A New Chapter, Disillusion of Moving to a Big City

I’m coming home
I’m coming home
Tell the World I’m coming home
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday

– J. Cole

As I sit at my kitchen table, with no one around and hot chocolate in hand, the thunder, lightning, and rain outside are bizarrely causing chaos to the city of San Francisco. Thunderstorms and rain are not a common occurrence.

Traffic jams. Honking. People running for shelter. 

Today’s weather is unpredictable, reflecting my current situation in life exactly:

Things are out of my control, and what’s happening next is completely unpredictable and unavoidable.

It’s my seventh week of being in San Francisco. A few days ago, I bought a plane ticket that will take me back to Vancouver, BC. Same thing as last time... except this is a one way ticket to go back home.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a permanent thing and I’m not giving up. It’s just in the moment, the decision of when I can return to San Francisco is out of my hands and heading back to Vancouver is the necessary next step to getting work authorization.

As you may come to recognize, living like this is completely out of character for me despite the solo travels and decision to quit my job and move with nothing lined up. I like certainty… it makes me feel calm.

But right now, despite my greatest efforts to hide my emotions in the last few weeks, I’ve come to recognize and accept that there’s a storm in my head and heart and I can feel anxiety and listlessness kicking in.

One moment, I can be the happiest gal in the world. The next moment, I feel like nothing in the world can drag me out of apartment 802.

You see, I came down to San Francisco, as the starry-eyed, eager-to-learn young woman who moved to a bigger city filled with magic. 

I’ve spun this beautiful tale in my mind.

The kind, that has a happy ending and everything is just as I expected.

Top of the Mark SF

I expected San Francisco in all its glory, with amazing eats, beautiful scenic places to tour around, things to do, people who want the same as I do. San Francisco with the tall buildings and the iconic Golden Gate bridge that everyone from around the world would flock to the city to see. San Francisco’s tech scene. The warm weather and sunshine. Uber and Lyft. Amazon Prime. Groceries delivered to your door. And, maybe to experience a continuation of the feelings of serendipity.

And, it is all of that.

 

COMING TO TERMS WITH DISILLUSIONMENT

Many times, we forget that to truly love a place, person, or thing, we must love its entirety. Flaws and all. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am feeling this storm in my head because I am juggling between the version of  flawless San Francisco that I’ve conjured up and the real version of San Francisco.

Today, I want to share wth you that often we form this amazing illusion of what we chase after, and sometimes… it doesn’t turn out exactly the way you envisioned it to be… and mature Lesley says, “that’s okay.”

…and I repeat, THAT’S OKAY because I feel like it’s all part of the process of making a healthy, mature decision. It makes life hard, but to make a healthy decision that we stick with, we must weigh all of the pros and cons.

Because sometimes, just sometimes, a few caveats come along with the amazing things in life:

San Francisco is a city with amazing Michelin star restaurants and Napa close by, but affordability is an issue. Not to mention, I’ve been spoiled by the Vancouver food scene, and San Francisco Chinese and Japanese food cannot compare to what I’m used to back home in Vancouver.

Driving Along Bay Bridge in SF

Napa is in the backyard and there is a lot of nature to explore, but you need a car to cross the Bay Bridge and other highways to get there. Not a lot of people in San Francisco own a car, because driving in The City is crazy and not to mention, expensive.

There are tall buildings that tower above you and the skyline ends a little higher up than many major cities. There are many iconic places to visit as a tourist, but living in San Francisco is a different story. There are too many tourists and it gets too crowded. There’s also the things you don’t want to see… like human feces on the ground and smeared on the train station’s escalators and homeless people everywhere.

Then there’s the tech scene…. literally everyone is in tech. Be prepared for that. 

The people. Everyone moved here from elsewhere… whether it is from the Bay Area or from a completely different state or country. It’s exciting. You learn new perspectives all the time. But at the same time, I find it hard to give myself fully to friendships or relationships. It’s hard because who knows where everyone will end up in a year from now.

Finally last but not least, there’s sunshine and warm weather, 2 hours out of the day. Then it becomes extremely windy and foggy in parts of the city. Warm weather is available an hour down south though.

In the process, I’ve started to ask myself these questions:

  1. Does this mean, this is my final destination? Who knows, but I know I can see myself living here for the next 5 years.
  2. Does this disillusionment stop me from making SF my next home? To be honest, I’ve questioned it.

Tonight especially, as I sit here on the bar stool in my apartment, I’m starting to come to terms with the reality that I’m experiencing. I’m facing my own feelings and fears, and recognizing the city for all that it is without the rose colored glasses.

While there’s this internal battle in my head, the truth is, I still choose San Francisco. I know I love the city. Just like who you choose to remain in your life, you learn to accept their flaws because the benefit of having them in your life is so much better. I just know, this is a necessary step for my career growth.

Maybe I no longer love it with the same intensity and blind passion, but I am growing a genuine and steady love for its quirks and forming attachments to the familiarity of the people and places I am growing accustomed to.

Not to mention, the incredible adventures and new experiences that weigh heavily in my decision.

First Ever SF Giants Game
Mr. Holmes Bakery in SF
First Music Festival in SF, Outside Lands
Lesley visits Los Angeles

STARTING A NEW CHAPTER AND MY TAKEAWAYS

As I near the end of my blog post, I’d like to share with everyone… four of the more meaningful takeaways.

