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. 

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.

Reality Check

My muse and I hit the road for our first road trip of the summer on Thursday. This could be a travel post but it’s not. I feel like a bucket of cold water has been dumped on my head. Only once I get the water out of my eyes, there’s just doors everywhere in front of me. Decisions. Too many directions to go towards for someone who would usually needs an extra push for those difficult choices.

My best friends pregnant. I’m not sure she’s fully grasped just what’s about to happen in her life, I still can’t wrap my head around it. We were suppose to backpack South East Asia in January, now she’ll be about ready to give birth at that time. I watched the cousin I grew up calling my twin get married. Two of my other cousins and a friend are also engaged. I guess I’ve finally hit the age when everyone starts settling down and getting married and I’m over here trying to decide which country I want to live in.

It’s not exactly the fear of missing out I’m experiencing, but the fear of falling behind. I thought I’d be engaged by now if I’m being honest. I figured I’d be able to force myself to settle down, get an apartment in the city, have a group of friends all doing the same thing, simple. Yet here I am, back from another too short trip home and I probably won’t see anyone of them for another 8 months, at that. I don’t miss them when I’m gone. I’ve always been able to keep in touch with the ones who matter. I’ve had a non stop conversation going with an exchange student from high school for 7 years. We’ve visited in Germany and in Canada 5? maybe 6 times since her original exchange and will continue to do so.

I’ve fallen out of love with Banff, hard to believe some where so beautiful seems so dull to me. I’m not sure what changed, something inside of me? Seeing Vancouver, the city that will never be beat for me might have done it. Everything I loved now seems second rate. I spent today in bed, there was a mix of junk food, crying and sleep. I’m going to take tomorrow to open my heart. Try and fall back in love with the town I call my home. I fall in and out of love so easily. But I struggle to ever let go.

I want to live near the ocean. Maybe I’ll move to Tofino and learn to surf. I want to do the West Coast Trail next summer. I still want to move to Australia, I hate pushing it back because it makes everything seem less attainable. Maybe the reality is I stopped viewing this relationship as having a deadline. My grandpa asked me if he was permanent? How can I answer that about something so new? And if there’s no deadline, when is Australia suppose to happen? What if I stayed for a boy and everything fell apart? What if What if What if.

I once read that a woman is ready once she finds out she’s pregnant. A man is ready once he holds the baby. Only I’ve always had more manly tendencies. I think I won’t be ready until I buy my ticket across the world. I just wanted to sit and vent and probably cry while going over everything with a fine toothed comb until some kind of end result is realized. I miss having someone who knows you so well they can tell from a text that something’s wrong. Take one look at you and say “lay it on me”. Each day is coming off as a struggle. I hate having to force myself out of bed, hiding from conversation, feeling empty. Tomorrow is a new day.

Johnston Canyon

Now I’ve done this hike 3 separate times. Once in winter, twice in the summer. It is always crazy busy, this is a hike you would recommend to the kitchen sink and you’ll see exactly what I mean if you ever visit Johnston Canyon in the peak of summer. Bus tours, group tours and individuals flock to this hike like bees to a hive. It is fairly easy, about 30 minutes to the lower falls and 1 hour to the upper falls.

I don’t even know how to rate this hike, I feel like it’s a must see in the town of Banff. It’s probably wormed it’s way onto every top 10 list when in the Bow Valley area. The lower falls are through a small but short tunnel and you will be splashed standing at the front. The upper falls has 2 view points, from the bottom of the falls and from the top. I’ve been lucky enough to have the rare moment at the bottom all to myself, twice.

In the winter, I strongly recommend cramp-ons. I know you can rent them in town, or buy them and resell them before you leave. These are essential to maintaining the trail as well as avoiding the multiple butt bruises you will receive if you choose to go without. The amount of people taking the trail will wear away any and all snow leaving a beautiful icy runway. I spent more time sliding down on my behind then actually walking, heading to and away from the falls. I’m not even being bias when I say I love the falls in the winter 10 times more. Yes, the significantly less amount of people makes a huge impact on my decision but there is something to be said about standing under a massive frozen waterfall.

If you know a local in the area, find out where the cave is as it trumps all else in the area. A hidden gem at a tourist trap. The next waterfall I’m dreaming about is Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack, BC. I’m hoping to pop by quickly when I’m on my  way home for a family wedding this weekend.

Silverton Falls

My roommate asked me to give her a list of all the waterfalls I’ve been to in the area. Seeing as I’ve challenged myself to write about the ones I make it to and the one I’m dreaming of I figured it wouldn’t be too hard and will hopefully keep me on track. As well as, my muse is talking about writing a fansign on the area, maybe this will help me come up with what to write for him.

Silverton Falls is a waterfall I stumbled upon when I had a day off in the winter and decided to drive half of the Bow Valley Parkway. I parked at Rockbound Lake trailhead because I’d driven quite a ways, didn’t know where I was and was alone in my rickety VW Golf. When I went up to the sign post marking the trailhead and stating YOU ARE HERE, I saw that there was a 0.7 KM hike to Silverton Falls. Obviously this only caught my eye because of my love of waterfalls. I started to head out right away, but there was a foot of snow on the ground, I was alone and we’d just been talking about the local wolf pack at work. Being from an area where there are no wolves, I decided not to risk it and filed away this adventure for either the summer or a trip with a friend.

That day finally came. A friend asked if we could go on a hike and said the choice was mine. I work overnights on Tuesday and didn’t want anything to strenuous so I suggested Silverton. I’m horrible with distances. Whenever someone says “oh it’s only 3 KMs” I just nod my head like I know how long that is and how far you’ll travel. I figured 0.7 KM would be short but can’t say I expected it to take less than 10 minutes. Never the less, after 10 minutes of a light stroll, there we were beside a beautiful, thundering falls. 

I know this is the hidden gem on bow Valley Parkway as its beginning of July and I had no trouble finding parking. We also had a peaceful 10 minutes lounging by the falls before anyone else showed up. It’s a good spot to take a moment pre/post Johnston Canyon where the tourists come by the 1000s. 

If you’re interested and in the area, check out Silverton Falls on trailpeak.com for better directions. The next waterfall I’m dreaming of is Troll Falls, in Kananaskis.

A Masters in falling water

I helped a friend move on hill at a ski resort the other day. She’ll be living secluded on a mountain with 30 other people. They are only 30 minutes from town and have a constant influx of tourists who want to climb to the tops of the chairlifts where they ski all winter long but still, she’s cut off. She was filling out her paperwork and discussing the living situation differences between winter and summer when I overheard natures lullaby.

The most comforting sound to my ears, right after falling asleep to a British accent, rushing water. I probably looked like I was crazy as I whipped my head around and started searching out the window for where this glorious sound was coming from. Across the village and behind the hotel, I could see it. A beautiful cascading waterfall, calling my name.

I turned to my friend and called to her in a voice that sounded far off even to my own ears. She asked me if I was okay and I told her I had to go as I ran out the door. Standing at the foot of the falls all I could think was beautiful. There’s no words. I can’t describe a waterfall in sentences, all that runs through my mind is magestic, beautiful, serenity.

That doesn’t even begin to capture the true essence of a waterfall. When I reached the bottom, I started searching for a place to sit, to just close my eyes, breath in the scent of freshly melted snow. But I wanted to be closer. Like at Cascade Falls, I want to sit right next to it, be in the middle of it, feel the splash as water tumbles by me. And so I climbed. I climbed and climbed without looking back; without stopping to think of where I would go next or how I would get down.

I finally reached a point where I’d jumped on top of a rock to avoid stepping in the falls and could climb no further. I perched on the edge, looked around me and felt one singular overpowering emotion. Peace. All thoughts ceased, all worries disappeared. The water glistened like cascading diamonds, splashing up around me every once in a while. The roar took over and there was nothing but my personal lullaby to be heard.

Sometimes we forget beauty. To me, beautiful is not materialistic, flashy or glam. Beautiful is a calm lake, a snow capped mountain or that perfect waterfall.

Chasing Waterfalls

Funnily enough, my muse wrote a piece about how off topic his blog had become and I realized that the exact same thing was true for me. I started this to discuss travel. If you look back 2 years at this time I was flying solo around Europe and documenting it here. Lately, I’ve been caught up in the whirlwind that is falling in love and nothing else has matter in my mind. But I want to stay on track, as I gear up to move across the world in 8 months, fingers crossed, I want to get back into travel writing.

So I set a goal, as you do. My goal is to find as many waterfalls as I can this summer. I’m a sucker for the falling water, a side effect of growing up ten minutes away from Cliff Falls. Nothing is as grounding, calming or soothing as the pounding water next to you as you just sit and enjoy your surroundings on a summer day. So far I’ve visited 5 in the Bow Valley area, and have 2 more on my list to see. While I’m focusing on the Bow Valley and Kananaskis areas, there are a few that are day trips that I have as must sees on my list.

I have to mention Cascade Falls as I will probably be frequenting that one the most. It’s about 20 minutes, mostly uphill, from the parking lot. What I like is that you can see your destination the entire way to the falls, and then you’re rewarded with a cliff edge right next to the falls overlooking Banff. You have a beautiful view of Rundle Mt. and could claim hiking Cascade, the biggest mountain in Banff. Tomorrow I hope to visit Troll Falls, depending on if Night Audit kills me or not, but only time will tell, and the pictures I’ll be posting all summer long.

A little slice of Sunshine

I did something new. Well a lot of new things happened but I’ll only share the things that are appropriate. First off, I went to Cuba. I’ve been to the Carribean 3 times before but always to stay with family, I’m no stranger to the heat and beaches but staying in a resort was a completely new experience for me. Let me tell you, an all inclusive is amazing but a dangerous thing. Being able to walk up to the bar at any time of day and have any drink under the sun made for you, no change, no hassle and usually only tipping at the end of the day. I didn’t spend much on my trip, 90% was spent on tips.

I can’t decide if I liked being in an all inclusive or not, if I would do it again or if it is even really considered traveling. I’m no stranger to travel, though it has been 2 years since my European escapades, I felt sheltered in the resort. I went off resort twice. Once for a club called the Cave and once to see the town of Varadero. I would’ve loved to go to Havana or a new beach but most of my days were spent drunk in the sun.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about an endless supply of drinks by the pool or ocean, especially since this was my first real vacation in two years. Sure the food was nothing special but I can’t say I expected much, the resort was run down but that’s what you get for having a bachelorette booked by a 30 year old mom. If people asked me about Cuban food or culture or anything really, I’d tell you I only know a limited amount, and what I did learn was commercialized for the audience.

Something I did love love love? No offense America, but no Americans. The demographic was Canadian with the odd German couple here and there. Maybe other people wouldn’t notice it as much but Americans are just…different. You can tell from one sentence where they’re from, and I don’t really mean that in a good way. Maybe working front desk has made me judgemental. 

I am glad I got to experience Cuba as it is, or how it was, as Americans are finally being allowed entry and everything will start to change. A tip I wish someone had told me before going: bring all the money you need with you, once you’re there, ATMs don’t exist. Cash is the only form of payment in the majority of hotels and restaurants, there are banks but the charging fee and card fee and exchange rate are not wonderful. And a Cuban Peso is not the same as a Mexican Peso. You can only exchange them in Cuba and they are WAY lower than a Canadian dollar. Another thing? Don’t forget the basics. Again this might change with the US gaining access but as it stands, you can’t find a toothbrush, a razor or condoms at the corner store. And if you do be prepared to pay 3 times the average price at home. 
If you have anything extra, give it to the maids, or the pizza lady who put up with your drunk pizza request every day at 4pm. The maids receive everything anyone leaves behind, but everyone needs the essentials.