7 Life Lessons taught by Mountains

I learned a few life lessons in my two years in Wild Rose country. I was there, strangely, exactly two years. The day I left Banff was the same day I moved to Waterton National Park in 2015. I hope that reading this helps you realize something new for yourself, about yourself. Enjoy.

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1. It’s dark in the city. In the mountains, the stars and moon had the ability to light up the night sky. I would go for drives at midnight and be able to see clear as day. The world was in a permanent dusk over night. The sky a beautiful deep blue all night long. When I returned to the city and had to drive at night, you could barley see the stars, and the roads were pitch black. Most likely this is due to air pollution but it always left me a little unsettled to be out at night in the lower mainland versus the mountains where I’d walked the streets alone until 4 in the morning without a care in the world.

2. Friends quality over quantity. This took me waaaaaay too long to learn. Probably because I saw myself as the “popular” kid in high school and could always talk to anyone I wanted. But I didn’t have close friends, everyone was an…acquaintance. It wasn’t till I was leaving Banff and spent my last few nights with the same 5 people that I realized it doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter that all the friends I’d spend Sunday Funday with, doing shots at the bar, aren’t the ones I’m going to message while I’m living and traveling Australia. They aren’t the ones I’ll send a quick I miss you message to at midnight when I’m feeling lonely in a crowd. And they especially aren’t the ones I’ll call crying when everything falls apart for the 3rd time in a row. So no sweat if they don’t say goodbye when I walk away.

3. It’s okay to walk away. It’s okay to walk away from jobs, from relationships, from countries. If you’re not happy, carpe diem, seize the day and get yourself out of your toxic environment. If your job sucks the life out of you, if you dread going home to your significant other, if you want to live on the beach but you’re from Wisconsin; Quit, move, leave. Life is short yeah, but it’s the only one you have. Make your life worth living. I’m not saying it needs to be text book worthy or picture perfect so you can be Instagram famous but make sure it makes you happy

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4. It’s not a risk if it makes you happy. I know this sounds weird but let me explain. Moving to Alberta was my escape, from my personal demons and my current life. I was in a depression, drinking myself to sleep, only getting up to work. I took a job in the middle of no where that I had no experience for and loved it. I made some life long friends, I jumped in glacier fed lakes, I climbed mountains, literally and figuratively. I started living for the first time in 8 months. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know if I’d like it, I didn’t even know where it was on a map when I received my acceptance letter. And that’s exactly why I did it and I’m sure I’ll do it again, and again. 

5. Walking away doesn’t mean running away. This is another lesson I wished I’d learned sooner, something I learned the hard way. I knew I was running when I left home, I couldn’t live there. I’d developed anxiety and would wake up every night from panic attacks trying to catch my breath, reaching for someone who wasn’t there. I needed to learn to breathe on my own again. Jumping juniper, did it bleeping hurt. On the 14 hour bus ride, I asked myself about 10 times if this was the right decision. And it was. 

6. Sometimes you do things for yourself, despite what others say to you. I don’t hate Canada, I just hate living there. My ideal temperature is 25-30, I wouldn’t be sad if I never saw snow again. No rain doesn’t bother me, I’m from Raincouver. But I’ve known my entire life Canada is not my home, it’s just the country I hold residency in by birth, by default. Tons of people immigrate all over the world daily. If I hate Australia, New Zealand is a hop, skip and a jump away. If not? Teach English in Korea, be a tour guide in Central America, be a scuba instructor in South East Asia. The options and opportunities are limitless, you just have to be willing to try.

7. Never say no to midnight poutine. Obviously midnight poutine applies strictly to Canada. Because try telling me cheese, chips and gravy are the same thing and we can’t be friends. It’s the curds man. This is also my way of saying self indulge. I was working on my bikini body for 10 months, I think I gained 10 pounds. But you know what, the way to get a bikini body is to put a bikini on your body. You deserve that $10 midnight meal when you’re stressing over work, money or life. Just not every night, you won’t be helping your savings account or your cholesterol.

Let me know what you think! Do any of these apply to you? Have you had to learn something the hard way? Stay tuned for my travel stories coming soon.

I Have A Dream

Santa 507.JPGThe Martin Luther King Jr. speech was post on the wall in my basement for as long as I can remember. I used to read and re-read it when I was younger as I found it calming, grounding. And lately, I have a dream of my own. Even though I am filled with self doubt, I want to let it be.

A little catch up, I’m still living in Banff National Park, I have 23 days remaining, 26 until my flight to South Africa. I did get a second job like I wanted though, I am a Virtual Assistant to an online company in Australia. Pretty much I answer her company emails and send through orders. But working for her has opened my eyes to so many possibilities and made me want to pursue my dream.

I want to create a brand. When I went home last week, I met up with 2 of my good friends from high school who have both just graduated with degrees in business from 2 different universities. So on a whim, I told them about my dream. My friend fired question after question, trying to get me to crack, to prove I didn’t know what I was talking about. And after all was said and done, they both looked at me and said “Do it.” I wanted to cry.

My biggest hold up? The impressions that have been forced down my throat for as long as I can remember, by society and by my family. I never went to university, I don’t have a degree or diploma. My highest form of education is high school and that means I’ll never be paid as much as I could. But all I see is a piece of paper. A fucking piece of paper worth 4 years of your life and $100,000 dollars worth of debt.

So who are they to say I can’t succeed in the era of .com. What’s amazing about the internet, is everything is accessible. EVERYTHING can be found online at your finger tips. I spend hours a day reading blogs, watching webinars, researching how other people are traveling the world, living how they want through an online business they created without university.

Then there’s the courses, free and paid, that will teach you anything. They have them on everything from starting an email list, web design, data entry or Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Why can’t I take all this free information, mixed with the bloggers list of mistakes they made and start.

So here is me, giving myself another deadline. July last year, I told myself I had one year to get to Australia and my flight now lands May 12th. Now, I want to make 1 single sale by December 31st, 2017. 8 months.
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Stay tuned as I’m sure I’ll be ranting and raving about web design in no time.

Working on my working holiday visa

I have a love/hate relationship with planning. I planned so many details to leave Banff, visit South Africa and move to Australia but then it all fell apart. Originally I was going to drive home to Vancouver, have 3 weeks then fly out. But my car died. And if I wait till end of April, I’ll receive a 1 year bonus from my job. 

But I’ve started planning again. I told myself I wouldn’t plan this adventure. That I want to fly by the seat of my pants and see where I land. And in a way I still am. I have my flights to and from South Africa, I have places to stay when I first land in Brisbane but I don’t have a job, or a place to live. 

This will be the most outside my comfort zone I’ve ever pushed myself. I’ve never not had job stability and while I’m positive I’ll always be able to find a job, it’s a new country. I’ve never had to set up a phone contract, I don’t know the equivalent to a SIN number, how does health care work? 

There’s so many unknowns in my immediate future. I’m not quite sure if the butterflies in my stomach are saying I’m terrified or over the moon excited. Either way, I’ve set myself up to be in Australia by May 2017. This is the year for adventure. 

Running from lost boys and lost love

I’ve avoided writing recently. I hate letting people in and I feel like things got very real recently. A friend of mine has returned to town and we had quite a few DMs. Deep and meaningful conversations. There was a lot to be said about lost love, good sex and painful family memories. It’s funny how a familiar face can break down so many walls. I felt like I was transported back 3 years and reliving my worse nightmare all over again. 

I’m having doubts about my plans for next year. I want to leave the country, permanently. But I wonder, am I running? Am I running from a broken heart that I’m afraid might never heal? Every time I read a love story, every time someone tells me “how they knew”, my heart tightens because it’s something I already had. And I lost it. So where does that leave me? 

I’m not really the type to believe that there’s always something better, that the grass can be greener. I think you should be happy with what you have. So it makes me think that moving to Australia, I might not find what’s missing in my life, what’s created a void in my chest. I might just come face to face with my demons and want to return to the ice land I’m leaving. 

I wanted to travel the world before I fell in love. That’s what I keep telling myself. I always wanted to move to Australia and work and travel, backpack south east Asia, teach English in Korea. New Zealand wasn’t on the map but it certainly is now. I feel like I won’t be ready until I’m on the flight. And then I’ll either spiral into depression and be on the next flight back out or love every second of it. Maybe find love. 

I told a friend I was going to find a husband. Not true, but I wouldn’t object to finding someone willing to travel the world with me. I’m living in a place where everyone is here temporarily. You don’t settle in a mountain town where the residents trade out every 6 months with the seasons. But I can’t go home. I won’t. So I need a new home. And that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I hope to fill the void with, a place to call home. I have my fingers crossed that I’m not chasing a pipe dream, that maybe I’m just not cut out for this world. 

Adapt

Have you ever looked at yourself and realized things have changed? In you, in your life, in your personality. I noticed it the other day when I was talking with a friend. I’d actually had the exact same conversation one week prior with a different friend but had ignored her answer due to thinking she was just being a supportive female. Some times I feel like when I talk to girls about problems, I can feel the figurative back pat as they tell me I deserve better, I am better. Maybe it took a guy to convince me I’m so off base with my self perceptions because I feel they see black and white. 

I told my friend I’m nervous about this concert we’re going to as the two boys know everyone in town but no one I’ve talked to is going. The last thing I want is to be a third wheel. Feel like I’m encroaching on their crowd by not having my own. He gave me the weirdest look. To sum it up, he looked at me like I was huffing. Then he looked around the table and said you’re at the bar with 7 guys, you’re not awkward. 

Growing up, I was fucking awkward. I wore florescent tights, old dance costumes, thrift store dresses, all in one. None of them matching. I didn’t understand, still don’t most days, why a plaid sweater, striped pants and a polka dot shirt don’t go together. Let me be honest when I say I never look in the mirror. Not in a “I don’t like the way I look” kind of way but I never double check an outfit or put on make up. So when I’m getting ready, there’s no reason to stop and stare. But now, every once in a while, I spend time. I put on mascara and lipstick, the only make up I own. I wear a tight fitting dress or show cleavage, because I’m comfortable. I may not be 100% on board with my body but I don’t think I’m unattractive, just different. 

My dad used to make comments hinting at he thought I was gay. It could’ve been that as I got older I only hung out with guys and played video games. Or the fact that I didn’t date a boy until I was 17, even then I didn’t even tell them about him till much later. I’m not an openly affectionate person which I’ve been trying to change. And maybe I already have. I usually kiss the boys on the forehead to say goodbye. I tell my best friends I love them regularly. But I was completely caught off guard when 2 people back to back told me I wasn’t awkward. 

I’m as awkward as they come. Or at least I thought I was. There’s only one guy that I can’t have a conversation with and look in the eye. I have no problem being honest, if you ask a direct question I will give a direct answer. Even when it’s probably better not too. 

But having 2 good friends tell me the same thing took my by surprise. And makes me think that the passed 4 years when I’ve been hopping from job to job and town to town, maybe I changed. Maybe I grew up. Which makes me really happy, only I’m not ready to share what I’m planning yet. Everything is going to change in a big way in six months and I couldn’t be happier. 

I’m sure in the next post I’ll go into detail of what is in store for 2017. But right now, it’s my dirty little secret. 

the head and the heart

My head and my heart have been in an argument for the past year. I dated someone who was horrible to me but my head told my heart it was what I needed. What I deserved. I’d had it too good, someone who loved me unconditionally, and I broke him. So I spent 7 months with someone who hated me unconditionally until my heart shut down, there was nothing left in me, so I left. After that, I wouldn’t let anyone in. I met someone who tried to convince me that I deserve to be loved, that happiness can exist again in the form of a relationship. I did what felt right at the time, I ran away. I just wasn’t ready for someone to want me, put themselves out there for me to take. So i bid my time, decided to just be single, be me. 