  1. I miss home and appreciate family more than ever before. A week ago, I reunited with cousins A & B in Los Angeles who I have not seen for the past 20 years and found out we click almost immediately. Then I learned to appreciate family more. I felt excited when my cousin N and his girlfriend E visited from Vancouver and look forward to the times when my mother or sister would call. And, I also recognize how I could open up with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Los Angeles. I know I can depend on them without question.
  2. Learn to look for daily miracles and meaning…. because it makes life so much more interesting. Things like, bumping into a group of people from LinkedIn and then getting access to the greatest rooftop view in the city at their headquarters in downtown SF on random Friday night. Or, like meeting a key connection who helped you land an amazing opportunity. This is a key belief that will help you let go of ideas you are stuck on and look forward to interesting and unexpected experiences. Which brings me to the next point…
  3. Learn to let go. Let go of expectations and roll with what happens. Let go of the past so you can look towards the future. Every place and every person is different. Past friends, family, your old routine and lifestyle are no longer applicable. Is it easy? Nope, not at all. Releasing control is hard because we like to be the captain of our own ship called life. But, in life, some decisions rests upon others and we just need to trust that things will work out. Just rolling with what’s ahead, and to keep living your life gives us back the control we need.
  4. Chapters exist in life because when one door closes, another opens. You just keep on turning the pages. This realization just hit me as I look back at everything that has happened so far while I wrap up the things I am doing in San Francisco. I’m also checking into my flight that leaves tomorrow morning for Vancouver, BC.

You know, the next time I will be back in San Francisco, is truly when I would start a new chapter in life… when, for better or worse I am coming back to San Francisco with a realistic understanding of where I am living for the next few years of my life. When I am coming back to a reality and conditions (like the new sofa I bought with my room mates or new friends I’ve made) I’ve set for myself in a place I look forward to as home.

Until then, I’ll just roll with the waves of anxiety and uncertainty, because mature Lesley says, “this too shall pass.”

It’s now almost  1 a.m, and the rain has stopped and the thunderstorm has blown over. Like the weather in San Francisco, the storm in my head and heart has subsided too.

I’ve got to wake up in approximately 4 hours. Before I log off, I want to leave you with this final note:

Next time, home will be San Francisco, flaws and all.

Friends, have you experienced any disillusionment in your life? How have you dealt with it?

Coming to Terms with Insecurities & Inner Demons

Coming to San Francisco forced me to come face to face with many things, including learning to take care of myself, meeting new people, to continue to carry on despite being burned out… and mostly this:

I HAVE A PROBLEM.

A problem with insecurities and inner demons.

“City of stars
Just one thing everybody wants
There in the bars
And through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants
It’s love
Yes, all we’re looking for is love from someone else
A rush
A glance
A touch
A dance”

Tonight was the first calm night I’ve had in ages, after coming back home with J from Top of the Mark in Nob Hill. From Fun & Cheap SF, I found out that there’s a movie night showing La La Land and a complimentary tasting at what’s known as one of the finest rooftop bars in SF.

La La Land. 

That movie brings back a very specific memory that allowed me to recognize inner demons and a lesson I learned while looking back in hindsight. I realized, I’ve made this ‘mistake’ over and over again in all aspects of my life and stems from caring too much about how others (especially the people closest to me) think of me.

For all my life, I worried.

I worried that people would leave me if they only knew how crazy I was. How silly I was. How poorly I did in school the first ever semester I entered university. How much baggage I carried from past relationships. How my temper likes to flare up. How I looked when I didn’t have any make up on.

So what did I do?

I worried. I got anxious. Then I would do everything in my power to push people away by warning them about all these things that I think are the ugliest sides of me.

So watching La La Land, brought me back to my last romantic relationship. When I did just that. Every chance I had, I brought up the past and ugly things about myself that were things I thought of myself. These ugly opinions of myself, that I had established. I wanted to put it all out there, so that person would leave me sooner, so I could protect myself.

Were those opinions true?

Nope.

What did it show?

Just how insecure I was and how much I didn’t love myself. If I did, why did I have such a terrible opinion of myself? Why was I my biggest critic instead of supporter?

In the end, this person left because he believed me. Because of the self-fulfilling prophecy that I established. I didn’t believe I was worth it. And so, I wasn’t.

For the past several weeks, I got a job at an awesome company (YAY! I cannot reveal it yet, but I am so happy that I was able to make it this far).

Then when I got the job, instead of celebrating I worried for days about a mistake I had made 5 years ago, that I had never told anyone about because I was embarrassed that it was a big deal. Turns out when I finally exploded from anxiety and told one of my close friends about it two weeks ago, they didn’t think it was a big deal at all. Not even the company.

I had for some reason thought it was a big deal and worried about it for years and wasted a whole lot of sleep and brain power too.

If only I was able to let it go and see things with an objective mind, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself.

So, what’s the lesson here?

Sometimes, what you think is a big deal, isn’t a big deal at all. It’s all just your own perception of it… which is not always the truth. Somethings you think are ugly sides of you, don’t matter to others.

Be positive, so positive things can happen to you! You attract the energy that you put out.

Am I there yet?

Nope, not at all.

But accepting the truth and being self-aware is the first step.

There’s a reason why I bolded that one line in the lyrics above. In La La Land’s City of Stars, Mia sings about looking for love from someone else. It’s hard to, unless we can love ourselves first, especially in the darkest moments of our lives. When we stop self-criticizing and making assumptions, that will be the ultimate step towards truly loving ourselves.

At this point in my journey, I need to be my biggest supporter and lover, because I can’t let this self-fulfilling prophecy win again and lose the very thing I’ve worked hard to earn.

Do you have the same problem that I have? How has it affected you?

First Thoughts: Canadian Moving Away From Home

Bear with me for a while, as I ramble on.

Twenty three years ago, my aunt from California filed for sponsorship that would allow my family to move into United States. That same year, we were also accepted into Canada, where my grandmother and many others on my mother’s side of the family now currently resides in Vancouver, BC.

