Saturday Storytime

Someone once asked me to describe to them what snow was like.  I’ve had a lot of experience with snow, but I’ve never had to describe how it feels before.  As summer fades to fall, I find myself snuggling up in oversized sweaters and clutching massive cups of tea.  I am steeply nostalgic for snow, so here we go:

Pure, white, innocence

Your nose is pressed against the window, peeling your nostrils upwards like a pig.  Your breath forms condensed circles of fog, simple snowflakes against the glass.  The imitation isn’t enough, you need to feel the real thing.  You can’t wait any longer.  You struggle into your snowsuit and rush outside into a world of white.

Big, white, incandescent bulbs of fresh sugar fall from the sky, translucent in the sunlight.  They spiral and cascade in waves, the winter wind guiding them along her haunches into overflowing piles.  Overturned pottery bowls laced with white flour, mounds that you roll over like fresh dough, like the chocolate chip cookies Mama put in the oven minutes ago.  You let the substance stick to your snow pants and creep into your boots.  The pine needles bend with dripping wet paint coats, white blobs fall and are swallowed by a blank sea, an unlined sheet of paper.  The sun bounces off the ice blue waves and blinds you with its beauty.

You inhale deeply.  Crushing ice numbs your lungs—you gasp for breath, stunned by the crisp sensation.  The cold seeps beneath your skin, flooding into your blood stream.  Your eyelashes and nose hairs stain white.  The soft flesh of your lips begins to crack.  Your nose is pink and running.  You feel the chill, but it doesn’t hinder you; it motivates you.  You climb the mountain made by the snowplough and concur the slides, rolling and jumping and laughing to the falling sky that dumps endless frozen raindrops onto your exposed face.  The snow sneaks between your layers to an intimate place, caressing your white, soft skin.  You start shivering.  Shivering is fine—it’s when you stop, that you start to worry.

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You glance up through the incessant fall of chunky snowballs back towards your home.  The log cabin emits a golden glow, snug and luminous, a sharp contrast to your current world of white.  It pulls you in, like a fishing rod retracts its prey.  Your feet move slowly, in a daze, heavy and full of white ice cubes.  You command your body to dash but it moves grudgingly, bones numb, veins frozen stiff.

The hearth of the fireplace beckons you like a spring bird entices its young.  The warm, wafting smell of the baking cookies is intoxicating.  You slam your hip against the front door and stagger inside, walking drunk.  The wind screams behind you, trying to get in.  You push the door shut and stomp your boots.  White crystals spray across the ‘WELCOME’ mat.  Mama will scold you for bringing snow indoors, but for the moment she is busy fretting over your frozen body, helping you remove your boots even though you can do it yourself.

You strip every layer, one by one, until the white soft skin that the snow caressed and left moist is exposed to the world.  You replace the thick blanket of snow outside with a blanket of burgundy coated in cat hair.  You burrow beside the cat in front of the log burning fire, letting the blazes lick your cheeks.  You snuggle in as close as you dare; near enough to hear the wind howl its revenge through the black brick chimney, far enough to keep your skin from bubbling and hair from sizzling.  Mama hands you a steaming bowl of hazelnut tea and you sip the scorching beverage, tracing the rush of heat from your chapped lips through your veins all the way to the tingle in your frost-bitten toes.  Impatiently awaiting the arrival of the cookies, your hand darts out from the safety of the covers to snatch a distraction: a dusty leather-bound book balancing on the mantle.  You creak open the portal, words pouring out of pages in waves of snow.  You glance out the window, where the sun is descending and the world is wisps of silver.

You are happy, because if you had never been cold, you could never warm up.

Take Nine: The Yukon (Hopefully!)

A few months ago, I was hit with the realization that out of everywhere I’ve trekked in this great wide world, I have never been further north than my hometown of Grande Prairie, Alberta.  I’m passionately proud to be Canadian, but I have never even set foot in the Great White North!

