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:

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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:

Vingt-et-un

If anyone told me as a child what my life would be like now, I would never believe them.

The mystery of life is so enticing; we go on about our days not really knowing what lies ahead (no matter how much we try to plan every move) with a strong thirst for finding out where we are going and how far we’ll get.

Ever since I can remember, I have been curious about it all: how I got here, what I am here for, and who and what will I discover. That curiosity has led me into some trouble, I must admit; not everything needs to be understood, I’ve learned, but just accepted. On the other hand, that curiosity has led me to some of the greatest moments of my life thus far, and this exchange has been one of the greatest.

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La Tour Eiffel: ya d’autre si belle comme elle?

I honestly could not have predicted how this exchange would change my life. Looking back on it at the beginning, I was scared, frightened; I just kept assuming, imaging the worst once I got on that plane from home onward. I knew that change was coming, but as life’s mysterious ways play, I was not quite sure how or if I’d like it.

Yet, as Gail Sheehy once said, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow; and if we don’t grow, we aren’t living,” and that is my ultimate goal in life – to live; so with that, changes must come…and I must grow. I have slowly watched myself progress in academics, social and professional settings, but this exchange, like my previous travel endeavors, has shown me more of myself than ever before, and I do quite like it.

I like myself.

I feel some find it hard to say, to admit with humility that they appreciate themselves. But I do, I really do. And when I say I appreciate myself, that comes along with everything that makes me me. My mother, my father, my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins, my friends, co-workers, even my laptop that I’m using to write this with.

I owe all that I have accomplished to everyone and everything that has helped me get there, and I am forever grateful for that support – there is nothing stronger.

So with that, I shall celebrate today by celebrating the lives that give life to my own.

With love.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

xoxo

If you dig a little, you can find treasure in your own backyard.; and this week, I got a little muddy.

Every North American that comes to Europe, in my opinion, has the mentality that they must explore. No matter how much it takes, nor by what means, as many countries must be visited and checked off while you’re here because it’s EUROPE (also, reading articles like these just gets the Dora the Explorer in you even more hyper:  http://themindunleashed.org/2014/04/visited-201-countries-world-without-using-plane.html ).So naturally, when I found out that I would finally be crossing the pond, I quickly made a list of all the wonders I had to see on the other side.

One thing that has been difficult for me to check off my list is Italy, Italia, the land of all things Vatican and pesto. I almost had a chance to go this weekend, to start off a week-long vacation at uni, but my plans were thrown off by travel doubts and too many inquiries into the means of getting to the ends. So, I had no choice but to stay in Grenoble, which frustrated my plans and ruffled my feathers a little too.

Funny enough though, when things don’t go right, we can always go left.

I like to keep up with life’s pace so doing absolutely nothing this weekend was a definite ‘no’. However, I did end up discovering a piece of France’s beauty that was only a few kilometers away in a town called Vizille. There is a chateau, a mesmerizing park, and an atmosphere of exploration which necessitated but only a half hour’s drive.

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders...

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders…

There’s a line in the American Idol winner, Fantasia’s first ever single, “I Believe,” where she questions, “Ever felt like you were dreaming, just to find that you’re awake?” As I take in everything that is happening in my life at this time, it is hard to believe that I am awake; that this indeed is not a dream. To have your dreams spring to life almost feels as if it’s someone else who’s living them and you’ve just got the best seat in the house, watching tirelessly as you stuff a handful of extra-buttered popcorn into your mouth with every new scene.

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard....

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard….

She continues to sing, “And that magic that surrounds you can lift you up, and guide you on your way.” That magic that surrounds me is my family – and that includes all; blood relatives, friends-so-close-they’re-family, and my residence family, living here with me while on exchange. The love and support I receive in my life for no matter what I do is astounding, and like Fantasia as she sings in the spotlight on the eve of her Idol title, I too feel like I have won, and that feeling is bliss.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:
Pour mes amours, ceux qui me donnent leurs coeurs et qui acceptent gracieusement le mien…

P.S. Happy Birthday Lexi :*

La vie en rose.

Some people say that life is a test; I disagree. Life, I find, is more of a learning process in which each day brings a new lesson. Of course there are those moments when we are tested – pop-quiz style, if you will – to see how much we have recuperated from such lessons; and this week those moments seemed to me to be consecutive.

The week started out in a tumble: a floor-mate and I had a disagreement (I call it that since the word leaves enough vagueness as to what the “disagreement” was about because, frankly, I still don’t know myself). Now, I’m not one to favor dependence on others for happiness or entertainment; however, confrontation makes me uncomfortable and to be involuntarily placed in that kind of situation undoubtedly dampened my mood.

School was a series of tumbles. It started off with me being about half an hour late for one of my courses. In all honesty, it was not my fault as classes (and professors) continuously change here for the exact same course. As such, the new location was a few ways away from its usual spot and, after wandering around for fifteen minutes looking for a sign from above of how to find this blasted classroom, a classmate happened upon my lost self, himself being in the same position, and we both found the class together…eventually. Apparently administration had sent an email out to the entire body. I beg to differ.