My mom and dad chose Canada, where there are many benefits for a young family… everywhere you look, there’s peace, multiculturalism, and beautiful nature.

This is an interesting thought because, they chose for us, believing that Canada would be where we would set up our lives, get married, and grow old.

Then then cycle of life continues, because like how my parents chose to leave home to find a place that’s most suited for them. I, as their eldest daughter, decided that America was better for me.

I said my goodbyes to my family and friends in Vancouver, BC. There were weeks before the final moment of departure when I met with many of those who I grew close to in the recent year. Many people from all parts of my life came to my goodbye party… and it was surprising, because I felt so supported by those who I saw maybe just once in a while. Others were childhood friends who I still kept in touch with here and there but never even hung out in the same group. But oddly, they understood me as those who grew up from the same hometown would – we shared a special connection.

That same connection, I saw as I started to get settled down here in San Francisco, California. I found a sort of comfort from the people who came from where I grew up and they welcomed me with open arms.

The first few days were hectic. I boarded the plane with two luggages: way too many tank tops and shorts and only three pairs of shoes. I had an interview within the first few days of arrival, and then two others after that. It was in a way refreshing and challenging in a way that I had never experienced before. Interviews here are different. You sit through multiple rounds of interviews, presenting strategies, speaking to CEOs. You come head to head with the realization that you have to work harder and stand out so much more because the competition here is immense.

People are here from ivy league schools, from other parts of the world all wanting the same thing. People here are smart and motivated and won’t take bullshit. People here mean business.

Already, I feel like I’ve grown so much and feel so much more alive from how much of my brain and networking skills I’ve had to use in the past two weeks.

At the same time as I was interviewing, I was trying to get settled into my new life. Somehow, I had managed to get a lot of things set up in the first few days and even prior to my arrival. I’ve stumbled into an amazing flatmate, J, who set up everything related to housing. I’ve managed to snag a phone plan with a lucky phone number that starts with the local area code, 415. My furniture from Amazon Prime had arrived and was waiting for me to put it all together. I needed new toiletries and other random things to help me feel at home, and the people I had connected with prior to my trip were all kind enough to take me on a big shopping spree.

Thankfully, I had wonderful friends like K who helped me get set up and was lucky enough to meet some great flatmates. J in particular invited me to attend several socials. I met so many wonderful people already who barely knew me at all, but were just down to help me out of the kindness of their heart.

The challenge though, is none of them felt truly close. I think it will feel that way, as I start to develop my friendships from scratch once again. Somedays, I’ll feel like crying because I’ll feel awfully alone…it’s like I am climbing a mountain, starting from the very base. As I climb, I realize how much more steep it is than I had originally anticipated. 

It is harder to interview because of my visa situation. All five recruiting firms I spoke to said they could not help me, so when others were getting interviews after interviews, I have to make the extra effort to set up my own.

Despite these set backs, I feel lucky in other aspects of my professional life. I’ve made some great connections so far…managing to stumble into events where I met likeminded people who are supportive, speaking to some smart people who want nothing more than to help. Feeling my way through things and meeting people who want to give me advice and connect me with others. I’m volunteering, getting coffee chats.

I know I’m being impatient, but looking back I’ve already made great progress in just two short weeks. By doing so, I am one step closer to reaching the peak.

It’s a whole new ballgame out here, but yet it comes natural to me. 

You know that feeling…? When for the first time ever, it feels like you’re coming home.

I have an inkling that San Francisco, California is where I belong.

Until I’ve found my way, I won’t give up. For now, I’ll continue to enjoy life on the way to the top. I know that I deeply believe in this saying: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” So far, for whatever damn luck, I’ve formed an amazing bunch of friends who I know by gut instinct are people I can depend on.

Adventures on the weekend has been fun…singing karaoke from my phone on my bed, to attending festivals and from hiking, to exploring the city, to taking road trips down to southern California, and then getting lost on the BART. I know, there will be many more stops to come.

There are moments in the night when I’ve also come to a realization. That, the only person I need to trust is myself. I need to believe that I can do it. I need to believe that I’ll make it.

Lesley, I believe in you. Let’s make it happen.

Friends, thanks for believing in this silly girl who wants to make her dreams come true. Thanks for believing that I can do it.

 

 

 

My Dating Dilemma as a Girl in Her Late 20’s

When I was 21, I was pretty sure I was going to be engaged and married to the love of my life at 25. Then, when that relationship didn’t work out, I thought I was going to marry the next love of my life at 27.

Well, I just turned 27 and I’ve been single for 6 months and counting. 

I couldn’t help but think that this is such an interesting time of my life. I’ve been in some form of romantic relationship since I turned 15 and there were never big gaps in between each relationship. In the last couple of years, however, things started to take a different turn. Before my last relationship, I’ve been single for 8 months. Then this time, who knows…

The shift however, is apparent to me though. And it’s not until I take a look at the gradual shift in my relationship history did I realize why this is so.

Summary:

My first relationship is with Ted. We dated for a year and a half, and he was my first boyfriend. He set the standard for the next guy who came into my life whose name also started with a T. This Mr. T and I dated for almost 6 years, with major on and off periods. He was the kind of boyfriend who fits the bill at that time. He brought me lunch, was tall and cute, and made me laugh, but what I didn’t understand is what it meant to love someone when I was with him.

I didn’t understand what it truly means to love someone, so completely, that your whole life gets sucked into the relationship and into making it work. I didn’t understand what passion is until I met Mr. A.

Mr. A. was an interesting guy who had a lot of things that I wanted. He made me laugh, he was sweet and romantic, ambitious and kind. He was athletic and made it obvious that he cared about me. There were moments when we would lie in bed and just talk about whatever the heck we wanted and it would be fun. He taught me what it means to feel alive in a relationship, until it didn’t.

I loved Mr. A. with all of my heart as the young 23 year old who was willing to follow him to the ends of the earth, but something didn’t feel quite right. He didn’t want to do the same and there were all sorts of obstacles in the way that broke my spirit. So, things came to an end with Mr. A and it hurt so much that I was thrown into long 8 months of self-reflection, growth, and learning to forgive him and myself.

The thing is, Mr. A. had all the makings of the guy I would love to share my life with, but he wasn’t there yet in many ways like maturity and stage in life whereas I was a bit ahead, but I am confident that one day he will be. I have no doubt, that whoever Mr. A ends up with will be a very lucky gal.

Though the timing wasn’t quite right, he set the standard for the next man to come… and I realized, with each relationship, it became harder and harder to find the next Mister in my life.

Then of course, I met Mr. E. A.k.a. Moose. Meeting him, was unexpected after an 8 month gap of Single Lesley. And oh boy, did this relationship change my perspective. The thing is, the gap of non-dating made me stronger, more capable of knowing what I want. I didn’t fall into relationships anymore because I didn’t need to. I was on my way of being comfortable with myself.

And it was true because when I met Moose, I recognized in my gut that he would be worth being ‘in a relationship’ for because being in a relationship was no longer about having fun and having a companion to eat lunch with. It had trade offs.

Being in a relationship meant sacrificing my needs and wants sometimes, and putting my emotions and heart on the line. It meant trying to fit another person’s goals and dreams into your life. It meant I was willing to risk getting hurt again and being considerate of the other person in all your life decisions. It meant, giving up time to chase after my hobbies and working towards my dreams for dates and phone calls.

But he was worth it at that time, and I knew. So trust me on this, you will know when someone is worth it. You see, after dating all those other Misters, I took away nuggets of information subconsciously. I knew what I liked, what I didn’t. I learned how to communicate and how I reacted to my gut instincts. He showed me how I should be treated in an adult relationship and he made me understand what it means to be valued.

To this day, I still ponder about how and why it ended. Perhaps it is timing or we weren’t quite right for each other? But that feeling of coming so close, to falling in this mature yet fairytale like kind of love, still lingers. But it definitely makes it harder for me to date the next man.

So, why did I just summarize my entire relationship history?

Because here’s what I noticed:

  1. My relationships have gotten progressively better and so have my partners
  2. Alone time has allowed me to find partners who are better for me in the long run
  3. Timing is key to successful relationships, sometimes relationships end because of lack of maturity or it started in the wrong place and time
  4. The key to a successful relationship could be finding someone who is the end result of all the things you’ve learned from your previous relationships and then a mix of good timing and a huge dose of commitment
  5. Trust yourself more, because subconsciously, you know what’s best for you and the kind of love you are looking for (You don’t have to convince yourself to like someone, and you shouldn’t date someone because you feel guilty or feel like you owe them)
  6. Life takes unexpected turns, so don’t set expectations for when you’re going to achieve things as important as who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with

Here’s the dilemma:

Society deems that we should date and be partnered up, and perhaps, married before you’re 30.

Then you get lonely. 

The thought of dating crosses my mind often and I’ve been on dates here and there. But, it’s kind of funny, I don’t fall as easily anymore and I am even closer to knowing exactly what I want.

I know it’s silly of me, but because I know that feeling of love that I had experienced in those certain fleeting moments, I don’t settle for less than that, or try to change my expectations to fit those of the other person (e.g. If the other person wants something casual and I want something more serious, I walk away).

I much rather, do my own thing, follow my own dreams, chase after what makes my heart beats, than go on more dates with people who I don’t feel connected to. Sometimes, I catch myself trying to reason myself into giving more chances to men who just don’t feel quite right to me.

Maybe, that’s just the symptom of being a hopeless romantic.

Because there’s one thing that I can’t seem to unlearn. It’s believing in a magical, passionate kind of love. It’s giving all of my heart to one person who I know I can trust to spend the rest of my life with. It’s believing that all of this searching will come to fruition one day.

So yes, I am single by choice… and it’s been 6 months and counting.

As a girl in her late 20’s, I’ve learned that it is easier to say no to people who don’t make sense to you because you’re worth so much more.

Despite what society says, age and all, I still believe in that saying… while I’m off chasing my dreams, I’ll meet the love of my life. When we meet, there will be fireworks and my heart will feel like it’s home.

Call me crazy, but I will not settle for anything less. 

Until then, I have the strength to walk alone.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Just wanted to type a short note on my transition in life upon 27… and my immediate thoughts.

When I was younger, grown ups would always ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Back then, I thought it was important to refer to your profession… an architect, marketer… or maybe a movie star. Today, upon turning 27, my answer is: “I want to be happy and comfortable with who I am. I want to make a positive difference in the world.”

Don’t you agree, those things are truly the most important things in life?

Moving Away: When All the Universe Conspires

“Why are you looking down all the wrong roads
When mine is the heart and the soul of the song
There may be lovers who hold out their hands.
He’ll never love you like I can, can, can “

I have no idea, why all of these lyrics and lines from poems and songs seem to inspire my writing, but that’s the line from Sam Smith’s Like I Can, the on-hold music that is playing as I am waiting for a customer service representative from TELUS (a mobile service provider) to get back to me.

I am switching my corporate phone plan to a personal account, because well…. the news is I am no longer with my company any more. Last Friday was my last day at Century Group.

For many reasons, I couldn’t share with you this news earlier, because it didn’t feel official yet. It didn’t feel official, that I am about to head to San Francisco for an undetermined length of time to do some soul searching. It didn’t feel official or sane that I made a conscious choice to leave all the comforts and familiarity of my city Vancouver for a place where I barely knew anyone.

In fact, the closest person to me at this moment in time who lives in San Francisco is my room mate, who I met briefly in person for a couple of hours in Vancouver. Then there’s the one or two people from my university who I barely spoke to, and a friend I met through Moose when they drove up to Vancouver.

The lyrics, stood out to me, not in the romantic sense, but reflects the emotional struggle I’ve felt over the last couple of months. When the idea of leaving was discussed, I received a lot of pushback from my family, some co-workers, and well, mainly myself.

Sometimes, I imagine the city I live in now saying, “You’re never going to find a city that’s as great as this, though all those other cities are promising, but you’ll never find one that you can call home.” 

At one point, someone said to me, “You’re going to have to start all over again. You won’t get a chance like this again..” when speaking of career and growth.

Battling all of these objections and feelings of uncertainty, are my biggest enemies of all.

One by one, things are looking up though.

Maybe this saying is true:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” — Paulo Coelho

After some time, everyone is as supportive as ever and it turns out… quitting a job that I love with people I love wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. My colleagues weren’t angry, but they were excited and happy for me.

I was deathly afraid of finding housing, especially after stalking Craigslist for a couple of days and probably deflated and a little disheartened. But somehow, I came across my room mate who I connected with through a friend… and it just so happens she was in town a couple of days later after we connected online. So, I have my living situation figured out now, and in a decent area I’d say with someone who I think I will get along great with.

Then after getting that settled, it is on to the job aspect… I am just about to fix my résumé right after this, actually. Already, a recruiter had reached out to me surrounding a role at a start up, and I didn’t even start looking yet. So…maybe it is a good sign.

Until I start looking, my next greatest fear is finding out how competitive I am, how desirable I am as a job candidate, and whether someone or if anyone is willing to jump through hoops for me…because they will discover how much drive, passion, and ambition I have to accomplish my goals when I’ve set my sight on it.

Whether someone would have faith in me.

But, if Paulo Coelho is right, everything should work out… because I’ve never wanted something as much as I want THIS in my lifetime. It’s frightening, risky, challenging, and it will be the best decision I’ve made.

I left my heart in San Francisco. I didn’t know how right I was, until now: when I’m days away from following it too. 

‘The Road Not Taken’ In Life Decisions

“The Road Not Taken”  – Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

May 30th, 2017 is a special day for me. Not because it’s a birthday, or an anniversary, or any of that. No, it is the day that I decided to truly listen to my intuition and take the first step towards the biggest life change that is to come.

It wasn’t easy.

What’s to come is riddled with uncertainty.

When presented with a fork in the road, there’s no way to tell whether one path is better than the other. You can only go by what feels right at the moment, and sometimes, you tell yourself, you’ll go back one day and try to take the road not taken.

Some say, you’ll go so far down one path that it is hard to turn back, but won’t you forever wonder about that other path? What if your life could be 100 times better if you had taken it then?

I can recall all those other times when I came across a fork in the road. The what ifs and the should’ves.

Yet, we can’t think about those times.

The day I selected English Enriched instead of a Drafting class in high school changed the course of my career, as I walked down the path of becoming a marketer instead of an architect.

The day I chose to one job offer over another brought me to a year of personal and professional development that prepared me for the journey that I am about to embark on. If it was not for this job, I would not have grown into the woman I am today.

We can’t think about those times because what’s meant to happen, will happen. You will come across that path again.

All of these years, there was one path that I always talked myself out of choosing although it would come up again and again because I was never ready. Excuses after excuses. 

You see, there are opportunities that keep presenting themselves, until you finally learn your lesson.

I’m at the fork of the road again. This time, one path is safe and rewards are laid out expectantly. The other is muddy but the potential it holds is varied. The old me would have chosen the safe path… but today, I’ve decided to choose what feels right instead of what looks right.

This time, I decided to take The Road Not Taken.

 

Peru, the Rite of Passage

Hello, from Cusco, Peru! This is just the first of many blog posts recounting the various experiences I encountered in Peru, and a way to get all the thoughts that are swimming in my mind into some organized form. This is the last stop in my Peru itinerary which looks like this:

 

 

  1. Lima
  2. Day trip to Ica, Paracas, Huacachina (added this in last minute)
  3. Puno
  4. Day trip to Uros Islands and Taquille
  5. Take bus to Cusco stopping in Raq’chi, La Raya, Pukara to look at archaeological sites
  6. Day trip to Aguas Calientes then to Machu Picchu to look at the Ruins and climb Machu Picchu Montana
  7. Explore Cusco  
  8. Spend two hours in Mexico City during my layover 

 

I am happy to say, I’ve gotten a taste of everything under the sun.

Lesley goes sandboarding in Huacachina

From adventure and extreme sports like sand boarding, dune buggying, to hanging out on a beach with pelicans, to immersing myself into upscale pockets of Spanish-inspired culture in Lima and Cusco, to sitting down with the locals in the middle of the ghettos of Puno and eating questionable but delicious street delicacies, seeing archaeological sites and hiking up Machu Picchu mountain (I am still in awe that I’ve seen it in person) one of the seven wonders of the world. And of course, I was able to cross one more thing off my list, which was to kiss a llama… fine, I kissed a baby alpaca, but close enough right?

Lesley kisses a baby alpaca in Central Market in Cusco

This trip means more to me than accomplishing all of these exciting escapades before my 27th birthday. It’s more than just fun Instagram photos, or because I like to flaunt how much more interesting my life is in comparison to many others. That’s not, I repeat, NOT, why I went on this trip to Peru. 

Anyway, I am sitting here with wet hair, and slightly frustrated with the keyboard because of course is suited for Spanish typists and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to find the apostrophe or the at sign. That is just an example of a tidbit of culture shock I experienced while traveling the country of Peru as a solo female traveler.

Culture shock (which I will speak to in a different blog post), is the perfect word to describe how unprepared I was, not because it was entirely different from the developed world we live in, but because I had underestimated all the things that would come my way. I was, perhaps a little bit smug even, taking only a day to plan all my accommodations and flights, and then a few more to book my day tours in advance, and filled my prescription for altitude sickness and traveler’s diarrhea and shots for Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid. ‘Well, Lesley is as prepared as always,’ was the first thought that came to mind as I confidently took the first step on the plane headed for Mexico City, the connecting point for my flight.

As a backstory, I randomly booked a trip to Peru. It was between Montreal or Peru, and of course, Lesley loves the road least traveled, the exotic places, the unique experiences, and she wants to kiss a llama. So on a whim, I booked that flight…when something in my heart just almost jumped out at me. It felt right. 

Now I am in Peru, a week and a half into my trip, and feeling… well more sure of myself than before. A few months ago, I knew I was well on my way to finding myself, but still relatively lost as I took up blogging more seriously. I experienced bouts of anxiety, and that bled into my relationships, life, family, and job.

I don’t mean I am now more sure about who I am completely, or what I stand for, or who I want to be 10 years from now. This kind of sure, is the kind of sure that is telling me, ‘Hey Lesley, you’re on the right path.’ 

It’s almost like coming to Peru is necessary for me to realize how right I was, and reassuring even, to know everyone goes through this Rite of Passage that is filled with confusion before they become their full being and more wholesome version of themselves. I encountered many people from all walks of life who confided in me their stories involving self-discovery and well, life, that didn’t feel quite right and how they’ve taken steps towards finding what speaks to them.

So, why is this the Rite of Passage for me? 

For one, I am able to learn very quickly, how much I’ve grown and matured since my trip to Europe. That this transition that is made up of small changes, questions that swim repeatedly in my head, and trying new experiences is leading me somewhere more concrete than before. I felt more independent, confident, more knowledgeable, more grounded, and more comfortable with myself.

For instance, while I was afraid of being alone before, I never once, felt alone, although there were many moments when I was perfectly alone. In fact, I preferred being alone sometimes, like eating at Central Restaurant (listed as the top 5 restaurants of the world with Virgilio Martínez Véliz as the chef) in Lima, Peru. I was able to react to uncertain situations better in a new country in a new culture and learned what it means to take care of myself when I got sick, but also push on when faced with challenging situations. I was able to plan my trip from start to finish, and get myself from point A to point B, even though many times, I did not know Spanish nor know how to navigate the city or town I was in. (All this I will elaborate on in much more depth in other blog posts, so stay tuned.)

I am starting to see a trend of who Lesley is slowly becoming, and I love this version of her that is uninfluenced by ties to the Lesley back home. Some people see it as a way to run away from responsibility, but to me, it is a way to see who I can become. A test. A challenge. An experience that allows me to have full control of my life for the duration of the trip.

I chose Peru.

I chose how I got to spend my time there, who I like to spend my time with, where to go next.

It was seeing myself in my purest form:

Lesley who is independent, confident, social, fun, open-minded, sometimes a princess, and complains too much, adventurous, stubborn. The Lesley who loves learning, and isn’t afraid to dive right in with the locals. She’s a foodie and will climb mountains literally and cross rivers to see what makes her heart sing. She loves new cultures, new experiences, and embraces everything with passion and love. She is still growing and still learning but okay with it. She’s a city girl but also is perfectly okay without showering for a couple of days and getting downright muddy and wet in the wild.

It’s refreshing to see who I’ve become, and find comfort that this is the rite of passage many others go through, and discover the people and things that resonate with me, like these few lessons from Peru that I will keep close to my heart:

LESSONS FROM SOLO TRAVELING IN PERU

I learned how far I can push myself to chase after my dreams. So, what if I am waking up at 2:30 am, 3:00 am, or 5:00 am consecutively on my trip? A girl has to do what she has to do to see things through so she can catch her flights and see the things she plans to see. Instead of waiting for things to materialize or saying ‘oh well’ to something I wanted, I ventured out to Central Restaurant (they are notorious for being fully booked months in advance, and I was unable to get a reservation) one evening, waited for an hour, pleaded unrelentingly, until as luck would have it, a reservation canceled, and I was able to get myself a spot to try their tasting expedition.

Lesley climbs Machu Picchu after two bus rides and a train ride and waking up at 2:30 am in the morning

I learned who I can be when I am no longer influenced by people, situations, and an environment that is controlled.  In Peru, I can really be myself. I loved seeing how I learned to handle and navigate new and unfamiliar situations and how much I’ve grown from them.

Bedridden with Altitude Sickness at Cozy Hostel

I recognized somethings cannot be taken lightly, on the other hand, especially when it comes to my health. I forgot to start taking my altitude sickness medication as instructed, and as a result, was mostly out of commission and in bed rest for two of the nights in Puno. Going from at sea level to 12,000 feet above sea level is no joke. It makes you nauseous, dizzy, and climbing just three stories can make your heart pound and short of breath.

Local life in Puno
Ghettos in Puno

Peru taught me to appreciate home. Seeing the ghettos of the region and the living conditions that some Peruvians live in gives me a new sense of appreciation for Vancouver, my home. I saw how privileged I truly am in comparison to the billions of people in the world. But, I also learned so much from the simple lives led by some locals and natives.

