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?

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. 

Local POV: Experience Vancouver in Two Days

Lately, a lot of people has been asking me for tips for their weekend vacation to Vancouver, BC. I moved to Beautiful British Columbia when I was four and basically lived in one of the top ten most livable cities for all 23 years of my life. Like every native to their homeland, all the beautiful and breathtaking sights became the norm for me.

Some days, I’ll catch myself looking at the picturesque mountains and taking in the fresh smell of pine and fir trees. On other days, I’ll be up in the mountains after a day of snowboarding, then realize that I could literally crash the beach on the same day, half an hour later.

We Vancouverites, are pretty darn lucky and we forget … just like how take our parents, close friends, or significant others for granted after the shininess of a new things fade away.

There are a ton of reasons why people come to Vancouver of course. To see the wonderful snowcapped mountains, hike the trails, experience the multicultural aspects of the city, and of course there’s things like trying the typical Canadian ‘delicacies’ like maple syrup and poutine. Although Michelin did not make it’s way up to Canada, we have the most delicious asian cuisine, like ramen, sushi, pho and dim sum.

If you want an all around experience that excites all of your senses, you’ve come to the right spot.

Scenic Drive in BC
Joffre Lake, BC

MUST SEE DESTINATIONS

If you only have two days to spare, you don’t have time to hit all of the spots, but here are the spots that you MUST VISIT. I will explain it in a order  that I believe works the best for your planning.

Day 1
  1. Start off early in Gastown, walk around and explore the small shops in town. You’ll find little boutiques and tourist specialty stores, but best of all, you’ll find the most delicious coffee bars. I recommend just picking up a Spanish Coffee from Buro Coffee and Peanut Butter Cookie to go.
  2. Coffee in hand, walk over to look at the Steam Clock and snap a photo.
  3. Stroll to Canada Place, where you can take a picture with the famous Five Sails near the Convention Centers. There is also a gigantic Earth shaped model.
  4. Make your way over to the Jack Poole Plaza where you can take a picture with the Olympic Cauldron.
  5. After this, you must try the best gelato in town at the Fairmont: Bella Gelateria.
  6. If you have a car, drive up to North Vancouver, where you can spend two hours at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can spend three more hours at the Grouse Mountain Gondola and doing activities at the mountain top. You’ll be able to see a beautiful view of Vancouver and experience nature firsthand. However, if you have a smaller budget, you can also consider going to Lynn Canyon Park instead which will allow you to experience nature and experience another suspension bridge that is less touristy.
  7. This should take you to around 6:00pm if you started early enough. At this time, relax and head to Yaletown to get dinner. There is a wide selection of restaurants, so you can choose to eat whatever your heart desires. Yaletown is also a great place to grab some evening cocktails, such as at the Hello Goodbye Bar.
  8. At around 9:00pm, you can head to Olympic Village. Olympic Village is the best spot for you to take pictures with Science World, our signature soccer ball architectural building that defines our landscape. You can also see Roger’s Arena and Stadium here, so you’ll kill two birds with one stone.
    Olympic Village Bike Ride
Day 2
  1. Get up early like usual. This time, make your way to Granville Island. You can grab brunch at Edible Canada if you want to sit down and order their famous fries or you can head over to the public market where you can sample a famous puff pastry soup from A La Mode or get a custom bagel from Siegel’s bagel shop. There are also a lot of live performances at around lunch time and lots of crafty shops if you want some unique souvenirs to bring home. If you come during the evening, you can also catch an improv show or two.
  2. Next, make your way to Stanley Park where you can rent a bike on Denman St. and ride around the seawall, making stops at the beaches and viewpoints a long the way. You can even see the Lions Gate bridge from here. Spend 2-3 hours here.
  3. When you’re done, hang out along Denman and Robson St. to find Santouka Ramen or Kintaro Ramen. If you’re not a fan of ramen, there are also a ton of other types of cuisine clustered in that area.
  4. At this point, there are a few things you can do:
    • You can make your way down to Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf to look at sea lions and walk around the area. The Steveston Seafood House also offers a popular dessert that is a chocolate balm with a cream filling. In Richmond City Centre, there is also a wide selection of Chinese Restaurants that serve dim sum and until late. There is also an outlet near the airport called McArthurGlen Outlets if you are looking for some good deals.
    • If you feel like relaxing, you can make your way to Kitsilano Beach for beach bumming and then enjoy live jazz music at a bar called Blue Martini.
    • If you are feeling like shopping, you can drive to Metrotown, which is the second largest mall in all of Canada, though realistically, aside from the shopping there is nothing to see.
    • If you are feeling artsy, you can spend some time at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Robson Square to look at the latest exhibitions.
  5. Finally, wrap up the evening by spending some time shopping on Main Street, looking at boutiques and eating at our extremely hipster restaurants and maybe grab a beer or two at our local breweries.
  6. End the evening by going to Queen Elizabeth Park for dessert and a class of wine and at the same time at Seasons in the Park, enjoy a night view of all of Vancouver from the top of the hill. If you choose to do this in the day time, you can also visit the Bloedel Conservatory too.
Got a few more extra days?