But anyhow, the school mishaps continued as I purposely stayed for the full day on Thursday – as in twelve hours and a bit – just to buy tickets to go on a trip I had been eyeing for a while. The tickets were on sale at 1 p.m. and the plan was to get there half an hour early with money and all.

They were sold out before noon.

On that same day, I received an email from the coordinator of another trip I was registered for this past Saturday that it was now cancelled due to the weather. I had about had enough.

I felt as though life had tested me this week (quite well, I might add), and all I had retained was but a sour mentality and a lot of extra time.

Then the cliche thought came to me as it always does to the voluntarily lazy who eventually realize time’s worth: I was gaining nothing from feeling sorry for myself. Even more so, there was no need for me to feel sorry myself. I mean, I’m in France for crying out loud! So a few things didn’t go my way. I build a bridge and get over it. I snap my fingers and get back to what matters. I pick myself up, and I move on.

And so I did.

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Le Palais des Papes

My friend had been asking me to go on a spontaneous, all-whimsical adventure with him, which I was hesitant to agree to due to my natural tendency to plan in advance; but by now, “what if”s were not an option. Life’s always the one to say, “On your marks. Ready? Set?” and often times, it’s us who chooses to go.

So within a few hours after my Friday classes ended, I found myself on a three-hour train ride to meet a quirky dread-locked fella in Avignon, a city in the province of Côte d’Azur in southern France; a little bit after that, and I had already explored the Pope’s Palace, wandered past the grand Notre Dame des Doms, and crossed the mythical Pont d’Avignon. I even got to cross off my bucket-list ‘performing live in France’ as I joined an impromptu spectacle with some instrumental street performers to sing some jazz and blues. C’était formidable.

La ville: Avignon

La ville: Avignon

And though the tests may get harder and the lessons more challenging to comprehend, the experience will never be less than wonderful. So bring on the next one life, my pencils have been sharpened.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

On est là.

I used to do this thing as a kid while travelling; once I arrived somewhere, the first thing I would do was always to take one deep breath in and taste the air of the foreign land. The air was always new, unfamiliar to me, and desired immensely.

Once I arrived in France this past week, it was only natural for me to do the same. It struck me by surprise, however, that the smell was no different from where I came from nor where I’ve been.

I don’t know if it’s because I was still inside the airport when I inhaled, but another thought which explains otherwise has crossed my mind. Before I left for this trip, I mentally held the journey, this country, and its people so highly, much more highly than my own life (sort of like a fairy tale experience that only happens in dreams). Because I put it all on such a high pedestal, I made it out to seem almost impossible to feat myself, which explains most of my pre-flight fears.

But as I habituate myself to the area, its inhabitants, and its incredible views, I slowly come to realize that the task was not so unreachable.

Now, that’s not to say that the French are mediocre people and their way of life is seldom unique; on the contrary, the French are quite a relaxed yet active people, a combination which I do not see often. What I’m really trying to say, I guess, is that I needed not to change myself in order to understand where I was going; France and I would merely discover each other.

For instance, I arrived in Lyon, a city just above Grenoble where I currently reside and will reside for the next six months, and stayed there for two days (including New Year’s) to take a look around and prep myself for what was to come in Grenoble. Upon arrival, my arm pits were honestly sweating bullets and I felt lost for a second. I didn’t want to open my mouth and immediately be targeted as an Anglophone, or worse, a foreigner. But it wasn’t like that at all.

Once I got out the airport, I met a too-hip-for-his-age taxi driver who drove me to my hostel, Cool & Bed (if you’re ever in Lyon, pay it a visit – nice place!). The city is absolutely beautiful – a must-see if near the area.

To build a bridge...

To build a bridge…

My trip to Grenoble was very interesting, to say the least. I used the same too-cool-for-school taxi driver who played rap, jazz, and soul music all throughout the ride. While I spoke to him about my life in Canada and he described his love for Snoop Dogg, I finally felt at peace. It’s silly to think that rap music can calm a person, but it did the job!

My residence is on a mountain (literally); Le Rabot is a bit of a trip to get to by foot (my taxi driver was worried we were lost as I pointed him in the direction of the residence) but the view from my rooms is, as I continue to repeat, spectacular. As soon as I reached my room, I was acquainted with a floor mate who has kept me active every day since. Often times, I just want to stay in my room and relax, really ease myself into the area; but at others, I know I should dive right in since this opportunity comes only to so little and only so often. So with that, I am very pleased at our acquaintance.

To sum up the week, I’ve went grocery shopping; ate a crêpe (comme il faut); went on an adventurous trip to Ikea (yes, they have one here, and yes, it’s just as crazy inside as it is in North America); visited my university and today, recently went up further on the mountain which holds my residence, all the way up to the top to La Bastille, an old prison used by the French monarchy and an important symbol for the French Republican movement.

Et on marche...

Et on marche…

But all in all, life here is normal just like anywhere else. I think back to the shock of the not-so-unusual scent once I landed, and there comes a point, I guess, when you realize that life is life. We each have our own to live, and that is no different anywhere else in the world. We all need to eat, breathe, sleep, connect, feel; it’s an old tradition, one that’s kept us alive and will keep doing so.

So the next time I sniff, if anything smells differently, it’ll probably be due to a washroom entrance I’ll find myself standing by.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment: