Planning V. Spontaneity

I have been incredibly busy in the last few weeks plotting my next adventure which will be happening over summer, and will be slightly more long term than my Vancouver adventure! (By slightly, I mean slightly a lot. Full on vagabonding mode!) As I map the journey and figure out places I will be exploring and countries I will be checking off my list, I find myself thinking about planning versus spontaneity in travel. Which is the better road to take? Which will guarantee a more memorable experience all around?

I have always been a planner, until it comes to the moment of actually acting on the plans. Then I am just like, “Screw the plans. I’ll just wing it!” It never fails. Even with Canada, especially after the 3rd day when i finally got the public transport down. About 90% of the trip was just getting lost and finding interesting things. Maps? What are those?

Of course, I think in Canada, one is allowed a massive amount of spontaneity. Everyone is so nice, you don’t have a lot to lose. Actually, you have so much more to gain by being able to just say yes to every opportunity. There are some things I feel I should have planned out better and stuck to, but I don’t really see those things as a mistake because the outcome was kind of incredible.

Of course, not everywhere in the world is quite like that. The places I plan to be visiting over this summer aren’t exactly the polar opposite of Canada, but from what research I have done so far, I definitely will have to plan things out and actually stick to them… at least to some degree. Or at the very least, be a little more well researched about things like the daylight hours. I feel like there are gonna be places I fall in love with and decide to stay an extra week or two, just because I can. I want to be able to enjoy the journey without being intent on the destination.

What is the best way to plan things out when you’re traveling for travel’s sake and not in a big hurry? Is it to not have a plan at all, just to be well researched? Luckily, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to go about it. I definitely feel it’s a learn as you go thing, and what’s right for one traveler might not necessarily be right for another. It is something interesting to think about though.

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Vancouver Part II

Days 4-5 (1/1-1/2/2016)

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My 4th day in Vancouver was actually my one lazy day. I felt too sick from the day before so I just stayed in and spent time recuperating. I think it was that day that I decided I would just appreciate California’s warm winters. I spent the day watching So Weird and listening to Alexz Johnson and researching things to do the next couple days.

Day 5 was spent almost entirely on Main Street. I started at Science World, pretty sure I was having even more fun than the kids in there… I failed at a whole bunch of puzzles and tried to build a tower out of blocks. I might not have been entirely successful, but I had a lot of fun and highly recommend anyone going to Vancouver to check it out!

When I finished up at the Science Center, I went along Main Street and visited several of the galleries. I only got through four galleries before it started getting dark again. Many of the galleries I did wanna check out were actually closed on Saturday, so I had a bit of a planning fail there… but I still saw a lot and had a great day overall.

 

Day 6-7 (1/3-1/4/2016)

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On my sixth day of exploring Vancouver, I went back to the west end! I explored the gay capital of the city. There were SO MANY RAINBOWS! I was in love with this part of town. I decided that day that I would just go without a map that day and let myself get as lost as I can get. Apparently by day 6 in Vancouver I became an actual Vancouverite because it wasn’t as disastrous as I kind of hoped it would be. I wandered off and saw a few cathedrals, explored all the shops and went through a couple more galleries (I really, really appreciate art. :p). By the time it was getting dark, I was looking for a Starbucks so I can connect to the internet and find out the best route back. I never found the Starbucks, but I did find a beach! I hung out at the beach for about an hour and appreciated the beauty before leaving for the bus. Instead of actually looking for a route back, I hopped on a random bus figuring it would take me to the Skytrain station, which I already had mastered at this point.

Day seven was another relax day. I did my laundry and packed up. I did go out, it was mainly just to lunch with a couple of friends that I met on day one (yes! My kidnappers…) I also stopped by a few stores to grab a few Canadian snacks to smuggle back home. Food in Canada is seriously like 1000x better than America. I also went to a Buddhist Temple in Richmond! It was so beautiful and peaceful. Such a perfect place to just sit and meditate.

 

Coming Home (1/5/2016)

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I had to be at the airport at 5 AM so naturally I didn’t get any sleep. I did try though! I have a major case of traveler insomnia, I literally just can’t sleep when I know I’m going somewhere the next morning. I wasn’t that worried about the flight though, or about a million things that could go wrong. I think secretly, I was hoping something would go wrong and I’d be stuck in Canada a little longer. I definitely was not scared about the flight, just super excited. My flight took off around 8:30 and I made it back to LA before noon. I spent the entire flight daydreaming about my next adventure.

All in all, there are a lot of things I wish I would have done differently, along with things I would have thought to research before arrival in Canada… but it was an incredible adventure and I can’t wait to continue my journey. A lot of mistakes were made and so many lessons were learned, but this is just the beginning.  

 

Vancouver Part I

First Flights & Arrival (12/28/2015)

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My short yet somehow life changing journey started bright and early on December 28th. I woke up around 5:30 after maybe 3 hours of sleep, got dressed and finished packing my backpack and I was off to Canada! Well… almost. Less than five minutes after leaving the apartment, I realized I forgot my wallet and told my uncle, we went back and I ran back in to grab the wallet just to realize I also forgot to pack my PJ bottoms. Oops! After I grabbed that, I was off. Uncle Jim took me to the Van Nuys Flyaway station and I took the shuttle to LAX.

At the airport, TSA was a breeze. I don’t know if it was because it was so early, but the line was super short and it was quick and painless. I found my gate and waited about four hours. In that time, I was tense. Not really looking forward to the flight, I was scared and building the fear up in my head. When I finally was on the plane and waiting for takeoff, I was just sitting there and wondering what I got myself into. As soon as we took off, all the overwhelming fear was replaced with excitement. Being up so high above the clouds and seeing how small everything was, it felt like magic. The world suddenly felt even more limitless… I felt like I could go anywhere and see anything. Flying might actually be my new favorite method of travel. I went to Arizona and flew to Vancouver from there. I didn’t arrive in Vancouver until 11:22 PM and didn’t make it to the AIrbnb host’s house until after midnight. I made sure to let everyone know I was there and safe before catching up on sleep.

Day One (12/29/2015)

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The first day was definitely the most exciting! It started normally as I thought it would… I went to go get money exchanged, went for breakfast at Tim Horton’s because I was curious to see if it was as good as everyone says. (it was!) I then caught the skytrain and bus to the west end, where I would stop at La Belle Patate for my first real poutine for lunch! (I was actually so excited about poutine I ate a total of 6 throughout the trip. Oop.) That was the mark of the real adventure. After I finished the poutine, I took some time to study the map before moving on, but as I was getting ready to go, a couple friendly locals. They asked where I was from and offered tips on where to go and what to see while I was in Vancouver, then they proceeded to kidnap me and show me around the beautiful city. (Yes, I made friends with these kidnappers of mine… no, it is not the first time I made friends with my kidnappers. Makes for interesting stories though!) They showed me around downtown, Stanley Park, and Granville Island. They dropped me off on Granville Island where I saw a street performer from England and went through a few galleries and took photos of the scenery. Eventually it started getting dark so I stopped at a Starbucks so I could connect to the internet and find the best bus route back to the place I was staying. I finally decided to face the cold again and get on the bus. About 6 stops later, I realized I was on the wrong bus going the opposite way, then I realized I forgot my camera at the Starbucks. I immediately got off the bus and walked back to the Starbucks as quickly as I could, took me about 40 minutes, and my camera was not in the seat I was sitting in… but to my insane luck, someone had turned it into the barista so I got it back! Thank goodness Canadians are so nice. I got my camera and caught the correct bus and made my way back to the house I was staying at. I would have normally been back by around 8, but my phone died and I am a very directionally challenged traveler… I was lost in the correct neighborhood for about four hours. (Don’t judge! It was a very confusing neighborhood! :p )

 

Day Two (12/30/2015)

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Compared to the first day of exploring, the second was tame. I was going to go explore downtown and west end, but I took the wrong bus and ended up in Chinatown instead. I spent several hours there going through shops, I found a couple galleries. I also came across the International Centre which is like a shopping mall that celebrates all cultures, that was insanely cool! Before I knew it, it was dark again. (Vancouver’s days are way too short!) Getting back to my lodging was easy this time.

Day Three (12/31/2015)

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New Year’s Eve! I was actually not feeling well at all this day… I had a bad cough/sore throat/runny nose. While I loved Canada, my body decided it did not. Despite the illness, I had a good day. I took the bus/skytrain to downtown where I explored Georgia Street and felt like I was in New York City! I also saw one of the locations one of my favorite shows growing up was shot at, so cool! I only spent about an hour or two there before jumping on the bus to go to Stanley Park. I walked the seawall for a bit, I saw the harbor with all the yachts, then went to see the Totem Poles before getting lost yet again before getting to the aquarium. (which is actually another filming location of the same show I mentioned earlier… it’s really awesome to see places you’ve been on your favorite show.) I hung around the aquarium until it started to get dark, and I wanted to stay out until midnight to see the fireworks but at that point I was just too sick, so I decided to go back early.

Stay tuned for part II that will include days 4-7 + coming home!

2016

2015 was a very interesting year for me. It was a year of growing into myself and realizing what I really want in life while taking steps to make all those things possible. It was also a year of learning that not everyone is going to be 100% behind me all the time and that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to pursue the things I want to do with life.

Last year (especially the tail end) was full of firsts for me. I got my first passport, booked my first flight, visited another state for the first time, also another country! (More about my Canada adventure to come soon!) I saw my first meteor shower, got my first few freelance gigs. I actually flew on a plane (3x) and I loved every moment! First time staying with a local when going abroad. And a lot more that I can’t think of at this moment…

My hope for 2016 is that it is even bigger with more adventures. Now that I’ve had a true taste of travel, I never want to stop. I want to keep on going and experiencing everything life has to offer. Some of my goals for 2016, travel and professional, include…

  1. Travel more. Within the states and internationally as well. Add at least two other countries on my visited list.
  2. Buy my first DSLR camera and at least make a little progress to building my career as a professional photographer.
  3. Learn basic graphic design.
  4. Be more productive all around.
  5. Volunteer. Around home and abroad.

25 Things I Learned At 25

So, today I am officially 26! It has been a long year of ups and downs… with too many life lessons to really keep track of. I thought I’d make a quick post, listing just a few of the things I learned at 25!

  1. You can’t please everyone with your life choices, so just forget what others want out of you and focus on yourself.
  2. It’s okay to say no.
  3. Don’t sit in awkward places on mountains you can barely climb when it’s way past dark and you seem to have gotten separated from your friends.
  4. I am not meant to be a driving instructor, and that’s okay. (Unless you need to learn what not to do…)
  5. Sometimes, all people need is time. The people who love me the most will always come to support me in the end, even if they aren’t quick to support my goals at the beginning.
  6. I actually do have a little bit of musical talent!
  7. Eating less meat isn’t necessarily the hardest thing.
  8. Don’t go on a road trip with my friend Yia without a GPS in hand. Just don’t.
  9. Sometimes things change. Sometimes change is hard. It always has the potential to lead into something better.
  10. It’s important to be 150% open minded. Say yes to new experiences, even if it’s something you never really wanted to do. ESPECIALLY if it’s something you never really wanted to do.
  11. Wander away from the crowd and wander far. You never know what you’ll find, where others aren’t looking.
  12. Don’t expect everyone to have the same mindset. People will disappoint you.
  13. The owls are not what they seem.
  14. Not everyone who is your friend is to be trusted. Sometimes you’ll learn things that make you realize they weren’t good people and then you’ll have to let them go, and that’s okay. When it comes to friends, it’s always going to be quality over quantity.
  15. It’s okay to experiment with new things. Sometimes it will just help your relationships grow even stronger.
  16. Don’t worry so much about planning things out. Just set a goal and make it happen. Don’t stop until you make it.
  17. Maybe making friends isn’t really that hard. I mean, I made a friend out of someone I highly respect in the industry I’m working to break into…
  18. Be more adventurous with food. Go into more restaurants of cuisines you have never tried and order something you can’t even pronounce. You might be surprised.
  19. I can survive not being home for a long period of time, and my family will survive without me here too.
  20. School is really not for me. I learn better through experiences than I do out of textbooks. No matter how bad I want to be good at the whole school thing, I know it’s not where I’m most successful. It’s not a bad thing.
  21. WRITE THINGS DOWN. Do it or you will forget it.
  22. Don’t seek approval from anyone. If you want something, GO FOR IT. Never let anyone talk you out of something you truly want and believe in.
  23. There are always two sides to every story. Be open to hearing the other side.
  24. Trust your gut instincts, even when everyone is telling you you’re crazy.
  25. Sometimes you’re going to need to help others and risk friendships in the process. Sometimes you’ll lose friends over doing the right thing, and if they leave over that… they weren’t real friends anyways. Always strive to be a better person than you were. Every learning experience is an opportunity to grow into something greater. Don’t miss those opportunities.

Adventuring in Death Valley

This weekend I ventured out to Death Valley National Park with a couple friends to see the Geminids Meteor shower! It was full of wrong wrong turns, missed rest stops, aching toes, but all in all it was a fun adventure!

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It all started on Sunday morning. I was too excited to sleep so I got none. I packed most of my things for the 1 night/2 day trip within an hour before going. My friend Yia was supposed to pick me up at 7AM, but she kinda has her own time zone and ended up about 30 minutes late. (Also partially due to the fact that she decided in the last possible minute to rent a car rather than taking her own). After picking me up, we went to the grocery store and then to pick up Jared, who decided to make us pay for being over an hour late picking him up. We waited like 30 minutes for him to come out. (Of his house!) We finally left town around 8:30-9. Two hours later than intended, but we had all day and no worries.

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From Fresno, we headed to Bakersfield. Jared and I spent a lot of time teasing Yia for one thing or the other… mostly her bad driving. I am impressed that we actually made it home in one piece. The drive to Bakersfield was easy. It was kinda funny because our main reason for choosing Death Valley to see the meteor shower was because that was one of the only places in the state that didn’t have rain or snow in the forecast, which is ironic considering California is meant to be in a drought. The entire drive there was nothing but sunshine. From Bakersfield to Death Valley was a much more interesting drive considering none of us have really been on most of that drive. I kept giving Yia the wrong instructions which is partially to thank for the wrong turns because she actually listened. (Take note, I am a very sarcastic person… NEVER take anything I say seriously. Just don’t.) Eventually Jared finally took the wheel after we stopped for gas and snacks. Thank goodness because it wasn’t that much longer that we were in Death Valley and for about 5 miles we were driving on a narrow mountain. On one side was the side of the mountain, other side was a cliff looking into the valley. It was a beautiful sight.

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The first thing we did was stop at one of the visitor centers and pay a fee and get suggestions from the ranger, along with a map. Our first stop was Badwater Basin because we saw all the white stuff on the ground that looked like snow. From a distance, it actually kind of reminded me of the ocean… if the ocean was in the middle of a desert. We wondered if the stuff on the ground was salt. I bent down and got the tiniest amount and tasted it just to confirm, I told them, “Yep! It’s salt!” Jared and Yia were like, “Melissa! That could be poison! You could die!” Nope, it was salt. Fun fact about Badwater Basin, it is the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level! The highest point in Death Valley is Telescope Peak, which towers at 11,049 feet (3,367 meters). Sadly, we did not have enough time to check that out. Our second stop was at the dunes. We spent more time hiking the dunes the second day though.

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After that, we went to Furnace Creek to go to the store before heading to Zabriskie Point to see the sunset. We got to explore a ghost town before going to park for the night. We parked the car next to another ghost town that was right next to an abandoned mine. We went on a bit of a hike up a mountain. It was really dark at this point so I thought it would be a good idea to wander off. I got lost and just a little stuck when I sat down and couldn’t figure out how to get up without risking a fall. Eventually (like 10 minutes later), by friends found me and we went back toward the car and spent the next hour or so stargazing. I saw more stars that night than I have ever seen in my life. We were right under the Milky Way and the view was just magical. Of course there were some clouds that came and went during the night. About an hour of stargazing later, it started raining so we got into the car. Yia passed out after drinking half a bottle of Mike’s hard lemonade and Jared and I just talked. We got bored and he had service on his phone for some reason so we pranked another friend into thinking I was lost. Of course she believed it. We called her to let her know it was just a joke. It wasn’t that long before the rain stopped and we got out and stargazed for several more hours. Throughout the night, we saw millions of stars and at least 50 meteors! It was a night to be remembered.

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The next morning, we only had a couple hours before we had to go home. We went on a hike on the Golden Canyon. It’s a narrow canyon with a mountainous view. It was extremely windy, too. It practically pushed us along the hour long hike.

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After Golden Canyon, we drove along Artists Drive and stopped at Artists Palette, which is probably my favorite part Death Valley and our last stop before heading home. We got a view of very colorful mountains that look as if they’ve been colored on with sidewalk chalk. It’s a work of nature’s art. The coloration is actually caused by minerals mixing with volcanic deposits. The iron salt causes the reds, pinks, and yellows. Decomposing mica causes the green and Manganese produces the purple. The colors are produced in a larger scale on the mountains surrounding Death Valley.

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Travel Gear

With me going to Canada in approximately 25 days, I have been investing in a lot of gear. Well, not a lot, but my credit card would agree to disagree. Since I am 92% sure I am done with the bigger purchases, I thought I would go ahead and write up a post talking about key investments, talk about how I like them so far, then follow up with a post in January in which I will talk about how they fared during travel.

I wasn’t going to invest in a travel pack yet, I planned to just use the rolling suitcase I already have. After a lot of research, I decided to just splurge a little and buy the Osprey Porter 30l. I think the retail value for this bag is about $140, but I got it for around $80 on Amazon. I decided on investing in a backpack because they are much more versatile and much better mobility. I received it a couple days ago and haven’t really tested it out beyond making adjustments so it fits me and making sure it’s comfortable. It is perfectly sized, I feel like it will have more than enough room for me to take everything I plan on taking.

Aside from a travel pack, I also wanted to invest in a daypack. I went for the Gonex Ultralight Packable Backpack, which you can find on Amazon for $12.98 ($25.99 Retail). It’s small, not really designed to carry a lot more than essentials. Unpacking it is easy but packing it back into the zippered pocket takes skill. I actually have used it already when I went to a friend’s house overnight. I packed in my pajamas and an extra shirt, plus a few other things. I personally loved it.

Lonely Planet Vancouver Travel Guide + Pullout Map. I was actually just looking for a map, but I decided to go for a guide instead because how can I go wrong with that? The information in this guide is awesome and makes me all the more excited to finally go to Vancouver!

And finally, a Travel Journal. This is an investment I wish I would have made before going to LA for a month in September/October. My memory is not that good at all. I wish I would have gotten one and forced myself to write in it whenever something cool/interesting happened, that way nothing would be forgotten.

 

 

CANADA, I’M COMING!

This is a post I’ve been meaning to post for weeks, but as you can probably guess based on my last post, my life has been a little crazy lately and I have just been all over the place trying to find out my options. On top of all that, I am struggling big time with my classes and there is like a 98% chance I will not actually be able to attend next semester and that has me a little bummed. Honestly, I am trying, but school is just not for me. I have always been someone who learns more through experience than out of textbooks, so maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Putting all that aside though, I have awesome news! Travel plans are finally being formed for late December/early January… I will be headed back to LA the day after Christmas and flying up north to Vancouver on the 28th and coming back down on the 5th of January! Flights have been booked and plans are being made. Some things on my list of things to do include snowboard lessons (hoping to not die in the process… but I guess that’s what insurance is for. :p), eat all the poutine, watch the New Year’s firework show, take a day trip to Whistler and another day trip to Victoria, and general exploring of the city, and hiking in the nearby parks. If you have been to Vancouver, tell me what I should do! I am open to everything!

As I prepare for this trip, I can’t help but think about all the firsts I am crossing off my list for sure. First time flying. First time being in another state (only for 6 hours though, layover in Arizona!). First time out of the country. First time couchsurfing, assuming I find a host… and even if I don’t, first time staying in a hostel! First time snowboarding (maybe).First time going somewhere I am completely unfamiliar with, without family or friends around for at least 1150 miles.

I am scared, mostly about the flying… but mostly I am excited. I can’t wait for this adventure!

 

I Don’t Belong

Something happened in my life recently that made me think. Due to the nature of what it is, I probably shouldn’t be writing about it, much less to post online… but writing has always been one of the most therapeutic things for me, right next to music. Have you ever felt like you had to run away? Like you had had no place and just didn’t belong? That is pretty much me right now. Actually, it describes me for most of my life. (I should probably warn you, this is going to be one really emotional post…)

When I was little, I felt that way because my home life wasn’t good for me. Mom was always partying with her friends and I had to grow up young because of that. Of course, mom doesn’t remember it how it really was and she’s in denial of it being as bad as it really was. To be honest, I don’t even remember every detail because most of it is blacked out.

I got to run from that bad place when I eventually moved in with my grandma at age 14. For the next 3-5 years, I was okay. I felt like I belonged… but then I grew up. I wasn’t really encouraged to grow up though. I remember researching places I’d like to go and telling my grandma things like, “I want to travel,” or “I want to go to the UK!” or “I would love to see New York City in person.” She would always, always, always knock it down. Say it was too expensive and I’d never be able to do it or that I was crazy and I was gonna get myself killed. Instead of encouraging me, she always kept me at arm’s length… treating me as a child and never letting me grow. As a result, I started to feel that feeling of needing to run away and do my own thing. I know she meant well, but all it did was make me feel trapped.

After she died, I moved into an apartment with my cousin Josh and a friend of his. During the first 4-6 months of our time there, Josh picked on me a lot. I didn’t think he meant any harm out of it. It made me feel disrespected and like I didn’t belong. I constantly felt like I needed to run away… and I did. I would spend hours swimming in the community swimming pool or walking aimlessly around the city. It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to take a walk that would last 4-6 hours, especially if it was his day off. Luckily, he finally opened his eyes and realized the effect he was having on me, and he stopped acting like a complete jackass. For the remainder of my stay in the apartment, it was good.

When the lease ran out at the end of our year there, I had to move back in with mom due to lack of funds. Living there made me so depressed that I’d cry myself to sleep at night. Not only do I only have bad memories of living in that house, but it’s a health hazard and all the drama my little sister would cause just wasn’t worth it. The thought “I’m too sober for this shit,” was one that crossed my mind on an hourly basis. I don’t want to be there and I don’t belong there, no matter how much my mom wants me there. There were moments when I wondered if being homeless was really that bad.

I’ve lived with one of my other cousin’s now for a year. I babysit for her whenever she needs me. Her husband doesn’t seem to realize that is generally a paid service. There are parents that pay a hefty amount for live-in child caretakers. I don’t ask for anything in return. I devote a lot of my time to helping take care of the boys, there have even been times when I would cancel plans I’d already made in order to watch them for a few hours in the evening. I may not pay anything in rent to stay here, but I do give a lot of my time… and time is so much more valuable than money. I wouldn’t say I stay here for free because I do pay my dues, it’s just in a different way. I help out with food as well, and I don’t really use that many resources. Of course, he doesn’t see it like that. He thinks I’m unappreciative, like I don’t do enough. He doesn’t realize just how much time I do give up to help him and my cousin with the kids. He doesn’t realize how truly depressed being at my mom’s makes me feel and how I do appreciate being here because I literally just can’t handle my other option. Here, I just feel underappreciated and like I’m a burden. It felt like home for a while, but somewhere along the way it changed and I constantly just have the feeling that I don’t belong.

And now… now, I am being forced to return to my mom’s by the new year. I don’t know why or what I did wrong to deserve this bad punishment. All I really do know is I’m scared. Living at mom’s takes me back to dark places that I can’t even remember, but I don’t have any other options. Especially if I do want to get out and travel directly after I’m through with college. I keep telling myself it’s only two years and that I’ll be doing school full time the whole time, along with part time work. If I’m lucky, I’ll hardly ever even be at home. Sadly, none of those thoughts really make me feel better about it.

This is a feeling I can never escape. No matter how much I try. Unless I am out of town, experiencing new experiences. Am I choosing to travel in order to run away from my problems with my hometown and my family? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is I’m tired of feeling this feeling. I’m tired of being unhappy. I don’t think I’m running away though. Given the options I have, I feel like it’s my only choice. I know it’s the only way I’ll ever escape the feeling of not belonging where I am.

Settling Back In & Winter Travel Plans!

I’ve been home from LA now for a little over a week now. It has been… the longest week and a half of my life. Ever, if I’m being completely honest. It’s been busy and I’ve been settling back into life back in Fresno and part of me feels bad. I know my family is happy to have me back… and my friends are planning get togethers with me so I can tell them all about my adventures, all I can think about is my next getaway and planning my next trip. Adjusting to life back home after being gone so long is trickier than I expected. It didn’t exactly feel like home before I left, and it feels even less like home now. After getting a taste of how exciting my life can be, all I want is to be anywhere but here.

Luckily, this week has been mostly good to me. I recently learned that I might actually be able to afford another getaway much sooner than anticipated. My birthday is coming up in two months (December 21st!), I figured since I will most likely be able to afford it, why don’t I give myself the ultimate birthday present? Go somewhere I’ve never been, on my own, just for about a week between semesters. Nothing is set in stone yet, but plans are slowly coming together. They’ll probably come together even more when I finally decide on a destination. There are three that I am currently considering.

  1. Orlando, FL. I was on Google Flights and couldn’t decide on a possible destination so I did what any traveler might do… I used the I’m Feeling Lucky feature. It told me to go to Orlando. I figure why not? Maybe I’ll make friends with an alligator or something. Also, I just really want to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  2. Portland, OR. Portland is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. I actually had planned on moving there in the next 5 years before I committed myself to a life of travel after college. I have done so much research on the general lifestyle in Portland and completely fell in love on that alone. Actually visiting it for a week would be a dream. However, a friend and I are planning to go there this coming summer. I might just take Portland off the list for now because I know there’s a chance I’m going anyway later on.
  3. Vancouver, BC, Canada. Just another place I’ve always wanted to visit, for similar reasons as Portland. Plus it’s Canada. Also, I just really want an excuse to get my passport this year. There’s so much to do and see in Vancouver, I would love for it to be my first trip abroad.

As of this moment, I am thinking over the pros and cons of Vancouver and Orlando. I really can’t think of any cons for either.

  • With Vancouver, I get to experience a real winter. I don’t get a lot of that where I live and Florida’s winter is still swimming weather… which isn’t bad either. I like to swim, it would be fun to be able to do that in December/January.
  • Orlando has The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is a place I wanted to go literally ever since it was announced.
  • Canada has poutine. I’ve never actually tried poutine, but I really want to.
  • With Florida, I will finally be able to honestly say I’ve been in another state, and I do kinda feel like I should explore other states in my home country before running off to other countries.
  • Vancouver would not only be the cheaper flight (more than likely), but it also doesn’t have a theme park that will cost me around $200. It’s ironic, considering Canada is generally more expensive than the US.

And there are plenty more reasons for one over the other on both sides, even though I know I need to make the decision sooner rather than later, especially if the choice it’s the one that requires a passport. I just can’t make up my mind one way or the other.