Local woman sold me a plate of chicken and corn for 2.5 soles as I took a seat in the circle of locals seated around her stand

The locals taught me to be accepting. I came across a woman who sold street-grilled chicken and corn for 2.5 soles which is equivalent to $1.25 Canadian to locals. There were people who never traveled outside of the boundaries of their country because well, with their wages, it was hard to afford. People thrived on selling tours and rejection from tourists. They sat on the sidewalks at their rickety looking stands for hours under the sun while stray dogs wander around them and traffic precariously misses them by just inches. They live life day by day, but who are we to judge how others lead their lives, because all of the time, no one gets to choose the situations we are born into.

The locals taught me to be humble. The same people also believes in true love, the Inca values of hard work, duty, loyalty, and family. Their lives are centered around building a foundation for family and making enough to enjoy life. It lacks that capitalistic, materialistic, and sometimes self-centered lifestyle we North Americans seem to possess.

The locals taught me that you can dream and pursue them no matter where you live and who you are. I met Elliud, who is 24, and my tour guide of Quechua descent and now friend who dreams to come to Canada one day. For them, we are the ones with the accents, and their knowledge of where we come from is depicted by the media and things they hear. Elliud wants to work in Canada, because he heard the Canadian government is recruiting young workers. I also met Fredy in Puno. He makes a living with his own business as a taxi driver and tour guide at 28 years of age.

It was inspiring to see, that although they live in another world, like you and me they have their own journeys and some of their values are in fact, I believe, ones that we as North Americans are lacking.

You see, this Rite of Passage I speak of? The path of self-discovery and having the freedom and means to think of these questions of who we want to become is a privilege in itself.

For that, I am thankful, that I get to choose.

Choose who I want to be.

Who I am.

Me. 

For now, that is all, as it is now 10:32 pm and I am off to bed.

I have a flight to catch tomorrow, and I should get some rest while the party continues on for the other backpackers in the next room.

You see, I learned one last lesson:

I learned to put myself first, and always, always love myself. 

 

 

Seeking Self Improvement? Get into Running

I’m sitting on my couch, curled up in my blankets, and nursing my tired legs. I originally wrote this for Facebook, but feel like this is something that I would love to share with all of you.

Today, I completed my second half marathon in Vancouver, BC. Yes, sir/ma’am, that is 21.1 km and no less and rolling out of bed at 5:30 am in the morning so I can get there on time for a 7:00 am start.

The sun was shining today and the weather could not be any nicer for the Bank of Montreal’s annual marathon/half marathon/8km run. It is a qualifying race for many other official marathons, like the Boston Marathon. The energy of Vancouverites was incredible, especially after being deprived of sun for almost 7 months.

Early start for BMO Half Marathoners

Let’s just say, I’m happy I completed my run and at 2 hours and 19 minutes too! That’s after random unplanned evenings of training in the last couple of months, and my last ditched attempt the day before to squeeze in some last minute training with the ParkRide Canada run crew at their weekly 5km runs down by the Richmond Oval, under my belt.

But besides telling you how I’ve slacked, let me tell you how I’ve benefited from running, in more ways that just one.

Running is not just about physical fitness. Because if you think that way, you’re off track. No one likes to just kill their body, running 21.1km or 42.19 km in a marathon.
Why running?

I’ve always been a runner. In high school, I always came in the top three when we did our run days, and then for some reason, after that all ended I jumped for joy. I didn’t particularly like doing something because I was obligated to.

So after high school, for many years, I’ve had an on and off relationship with running. Sometimes, I’d run for a couple of minutes on the treadmill, other days, I’ll decide to run outdoors, but only around the block or around the seawall with coworkers.

Last year, I was and still am in a self discovery mode, and realized, that I thoroughly enjoyed running after several nights a week of at first 1.5 km around the block type of runs, to 3 km runs, and then 5 km runs.

I discovered that, running, serves several purposes. At first, it was therapeutic for me, because those moments of focus, energy, silence or sometimes basking in the music I loved helped me feel more relaxed in the moments that I felt stressed and lost (trust me there were several of those moments).

Randomly, Tina asked me to sign up for the Rock and Roll 10 km run with her. For some reason, as clumsy and unorganized people, we ended up signing for the half marathon instead. So, for the first time ever, we both ran the half marathon which is double what we signed up for, unprepared.

It turns out that we could do it… and those 5km nightly runs built my cardio enough to handle the run.

The feeling of crossing that finishing line was amazing, considering earlier that year, I finished the Vancouver Sun Run with much much difficulty (as in huffing and puffing, and ‘must be dragged by someone’ kind of difficulty).

Then running became something more for me, it was about doing my personal best, personal improvement, feeling accomplished, and sharing it with the people I started to appreciate in my life. For the first time, I saw that if I really put a lot of effort into training, I can directly see the impact of my results.

Nothing can beat the feeling you get when you run across that finish line with your own two legs. It’s on you to keep up with training, to get out of bed early on the weekends to do so. It’s on you to squeeze in a run in your tightly packed schedule when you’ve promised yourself you will, whether it is 11:00 pm at night or 5:00 am in the morning. It’s on you to say, “to hell with that, I’m going on anyway,” and continue when your mind and body says they’re tired.

Since then, I’ve run my second half marathon today, which is the 6th race I’ve run this year. In one short year, from 5km races, 10 km races, and 15 km races, and another half marathon, I’ve done them all…

At the BMO finish line with Tina.

I can’t wait to accomplish more in the next few years… perhaps a marathon?

Who loves running for the same reasons that I do?

Nanaimo & Cowichan Valley, BC: With People, Anything is Possible

I’m sitting on my couch, listening to Barbra Streisand’s People.

 

 

No more hunger and thirst
But first be a person who needs people
People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world

I embarked on another solo adventure over the Easter long weekend. I didn’t have that many days, but still wanted a short getaway. I wanted to experience that rush of adventure and excitement that I get every time I conquered a new destination on my won.

I was independent and free. At least that’s how I wanted to feel. 