The most recent argument came around my birthday. There was an internal battle. Most people will tell you to follow your heart, but for some reason my head claims my heart to be weak, to be scared. My head decided that 6 months was enough time to heal a broken heart, I actually didn’t love my ex, if anything I was still recovering from my first break up a year and a half previously. My head told my heart to take the risk, to give someone a chance, let someone in. My heart said no. My heart decided to trick the head into thinking that the heart was going along with it. The door was cracked open, just enough to appease the head, let some emotions show, let my head believe that maybe there was something more, something there. Only, my heart wasn’t in it.

The reality hit when things ended. It didn’t hurt. You’d think if I gave someone my heart it would hurt. I spent 6 months drinking and battling depression in a basement because it fucking hurts when your heart is broken. But this time, I was angry. I wanted respect. This is the god dam 21st century and I refuse to be tossed aside or strung along. My head realised the mistake he’d made of pushing my heart to attempt love when the heart wasn’t ready after being stood up. Zero respect from someone who claimed to have loved me, who wasn’t trying to hurt me but already had a new flavor of the week. Someone who was too coward to tell me to my face that they were over me, that they’d moved on. 

For someone who should be, my head is not a listener. My head will gloss it all over, I may have been told repeatedly that he treated girls like shit, my heart knew he treated women like objects, I was always just a warm place for his dick. But my head, forever confident said I am different, while my heart asked what makes me different? My head was so caught up in the idea of love, the notion of trust and adventure and devotion, he never realized my heart wasn’t in it. Until it didn’t break. My heart was still vaulted down behind the door that had been cracked open to pacify my head. So while there was some minor blowback and flashes of pain, he knew better than to come out.

Here’s hoping this little adventure will give my head a little perspective. Just because I don’t want to be alone, I miss the idea of love in my life, doesn’t mean chase it down the coke alley. There will be someone. Someone who brings my heart out without my head even noticing. They will be a warm beacon to defrost all the ice built around my core. I had a conversation with my ex recently. He told me we couldn’t be friends because his new girlfriend hates me. She’ll forever blame me for the lies he told and he’ll forever compare every girl to me. Don’t think I can be pushed aside, I hold a place in his heart as securely as he is in mine. I taught you how to fuck, fuck boy. There will always be temporary love, infatuations; Minor obsessions, something new and exciting in this drab world. But there is also true wholesome love. No matter what my head is telling my heart, my heart can always tell the difference.

X Fest Calgary

I was given the long weekend off. I work in hospitality, making this an unheard of statement. The main problem was no one else had the long weekend off. I checked in with a couple friends from BC to see if anyone would be wine touring for the long weekend but pretty much everyone was staying home. I didn’t want to waste 3 days off doing nothing, but my attempts at planning a Saskatchewan road trip were getting me no where, there wasn’t anything that jumped out at me as a must see. Luckily, I have a roommate who has quickly become my person.

When I told her I had the long weekend off she didn’t hesitate in asking me to go to X Fest in Calgary with her. I didn’t know if she’d get the days off but quickly became excited at the idea of a weekend away, listening to The Lumineers, Arkells, July Talk and Twenty One Pilots. Sure enough, her manager pulled through and Saturday morning we headed out for the hostel. I may have broken my phone on Saturday so unfortunately I have no photos to show from the weekend but that won’t make it any less epic in my memory.

This was one of those weekend I’ll always remember. Sure enough, checking into the HI proved no problem. The festival was 2 blocks away, open air style. Sunday was Calgary’s Pride Parade. We did it all. We stayed both nights till the end, obviously no one wants to miss the headliners. The Lumineers were beautiful and I cried. A friend had warned me not to miss the performance by Arkells as they are his favourite live band to watch perform. And I got to say, I was not disappointed. The energy from the performers was out of this world. From singing lyrics I didn’t actually know at the top of my lungs, to laughing along at the jokes and crying at the beauty that is live music.

There’s a head statue in Calgary. I’ve always driven by it and thought, I need a picture of that. My favourite statue is in Canmore, it’s also a head statue but this one is made of stone. So having my person with me worked out wonderfully as she didn’t even question my desire to finally go to this statue. Turns out its made of metal rungs, which are extremely easy to climb, and you can walk inside the head. Sure enough after double checking security wasn’t watching I climbed up into the chin of this massive head and sat for a moment. It hit me like a welcome wave. I am generally excited about life. I don’t know what’s to come of the next 6 months. A lot of people will be moving on from Banff, the cold front is already starting and the mountains are being sprinkled with snow as we speak. Yet, I have friends returning for their second winter season, I will get the chance to meet all the new mountain seekers, I’m going to have a go at being a server.

There’s nothing screaming extreme excitement, other than Australia, and yet I’m euphoric. I want to start running. I want to try serial dating, leaving a string of broken hearts in my wake. I want to read a really good book. And I can’t wait because this is just the beginning. My life has finally started.

My 1st Solo Road Trip

I have been working 6 day weeks since the middle of July. I had 4 days off to go home for a wedding and other than that it’s been work work work work work. But I don’t really mind. Last year, my position in Waterton had a contract where we worked 6 day weeks the entire summer, so the transition didn’t affect me. A few weeks ago, I had planned to return to the hidden town of Waterton but had my heart broken when my car died. So I arranged with my manager to have a morning-day off-evening scheduled so that I could fulfil my plans of a solo road trip.

It’s weird to drive 4 hours by yourself. The drive from Banff to Waterton is uneventful but easy. Mostly single lanes with a speed limit of 100 the whole way. I’ve recently started a Google Play trial so I was excited at all the new songs I’d added to my phone to listen to. I can’t say I had any major self reflections on the drive. I’ve been at the same point for a while where I’m happy waiting for the next “one”. I have a tendency to date 4’s when we all know I can do better; them, me and any one on looking. I think I need to wait till at least a 7 comes along before I retry that whole relationship thing. I’m craving a mans man. Someone who knows what he wants and is going to go for it, fight for me. Not physically start fights in the bar because of a creep who can’t keep his hands to himself but put in the work that a relationship requires.

Waterton. This town hasn’t changed one bit. Liquor store Jeff is still as hot as they come, Bayshore staff still hate their lives, Pats boys know all the gossip and by the end of the summer, everyone is an eskimo brother/sister for sleeping with the same people, repeatedly. Don’t get me wrong, Banff is much the same. Waterton is just so much more…condensed. I’m sad to say I didn’t get to paddle board like I’d dream since the weather didn’t work out for me, I didn’t hike since sleep didn’t really happen either. There was an incredibly easy access to substances that I don’t recall from last year, but it could be the girls I was friends with last year just weren’t into that scene.

I’m not sad that I didn’t go back. The hotels all seem to be struggling to stay a float. I love having a kitchen in my staff accom even if the rates are $200 more per month, the pay is higher anyways. I loved seeing the faces though. I had a wonderful conversation at the bar about boys and how they’re never worth the struggle. One girl regretted her decision to go back, said that too much of a good thing never works out. Everyone also asked about the girl I dated for 7 months and what a wreck she is as a human. She then commented on a photo I’d been tagged in, I wish she’d take a hint that she was a mistake in my life. One that has been blacked out from the majority of my memories.

I’m craving another adventure though. I’ve been trying to research Saskatchewan towns, anything that stands out there seeing as I’m about to have 3 days off in a row. It’s hard since I haven’t found anyone blogging about road tripping Sask. Growing up in BC, it wasn’t really a province anyone visited. I also started researching an overnight hike in the Jasper area, to the Valley of a Thousand Falls. Obviously that’s right up my alley, pretty much I saw a photo of Emperor Falls and can’t stop thinking about it. But I’ve never done an overnight hike, so going alone for my first one is a little daunting.

I’m not sure what will happen next weekend. Maybe I’ll go to Calgary and visit my friend. Maybe I’ll end up back in Waterton. All I know is I’m going to make the best of the end of this summer sun.

Cascade Falls

In light of falling back in love with Banff, I’ve been forcing myself to go out. I’m trying to be more independent, I mean I want to drive around Australia in a Sprinter, I need to like myself more. If all my friends bail on me and I have one day off, I can still go where ever I want right? They say there’s bears but who doesn’t love our furry friends of the forest. That’s not to say I’m not bear aware.

So the one place I’ve never written about but I spend a lot of time at is Cascade Falls. Now the first time I ventured here I was with the muse. It’s an on going joke with myself and hotel guests that it is the number one make out spot in Banff because when we went up, there were 2 other couples just going at it. Besides not only are you standing next to a beautiful waterfall, you’re looking out on the valley with a clear view of Rundle mountain, Tunnel mountain and the area surrounding Lake Minnewanka.

It is a fairly short hike but it is also straight up hill the entire way. My friend described it as a mini scramble, due to all the shale on the trail. What I like most is you can see your final destination the entire way. So the whole time when I’m struggling to breath, cussing myself for thinking I like nature, I just keep telling myself it’s not that much farther. Even though I know how much farther I have to go and I’m blatantly lying to myself.

The last time I went up, I took a good book and a beer. I laid out on the second cliff edge to avoid the masses and put my feet and beer in the running water to keep cool. It was so relaxing. Reading about Ray Smith scaling mountains in Dharma Bums as I sat on the edge of my favourite mountain. I was inspired, so I decided to pretend I could rock climb and climbed to the 3rd ledge with the help of some liquid cougar. It’s beautiful once you get that high up, it’s flatter so you can walk along the falls for quite a ways.

I’m always day dreaming about this day now. Recreating it. I’m rereading  Shantaram since I never finished it. Maybe I’ll buy On the Road by Jack Keourac next. Either way, until the snow falls and the ice climbers come out to play, I will be at Cascade Falls. With a book in one hand, a beer in the other and not a care in the world.

To access the Cascade falls trail head, head towards Lake Minnewanka. Just on the other side of the overpass, you’ll see a turn on the right saying Cascade Ponds and on the left side a pull over. Straight ahead of this pull over, you will see Cascade Falls tumbling in the distance, cross the field from the parking lot and you’re on the trail.

nothing really matters

Last night, I was speeding up highway 1 along side a beautiful Audi R8. This car is my exes dream car, the convertible version is my number 2 dream car only after any type of Maserati. There were two separate lightening storms happening, one over Lake Minnewanka and another striking out at the Three Sisters. One of my favorite Canadian bands, The Barenaked Ladies came on the radio belting out It’s All Been Done.

In this moment, I felt at peace. I’m reading The Dharma Bums, given to me by the muse for my birthday. It’s my first real glance at Buddhism I’ve ever had. This practice or the way Ray Smith practices in the book is the first religion to ever truly resonate with me. He states that “nothing is everything and everything is nothing.” Like Queen said in Bohemian Rhapsody: nothing really matters. 

I’ve just had my heart broken. I knew it would happen, I just didn’t imagine to be cut off, I would prefer an actual conversation or hatred or I’m just not that into you. Verses this ghosting technique, just disappearing never to be heard of again, that has become so popular with men. I knew the muse was temporary, we always had a deadline looming overhead of us, put on by us. If we’d wanted the relationship to last, there never would’ve been a barrier of visas, oceans and distance. That’s probably why I’ve only ever referred to him as the muse or introduced him to my family by just his name, no title. It didn’t fit to say boyfriend because at any point he would drop off the face of the earth, no break up, just no more. 

I gave myself the best piece of advice when I decided to pursue this relationship. Whether it was 6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months, during that period I knew i would be truly happy. And I was. I’ve decided to not analyze any of it, just leave the memories as they are in my heart. Pure and happy and full of love. I’ve never read something more beautiful than the way he described me in Something Beautiful. He is a wonderful boy, I hope he finds what he’s looking for out there in the big bad world. The only part I’m struggling with is sleeping alone every night, not having forehead kisses to wake up to every morning. And we never finished Lord of the Rings.

I know one day I’ll meet a man who is not intimidated by a self assured woman. Who I won’t describe as a boy. Who won’t turn into a coward and run away from something beautiful although difficult. This three month summer romance may have been what I needed to realize I could love and be loved again. A lesson has been learned that I couldn’t see for myself on my own. Now I’m more determined then ever to be in Australia by March. Sun kissed skin is in my future.