The act of travelling by oneself gives you the opportunity to find out more about yourself by being put in unfamiliar situations and have to deal with them in ways you have never had the opportunity to do so in before. It helps you grow as a person and hone skills such as independence and resourcefulness. At least that’s what I’ve learned thus far. Travelling with someone else is a completely different ball park. Being with a person in an unfamiliar territory forces you to not necessarily rely, but definitely lean on that person or people. You learn more about them, the way they deal differently with the scenarios placed in front of the two of you, and you learn how you act around them again in the same scenarios.
You could be what you thought was very close with someone and learn, after a trip together, that things aren’t in fact as good as you thought, but actually a glimpse into what your future together holds. You could only have recently acquired someone’s “connaissance” and realize that you work even better together than originally imaged. You could be with the person who means the entire the world to you and not realize until after how awful you treated the situation, making them feel lonely and making it the only thing in life you regret. I won’t say that all of these haven’t happened to me before.
Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to travel with such an amazing people. My mother joined me in Ireland for two weeks. My Beastie Alex visited me for a month in Ireland and Germany for a few days. My longest best friend Dani has been living abroad with me for 3 months and will remain so for another three. During this time I’ve had the opportunity to explore Edinburgh with her and my new friend Maral. I’m currently off to a Belfast excursion with my French man Joel. In a few weeks time my beautiful beastie and my favourite skid Simon will join me for a Canadian infestation of Cork. I have another special awaited visited from my little mermaid Christina, who might not return to Canada after her stay.
Although it hurts me to say, I did not give myself completely to some of these experiences which did not permit the full appreciation of the trip. In truth I think about it often and only hope I can one day have the chance to fix my mistake.
Over all every other experience has brought me knowledge I couldn’t have imagine earning at this early stage of my life. Through the few, yet life changing, places I’ve gotten to explore, it’s given me a new outlook on how I treat travelling and how it’s become a big part of my life. I could not imagine the rest of my years bare of travelling, it would be impossible. Whether that be taking advantage of living in Europe, travelling across my own country upon my return or fulfilling my life-long dream of teaching in Asia, I can’t imagine not incorporating it in my future.
As a child we didn’t travel much. We went to the Maritimes which I will always remember as my first trip and we had the gift of seeing a lot of our province Ontario. What we also got was the privilege of never wanting for what we didn’t have. Ballet, jazz, tap, gymnastics, swimming, diving, horseback riding, karate, you name it and we were given the chance to partake. Something that immensely affected that chapter of my life. Now that I’ve reached the age of having my life in my own hands, travelling has become that privilege.
As most of my fellow book appreciators know and love, rainy days are meant to curl on the couch in the warmest throw you have, with your favourite mug filled with searing hot tea warm your bones that the cool draft has touched and get lost between the words that compose the book which has taken over a part of your life.
I can see it now. Curled in front of my fireplace, blanket around my shoulders and wrapping in front of me, 1Q84 in my hand with my type of tea mug given to me by my dearest Christina and a puppy or two snoozing on my lap, enjoying the odd mindless stroke I give them while I escape this reality and join another.
Alas that is not the case. Instead, as my dearest readers know, I’m currently residing in Ireland the land of neverending rain fall. To say the least, the myth/stereotype or whatever you wish to call it of it always raining in Ireland is quite true. In fact completely true. Not always does it rain all day long, such as today, but you can nearly always expect to see at least a glimpse of rain fall during your awakened hours. I can’t say I actually mind the rain all that much. There are some days where it frustrates me to no extent and I can think of nothing but being dry, but over all it’s become part of the daily routine.
Walk outside, look up, realize it’s raining, shrug your shoulders, throw your hood on and walk on.
The amount of times that’s happened would be impossible to count, especially as I have been in this green country for over 10 months. Time flies eh.
I can honestly say that this experience has been nothing like what I imagined it to be. Everything that’s happened thus far to help shape myself or give me experience on the world has happened completely differently than expected. Really going into this type of adventure it’s impossible to know what’s awaiting to face you.
The last few months of this blog have harshly lacked any writing about travelling itself, instead it has focused on my realizations or my sudden spurs written necessities. Two weeks ago I had the pleasure and the amazing opportunity to find myself in Scotland. Edinburgh (pronounced
ed In burra for those of you who didn’t know, like myself about five months ago) to be more precise. The country where my favourite historical figure Mary Queen of Scots once lived. From what I’ve read about Mary Stuart lived her life with love and caring about her family, her people and her country. I find her tail beautifully tragic and can never get enough of her story. You can imagine my delight when the show Reign was first aired a few months ago, although not completely historically accurate and very romanticized , I’m thrilled to spend an hour of my time every week hearing about this woman.
Going forth in this adventure, my best friend Daniela and my new friend Maral (a college mate of Dani’s also from Canada!) made our way to Edinburgh and took in as many sites as we could.
Our trail went from a very friendly Castle Rock Hostel located beside the Edinburgh Castle, to the National Scotland Gallery, Arthur’s Seat, a what you could call children’s science museum offering a movie about extraterrestrial life narrated by Rupert Grint, a mini makeshift pub crawl ending at a location called the cave provided it’s drunken frequenters with the option of watching a movie such a Sin City while enjoying a pint in hand, a very short after hours visit to the writer’s museum, a few other attractions and finishing it off with a good dose of haggis and Innis & Gunn. Let’s not forget a good deal I got on my first pair of Doc Marten’s.
All and all the experience was breathtaking.
From the tops of Arthur’s seat where I was certain I’d be flung off “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design” due to the sudden appearance of rain, wind and hail, to the content of Mary Queen of Scot’s birthing chambers within the walls of the Edinburgh Castle. To say emotions ran high and I stood in that space could be no expressed any lesser.
My experience over all can be described as European. Living in Ireland I’ve called it magical, breathtaking, historical and beautiful but never European. I cannot say I’ve lived through a moment of culture clash since moving here, but going to Scotland is another story. The cobblestone covering the roads and side walks, the nature entwined with the newly raised architectures, the castle and historical site holding years of stories and myths all came together to make me realize that wow, I am living in Europe. The place of history’s making.
It’s funny the way experiences influence your moods and way of thinking. When I’m on the Greyhound or the Aircoach coming home from a trip I tend to curl myself in a cozy ball, listen to City and Colour, Frightened Rabbit, James Vincent Mcmorrow, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Bon Iver. Each band and song is associated with a trip memory. Closing my eyes I can bring forward the feelings felt during the memory.
Recalling those memories, the good and the bad, I always get this strong feeling to leave everything and go to a cabin in the woods away from everything. This isn’t a means of just escape to get away from everything but also the opportunity to appreciate and look back at the trip I just lived through. A trip which I will always remember and will play a part in future trips and decisions.
More than anything right now I would love to put on a ton of layers, plaid and denim a Canadian must, get a few supplies, a fully charged iPod playing City and Colour for the walk, and enter a nearby forest. Leaving behind me everything that is known to be related with me.
No means of contact with the world, just my books, my journal, a never dying iPod or the ability to recreate the songs myself by plucking a few strings, snacks that bring back the memories or picnics and Christmas Eve, a thermos of chocolate chili tea to warm my bones amongst other necessities. Maybe a mare for me to ride and appreciation all of it with.
This all could only be done in a Canadian forest. Although I love Ireland and can’t wait to travel all over Europe, my ideal cabin retreat would be amongst the Canadian woods. Once I’ve discovered a forest which I connect more with than a Canadian one, we can talk about the possibility of my answer changing. Wearing red flannel plaid and listening to City and Colour are only reinforcing my desire for the Canadian seclusion.
I’ve gone on about how doing quiet tasks can be so fulfilling even though the don’t require any thought or effort.
Currently I am doing what I consider one of the most fulfilling activities I could think of: sitting on a bench facing the sun, breathing in the smell of the heat on the flora, closing my eyes to hear the birds communicate with each other while letting the sun bathe me in its warmth.
