Monday, August 15, 2011

Be not afraid of going slowly; be only afraid of standing still -Chinese Proverb

It's 9:30 am on a Monday and here I am, sitting at the office with a black coffee by my side and I'm having serious trouble keeping my eyes open.  All I can think about is that I only have 2 weeks left of work until I'm back in my beloved London.  London means freedom.  I'm also dreading that my younger brother comes home today from his Eurotrip.  Don't get me wrong, I love him more than anything else on this planet, but while he was living the dream on the other side, I was here, working like a dog and still have nothing to show for it.  I'm extremely jealous of the summer he's had. This summer has made me realize that I am so sick and tired of trying to do the right thing, or pleasing other people; from now on, I'll do what I want, when I want-whether it be a good idea or a bad idea; you know what they say:  no regrets, just lessons learned. Or in my case, ride debt for as long as I can, I have my whole life to pay it off; plus I'm only young once. Consider this: I could be working as a bartender in Croatia, or a server on ranch in Calgary.  But, no, no, not me, I listened to the voice of mother. I stayed here; although it wasn't a complete waste of time; I feel like I did some self improvement and some growing up.  So, today I have decided to let you all in on my life plan, my reasons behind it and give you some insight to the person that defines me.  I compiled a list of places I'd like to visit by next August; I also included my after graduation plans.  

The List
New York
El Salvador
Costa Rica

Goals for After I graduate:
Southeast Asia

For those of you who don't already know, I'm moving to Belize in January for school.  I'll be there for 4 months.  In those 4 months, I want to see all of Central America and do as much as possible.  My best friend,  Jessica (whom I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot about) will be meeting me in Columbia at the beginning of May.  Together, we're backpacking all the way through South America.  Not bad for a first time back packing trip eh?  Meanwhile, my roommate has decided we're going to yacht week in Ibiza.  This means we'll be booking as soon as possible.  From Ibiza, we can make our way to Croatia, where I have a home, then to Italy and finally to Greece.  This will be our Graduation trip.  Cancun is in the works for reading week; we're not sure if we're going to make it that far-fingers crossed though.  I guess working this summer hasn't been completely in vain, after all, with all the travelling I have planned, I'm going to need they money and it did inspire this blog.  

Ultimately, my goal is to hit up every continent before I'm 30.  I want to spend my life travelling and helping people.  I know that sounds cliche and perhaps overly ambitious, but its what I want to do.  In the past, my trips were family orientated.  I've travelled in the past as well, but it was a trip down south to Mississippi that changed my answer to WHY I love to travel.  I was down there building houses with Habitat for Humanity, when a man stopped me in the street to thank me for the my contribution to his community and how thankful he was for people like us.  I don't know if it was his southern accent, or maybe the tears swelling up in his eyes, but I knew right then and there, this was the kinda stuff I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Belize is going to be for educational purposes, but I'm going to try and get to El Salvador for another build for reading week.  While we're going through South America, I plan on volunteering where we can.  Once I'm back and graduated, I want to teach English is Southeast Asia and then make my way to Africa, and help build communities and educate women.  I'd be lying if I said it was going to be all work and no play, everyone loves a good party, especially me. 
Plans change though, so we'll see where I end up.   

Anyways, I really should get to work.  

Peace and Love.  

***stay tuned; epic weekend plans ahead***

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. -John Muir

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I had a self proclaimed day off.   What to do on my day off?  I wanted to do something fun, simple and cheap that didn't involve me walking around a mall all day or watching reruns of CSI. I grabbed my roommate, Alex and my friend Jaclyn and we headed off to the exotic waterfall capital of the world...Hamilton.  I bet you didn't know that, did you??  With over 120 waterfalls along the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Trail, Hamilton takes the title. I myself just recently heard this, so naturally I decided to make this a destination worth exploring. I began with my dear friend Google and found a list of trails easy enough to get to and moderately easy hiking directions. I devised a game plan for Saturday:

1.       Leave bright and early.  Epic fail: got there at 3 PM
2.       Do not tell Jaclyn what we're doing.  Pass: Jaclyn wasn't told till we picked her up
3.       Make sandwiches.  Epic fail: slept in too late to make them
4.       Pack lots of water.  Half Pass: lots of water was packed, just not for the hike
5.       Sunscreen.  Epic fail: what is sunscreen??? We want to tan.
6.       Bring snacks.  Epic fail: we ate them in the car on the drive up...

Come Saturday morning, I hit the snooze button till about 10, roll out of bed, pack my lululemon bag with the essentials and show up at Alex's door for noon.  We pick up a still drunk/partly hungover Jaclyn and head off to Sonia's house (lucky for us, we have a friend who lives in Stoney Creek-just a hop, skip and jump away from the all the trails).  At this point, we break the news to Jaclyn gently that this may or may not be a hiking trip...she is not impressed.  

***side note about friends like Jaclyn***  Refer to bottom of entry. 

Lovely Italian man selling raspberries on a back road
And the road trip begins...The QEW Niagara is in deadlock traffic, bumper to bumper, so we decide to take back roads with the help of my trusty navigational system.  Epic fail, we ended up on Highway 6, on a dirt road, with a gate blocking us where the GPS is instructing me to make a right turn.  On the up side, we found an adorable Italian man selling raspberries on an old fruit stand, which naturally we stopped to buy as a tasty snack.  Two hours later, back on the QEW we tried so hard to avoid, we finally arrived.  From Sonia's, we changed and head off to the King Forest Trail to see the Albion Falls - one of the top falls in Hamilton.   

The Creek 
Not the Albion Waterfalls...but sure glad we took a wrong turn

It was hot, and yes, we forgot to pack water.  Thankfully, we were shaded under a canopy of trees and the humidity was bearable.  Now normally, there is a guided walk, however, we went with locals, Danielle and Olivia, and took the path less travelled on.  We ended up walking through a lovely, soft flowing creek with tons of rocks everywhere and yellow and blue finches being stopped periodically.  Eventually we found a trail and reached a fork in road.  Now, had we gone left, we would have reached our destination.  But no no, not us, we decided to go right.  Right took us to a very pretty, half-dried up waterfall, that was impossible to get to otherwise.  There were large rocks to sit on and the water trickled and splashed off the rocks cooling us. Now that we had seen A WATERFALL, my tired, thirsty and hungry friends, specifically Alex and Jaclyn, were ready to turn back.  But no, not I, I came to see the Albion Falls, so we were going to see these damn falls!  I notice a pathway (um definitely not a pathway) to the right of where we were sitting; Danielle and Olivia agree that the falls can't be too far from where we are.  We start hiking uphill, which really turned into a vertical cliff and rock climbing.  Jaclyn was not impressed once again. 

       ***at this point we're reassuring Jaclyn and Alex that we know where we're going, we actually have no idea...*** 

Albion Falls!! <3 finally...
Gotta love your friends <3 
At the top of this cliff, we reach a road.  Turns out we were on the mountain; if we hang a left and walk about a kilometer, we'd hit Albion falls.  So the walk continued, and we reached our destination.  The Albion falls are a series of rocks and cascading water with tiny pools of cold water that accumulate at the bottom.  There are families with picnic baskets, backpackers with snacks, children running around bare foot and us.  

It really is a hidden delight in otherwise not-so-beautiful Hamilton.  We too, took of our shoes, walked around, splashed in the puddles, climbed trees and climbed up the cascading rocks, enjoying the much needed cooling of the water.  After relaxing for
about an hour, we decided it was time to head back.  Alex, Jaclyn and Sonia decided to cab home from the road, while Olivia, Danielle and I hiked home on the right pathway this time. 

We met the girls at the end of the trail, who thankfully had water waiting for us.  We went back to Sonia's, ate food, hydrated on margaritas and hit the LCBO for a night out in Hess Village. 

Moral of the story, bring water and food.  Wear proper shoes, and maybe follow the path.  If you just wing it though, you might find a beautiful little creek, a hidden waterfall, rockclimb to freedom and get a sweet tan.  Make sure you end your night off with good friends, some drinks and lots of laughs.  

***Friends like Jaclyn***
Friends like Jaclyn are always down to have fun, always there when you need them and always on your side, even if you're wrong.  However, friends like Jaclyn do not like hiking, do not like kayaking, probably wouldn't like camping and will not enjoy any form of outdoor adventure activities.  If you're anything like me though, you're going to want to take her with you once in a while.  So I've come up with some useful tips to help get her out in the wilderness. 

-          Make sure she has the day off
-          Probably shouldn't let her drink the night before...
-          Pick her up with your car, so she can't back out later
-          Tell her to pack essential clothing, because you might "work out" later
-          Let her listen to her favourite songs in the car
-          Break it to her gently that you're going hiking, and promise her she'll enjoy it (even though you know she wont)
-          Tell her there will lots of single, handsome men on this hike
-          Bring her favourite snacks along
-          Keep telling her you're almost there, even if you're not
-     Bring up the after bar food she ate last night as motivation 
-          Bring some money, she may or may not cab home at the nearest road
-          Be ready to buy some alcohol, because you're going out with this party animal after the hike  

She may be mad at you for a bit, but you can always take her on another hike to remind her why she loves you so much.  

Check these links for more info on trails, waterfalls, and birding in the Hamilton area!!