The trip didn’t turn out as expected, however. First, my Greyhound tickets actually didn’t take me on to the BC Ferries, and the Fishing Tour and Winery Tour I booked for Cowichan Valley wine tasting had been cancelled in the morning, as I was the only person who had signed up.

When I got to Departure Bay, the ferry’s connecting point between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, I was met with another piece of bad news: the public buses were not running that day.

I was extremely disappointed, but I still forged ahead because I was determined to make my weekend a wonderful experience, regardless of the circumstance.

That’s how Barbara Streisand’s song lyrics tied into this trip.  

I needed people. I am open to people. Being independent didn’t mean being closed off, you still had to be open to new experiences and people around you.

View from Coast Bastion

I asked around and wondered how I was going to get myself into Downtown Nanaimo where my Airbnb was located. While making calls at the bus stop, I bumped into a kind man, Wayne, who had offered to drop me off.

Kind Encounter #1

Wayne’s son-in-law had offered to pick him up at the terminal and was going to be headed downtown. We looked at his map (not Google maps), and determined where my Airbnb was located. Then, as we sat on a bench overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean in the sunshine, he told me his story. He shared with me how he lived on the east coast, then moved all the way here to Port Alberni. I shared with him how I traveled Europe last year, and he then confided in me his drive down the west coast, all the way to the Mexican border in his younger years with his wife and children.

For those 30 minutes, we shared our lives with each other, freely and willingly. It was one of the most purest connections I’ve made in a while.

Then his son-in-law arrived, and they both made sure I got dropped off right at the door.

Those were the kindest strangers, I’ve ever met.

I think Netflix’s The Kindess Diaries is really onto something. There are really kind people, everywhere you go.

I made it to my Airbnb, and I met with my host Mary. I had grabbed a map from her and was set on wandering the city before dusk. I had heard about Nanaimo Bar Trail, which is a scavenger hunt that takes you on a search for the different types of Nanaimo Bars that the city had to offer. After all, that was what the city is known for.

If you’re ever in the city, their most popular spots are the seawall, Bastion, and Old Quarters, where I stayed. They have a tiny section of streets that had some hipster boutiques and shops. But, spending a weekend in the city is overkill. Make sure you book your excursions to make your time worth it.

Deep-fried Nanaimo Bar

My first stop was Pirate Chips which makes a really delicious Deep-fried Nanaimo Bar. The fish and chips were so-so, but it comes in huge portions.

Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake

By then, I was already tired and bored from the shops being closed, so I made one last attempt to revitalize my day by visiting Coast Bastion’s Minnoz Restaurant. They had a Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake Dessert, that was delicious…especially with a Malbec wine pairing.

Kind Encounter #2

While at the restaurant, I was seated next to a table with a couple, their child, and their cousin from Los Angeles. I had offered to take a photo for them, and to my surprise, we had struck up a conversation.

They had also come to Nanaimo on a whim and had nothing planned. I had emailed them my itinerary and options and mentioned to them about my winery tour and excursion plans that failed because there weren’t enough people.

Jay, out of the blue, had offered to have her family join me. Over that conversation, we had become friends. That evening, my new Los Angeles friend (Pete) joined me for a night of bar hopping and clubbing.

Despite the lack of people at the club (there were only 10 people), we still had a wonderful time. The drinks are cheap and local artists brought in a lively club at the bars.

Pete and I got a few drinks at The Nanaimo Bar which served up an amazing Nanaimo Bar Martini which was my last and final Nanaimo Bar stop for the trip.

The next day, the winery tour company Cheers Cowichan had gotten back to me. Pete drove us to Cowichan which was around 40kms away in the Cowichan Valley region, and we went on a mini road trip. The Cowichan Valley is ranked second to Okanagan in terms of BC’s wine producing regions.

Hudson’s On First

Along the way, we stumbled upon Hudson’s on First in Duncan, a restaurant we had randomly Google searched which turned out to be the best dining experience I’ve had on the trip. The restaurant is award winning, the chef was a Top Chef Canada contestant, and the restaurant made it’s own sausages, pasta, and served the most delicious omelettes made with locally grown produce.

We then hopped on the bus to try local wines produced by three different wineries. Averill Creek Vineyard, Blue Grouse, and Venturi Schulze were our stops. By the way, Susan did a wonderful job, explaining how all the wines were produced and taking us to the wineries of her choice.

Averill Creek

I loved Venturi Schulze, and ended up buying a bottle of Brandeburg No. 3 which is a sweet fortified wine and Island’s version of Champagne, called Charme De L’ile, from Averill Creek… a light body, sparking wine that was perfect for a summer day. Venturi Schulze also does Balsamic Vinegar tastings and the vintner, was very knowledgeable, funny, and explained wine in such a unique way. According to him, grape varietals has personalities.

Grilled Calamari

At the end of the day, we made our way back to Nanaimo Old Quarters, and tried the top-rated restaurant in the area, called Asteras, a Greek restaurant, where we got tasty Grilled Calamari and Roasted Lamb. That evening, I was invited to have dinner with the family and we made a pact that we will meet over coffee one day.

And of course, Pete had also offered to show me around the city when I am in LA and Orange County.

It turned out to be a wonderful experience, because of the people I encountered. Though I traveled alone, I was not alone. Unexpectedly, I had gained a family and more friends from around the world. Because of their kindness and our openness, what was once cancelled and seemed impossible became possible.

It turns out, “Anything is Possible” mentality doesn’t just live in New York City. It is a mentality that is carried with the person.

Sometimes, just go with the flow, and see where life takes you. Things have a way of working out.

It’s magical, isn’t it?

Be open to people, need people. You’ll be one of the luckiest person in the world.