Over the summer I didn’t know many people, wasn’t working and was presented by beautiful weather. A hotter sun maybe than what I’m used to. During this time I spent hours and hours outside, letting my body become a bit more touched by the rays than it should, holding onto the heat for hours after that.
The summer before, working most days at the used book store and spending most of my free time downtown, at least an hour every few days would be spent in the backyard with my puppies surrounding my sun bathing chair.
I cant tell you exactly what it is, but when I’m lying in the sun filled with the heat and nature’s elements, I can’t help but find this sense of peace that even writing can’t help me attain some days.
Memories so strong and filled with every sense possessed, managing to bring me back to exact moments built not on sight but of the warmth tingling my skin, glistened with the sweat that is starting to form. The high pitched buzz of the insects inhabiting the garden and the grass, flying right around you trying to skim your body as close as they can. The smell of the neighbor’s barbecue along with the overpower freshly cut grass spread across the driveway and side of the street, only being swept away when a gust of wind carrying the sweet scents of nectar flows by.
How easy it is for me to get lost in those memories. Although trying to be descriptive and sharing the experiences, I know I don’t have the words to properly express the serenity I get from the sun and summer.
The airborne insects skirting your ear, leaving a trace of their presence, only noticed by the nearly inaudible high pitch song of their wings.
Money makes the world go round. Money makes your house warm and your teeth clean. Money covers your feet and feeds your belly. Money awards freedom and issues respect. Money gives you life.
Money also puts you in chains. Money keeps you shackled against the grain. It keeps you confined to tedious jobs and daily routines. It makes you scared to leave and terrified to die. It broadens your horizons while confining you to four walls and water coolers. It makes you scornful and petty. It makes you selfish and cheap.
Money is the only thing that can give you freedom while taking it away. It turns men blind, thinking it gives them sight. It destroys relationships and families as quickly as it creates them. It’s a necessity we live with that becomes the only thing worth living for.
It’s the root of all evil, the doer of all good and the very thing that defines our existence. We secure it in boxes and show it off in the form of new shutters and Cadillacs.
We buy watches and purses to hold our money. We go to school to learn how to turn money into more money.
Money is an acquaintance with which you should only give a passing nod. It’s not your best friend nor your family. It’s a stranger you’re forced to reckon with. It’s that man on the corner who yells at you to pay him attention, if only for a second.
Money should be a friendly thing that helps you live, to give you the freedom you can’t get without it. It should be appreciated but never worshiped. You should be able to let it go as easily as you take it.
It should be used to help you fulfill your dreams and to just get by. You should learn to struggle with it and strive with it. It’s a necessity, but it’s not everything.
It’s the small part of your life that forces you to follow the crowd, to do what you don’t feel like doing, just so you can be alone with a bottle of wine and a new book.
Your life is for living, not for saving every cent. It’s for enjoying the fruits of your labor and dying without a penny to your name. Life isn’t about bank statements and fortunes, but collections of experiences and daily struggles that make you who you’ll become.
In your twenties and thirties, it’s not about fancy clothes and dinners. It’s about roughing it to get to that concert and swindling your way into shots at the bar. We’re not supposed to be making a lot of money because we don’t need a lot.
In case you’re still not sure, here’s how much money you should be making:
You should be making enough money to buy your own groceries, to think that bread is overpriced and milk and cheese will go the furthest for your buck.
You should be making enough to have your own apartment, shared with one, two or three others.
You should be making enough to eat, but never feel completely full.
You should be making enough to go out once a week and get drunk enough to cab it home, but worry about affording brunch the next morning.
You should be making enough to buy wine for $12 a bottle.
You should be making enough to never feel poor but have to wonder what it’s like to have money.
You should be making enough to have a bed but never a headboard.
You should be making enough to sleep on sheets but never a full thread count.
You should be making enough to go to bars, but not without pregaming just a little.
You should be making enough to feel like you can do anything, but know it’s all really nothing.
You should be making enough to be able to travel the world but never see the inside of a hotel.
