Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Bruce Peninsula Lodge

I want to say that autumn makes me miss home like no other season--but I'd be lying. Because the truth is that fall in Southwestern Ontario is never quite crisp enough, winter is too damp and grey, and summer is meaningless when you're trapped in smog and the days are too short.

But fall in Ontario does has a couple of things going for it. First, the trees here turn a deeper shade of autumn. (I press their leaves between my journal pages with fascination, but they never remain quite the same hue.) And instead of feeling the regret for a season lost (the kind of remorse that only sets in further as the snow sticks to the ground in Alberta), there's a sense of opportunity. Unlike my hometown, at least Ontario experiences a full four seasons. (Count them--four! Cold Lake just has winter and the four months in between.)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Hvala Croatia!: How to take a 10-day Euro vacation for $1000 or less

In the past year, I've been to Nova Scotia (twice), Alberta, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. So when I told my friends that I was headed across the pond, nobody even batted an eye--except to ask how I could afford another trip on my non-profit employee salary. Simple answer folks: tax return. (Or, the more complicated response: I work three jobs, buy vintage clothes, refuse to turn on my heat and haven't gotten a haircut in over a year.)

Here's how you can make a 10-day trip to Europe, all for the cost of one tax return.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


1) Dresden, Germany, 2003
I was still jetlagged when Helka and I found ourselves with 65 litre backpacks weighing us down, dark setting in, late spring snow drifting to the ground and nowhere to sleep for the night. We had been looking for a hostel for hours. Sleeping at the train station was no longer an option--we hadn't anticipated that it would be open air. And the train station employees weren't helpful--they didn't speak any English. Neither did any of the young people we stopped around the station. But it was our own fault—who tries to travel through Europe for the first time at the age of 18 without a guidebook—or hell, even a plan?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Croatia vs. Malta

For a while, we were considering heading to Malta. For those who are curious why we chose Croatia, here's a break-down of our costs (and anticipated costs) so far:

Round-trip ticket to London (incl. taxes): $621

Round-trip ticket to Croatia (flying into Pula, flying out of Zadar): $150 (before taxes, our Ryanair flight to Pula was only 3.99 pounds!)

Accommodation in London: Free! (Staying with Helka & Touko on the way there, and on our return.)

Accommodation in Croatia: 2 nights free (we have a hook-up), $80 on remaining 4 nights

So Croatia vs. Malta? The choice was clear. Even though we wanted to go to each location equally, it was cheaper to fly in to Croatia. (Now let's just see how we can cut corners on additional transportation, food and entertainment.)

The tenative itinerary thus far:

London (2 nights)
Pula (1 night)
Krk (2 nights)
Rab (2 nights)
Zadar (1 night)
London (1 night)

(Sadly, we won't make it to Dubrovnik, Hvar or Split.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Love is a Minefield

It goes without saying that while opposites allegedly attract, most relationships of lasting value are based upon the commonalities. My relationship with Jay is no different--but there have been a couple of defining moments that clearly and succinctly illustrate our differences:

1) Walking to work one morning, we passed by a local social entrepreneurial coffee shop with a sign advertising their fair-trade brew. “What’s fair-trade coffee?” Jay asked me.

“Are you asking because you don’t know what it is, or because you’ve never heard of it before?”

"I don't think I've heard of it before. What is it?”

I could only respond to his question with stunned silence. It was hard for me to believe that in 2009, someone wouldn’t know what fair-trade coffee is, let alone have never heard of it. (We do live in Toronto, after all. Even the Starbucks on every corner is pushing their fair-trade blends.) But knowing Jay, I pushed back my disbelief and quickly explained fair-trade farming.

“Oh,” Jay said, thinking for a moment. “I thought it was an exchange service. You know, like maybe a homeless guy could bring in bottles for coffee. For instance, 10 bottles would be a fair trade for one coffee.”

2) The first time Jay and I went to the movies together, I insisted that we take the streetcar. Okay, fine. “But how much does it cost?” he asked me. He’s lived in the GTA for most of his life.

So when I suggested to Jay that we head to Croatia this spring, I was hardly surprised when he scrunched up his face and asked, “Will I be mugged?”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Found in Translation

It was the first time in years that my travels didn’t include a Mountain Equipment backpack, moldy shower curtains and sleeping on the couches of friends or near strangers. No, this trip would be in style. It would be all-inclusive, first-class and luggage with wheels. It would be a pair of white high heels instead of cement-covered shoes, and chartered buses instead of hitchhiking. There would be hot compresses on the plane, and magazines in my carry-on instead of burdensome travel guides. I was headed to the Dominican Republic for a weeklong Thanksgiving vacation with my cousin and two friends.

Apart from nearly getting hit by Hurricane Omar, the week was amazing. We were one of the few groups of Canadians at the resort, but that didn’t prevent us from making friends. On our second night in Punta Cana, we were walking to the club when an energetic girl ran up behind us to tag along. Sveta was on vacation alone, so we were more than happy to let her join our entourage for the night.

In turn, she introduced us to two fellow Russians she has also befriended at the resort. Both were in their mid-twenties and police officers back in Russian. The only problem? Unlike Sveta, neither Dima nor Anton spoke a word of English.

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