Consider visiting….Whistler and Squamish. Take the Sea to Sky Highway to for scenic stops and hikes that takes you to breathtaking glacier lakes and waterfalls.

Visit Deep Cove for kayaking and a short hike to see Stanley Park and Vancouver.

Take a detour to Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver

Cleveland Dam

Take the ferry to North Vancouver Lonsdale Quay 

Go to Canada Place and experience Flyover Canada

PLACES TO EAT

These things should keep you busy for two days, but if you’re an extreme foodie, you can also consider going to the following places:

  • Toshi Sushi
  • Savio Volpe (Reservations Required)
  • Kishimoto Japanese Kitchen
  • Narrow Lounge
  • Bao Bei Brasserie
    Bao Bei Dumplings, Chinatown
  • Medina Cafe (Lavender Latte is amazing here)
  • Lin’s (For Xiao Long Bao Buns)
  • Cartem’s Doughnut
  • Small Victory Bakery (Cruffin = Croissant + Muffin)

More to be added…

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. 

 

 

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. 

 

So, I did it again – Solo Travel to Peru in May

It’s that time again. I believe that once a year, everyone should put themselves out there, outside of their comfort zone so they can grow, learn, see more of the world. And that’s the thing about me—once something sparks a seed of passion inside of me, I just go for it…no questions asked, even if it means doing it alone.

So, when I saw this YVR Deal showing Lima, Peru for $550, I jumped on that deal, and the thing about traveling solo, is you won’t have to confirm with anyone else what to do, where and when to go. The plan is to fly into Lima, then make my way to Cusco, and then take a bus to Machu Picchu. If I had more time, I would consider doing the Inca Trail hike and spend a few more days there. With a full time job and limited vacation days, this is all I can do for now.

For 3 days, I contemplated where I should go. On my bucket list, there are a few places…Thailand, Iceland, Venice, India…then the closer places, Miami, Montreal, Chicago. South America has not crossed my mind yet, but yet, I feel like something about it is drawing me to it.

Through food, I am allowed to connect with a different culture and see from a different perspective. That is exactly why I am a foodie…because that is the only way I can do it here and now, while staying within the vicinity of my home town.

My first exposure to Peruvian culture is when I visited San Francisco, or maybe when I was small and saw The Emperor’s New Groove.

I’ve had Peruvian food in San Francisco at a restaurant called SF Limon and also had it in Vancouver, at a restaurant called Chicha. The exposure to those foods, really piqued my interest. It is unlike the Chinese cuisine I grew up with, nor the westernized food I am used to, with a mix of Spanish, African, and Asian flavours.

