Flyin’ Solo in Toronto

So it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve added anything into this blog and I can say BOY has a lot changed in my life since my final post in Spain.

 

After touching down in the USA I spent about 3 weeks traveling around before finally heading home. I started in New Jersey to visit my college friend Maria where it feels like I spent most of the time absolutely jet lagged. Next, I went to see my soon-to-be married BFF in Boston and spent most of my time loving on her cute little pug pup. It took about a week for me to stop waking up at 5 am and going to be by 8, I was always so ready to start the day with nothing to do! Then, I met up with two of my festie besties to go to my favorite festival in the entire world, Electric Forest! We ended up camping next to some awesome new friends and spent a weekend full of laughs and memories.

The main reason I ended up in Toronto was because I had a job interview scheduled about 6 days after the festival ended. I had quite a bit of time to waste considering I was in Michigan and it just didn’t make enough sense for me to travel back to Oregon before an interview in Dallas. So I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I booked a trip entirely by myself!

I decided on Toronto because of all the incredible things I’ve heard about the city. The food, the skylines, the friendly Canadian folk and of course the ability to have some sweet Tim Hortons. I booked myself in a hostel which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone wanting to go to Toronto. It’s called the Planet Traveler Hostel and it’s the best place to be as a solo traveler. They had group activities every night and the world cup was on during every game to allow travelers to gather in the common room and cheer on their own countries team.

The best part about traveling alone is you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. Yep that’s right, you can choose where to eat, what to do or even when to do nothing. The best part about this for me was that I still had some post-festival-jet-lagged-time-zone-switching tiredness so I simply walked to get some poutine and spent the rest of my first day rewatching Friends for the 5th time. After some much needed R&R I planned out the rest of my trip (well kinda). I knew generally the area I wanted to go each day but didn’t make any exact plans as to what I was going to do. I knew however, my goals in Toronto were as follows; see Niagara Falls, walk around downtown by the CN Tower and professional sports arenas and get some GREAT food.

My first big day I spent walking from my hostel (which was near University of Toronto) all the way to the CN Tower. I knew I was going to go up to the top to get some great sky views but I didn’t really expect what I actually decided to do… I walked past a booth for the “Edgewalk” which in 2011 was the Guinness World Record holder for the “Highest External Walk on a Building.” Now I wouldn’t call myself afraid of heights but I’m not exactly a thrill seeker either by ANY  means. This was just one of those oh-screw-it kind of moments where I felt the need to stand 1,168 ft above group only strapped to the wire circle above me.

I cant describe it, you’ll just have to go try it.

After getting back on solid ground I kept walking around the city to see what else Toronto had to offer! It is home to the hockey hall of fame (which my dad would have preferred I do versus climbing buildings) Toronto Blue jays and Toronto Maple Leafs. It is also home to MANY diverse neighborhoods which was pretty cool to see during all the pride for the world cup. In my walk I passed through Little Italy, Little Portugal, Chinatown, and Koreatown. I saw the Toronto sign, the Canada sign and ate at some pretty great local recommendations on the way. (I ate quicker than the photos could have been taken.

The next day I completed something that had been on my bucket list for quite some time. I boarded a random tourist bus that headed for Niagara Falls! Now the best part about speaking a few different languages is the ability to converse with people you might not have normally been able to. I met a couple who one was from Italy and the other was from Argentina. What a surprise! We sat at a table together during our meal and exchanged stories in both English, Spanish and Italian. Que bueno!

Upon arriving at Niagara Falls I saw the beast of a waterfall that was everything I had imagined. I did the Hornblower ride that takes you right into the mist of the falls and mist is a term I should use lightly. They gave us ponchos to cover our clothing but even that wasn’t enough to save us from the downpour of water. The coolest part was seeing the USA on the other side, did you know you can actually walk across the border from Canada to the USA? It was tempting for the story, but I’m sure my group would have left without me.

All I can say is, take the chance to travel by yourself. You’ll really grow as a person and understand the world around you because it is only being seen by your eyes. We spend so much time wondering how everyone else is going to perceive us when we sit at a table alone but truth be told, people are just envious of your courage. Traveling solo taught me, it’s okay to be alone because sometimes… you’ve got to fall in love with yourself first. Eh?

Oh The Places You’ll Go

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

Dr. Seuss

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So here it is, the blog post that I’ve long dreaded to write. The blog post that would mean I had returned from Spain and left my year long adventure behind me. I spent 9 months living in the beautiful island of Mallorca and traveling all over Europe. I met friends that quickly turned into family and I fully embraced myself in a culture different to my own.

A year ago, to this exact day I received my placement in the Balearic Islands. I knew very little about these islands but after immense research I fell in love. I started prepping everything possible for my new experience but with all my excitement I felt a tingling sense of anxiety.

As many of you know I struggled immensely in the beginning of 2017. A broken heart, a broken wrist, a car accident and a stolen wallet all led for a recipe of depression and a lack of will to enjoy life. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore and the pain of all these events kept me up at night almost the entire month of March. It wasn’t until I was online and saw a “TEFL” advertisement pop up on my computer that I started thinking. Why did I feel so empty? I knew I wasn’t a sad person but I was constantly irritable, avoiding friends and family and wanting to sit at home and watch TV every moment I clocked out of work.

The first step was hard. “Get a TEFL” I thought, am I really ready to go abroad with this mindset? Even as sad as I felt my gut told me, be like nike and JUST DO IT. I applied with International TEFL Academy and started looking into countries. I was asking around trying to find anyone else who had done something similar until I hear about the Auxiliares de Conversacion program in Spain. It was April 12th, application was due April 18th. Alright, sure. I ran around and got all the necessary documents and turned them in.

I read more about the program and the ability to live abroad on a visa seemed to be a difficult thing to do with other countries so this seemed like a good choice. Slowly I got admitted, accepted, placed in the islands and finally placed at my schools. Although I was still petrified at the thought of going abroad something just felt so completely right to me. My heart went from feeling so empty to having a glimpse of excitement and happiness return.

With every annoying process (other aux’s I’m sure you know what I mean) my mood kept changing. I was no longer fixating on the problems I had before but now my sole focus was to get myself abroad and save money to do so. I picked up shifts, I avoided eating out, I tried everything I could to spare a dime. I purchased my ticket for September 25th.

I didn’t know what to expect, I’ve been abroad before (and at 16) but I had a host family, orientations and assistance from regional directors if any issues arose. This time I was going in blind, completely alone with only an apartment secured from some other auxilaires I met on facebook.

I’d rewrite exactly how great the year was but luckily that’s what all my other blog posts are for. Now I want to focus on the return. After the travels with my dad we returned to Palma for 2 days before my final goodbyes. I met up with some friends to see Steve Aoki and enjoy time with them.

When it finally came time to board my flight to New York I started to feel the whole year come in the form of tears cascading down my face. The year wasn’t just a way for me to go and travel Europe, the year was for me to reinvent myself. All the travels only helped me really understand who I really was and helped me get back to the person I knew I could be. All the friends I met gave me insight into their lives and helped me learn so much throughout the year. The late night talks, the trips to Magaluf, the brunches/lunches/dinners, the movie nights that turned into mornings and the tears that turned into laughter. I can’t put into words how much each of you affected my life and how grateful I am to finally feel like the person I knew I was. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, the most confident, the most able to stand up for myself and what I believe in, the one willing to lend a helping hand to anyone who needs one and most importantly completely and totally in love with myself.

Now I’ve returned home and the reverse culture shock sure has set in. I’m waking up at 6:30, saying Hola to uber drivers and giving .25 cent coins thinking their .50 cent coins to confused cashiers. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. To say I would love to go back is an understatement but I realized it wasn’t Spain that changed me, it was all the incredible people I met.

I’ve now got a life ahead of me and many options of where I’d like to go. Will it be working in Dallas? Crossing the country and moving to Florida? Trying to go abroad again in Asia? Saving up and paying off all my debts while living at home? I’ve got no idea what lies ahead, but the journey… is always worth it.

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

-Anthony Bourdain 

Letters to my friends:

 Kim: We met by complete chance but I’m beginning to think that it was meant to be. You taught me to not care what anyone else thinks and to simply live my life without worries. You were my travel buddy and always willing to do anything at a moments notice. You helped me learn that it’s okay if people don’t like me or disagree with me because I have so many other people that do love me. You encouraged me to put myself out there and forget about my past. You opened up to me even when I know it’s a difficult thing for you to do. You helped me trust again and taught me that NO MAN but a good man deserves to have me. You’re going to do incredible things in Miami, I’m so proud of all you’ve accomplished and I know our paths will cross again.

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       Sarah: My spiritual mentor, you understood me when I started rambling on about buddha or other weird things. We always got so deep in conversation that the time just completely flew by. You related to me when I wanted to talk about music festivals and EDM. We stayed up late talking about life and other matters and I knew no matter what you wouldn’t judge me. You were always so willing to help calm me down when I got anxious (even with silly things like a bug bite). You have a spirit to go and continue teaching english and although I’ve never seen you teach I can tell you’re going to impact so many people’s lives. Your charisma and love to help others will always take you so far in life and I can’t wait to see where life takes you. (I don’t know how we don’t have a photo of just to two of us but us playing with this dog summarizes our relationship)

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       Madison: You are one of the most wholesome humans I’ve ever met. You seek out the best in everyone and you always want to make sure that people feel included and loved. Your zest for life will take you around the world and will always keep you humble. Your ability to just live in the moment taught me that I just need to slow down, and that it’s okay to just focus on the here and now. You also taught me to love, because your ability to care for others showed me that we can still be kind to those who might not deserve it. I know whatever you do next in life you will do it with a pure heart. I hope that somehow, someday we will be able to start our Thailand adventures. But like a 14 year old writing in a yearbook “don’t ever change”.

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       Kevin: My first friend from the program I’m surprised with all the people I encountered on facebook our friendship actually stuck. Your extremely positive view on life and yourself made me realize that confidence looks great on everyone. You were an ear when I needed to vent. You kept me sane with your copious amounts of back rubs and time spent just watching movies or getting down on the dance floor. You complimented me when I wasn’t feeling great and always had nothing but supporting things to say. Whether you become a substitute teacher or a ski instructor in the mountains of Colorado, you’re gonna do great.

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… because of all of you my heart is full again.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill
(Just because you didn’t get a shout out does not mean you didn’t impact my life. I can only cry through writing so many of these)

 

Do I even MISS the US?

Since it’s been an adequate amount of time that I have been outside of the US I figured it is always fun to reflect on things I miss and don’t miss, enjoy!

Things I miss about the US

1.My dog/friends/family (of course)

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2. Dryers 

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3.Driving– Alright, mainly because I bought a lovely new car before I even applied to this program and sometimes I wish I could have brought it over with me!

4.Access to every version of baking goods (learned that this Thanksgiving while trying to hunt down ingredients)

5.Having a 40 hour week week (I KNOW) this one sounds crazy, but there’s something about working 12 hours a week with a private lesson here and there that can start to make you feel a little lazy and quite useless. Then again, maybe that’s the American in me?

6. Smiling Spanish people don’t smile at you, not in a rude way but they value a smile to be more personal. I just like smiling at people though and after you’ve lived in smile-friendly Eugene it’s hard not to.

7. Medicine Getting over the counter drugs is quite different in Spain that it is in the US. In the US you walk into any grocery store and can buy dayquil, allergy medicine, sleep aids in almost 100 different brands each. In Spain, you ask a pharmacist for almost anything and they give you one MAYBE two options. Then again, maybe that’s why the US has a drug problem??

Typical Looking Spanish Pharmacy

Things I do NOT miss about the US

1.Donald Trump 

2. Expensive wine I could have 17 euros in my account and STILL have enough to buy a round trip ticket to Barcelona, two bottles of wine and go out with my roomates for tapas with the money left over.

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3. Lack of public transportation (I know this is only true for some places)

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4. Expensive flights– okay let me break this down for you. So in order to travel from SoCal to Eugene for school I would usually spend around $200 dollars for a 2 hour flight. We’re currently looking up ideas for traveling over spring break and I can go from Palma -> Milan -> Athens -> Sofia -> Amsterdam -> Palma for ONLY 154. CRAZY RIGHT

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5.Tipping people- The way Spanish people view jobs is quite different from the US. Bus driver? Waitress? Store clerk? There all decently paid jobs and no one cares even if you’re working while living at home till you hit 30. If you’re in the US and go on a date with a store clerk living with his parents you look for the nearest exit.

6.The fast-paced lifestyle- Which might seem like an interesting one after stating that I miss my 40 hour work week. Spaniards know how to take vacations and know how to relax after a long week or a long day. In Spanish culture many times the friends and families will override the workplace. Even with an early morning I see many Spanish people out on weekdays enjoying tapas with friends.

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Well there ya have it! Every so often I miss something rather materialistic or silly like today when we returned from London all we wanted was some campbells canned soup!

It’s the little things. 🙂