Tag Archives: Backpacking

Barcelona, Spain: A Photojournal

Well, yes… I’ve been home for a couple weeks now, but the backlog of work has been crippling (not to mention I’m working on a new project that has been demanding all of my free time!). Check out these photos from Barcelona, Spain!

We visited the Torre Agbar and saw Gaudi’s work at the Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell. Those pictures inside the church are from La Sagrada Familia, and let’s say that many fantasy scenes will be inspired from my visit that day. We also visited the small nation of Andorra (see the 12th century chapel among the mountains), and when we weren’t walking the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, we ate tapas (small plates) by the ocean.

Stay tuned for writing-related posts to come soon!

Travel & Writing

It’s that time again! This Saturday, I will be leaving on a jet plane and heading on a month-long backpacking trip to South Africa and Spain. Not to worry, friends, while I am not the greatest at following a blogging schedule (read: I suck pretty hard), I am planning on uploading a few photo journal posts throughout my trip. Minimal effort for me, good travel photos for you!

But now: the point. Traveling so soon has me in a travel mood. Consequently, being in a travel mood puts me in a writing mood. Why, you ask? Shouldn’t I be YouTube spiraling and watching every video I can find on my backpacking destinations?

Yes, I should, but instead, I feel so inspired. For me, traveling has a huge impact on my writing and is definitely the pick-me-up I need when I feel uninspired. In fact, there are huge benefits for writers who travel, even if it’s only for a couple days away.

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African Sun, here I come!

Traveling Calms You

While this may not be the case for everyone, traveling can be calming. For me, it’s waiting in an airport and people watching. It’s sitting on a beach with a book and having absolutely no plan for the day. It’s waking up on any random day and asking a travel companion “what are we doing today?” knowing that we could do anything we like or nothing at all.

Travel has a way of relaxing people, even on the busiest of city streets. And guess what? Being relaxed is a great way to write. Ideas form easier, the words come smoother, and writing seems less like a chore and more like a spa massage.

Besides, have you ever tried writing while stressed out? Yeah, I’ve gone on DELETE-EVERYTHING rampages too…

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So beach. Much calming.

Traveling Exposes You to New People & Different Cultures

My absolute favorite part of traveling is the new people I meet and the interesting cultures I experience. Living in Canada, sometimes it’s easy to forget that people all around the world live in a completely different way than I do. Beliefs, traditions, and existences vastly different from our own occur EVERYWHERE, and it’s a pity not to experience them.

But why is this beneficial for our writing? Two reasons. Number One: characters are the soul of our writing, and what better way to create interesting characters than to meet interesting people? Number Two: a huge aspect of the fiction industry is the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre, and while it may be hard to travel to the moon or Westeros for inspiration for your next novel, a quick flight to a foreign country could inspire the location of your next piece.

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Oh, what’s that? The scene of your next novel?

Traveling Enhances Your Prose

Speaking of locations, traveling allows you to better describe the setting of your story. Novel set in a windswept, mountain town? Time to see the Rockies or the Alps. Medieval, seafaring city on the ocean? Round trip to Croatia. What about the desert? Egypt it is.

I find it way easier to more accurately describe the setting of my novel if I’ve actually been to a place that has a similar landscape. Besides, that’s why I take so many photos. When I get home and I’m working on setting in my prose, I can look at the photos and remember not just how a place looked, but also how a place smelled and felt.

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A great setting for a novel… Or just a good place to write it!

Traveling Puts Life (and Writing) in Perspective

One of the best feelings traveling gives is the feeling of being small and insignificant.

Sounds depressing, right? Well, hear me out.

In our everyday lives, it’s really easy to get wrapped up on everyday things: wake, eat, drive to work, do work, eat lunch, do work, come home, make dinner, watch Netflix, drink wine, sleep… The cycle goes on and on. Worse: we toil over the news, toil over social media, toil over whatever drama Sassy Sally or Donald Downer is conjuring up.

But when you travel, that cycle gets interrupted. You experience new and exciting things. Best of all, traveling helps you put your whole life into perspective: you realize that there are billions of other people on this Earth, and their lives can be extremely different than yours. Further, these people exist without being influenced by your life (or Sassy Sally’s drama) whatsoever. To me, that’s really humbling, and when I’m in a writing rut, it comforts me to think that somewhere out there, there are people facing life in all its forms, and suddenly, my life doesn’t seem so overwhelming, and I can get back to what I find important.

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Oh, how small we really are.

Story Ideas Can Strike at Any Time!

This one is self-explanatory. With travel opening up the world to you, it also opens your mind to new story ideas. These can come while people watching at the airport, overhearing a discussion at a restaurant in Bangkok, or in the bush in Mozambique, waiting for a lioness to show her face.

In a world of 8 billion people, there are at least 8 billion stories, and by traveling, you give yourself the opportunity to one you may not have heard before.

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So, get out there, writer! Experience something new! Where are your favorite places to travel for writing inspiration?

 

Snapshots of Southern Alberta

I seem to have missed my Writerly Wednesday update, but to be honest, I didn’t do much writing with The Black Oracle’s release being on Monday and because I spent this past weekend in Southern Alberta!

And lucky for you, I have some photos! I flew into Calgary, and though I didn’t spend too much time in the city itself, the trip was amazing. I spent time in Banff National Park, exploring trails around the town of Banff, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon and Falls. I also traveled to Drumheller and went to the Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum and the Horseshoe Badlands.

Check out these photos!

Horseshoe Badlands.

Horseshoe Badlands.

I got photo-bombed by a dinosaur at the Royal Tyrrell Musuem.

I got photo-bombed by a dinosaur at the Royal Tyrrell Musuem.

Banff National Park.

Banff National Park.

Lake Louise all frozen over.

Lake Louise all frozen over.

Just more amazing views in Banff.

Just more amazing views in Banff.

Walking through Johnston Canyon.

Walking through Johnston Canyon.

Also, funny story: we decided to drive across the provincial border to British Columbia. Though we were successful, on our way back we got stuck on the Trans-Canada highway because an avalanche of melting ice blocked the road. An avalanche! We sat in traffic for almost 2 hours. But, what a place to be stuck in traffic.

We made it to British Columbia.

We made it to British Columbia.

View of Calgary from my hotel room.

View of Calgary from my hotel room. Mountains everywhere!

BUT!!

I do have a few writerly updates about The Black Oracle! Check them out:

  • The Black Oracle releases on MONDAY!!! You can pre-order the Kindle edition here and the paperback edition here. They will both be shipped to you on Monday.
  • I wrote a Dear Teen Me post last week where I address the teenage Michael and give him some sound advice.

More posts to come, and I promise I will have an *actual* update next Wednesday.

I’m a Travel Writer!

Just a quick post to announce that I am officially a travel writer with nexopia.com! I will be writing two to three articles a week about backpacking, tourism, and all things travel. You can check out my first post here where I discuss slum tourism and the morals behind the questionable practice.

Also, the cover reveal for The Black Oracle is on Saturday, so stay tuned for that also!

A Break in Samanà

It is cold in Toronto at the moment. Understand, though, that when I say cold, I don’t mean the stick-your-hand-in-the-fridge cold. I’m talking -30 degrees Celsius, boogers freezing to the inside of your nose, the air hurts your face kind of cold. For my American friends, -30 degrees Celsius is about -22 Fahrenheit. Stupid, terrible, f*ck-my-life cold.

But lucky for me, I was able to travel away from it for a while. After my huge backpacking trip to South Africa and Europe last Spring, it wasn’t long before I had my sights on my next destination. Given that last winter was brutal with this polar vortex nonsense, I knew that I wouldn’t survive another winter without being able to break away for a bit. I knew I needed to get away in mid-February and I needed to go somewhere HOT! So three friends and I booked our trip back in October and my backpack has been anxiously awaiting sun since.

Bahia Principe Cayacoa in Samanà, Dominican Republic.

Bahia Principe Cayacoa in Samanà, Dominican Republic.

Now, I’m not someone who normally enjoys the all-inclusive resort travel style. I like more intimate settings, accommodation that brings me closer to the culture and the people of a place. It’s nothing against the all-inclusive (who can say no to unlimited Piña Colada?), but I just prefer to immerse myself in a new place and make my experience as authentic as possible.

