, even many more arms will be open to take me back.

Brighton! - where the sun shines in the name alone!

Brighton! – where the sun shines in the name alone!

At the start of this trip, a reflection came to me and I’ve been using it to head this trip ever since: I’ll always be up for the adventure as long as home is the last stop. So yeah, it’s been a blast, but now I’m ready to go.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

On the ride

“So this cousin is your dad’s fourth cousin’s daughter-in-law’s brother’s uncle’s wife’s neighbor’s dog’s friend’s sister’s mom…”

I previously spoke of my background; where I come from, how I moved from there, and how I do not know my exact roots. I also spoke of becoming cultured by travelling and learning the cultures, and in turn, histories, of these new friends and “family”. I always thought my family to be a small one: my mom’s side was big, yes, but that was due mainly to extra family brought in by marriages, etc (I can count the number of cousins I have on her side on one hand – nope – let’s make it two fingers). But then on my dad’s side, what I thought to be just one cousin not even my age, I am now discovering is immense.

One of the many lochs of Scotand...

Scotland: Lochland

The opening line for this entry is exactly the sort of thing I have been hearing over and over for the past few days here in London, and I am absolutely loving it.

While living with my immediate family up north for the past decade and a bit, I always loved our closeness and small family-gatherings since all we have are each other up there; but now, to discover that I have a whole pool of people I can call cousins, second cousins, friends-of-seconds-who-are-like-family, it’s just such a heart-warming feeling!

Oslo Opera House: a view..

Oslo Opera House: a view..

I have changed my ways as I’ve grown and come to appreciate the same quality of love in smaller numbers, but for a time, I used to get really jealous – yes, jealous is the right, true word here – when a friend of mine would brag, if you will, about her weekend family gatherings, another wedding she had to go to or her new baby cousin. I kept wishing that I could experience a big family like that where the head count went on for hours if not days, but I never thought I would.

And now I am.

This just proves how much one can discover by getting out of one’s shell, from under one’s rock, and just giving the world a big hello.

I’ve been trying to meld well into life’s new adventures as I cope with the end of the last one: it’s been hard, I’ll admit, but these past few weeks venturing to Scotland’s gem highlands, the ABBA museum of Stockholm, and the statues of Oslo’s Vigelandsparken, and now discovering the extent of my blood have shown me that there is so much more to come.

What a rush!

Stockholm: What a rush!

I won’t forget yesterday but I must still look ahead to tomorrow.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

Ahoj

There are just some moments in life where you need no explanation; no reiteration; no visuals or tell-all’s. They have been lived and experienced; enjoyed and appreciated; loved and remembered and that is enough.

This exchange was absolute bliss and I know it is imprinted in my memory forever.

Merci la France, vous tenez pour toujours une pièce de mon cœur.

À la prochaine (il y en aura bien sur une),
Moi

Music of the Moment: