One Month of Unemployment, Saying Goodbye & Embarking on Worldwide Adventures: A How-To

I’m on an airplane heading from Ottawa to Kelowna (and probably actually publishing this from my stopover in Vancouver) and feeling slightly heady from the pack/move/hangover/goodbyes/sleeplessness. Also, my complementary TV screen isn’t working, so endless episodes of Community are not an option at this point. Thanks, Air Canada. Always a joy. Anyway, four hours straight of reading leads to restlessness, which leads to boredom, which leads to…

One Month of Unemployment, Saying Goodbye & Embarking on Worldwide Adventures: A How-To:

  • Set your alarm for 7 a.m. every day, to be sure you really live and appreciate the time you have off.
  • When you finally wake up at noon, download new ring tunes that will actually convince you to get up. (“Ha! You can’t trick me with that fire alarm noise, past-Jaimie!”)
  • Instead of doing the things you really should be doing (ie. grad school applications, booking travel accommodations), do the more useless but enjoyable things (ie. YouTube videos of people bailing on skateboards or Walking Dead parodies [The Walken Dead is sort of brilliant, right?]).
  • Visit your town like a wide-eyed tourist. My last-day trip to Ottawa’s Peace Tower for a view from up top was worth the admission ten times over (which, granted, was free.). But then, like a good local embracing Canada’s democratic, freedom-of-expression values, I also took some time to protest a protest on Parliament Hill. If only I’d had time to make a sign to protest the protest.
  • Drink copious amounts of wine. Also, Bailey’s, beer, vodka, and anything that’s been collecting dust in your liquor cabinet over the years (what exactly is Blue Curaco, and why did I ever purchase an entire bottle? It really tastes like Windex.)
  • Invite friends over for empty-apartment takeaway picnics (I suggest vietnamese or thai, but I’m sure pizza would actually work really well too.)
  • Have a 2 a.m. dance party in your empty, echoing apartment. Preferably to Metallica, and preferably loud enough to wake the next-door neighbours who’ve endlessly kept you up / woke you up with their sexcapades.
  • Leave a note for above-mentioned neighbours to suggest a romantic weekend away, as their activity has declined dramatically these last couple of months.
  • Thank your friends for their support by giving them second-hand gifts from your home. Example: someone helped you pack? Give them the VHS tape collection that’s been sitting in your storage unit for the last five years – and hey, throw in the matching VCR!
  • Get through the many goodbyes by living in perpetual denial. A cheery “see you next week!” is an oft-used tagline for me.
  • Cry, but just a little bit. Mostly smile because it’s all such an awfully big adventure.


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When winter attacks: one runner’s sad tale

I went for my first official winter run this morning. I only started running – in any kind of way that could be considered serious – this summer, so I hadn’t yet experienced that bone-chilling, snow-on-the-ground, run-at-all-costs, people-think-I’m-insane-but-I-love-it workout.

It didn’t really go so well.

I’ve been trying to build up to this, because it became evident last month that my lungs have a harder time than some in colder temps. I spoke to my runner friends, got the right clothing, and went easy on myself at first. I cut my distances in half and tried not to push myself so hard. I stopped altogether for a week to give myself a break and just went to crossfit classes to build my strength instead.

This morning it was -5C, but bright and sunny. I picked my usual route, over the downtown sidewalks to the Rideau Canal, where on a good day I’ll run the paths out past Dow’s Lake and back, 10K or more altogether. Immediately my lungs were burning and my knee was doing that twitchy thing it hadn’t done since I graced my feet with pretty new shoes. After a few kilometres I was discouraged, but pushed through to complete 5K anyway. It was painful, and my lungs are still burning. Worse, for the first time in four months, I’m not looking forward to my next run.

Realistically, I know I have just a few weeks left in Canada before this won’t be a problem, but I do want to solve it. I want to be one of those people I used to think were crazy, because the great thing about running is it’s such an ‘anywhere, anytime’ exercise. At least, that’s what I bought into. So if any runners hit on this post, I would be thrilled if you’d share some winter running wisdom with a new recruit. Am I getting discouraged too easily? Will my lungs adapt, or can I do something to help? Do I need to move to (ugh) treadmill running for winter months?

Also, is there anything more ridiculous than getting dressed for a winter run? I love it. Maybe I’ll look for some awesome 80s neons to really pull the look together!

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State of affairs

I woke up, contemplated packing, contemplated running, parted the curtains and… well, this:

I’m not one of those people who gets excited about the season’s first snowfall. In fact, I’ve offered up my soul (three times!) in exchange for a painless winter. (I’m pretty sure my offer was never accepted, but Ottawa winters have become increasingly mild. And anyway, how can you really know that your soul is still intact?)

I’m counting down the days, beaches of Australia/New Zealand/Southeast Asia. We’ll be together soon.

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Packing lists and the abandonment of good sense

It’s hard to start a travel blog when all I’ve done for three weeks is sleep in, eat too much, drink even more, watch my furniture disappear bit by second-handed bit, witness my bank account decrease at alarming rates, and make a thousand trips to see friends all around Ottawa. (Side note: a great city. Expect a sentimental photo post depicting my last tour of this gorgeous seat of democracy – complete with me cursing the cold weather – before my time here is out.)

But what I’ve been doing above all else is not travelling.

As I prepare to leave Canada for eight(ish) months, I’ve realized a couple of things. First, this really isn’t a travel blog and I can’t think of it that way. It’s a blog, and I will be travelling. I don’t do well with structure, so it’s just as likely I’ll write my thoughts on the final season of Breaking Bad (I’m hoping for a big twist a la Usual Suspects: Walt Jr. is the new kingpin?) as it is I’ll write about my culinary experiences in Thailand.

Second, some of the most helpful advice I’ve come across as I pack and plan comes from other bloggers pre-trip. I am obsessed, completely, with other peoples’ packing lists. How do you decide what kind of bag to live out of for months on the road? How big should your backpack be? How many shirts should you pack? Shoes? Electronics? Can I still take my flat iron? I need my flat iron!

I think it’s pretty obvious to all of us: the answer to any backpacker going anywhere is take as little as possible. Buy the smaller backpack. Take less clothing and wash more often. Don’t bring a laptop, don’t bring a dress, don’t bring that cute top for going to the bars. You’re a backpacker, dammit, and you and the road are one! Material goods are beneath you and all you need is the air in your lungs and the shoes on your feet!

… Yeah, I get it. It sounds reasonable. But I still reject it. 

I’ve written and revised my packing list a thousand times and I may come to regret my choices, but I figure I can always unload as I go. Next week I’ll present the internets with my full packing choices, complete with photos, in an effort to add my two cents to the great packing debate (The Flat Iron Cunundrum: Will She or Won’t She?). For the record, I have done five weeks around Europe and remember all too well that I didn’t touch half the things I packed. Doesn’t stand to reason that I learned any lessons from that experience.

In fact, I think we’ll all come to realize I don’t learn many lessons easily. This should be a great test of character when I find myself travelling solo in, say, Indonesia without that Immodium every traveller is urged to carry.

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I am a space holder

Please note, I am currently away enjoying the first month of self-inflicted uncubed unemployment. Soon, I will be back to share tales of travel, food, beer, running, doing all four of those things simultaneously, and finally, eventually, going back to school at the ripe old age of 30 (we didn’t even *gasp* use laptops in the classroom the last time I was getting learn’ed.).

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