However, this all-inclusive at the Bahia Principe Cayacoa was exactly what I needed. My photos don’t do the resort much justice, but it was a medium-sized resort complete with three pools, bars, restaurants, and most importantly, a gorgeous beach!

Besides the endless days in the sun catching up on my reading and recharging my creative juices for a final 15,000 words on my work-in-progress, what really made this trip was the excursions.

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Our first excursion wasn’t much of an excursion at all since it was technically attached to the resort, though not owned by it. Three islands jut out from the beach at the resort (which I believe is called Los Cayos, but I’m not sure) and they are connected to the beach by bridges. It looked like the city of Samanà may have tried to build recreational buildings on the islands, but they have since fallen into disrepair, and it’s awesome. They are covered in graffiti and it gives the islands an almost post-apocalyptic feel as the jungle reclaims the structures and the fauna incorporates the stone into its growth. Considering my obsession with the jungle and with a post-human Earth, our mini-excursion-but-not-an-excursion led to a cool discussion about art and humanity.

I love jungles!

I love jungles!

I don’t yet have photos of our next excursion yet, but I’m hoping I will soon and then I’ll make a separate post about it. So, for now, I’ll just say that I went scuba diving! TWICE! It was terrifying and exhilarating and fantastic all at the same time. I have a fear of both heights and of depths, but despite this, I don’t allow my fears of stopping me from trying new things, especially when I know I’ll regret not trying something. So, in line with sitting on Leopard’s Rock  over Oribi Gorge in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa last May to counter my fear of heights, I decided that scuba diving would be an awesome way to face my fear of depths.

The first time we went, we didn’t see many fish because the ocean was choppy and our guide wasn’t able to bring us to the spot he intended. However, seeing the bottom of the ocean is something surreal and magical, so when he came to us again the next day and offered to take us to a shipwreck, we couldn’t refuse. It was amazing. I know words aren’t doing much for you right now, but once I get the photos and videos from my travelling companion’s GoPro, I will write a separate post. What I will say though is that scuba diving is a strange kind of peaceful, and as unnatural as breathing underwater is, the ocean floor is serene and calming. I can’t wait to do it again!

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Our last excursion of the trip was to El Limòn, a waterfall deep in the jungle. For me, this was the most anticipated part of the trip, but it ended up actually being the most disappointing — as the most anticipated things generally are! I adored the waterfall and the chance to get to it by horseback, but the amount of tourists made the experience a little unenjoyable and chaotic (yes, I know: I’m part of the problem!) But the number of tourists was only eclipsed the number of locals. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting locals when I travel: it’s a cool way to enrich experiences and learn about other cultures. But no, I don’t want a parrot on my shoulder. No, I don’t want to buy anything. No, I don’t need you to hold my bag for me or take twelve photos of me with your fancy camera or give me a toy iguana. Frankly, it was annoying and took away from the serenity and tranquility I wanted to feel when I visited. I didn’t even feel like going swimming and that was the ONE thing I wanted to do there. Oh well, there will be more waterfalls to swim in, I guess.

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All in all, the trip was spectacular. It was a much needed break from the cold and from work, and I think it gave me just enough time to relax before I finish this WIP. The only issue now is that I want to travel again! Maybe this summer? Iceland? Turkey? Maybe a road trip to Calgary and the West Coast? Why not it all? I’ll take a hiatus from life and travel the entire world.

If only, right?

Stay warm!

Liebster Award Nomination

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Well, well, well, it seems I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award! I began this blog back in July of last year, and though it began as an extension of my writing career, it really has taken on a life of its own. I enjoy expressing myself without the structure of fiction, and I enjoy the informal feel (read: ranting).

In any case, it’s fantastic to be recognized for something that I enjoy, so a big THANK YOU to Melis for nominating me for the Liebster Award (whose blog, by the way, is called Infinite Daydreamer, and you should definitely check out here). The award goes to bloggers who have less than 200 followers, and those who are nominated must answer 11 questions as well as nominate 11 other blogs. I’ve nominated some blogs at the end, so if you’re a blogger who’s received a ping back, that’s why :p

So, here we go!

How did you decide on the title of your blog?

The title of my blog was quite simple, really — it’s my name! I thought about using a different title, but none of the ones I thought up would really be applicable to all the projects I have in mind throughout my prospective writing career. So, my name was the simplest, and for me, the easiest to pick because I could then have seamless cohesion between my blog, my published work, and my other social media endeavors.

What is one word that sums up the heart of you blog and why?

Writing! That’s a pretty easy one. Yeah, I realize that I stray off of that topic from time to time as topics such as travel, life, and the struggles of a millennial are spoken about also, but at the end of the day, this blog focuses around writing as a whole, my thoughts on it, and as a central hub for my writing career.

What are your favourite pastimes besides blogging?

Writing fiction. Lol, I see a trend… But wait! I like reading too. I also have a considerable amount of wanderlust, so I love travelling and/or planning my next trip. I’m not really into television or movies, so my pop culture knowledge is embarrassingly low, but I love to learn and debate and meet people, though I can sometimes be a little shy and introverted at first.

What is your favourite aspect of blogging?

My favourite aspect of blogging is the informal feel. When I write fiction, I generally spend a lot of time toiling over the tone and the voice and how something is coming across to the reader. I like that blogging is a little bit more raw. I like that I can say what I want and that a quick copy edit is generally all the editing I have to do. I also like that blogging is more interactive. I get to meet people here who have similar goals and aspirations. Not to mention the other blogs. I love reading what other people have to say.

Which project, recipe, or idea on my blog would you most like to try yourself?

I think this question refers to Melis’ blog, if I’m not mistaken. I like the monthly favourites feature that Melis has on her blog. I think it’s a great way not only to let others know what you’ve been into that month, but I think it acts as a nice retrospective for the blogger. I know for me that specific pieces of music or different books influence my mood and my writing, and those things change often. I think the monthly favourites feature allows for both readers and bloggers to look back and see what they were into last month or even last year.

Where does your blog inspiration come from?

I think a lot of my blog inspiration comes from what I’m doing at any particular time. The blog posts where I talk about writing normally correspond to a particular aspect of the writing process that I’m experiencing at the time — I wrote one about editing when I was editing, I wrote about troubles finding inspiration when I was having trouble finding inspiration.

What is one country you would like to visit and why?

I would love to visit Iceland. I think that I’m pretty well traveled in general, but one place I’m dying to visit is Iceland. I love the Nordic feel, the melancholic nature of winter, the contrast of beauty and somehow, desolation. Also, some of my favourite musicians come from Iceland (Bjork, Olafur Arnalds) and the Nordic countries on the whole. AND if that wasn’t enough, Iceland means sulfur springs and glacier climbing and geysers and the northern lights. Have I convinced you yet?

If you have children, what are their names? If not, what are your favourite boy and girl names?

Hmmm… Odd question. I think it would be hard to name my children because names that come into my head normally already have a personality or a back story attached to them (#writerproblems). However, I like the name Leonardo (Leo for short), and I’ve saved that name for my child in the future. That means no story shall be written about a Leo or will feature a Leo until that child is born. Then, when I get a feel for him, maybe he’ll end up somewhere.

A long-lost relative leaves you a large sum of money. What do you do with it?

First, I give some to friends and family who I know could use it. I would probably invest the rest of it, and if it’s enough to support me, I’d probably stop working a 9-to-5 for a while and travel. The purpose of all of that, of course, would be to write, so honestly, I’d take the money and figure out how much more time it would afford me for writing. I’d focus on my writing career and use the time I spend working a 9-to-5 to develop it.

In your opinion what’s the best blog post you’ve written so far and why?

The best blog post I’ve written so far would have to be How I Stopped Caring and I’m Better Off Not only was it well-received by readers, but it was one of the most genuine blog posts I’ve ever written, and I think that’s what led to its success. I think the post showcases me most transparently, and I think it is the “realest” blog post I’ve done so far. I should do more like that in the future.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Hmm.. a tough one. I don’t know if the answer is a where or more of a what. I’ll be wherever feels right, whether it’s still here in the Greater Toronto Area or abroad. I will definitely have a more developed writing career. The Black Oracle will be released by then and hopefully the other three manuscripts I have written and/or drafted will be published too. I hope to have an agent and be able to support myself off of my writing. But besides all of those writerly goals, I see myself being happy. I mean, I am very happy now,  but I see myself continuing to be that way, if not even more happy.

Nominations

I don’t have 11 who have less than 200 followers :/ Lol, fail. BUT I do a few and I’ve nominated them below.

Trekking and Travels

The Wandering Neanderthal

Words Ate My Life

I’ve enjoyed these blogs and you should definitely check them out!

5 Reasons Why You Aren’t Accomplishing Your Goals

For me, 2014 was my go with the flow year. I graduated university and used up all the money I saved to go travelling. I ended up landing a job back home before I even finished backpacking. Since then, I’ve been working a 9-to-5 on a contract that keeps extending and extending, and to top it all off, I got a publishing contract for The Black Oracle which will see publication this spring. In fact, 2014 was a pretty good year!

But for 2015, I’m looking to change things up. Going with the flow had gotten me a lot of opportunities last year, but now I want to take charge. I have quite a few goals and for once, a five-year plan (it’s kinda scary, but I’m excited!) But through this process, I’ve had to do some soul-searching and some analysis of my goals. What’s possible? What are my limits? Most importantly: What would stop me from accomplishing my goals?

I’ve listed the top 5 reasons I postulated below.

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Sad goal-setter is sad.

You Have No Goals

This seems obvious, yet this is a common pitfall: it’s hard to accomplish a goal when you don’t have any. Further, it’s even harder to accomplish goals that aren’t well-defined. For me, this *normally* equates to goals regarding my health. I’m good at accomplishing word count goals and marketing goals, but when it comes to going to the gym or eating better, I fall flat. Why? Because I don’t create concrete goals in those areas. For example, I’ll say “I’m going to write 6,500 words a week” for a writing goal, but for physical fitness, I’ll say “Yeah, I should head to the gym more”. Do you see the difference?

Hint: The second isn’t a real goal. It’s just a nice idea.

My goal: eat all the food.

My goal: eat all the food.

Your Goals Aren’t Attainable

Never say never, right? But also, don’t bite off more than you can chew. I experience this pitfall sometimes, even with goals that I have quantified and made into something tangible. For example, I wanted to complete a refresher course in German and a beginner course in Icelandic in the second half of 2014. Why didn’t I do those things? I made those goals unattainable. After working a 9-to-5, prepping a novel for publication, creating and executing a marketing plan, sleeping, eating, and commuting, I had very little time to learn two languages.

Thus, they were unattainable. I shot waaayyy too high and I missed my goal, and not just by a little bit.

You Have No Action Plan

Having well-defined and attainable goals are all good and fine, but they mean nothing if you have no plan. This was, in part, the reason why I failed at the German and Icelandic goals I mentioned above. Not only did I not have time to learn those two languages, but I had no plan of how to go about doing it. I should have set aside two hours a week for each language and then slowly but surely worked toward completing the courses. Instead, my work was rather infrequent: I started off strong, say 8 hours a week between the two courses, but after a couple weeks, I had stopped working at them completely.

However, I’ve had an experience with writing lately that has proven to me the effectiveness of an action plan. One of my current goals is to finish the first draft of a Paranormal Young Adult novel (55,000 words) by the time I leave for vacation to the Dominican Republic on February 7th. I’ve determined that if I write 6,500 words per week between now and then, I can reach my goal. And I’m happy to say that my action plan is working: I’m on track to a completed first draft.

You’re a Dreamer, not so much a Doer

I was more of a dreamer when I was younger, even though I’d say I am still a dreamer now. The difference is now that I’m a dreamer and a doer. I dream up the things I’d like to do, and then I do them. You see, that’s the crucial part. Saying that one day, you’d like to write a novel is not going to get you a first draft. Saying you’d like to travel the world one day isn’t going to buy you a plane ticket. You have to do something. But lucky for you (and me), the first steps are often the hardest, and after a while, things start falling into place.

Hey, look! I did it! That's a real giraffe in South Africa!

Hey, look! I did it! That’s a real giraffe in South Africa!

You’re too Insecure

This pitfall is perhaps the most debilitating for goal-setters, and unfortunately, it is something I can’t quite tell you how to fix. Insecurity keeps you from what you want. Fear keeps you from doing the things you want to do. And society doesn’t help: we in the West have set up a system where originality and breaking the norm is frowned upon, and I’m sad to say that that’s spreading around the world.

But only you can stop being insecure. Only you can seize the opportunity life has afforded you. Only you can stand up to nay-sayers and pursue your dreams. Besides, is failure really that bad? If you never fail, how can you bask in the glory of success? Furthermore, you’re guaranteed to fail at something that you never even try.

This blog post is just a walking cliche today, isn’t it…?

But legit, stop being afraid.

Featured Interview on Katie Hamstead’s Stories

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Check out an interview I did for Katie Hamstead’s Stories where I talk about writing, my first novel, travel, and more! Katie was actually my Acquisitions Editor for Curiosity Quills Press who picked up The Black Oracle when it was still being passed around for potential publication. Speaking of which, The Black Oracle now has a release date! Stay tuned for those details and *perhaps* a cover reveal in the not-so-distant future.

You can read the interview here. While you’re at it, stay tuned for the month of January where Katie will be interviewing other authors and editors from Curiosity Quills Press.

Top 5 Lesser-Known Places You NEED to Backpack!

I haven’t done a travel post in a while and I’m not going to lie, the travel bug is biting again. So, while I’m planning my next backpacking trip, I’ve also found myself looking through photos and reading my travel journal and it’s making me pretty damn nostalgic. In doing so, I’ve realized that a lot of my favourite places have been the ones that not a lot of people have been to, let alone know about.

Here’s my top 5 lesser-known places that you need to visit RIGHT NOW!

5. Sint Maarten / Saint Martin

I went to Sint Maarten with my family when I was in my first year of university. To be honest, I had never heard of it before. In Canada, when we think Caribbean vacation, we generally stick to Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico or the Dominican Republic.

After going to Sint Maarten, I’m kind of glad we decided not to go to any of those places. While we were there, we didn’t stay in a resort — we rented a villa. Normally that would be considered risky, but the island is extremely safe. We even walked around at night in the city, without once being stopped. On top of that, the island is beautiful and relatively unspoiled by the resort vacation culture. I’ve never been a fan of resorts, so I was so excited to be able to experience the island like a local. And it’s an awesome thing too! We got to tour the old colonial Dutch and French forts in our own rented car!

Also, Maho Beach is definitely one of the oddest yet most exhilarating experiences the island has to offer. The beach is located behind the Princess Juliana International Airport and is known for the aircraft that fly in close proximity to the beach and beach-goers.

The photo below is not photoshopped.

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4. Durban and KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Never before in my life had I thought I’d be able to see and swim in the Indian Ocean. Well, on my trip to South Africa, I got to do it! And it was amazing. To be honest, I didn’t do much when I was in Durban, but I didn’t need to. I spent a great, lazy day lounging on the beach and stayed in a very affordable hotel that overlooked the ocean. The weather was hot and the beach was vacant when we went in May as it was the southern hemisphere’s autumn. The locals thought 25 degrees Celsius was chilly… Whaa?

Also, the Oribi Gorge is just an hour drive from Durban and it offers stunning views of KwaZulu-Natal and this terrifying, epic opportunity to sit on Leopard’s Rock.

3. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Inside the Bock Casemates!

Inside the Bock Casemates!

I’ve been to Paris and I loved it. And then I went to Luxembourg City. To me, Luxembourg has the same feel as Paris, except it has half the tourists. Its cobblestone centre is romantic and historic, and Luxembourg itself has a rich history of struggle and triumph. Furthermore, the city is built on a beautiful landscape of gorges that offers stunning views of the city and the Bock Casemates. The Casemates are a network of caves that once served as the city’s defense against its multiple invaders. For around 10 euros, you can explore them all on your own!

All in all, Luxembourg City is a little expensive, but if you’re looking for a romantic getaway and you’re tired of the crowds of Paris, definitely give it a try.

2. Piran, Slovenia

If you’re looking for somewhere semi-remote on the Mediterranean, then Piran is the place to go. Piran was once part of the Roman Empire and its car-free centre has narrow passageways that are very similar to Venice. The best part? It is inexpensive and relatively tourist-free! If you can handle going a little out of your way to get there (it took us two lengthy bus rides from Ljubljana and almost getting lost on the way back), then this is a great place to sail on the Mediterranean, enjoy amazing sunsets, and wander the narrow streets of the city centre. We spent an entire day exploring and swimming, and my only regret was that I didn’t stay there longer!

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1. Cape Town, South Africa

It’s funny, people always talk about how beautiful Cape Town is, but to be honest, I’ve met very few people who ACTUALLY have been there. I understand it is a little out of the way for the average North American backpacker, but seriously, it is worth the flight(s) and possible lay-over.

When I landed in Cape Town, I had one thought: beautiful. And I’d been backpacking through South Africa for a full week and a half previously. Seriously, the landscape is amazing. We spent a lot of time driving around and the only negative I can think of was that we didn’t have enough time to stop and get out of the car at every single gorgeous view. On top of that, Cape Town is home to a penguin colony at Betty’s Bay and there are various opportunities to go shark cage diving, two things that made my time in Cape Town unforgettable.

And the weather is perfect. Your average South African finds 22 degrees Celsius chilly on an autumn day, but I invite them to visit Canada in October.

This view, doe.

This view, doe.

How I Stopped Caring and I’m Better Off

So, here’s the deal. I graduated university in April. I left on a plane ten days after my last exam and travelled to South Africa and Europe for forty days. While I was abroad, I managed to secure a publishing contract after YEARS (legit, like 7 years) and then get a contract for a day job to carry me until I can *hopefully* be able to make my writing my work.

My secret? I stopped caring.

Old Life Philosophy: Micro-manage the crap out of everything and then beat yourself up when things don't go EXACTLY as planned.

Old Life Philosophy: Micro-manage the crap out of everything and then beat yourself up when things don’t go EXACTLY as planned.

Okay, backtrack. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I do care. I cared very much about getting my post-secondary degree. I cared very much about being able to uproot my life for a while and live out of a backpack. I cared and continue to care very much about my writing because ultimately, writing is my art and my child and without it, I’d be completely lost.

What I stopped caring about was all the pressure that I was putting on myself.

Before I completed my university degree, I was in a different place. I had three manuscripts that seemingly no one gave a rat’s ass about. I had the daunting task of trying to find a job in this rough and often hopeless-seeming economy. Worst of all, I had this fear welled so deep inside me that I would never get to live my dream of being a writer. I worried that I would lay on my deathbed decades from now and realize that not only had I not achieved my dream, but I had wasted my whole life with nothing to show for it. I felt hopeless.

And then I boarded a plane and everything changed, almost as soon as I landed in Paris from my first overnight flight. It wasn’t that nothing really mattered anymore because a lot of things did, it was just that I seemed to have developed a distance from everything in my life. Sure, the physical distance was there, but there was also a mental one — an emotional one.

I learned to live in the now. I stopped worrying so much about what I was going to do once I graduated, what would happen when I returned home, and how I would feel if I failed the one thing I so desperately wanted to do. I also realized the immense pressure I had been putting on myself. It was the pressure to succeed for myself and a fear that I would fail and have to live the life that society envisioned for me. I became okay with not having a clear-cut direction for a little while and best of all, I stopped caring.

Drinking in Durban in the daytime? I just don't care!

Drinking in Durban in the daytime? I just don’t care!

I didn’t care that I had no job. I didn’t care that society was trying to convince me that my dream was unable to be achieved. I didn’t care that I had very little money and that I would return home to face an abyss with little more than a grand to my name. I just knew that I loved something so much that I trusted I would find a way to make it work.

And the moment I stopped caring and stressing, things fell into place. I was twenty-five days into my backpacking trip, checking into a hostel in Heidelberg, Germany when I got the email I would be a published author.

So, stop caring.