While my craving to travel north grew to unbearable heights, Travel Yukon opened a competition to send one lucky Canadian up to Dawson City, Yukon.  I stumbled across the ad on Facebook and immediately entered.  When I was selected as one of five finalists, it started to feel a lot like fate.

I’m using this as the last video in my nine-week vlog because of the significant opportunity it presents.  I want to lie beneath the Aurora Borealis.  I want to trek across the white world.  I want to touch my lips to a human toe.  And I want to share it—every minute—with all of you on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, and, of course, this travel blog!  Vote for me to vicariously bring you along by liking and sharing my video.  Please support me and give this video exposure to persuade Travel Yukon that I will make the most of this amazing experience!

(Aside: If you’re watching on a mobile device, you’ll have to use headphones to hear all of the sound effects.  Not sure why, take your complaints to YouTube!)

 

Thank you for your support, and as always, happy travels!

What Staying At Hostels Is Really Like

One of the most intimidating factors for new backpackers is the looming necessity of staying at a hostel.  While bus tours and groups of friends often have the opportunity to fill a small dorm, you haven’t truly experienced hostels until you’ve stayed in an over-crowed, sweaty, smelly, 32 bed-dorm.  I stayed in my first in Rome at the age of 11.

While my case of travel bug may be labelled as extreme (and extremely contagious, just to warn you) most backpackers choose to ease their way into the dorm room experience.  If you’re travelling solo, don’t fret—more experienced backpackers will take you under their wing.  The following factors I’ve chosen to outline are central for most hostels.0000000000000000000onnnsie

  1. The Kitchen: Every good hostel will have a kitchen.  Most hostels only have stove tops, so don’t prepare any roast dinners.  In fact, before you go grocery shopping, you should search the kitchen for bottle openers, can openers, salt, spices, and any free food fellow backpackers may have left behind and alter your shopping list accordingly.  There will generally be a fridge with a shelf dedicated to leftovers and a large cubby with labelled food.  Stealing another backpacker’s food is not an intelligent way to make friends.  That being said, the kitchen is an open, safe places to meet other travellers.  Sit at a table with people you don’t know – just don’t forget to do your dishes before you eat!
  2. Common Areas: Hostels have a wide variety of common areas, from movie rooms to pool tables to pubs to swimming pools.  These areas are where your foreign friendships will be made, cemented, and expanded.  While it may be tempting to escape the hostel during the day and return only to sleep, becoming acquainted with the people and place you’re staying at will make you feel much more comfortable and at home.
  3. The Dorm Room: Ah, the illusive dorm room… while it sounds daunting, I actually feel more comfortable in large dorms than I do in three-bed rooms.  The way I look at it, if one person in a 12 bed dorm decides to try something funny with me, I have 10 roommates that have my back.  In all of the hostels I have stayed at around the world (approximately 100) I have only felt uncomfortable enough to change rooms once.  In that instance, I went down to the 24/7 reception (a nice safety feature included by some hostels) and explained the situation.  They immediately switched me to a single room free of charge.
  4. The Bunk Bed: After a long day of sight seeing, adventuring outdoors, and drinking profusely with your new hostel mates, you’ll be ready for a good nights sleep.  Make sure you lock your bags in the provided locker or shove your belongings under your bunk bed.  Lock the door when you leave, too.  Never, ever, under any circumstance, leave valuables out and in sight.  Even if you’re just going to shower.  Even if you’re just leaving the room to pee!  I don’t care how close you and your roommates are.  Don’t be stupid.  Once everything’s away and you crawl into bed, don’t be surprised if your bed sags and the metal frame starts shaking.  Oh, the joys of communal living…
  5. Rates Per Night: The price of a hostel doesn’t always determine its quality, but it is a factor to consider.  Ask if the price includes breakfast, towels, and linens.  If you’re planning on staying in one place for awhile, ask about weekly rate, work for accom, or long term options.  I lived in a fantastic hostel in Edinburgh for a month—most of the guests had been there for nearly a year.  Read online reviews and get insider tips, but take everything with a grain of salt, remembering that everyone carries their own personal bias based on individual experience.

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I hope these explanations have given you some insight as to how a hostel runs and works.  No matter what, there will be exceptions to these factors.  The first step to conquering your hostelling fears is to simply pick one, book it, and go!

Why I Walk

Travellers use several different forms of transportation to arrive at various intended destinations.  Some rent cars, others hitch-hike.  Mountain bikes, public transport, and overnight trains are all pleasant travel methods.  Although I use a variety of these means, my favourite way to explore is on foot.

Since my sudden surgery in France, I have discovered a new appreciation of my feet and their wondrous abilities.  I was nearly paralyzed when I foolishly took an icy jump on my flimsy snowboard.  I was off my feet for a full two weeks, and although I am still a lot slower than I was before, I am ecstatic to be walking at all.

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“Take time to stop and smell the roses.”

Because my pace is a lot more, erm, relaxed, I am able to observe details I previously missed on my city jaunts.  Like the old man and his dog who sit watching the ducks on the same corner of a metal bench every Tuesday.  Like the blossoming buttercup field just out of view past the rotting farm fence.  Like the small, struggling worm that emerged onto the concrete to greet the morning rain.

I walk to absorb and inhale life.  It is impossible to receive the same experience trapped behind the thick glass of a tour bus.  In order to truly appreciate a city, you must get outside and stroll its streets.

Not everything you see will be warm and welcoming, but it will be honest.  Cities tend to have a pungent smell, rougher areas of town, crooked sidewalks, and ruthless traffic.   I learned the hard way to carry a sweater, water bottle and umbrella with me everywhere, everyday, even if the sky promises sunshine.

Sometimes, I walk barefoot. I love feeling of the ground against my skin.  I squish my toes into the sand and let the ocean lick my soles.  When I walk, I am free and alive.

The blisters and muscle cramps accumulated by long walks are always worth the majesty and sincerity of a city and its inhabitants that you discover along the way.  If you’ve never explored simply by wandering, take off your shoes, put down your map, and go get lost.

My One-Way Road Trip Packing List

Although I will always be a backpacker at heart, my recent snowboarding injury has forced me to upgrade my personal luggage allowance from a hiking pack to a duffel with wheels to the entire backseat and trunk of my car.  I love road trips, but this time, I’m making it a one-way.

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Transitioning from a traveller to a student hasn’t been easy.  I stayed true to my nomadic roots in the obscure objects that I piled into my VW Jetta.  Here is a condensed list of the necessary items I brought from home:

  1. Camping gear—because I still love a good adventure1240577_10201279147433924_255951408_n
  2. My guitar—because music makes me feel at home anywhere I go
  3. Magic Bullet—because I live off of smoothies
  4. My manatee teddy bear—because it’s the perfect size to cuddle
  5. The first draft of my novel—because it’s time to edit
  6. Five swimsuits—because my house has a hot tub & pool (SCORE)
  7. Two sweet smelling candles—to make my room smell more welcoming
  8. My old dream catcher—to keep nightmares at bay
  9. A new gel memory foam pad—because my back needs a good bed
  10. Portable, wireless speakers—because, like it or not roomies, I am a country girl.

Unfortunately, I also forgot a few items that (unknown to me) are not included in my rent: sheets, pillows, and a comforter.  I also misplaced my black trench coat but somehow remembered my unnecessary, massive winter jacket.  This is unfortunate because winter in Northern AB is a liiiiitttle different than winter in Southern BC.

The nice part about moving to a summer vacay city with an off-season population of 100,000 people is that is has more than enough modern vicinities in which I am able to purchase any amenities I might need or may have forgotten.  Hopefully I won’t have to buy too much, because BC has a hefty extra tax.  I plan to stay gluten-free and indulge in fresh BC fruit.  This is a hippy city, so I figure I can get away with thrift-shop clothing and second-hand room decor.  I’m excited to finally have a place of my own—an entire bedroom—to settle into and permanently unpack.

For now, anyways.

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Although this is a foreign transition for me, it is strange, new, and exciting.  Wish me luck on my one-way road trip, and as always, happy travels!