Things I’d like to see in Peru:

  • Ancient Ruins
  • Lima is Peru’s Food Capital
  • Machu Picchu
  • Lake Titicaca
  • Amazon River
  • See a real rainforest
  • Pet llamas

So before then, I have to take a few Spanish classes, as the official language is in Spanish. And exchange my currency into Nuevo Sol.

I can’t wait until my adventure begins once I arrive at Jorge Chávez International Airport.

Year in Review: One Year of Doing Me, Personal Development & Italy

When you focus on yourself, good things happen.

That picture was taken in Frascati, Italy during my solo travels in Europe. I was on a mission to visit some Italian wineries while I was in Europe. I had just taken a train from Rome to this little town, Frascati, I had Googled. When I got there, I realized all the train stations were closed that day because it was a Sunday, but I trudged along to the outskirts anyway because there’s no way I am giving up after making it this far.

It started to rain. Hard. I was holding onto a flimsy little umbrella in the middle of nowhere.

Thankfully, a kind stranger drove by and after some assessment and hesitation I hopped into a stranger’s car who kindly saved me from a rainstorm. May I remind you, this was after a 3 mile trek into the countryside with no pedestrian sidewalks.

It turned out to be an amazing day of adventures.

Emanuele was his name, and he drove me, volunteered to my personal tour guide around town, and drove me back to Rome after this chance encounter.

Through all of this, HE DID NOT SPEAK A WORD OF ENGLISH and I DID NOT SPEAK A WORD OF ITALIAN. We relied on Google Translate the entire time and it was a wonderful evening that unfolded serendipitously with wine and learning about Italian culture from a local. Emanuele even bought me a rose and a bracelet to remember him by.

The next day, I went back to the little town, having stumbled upon a Winery Tour and phone number while I got lost in the countryside the other day. I had finally scheduled a winery tour called the Old Frascati Tour on my last day in Italy. Heck, I was in awe when it hit me that I was able to share a meal with people from different parts of the world in all sorts of professions. Doctors, nurses, teachers and environmentalists. At that one moment in time, we all chose to be at the same place, same time, for the same purpose.

That’s when I snapped the photo, on the property of one of the wineries in Frascati.

So what is the point of this story, you may ask?

Right after that, when I got back to Vancouver, I got a tattoo. After contemplating for years, of the word I’d like to have permanently inked onto my body, I knew it had to be the word Serendipity.

In the one year of personal development, the most important lesson I learned is Serendipity, to just enjoy life and focus on doing things YOU ENJOY. I still struggle with it today, but I know the wonderful things that could happen if you just followed this path.

Now, back to the other lessons that eventually led me to the path

13 THINGS I LEARNED IN ONE YEAR OF SELF IMPROVEMENT

If anyone has gone through the process of adulting, you’d understand how hard it is to focus on yourself when you’ve always had relationships and had to take into consideration the opinions, expectations, and plans of others. It is hard enough in your early formative years to even know what YOU, YOURSELF want to do with our own life, let alone deal with what others want from you.

So, after my break up last April, I decided to do me…improve myself, do everything in my power to become the best version of me. Date and meet people, and just let things come naturally…and I’ve had my small doses of intoxicating romances in that timeframe like the one above.

At first, it was externally motivated. I thought that if I became the best version of myself, my ex would feel like he missed out, and maybe he would come back. But, that thought quickly faded out into the background and it really was about me, improving, and discovering myself and my personal limitations because it was thrilling to see myself go from point A to point B, and to achieve things that I never would have imagined myself doing.

When I realized, I could do a lot of things I put my mind to, I became an addict to self improvement.

So, what happened in that year of self improvement? A LOT, more than I’ve ever imagined I could discover about myself. But, I’ll tell you in short form.

  1. Be curious. I discovered one thing that I’ve always taken for granted, which is my curiosity. That curiosity took me to places and is an extremely positive trait. I got to meet lots of interesting people, collect a lot of interesting pieces of information, hear a lot of perspectives from people in different walks of life. My curiosity allowed me to challenge my comfort zone and be open to new and exciting experiences. HECK I EVEN SKYDIVED AND JUMPED OUT OF A HELICOPTER IN SWITZERLAND. That is not a Lesley thing to do typically, but I was curious and nothing was going to stop me from finding out how it feels when you’re free falling. Curiosity will enrich your life and fill it with rich experiences.
  2. Bravery, adaptability, and the ability to trust my own gut are things I could all do on my own. There are times when I’ve gotten into difficult situations, but I’ve always managed to find a way to come out unscathed. I’ve learned and I’ve grown from them.
  3. Spirituality. I was never a spiritual person, but I believe in ‘The One’. But let me tell you, during that year of travels and meeting others, I’ve been inspired more than once that sometimes, THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON. Life just does its own thing and help you unravel the most confusing situations. It’s hard to do, and there are times as an over-thinker, I would stop letting things unfold. There are ups and there are downs, and I’ve experienced both all in one year, but now I am more capable of handling those ‘down’ moments, because I know the most amazing moments are just waiting around the corner, regardless of how long it takes to get there.
  4. Be open to opportunities. I was always a ‘Yes’ woman. But, being open to new ideas, people, situations was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because I was open, I met a ton of friends from around the world, met some pretty amazing business leaders just by talking to random people at a speakeasy in Seattle or on the plane heading to New York. There’s nothing better than just listening to someone’s story (which is also something I discovered I love) and then truly connecting with their soul.
  5. Putting my plans into actions, but I know, once I’ve set a thought into motion, I will achieve it. Whether it was running a half marathon when a year ago I could barely do a 10k run, snowboarding on the blue run on my third try, traveling Europe by myself when I used to rely on others for even a simple task of driving to another city that is a few miles away, or asking for things I want when I was afraid of the consequences, I’ve trained myself to be mentally strong when I need to be. This year alone, I’ve run 6 races, and signed up for Tough Mudder and the BMO Half Marathon. I’ve traveled to over 10 different countries alone. Made friends and chose who I could trust, and now I’m in the process of moving out of the comfort of my own home. Will I regret it? Nope, none of it.
  6. Be passionate. I am a romantic at heart and I am proud of it. I know I love falling in love and passionate moments. I used to think something is wrong with me, and that I am just being irrational and naive. But, passionate moments and sweet moments are what fuels me and keeps my life worth living because it is magical and gives the mundanity of life a little spice. Those moments (trip to Napa Valley, wild evenings of unexpected kisses and heart to heart conversations, adventures into Boston, being shown around Italy with people I meet randomly in a foreign location), even if in the long term, are not going to last, are what I will look back to and smile at.
  7. I am more self aware. I learned all the little things I love, that make me happy. Lemongrass, Chai Tea, Lavender, Books, Candles, Digital Marketing, Running, Wine Tasting, Cooking, Hawaiian and Japanese Fusion Food. All of the above are little things that put a smile on my face. I know I love being in the sun, being outdoors, being surrounded by nature. Those little things, are what I discovered when I truly listened to myself and became self-aware. Being self-aware is a gift because when you listen to your feelings and do what you love, you are better at avoiding situations that no longer serve you and surrounding yourself with positive energy.
  8. I formed better relationships. When you go through something tough, you know that those who matter are your friends and family. In this year, I was able to improve my relationship with my parents who I always had difficulty opening myself up to. I got closer to my friends who would be next to me in a heart beat. It was no longer about focusing my attention on that one person I am romantically involved with. Although tough, I also learned to walk away from people who no longer align themselves with who I am.
  9. I discovered and started to appreciate and accept all of the qualities in myself, but I have more to learn. I am an adventurer, curious, a person who can be a perfect bum and completely laid back, but also be sophisticated. There are many sides to myself. I like that part about me, but also things I’d like to work on. I used to stubbornly believe that people should accept my flaws, that I AM ME and I didn’t have to change. Now, I am open to constructive criticism and know that I am flawed and have the drive to work on those flaws to become the best version of myself. But I am also less of a critic to myself, because I can accept that everyone makes mistakes, even myself.
  10. I am more clear than ever what I want in a partner. I discovered through dating, what the red flags are for me, what kind of people I liked and want to spend time with. I know not to convince myself to accept someone in my life although there is a nagging feeling that they aren’t the best fit for me. I wrote down a list of things I liked in a partner, and I was able to find this person. I know now, not to settle and now know what it feels like to have my opinions respected and my attributes admired. I know that a level-headed rational relationships exists. Prior to MOOSE, I’ve never had a proper relationship with someone mature who could communicate and accepted me for me. I also learned, when I am not ready for a relationship and I am not a COMPLETE ME, it would also not work. A relationship takes TWO PEOPLE who are ready and committed, right timing, and right place. It is hard work.
  11. I am more focused and disciplined, an important step towards adulting. I learned good habits such as making my bed daily, being on time, being dedicated to what I have committed myself to. I also learned that I can’t do everything at once and to prioritize things that truly matter to me. I used to cram all sorts of things into my schedule. But, I am in the process of paring down my schedule so I am only investing time on things that make me happy. Hey, TIME IS PRECIOUS. I am even taking a step towards moving out for the first time, so I can learn how to be independent from my parents and managing my own finances.
  12. I learned to start letting go of the past. I love collections (I own a Hello Kitty and Snow Globe collection) and memories. They are little baubles of stories that form my past. But, there is such thing as holding on to too much, whether that is in your mind or people who longer serves me. I was able to remove half of my possessions from my room that are no longer part of me or reflect the current version of me. I held on to those items because they remind me of past memories (good or bad). I also held on to things because I feel guilty. You know what? When I let go of those things, I am no longer reminded of sad memories or feelings of guilt when I see a shirt that I’ve only worn a few times. I was able to let go of reminders of bad decisions I’ve made and stay more focused on what I had to achieve NOW. I am also able to make room for the things that I love as the current version of me.
  13. I still overthink a lot, but I am more capable of going with the flow and just letting life take the reigns. That’s what’s exciting about life and that’s the energy that will attract positive people into your life. Hey, that’s why I booked the trip to PERU on a whim, because it speaks to me. Your heart knows what it wants. 

So, I highly recommend taking some time to JUST DO YOU. I never thought I would be where I am now and who I am today. It is very rewarding...lonely at times because of the choice of stepping away from the distracting dating scene.

But, what the heck! Life is surprising. Set your destination and goal, and as my friend advised, “As long as you’re moving towards it, you’re making progress and life will lead you there.” It’s true. 

It may not be one straight path, but everything I had wished for has come true in one form or another. It may take longer than expected and you may encounter other obstacles along the way, but you’ll get there. Trust me, and enjoy the journey.

 

Because I knew You, I’ve Been Changed for Good

Life is beautiful and unpredictable. One moment, you’re experiencing the best moments of your life, the next moment reality hits, like standing between fiction and reality.

I had the best time in San Francisco with Moose. But just like serendipitous moments and how they occur, the chapter is over, leaving me with beautiful memories and new experiences. Moose rewrote what I thought could happen, who I could have in my life and deserved, and left a footprint on my heart.

BITTERSWEET ENDINGS AND POSITIVE BEGINNINGS

With 10 days spent in San Francisco and Napa Valley, it changed my perspective of how you can really encounter someone who will teach you new experiences and show you the finer things in life, and how much someone can click with you with all of the signs pointing to “YOU DEFINITELY CAME INTO MY LIFE FOR A REASON” and sweep you off your feet.  But also, with one swift change in life, it could all end. 

Moose from San Francisco is moving to New York, and I learned for the first time ever, how to amicably end a relationship maturely, still putting a smile on their faces, wishing the other person the best in life because I want them to be happy. I learned that this is the time in our lives to pursue our dreams and that we should. I felt glad that he could go after his dreams and achieve what he wanted in life.

He has wanted to move to New York all his life, and I was not going to stop him. I think that is the ultimate level of caring for someone against your deepest desires to want everything to work out.

There was no wishy-washiness. It was a beautiful moment in life that surpassed all other beautiful moments in my 26 years of life (hopefully more beautiful moments to come) and I’ll never forget this. Two strangers from two different countries and parts of the world, pasta-making, enjoying a walk in a familiar/foreign part of town, going on romantic road trips, taking walks on the beach, enjoying picnics over wine and cheese, a wonderful stranger who swept me off my feet by doing all the little things and everything I ever dreamt of someone doing with me/for me. Moose was someone who learned the most intimate parts of me and met all the needs, and despite the distance was perfect but was not meant to stay because life decided the situation and timing is not right.

Moose taught me, to believe in fate, take a chance, learn to enjoy life and things you do…because why do things you don’t enjoy?

It well may be,
That we will never meet again,
In this lifetime.
So let me say before we part,
So much of me,
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me,
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have re-written mine,
By being my friend…

Like a ship blown from its mooring,
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a skybird,
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you,
Because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.

SIGNS

I truly believe in signs. That all of this happened for a reason, because life pointed me in the direction of everyone meaningful I’ve ever met. When I met Moose, his name kept repeating in the things I saw (like a street name, or on a bus, or my co-workers newborn had the same name and was announced just before I headed on my Christmas trip to San Francisco) and for some reason, my desire to go to San Francisco crossed paths with him and he showed me the world while I was there, an experience I would not have received if I had not taken the clues and followed my heart.

So I had to believe that the 10 days and beautiful moments spent with him happened for a reason. Life also brought the chapter to a close for a reason.

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed or just felt. They have come to assist you through a hard time, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. Then, suddenly, the person disappears from your life. Your need has been met; their work is done.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share or grow or give back. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They give you great joy. Believe it; it is real. But only for a season.

Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons—things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all your other relationships.

Think about the people in your life over the years. Whether they were there for a reason, a season or a lifetime, accept them and treasure them for however long they were meant to be part of your life.

And when they are gone, be thankful for the gifts you received from them when they were here—for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

http://www.considerthismoment.com/

What life taught me through him, I have yet to figure out. But I trust, that the same signs will leave me to more beautiful moments and like how life ebb and flows, there will be more moments like these as long as I am patient and loving.

I can’t wait to experience life and what it is waiting to hand me, because though there will be dull and mundane moments, there will be the breathtaking ones that I will always treasure in my heart.

Thank you, Moose. You’ve been a gracious guest in my life. 

Serendipity, San Francisco.

LIFE IS NOT A FORMULA

Here’s the thing about life. All my life, I want to be in control of everything. I’ll be fixated on a certain outcome, and I thought life is a formula. By doing XX as input, like every quantifiable equation, I’ll automatically receive XX as output. For example, as humans, we believe that by putting so-and-so amount of hard work, we will automatically get that promotion or reach that goal… and then what?

Of course, there’s things like, like learning if I trained hard, I would be able to run at a better pace than my last best time; I would be able to run longer distances. Improvement made me happy.

But what made me feel those small moments of happiness a little bit more, is when I decided to go for a run in my neighbourhood, and in that split second, deciding which direction to take or maybe taking a little detour. It is letting life decide for me where to go, without a plan. I realized, that when I ran and I expected certain conditions to apply or followed a route and it didn’t go exactly as planned, I’d be left with disappointment.

Like life itself, It took rewiring my brain and a trip to Europe, to understand, that 1+2 is not always 3. My trip to Europe was one of the precursors to changing my mindset because that was truly when I learned to lighten up on my planner’s mindset. I learned to embrace adventure as it comes, and find happiness through life’s little surprises.

Europe is also one of the reasons I got my ‘Serendipity’ tattoo.

Serendipity means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”.

So, today it is about Serendipity. Not Europe either (although I’ve talked immensely about it), but about San Francisco and how serendipity has weaved its way around how things happen in life for me.

MOOSE

Last year, I experienced one of my most painful breakups in my history of relationships at age 26. It’s the kind that makes you change your perspective on how everything works in life. The kind, that makes you grow up, and wonder about WHAT THE HECK and WHO THE HELL is truly important. It’s also the first time, I realized, that no matter how much I love and how much work I put into a relationship, it won’t give you the outcome you want because life is funny like that.

Last year, I also swore, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else until April 2017, because I for some reason set out in my head arbitrarily (Les, you’ve got to stop planning) that was when I would be my complete self again, ready again to accept a partnership in a positive way.

Well, in January 2017, that all went out the window, and so did some of the other things I swore I would never commit again.

I MET MOOSE. 

Moose, is my current boyfriend. He’s the kind of boyfriend who makes sense in the moment. The kind of boyfriend who took me by surprise because life likes to throw you curveballs… and make people creep up on you when you least suspect it.

Like the plot of a romance movie, the two main protagonists never really meet until later on. But of course, there were a few moments when they would’ve met if not for XX and X.

So, in my process of rediscovering myself, I decided to try out this online dating app, called Bumble. Of course, in my non-committal phase of life, I was only interested in meeting people for the sake of meeting interesting, quirky, adventurous people who would teach me new things about the world… and those people just so happen to be out of town.

One day, I connected with someone on Bumble. And like every girl on the dating app, I of course get a lot of matches, sometimes I’d take them seriously, sometimes I didn’t.

But this one caught my eye, because he’s from San Francisco. It was a place I had thought about moving to, for various reasons and of course, he was pretty good looking too. It didn’t hurt to connect, right?

So we connected, on a fine Summer day, and we chatted. Mostly, I was giving travel tips to this man who was from out of town and visiting Vancouver with his friends. Like any good hostess, and ambassador, I of course was not able to meet up. I did give some darn good tips though because I’m a foodie and adventurer.

So, while I was hiking Joffre Lake, the trip ended for him and it was time for him to go back home to US of A, and that was also the end of our mini-stream of texting conversation.

Life continues as normal. My life is jam packed with things I am doing to grow myself, for personal discovery. I was playing volleyball 3 times a week, running a half marathon. I went to Europe.

Little did I realize, that through all of this, that we’re both still connected and subconsciously following each other on other aspects of social media as we both embarked on our personal journeys in life and the world.

I loved Europe, and I needed more travel in my life. I needed to see San Francisco, because I needed to really see if it was THAT wonderful as everyone had dubbed it. So one day in November, I decided in the spur of a moment, I would book a plane ticket to San Francisco.

This whole personal/self discovery journey was also coming to a head. I learned the essence of serendipity, and wanted to remember it by something. So, one fine day, I took a walk down the hipster part of town in Main Street. I decided to go for a coffee at 49th Parallel and get the famous Lucky’s Donut, as part of my solo-date and I did something completely unplanned and uncalled for.

I decided to get the word ‘Serendipity’ tattooed on my arm, because I walked into a new tattoo shop on my walk home, and it somehow called out to me. When I walked in with the intent to ask for a consultation, they actually had a spot open up, and in the spur of the moment, I decided to do it. To get my first tattoo ever, although I’ve thought about it repeatedly for the past 5 years.

It felt great. I felt that rush of decisiveness I had loved when I finally am able to check something off my bucket list.

The whole time, as I continued on with my mini-adventures, I’ve reached out to the guy from San Francisco on Instagram where we’re connected for a few tips, too. After all, shouldn’t he return the favour since I gave him such wonderful tips while he was here?

So intermittently, we’d send a few direct messages here and there, until one day a notification pops up on Snapchat for new friends suggestion. San Francisco guy was one of the suggestions, and I decided to add him because more points didn’t hurt!

You have one new notification.

I looked at what it was, and it was a notification from San Francisco guy. He had made his way to New York, and he was visiting the bar from How I Met Your Mother! I loved that show, and was intrigued to chat more.

Soon, our chats turned into late night phone calls that lasted for hours, and soon instead of tips, San Francisco guy was helping me plan bits and pieces of the trip and even offered to pick up my friends and I from the airport.

I didn’t know it then, but through our conversations, I had developed some good feelings for this guy who I ALMOST MET. And because his name has some correlation with a certain Moose in Canadian Broadcasting, I’ve started to refer to him as MOOSE.

I had arbitrarily made up a list of things I wanted in a someone if I were to date again, and he seemed to fit the bill and proving it more so from every interaction we had since we first started chatting. Of course, I didn’t know it fully at that time because I had never looked at the list again since I’ve made it months ago.

It was December 23rd, and it was time.

I flew to San Francisco, and he came to the airport to find me. That was the first time we laid eyes on each other. That was also the first time I had offered him yogurt and expressing to him several frustrations with the delays my group had experienced due to holiday travel.

Awkward first meeting, right? Even by the standard of online dating. Usually it is a coffee chat or something casual. But this guy had offered to spend three full days with me, and with my friends and sister hanging around AND he ate from the yogurt cup I had ate out of too, within the first 10 minutes of meeting.

The rest, I’d have to tell at a different time, because serendipity are a collection of serendipitous moments, and this is just the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garabaldi – 5 Hour Hike

In July 2016, I decided to visit Garabaldi. It was a 2-3 hour drive towards Whistler and then it was a 5-6 hour hike, says VancouverTrails.com. It is 37km north of Squamish and 19km south of Whistler. You’re looking at around 1,484 m in surface elevation. The entire return trip to Garabaldi Lake and back is 18km in distance.

Whether it is a glacial scenic lake you want to see, or a weekend of camping, it is the place to go for all your heart’s desires.

It was on my bucket list for 2 years, and I never pursued it…because I didn’t have time and maybe I was subconsciously afraid that I was not fit enough to attempt it.

One day, my friend A and I decided to go for it anyway. It was the time in our both our lives when we wanted to be reckless and we both shared that “just do it” mentality, like Nike advertises.

So dragging along my sister and her boyfriend, we packed some cookies, a few bottles of water (highly recommended), and headed on the road.

I also curled my hair for photos, but the curls didn’t last long in the weather.

So the drive really take 2 – 3 hours, and there is a designated parking lot (Rubble Creek) right at the start of the trail, where we parked. We got there at around 1pm. The entire hike was a steady uphill climb, one that is not too hard, as it wasn’t like the Grouse Grind where it was a lot of inclined steps. There were a lot of switchbacks, but that is perfectly fine if you go at a steady pace.

A and I go to the gym regularly, perhaps 2- 3 times a week, so we had very little breaks, and would only stop at every marker (at each kilometre mark). I had on 3 layers, a jacket, a long sleeve, and a tank top. Even though it is a glacial lake, you do not need to wear that many layers.

It’s actually not that cold.

You’ll see a creek on your way up, and over a rickety old bridge, then you’ll see a crossing which will lead you to either Taylor Meadows or Garabaldi for camping options. You’ll then pass by Lesser Garabaldi Lake and then in a final stretch, you’ll see Garabaldi Lake..and as you make your way around the lake, you’ll hit the campgrounds. There’s also a mini island which you can carefully walk towards on little footholds formed by rocks and stones.

Make sure you keep your balance!

Garabaldi is just like how the photos advertised.

It was as breathtaking as I thought it would be. Near the shore is where you can pull out your snacks for a picnic meal.

Spend a few hours there, have a beer, and continue on to Black Tusk or make your way back down the mountain in due time. Good thing we made it back before dark.

Our team actually completed the hike in a little under 5 hours, and in good time.

Final note, make sure you start earlier. We ended up staying in Pemberton, BC as we got down at 6pm and it was a little late to drive back down the mountain (and way too pooped).