You should be making enough to buy coffee in the morning but lament how expensive it’s become.
You should be making enough to go shopping but return everything you buy because you really don’t need new clothes.
You should be making enough to go to the movies, but only when it’s something you HAVE to see.
You should be making enough to smoke weed but worry about where your next eighth will come from.
You should be making enough to travel on trains but never in style.
You should be making enough to eat lobster, but only when in Maine.
You should be making enough to buy a car, but only because it’s falling apart and you’re gonna use it to travel across states.
You should be making enough to go to the Plaza, but only to sit in the lobby for drinks.
You should be making enough to buy yourself some new shoes, but only because they’re for a once-in-a-lifetime date.
You should be making enough to take a woman out to dinner but eat in for the next few nights.
You should be making enough to order takeout, but only if it’s the lunch special.
You should be making enough to buy a new computer, but only because you are going to write a best-selling novel.
You should be making enough to own a cat, but only feed it dry food.
You should be making enough to pick up the check, but only because they’d do it for you.
Living my so far 9 months abroad has already come to teach me a few things. There are things I’ve realized about myself which I want to change or work on, there are parts of me which I’ve come to appreciate and admire a lot more, and then there are the appreciation for the smaller things which you wouldn’t usually think twice about.
Take today for example. Because of a position change in the company I’m working for (training for the new post starts tomorrow!) I was left with a one day weekend. You can imagine my excitement. This being said, I knew there were a few things that needed to be done. Mostly the stuff which is put aside during the work week and waiting for you once you have a few hours or days to yourself.
My Sunday started by waking up and getting ready slowly without any rush, listening to some amazing tracks provided by my dear Yoel, followed by watching some live music and dancing with Daniela for the Irish month celebration. Truth be told it was not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be, but we did get our faces painted and enjoyed O’Flynn’s Groumet Sausage. For anyone living outside of Ireland, I feel sorry for you knowing you have yet to try this delicacy. It could be my favourite food found in Ireland.
With the sun shiny bright and barely any clouds in the sky, we got the chance to indulge in O’Connell’s praline hot chocolate. I’ve never been a big hot chocolate fan myself, but this quaint little shop is a gem of its own. After walking around and chasing a few birds, we settled down in my weekly -attended cafe Nosh. Sure they might call it Duke’s now, but it’s been Nosh for me since I first moved here and stubbornly will remain so. Afterwards we ended up daily outings with a trip to the Lidl grocery store. Newly opened in Cork and with amazing savings, we were delighted with ourselves!
Now that the dishes have been cleaned, my plan for the evening is to go for a run or hit the gym, make my lunch for tomorrow, and get my back/clothing ready for the morning.
As you can see this day isn’t much out of the ordinary and doesn’t consist of any life changing moments, but truth be told it is exactly what I wanted and needed. To have a few hours to do what you want, spent with your best friend before getting ready for a work week ahead, just means so much to the soul. I firmly believe this. I’ve come into the routine of giving myself one day a week where I can settle down in my cafe, read and write, enjoy my latte and camomile tea, and put everything from the week behind me.
I had similar days like these when I was living in Canada, but consisted more of doing that for a few hours then rushing off to see someone or do something necessary. Now it is a lot more laid back and flowly if we want to use a made up word for it. It flows. This all being said, although this weekend didn’t consist of a trip, a huge social event or an immense amount of excitement, it has still given me the pleasure of knowing I made the most out of my one day weekend and will be refreshed for my upcoming training.
Looking back at the month before I moved to Ireland, everything that happened feels like a dream. The book store I worked at nearly every day, the paths I took to bike there, the walks I took in my neighborhood with my good friend, the bars and restaurants I made a point of going to every day, the friends I could text or call without planning it, and waking up to a mix of my family and my dogs running around all seem like something I read out of a book. I wouldn’t call it a fairy tale with a once upon a time and a happily ever after, but more like a journal-like written type of fiction story. No Murakami-like storyline but nonetheless a journey filled book. I was the main character of this neverending book but it still feels like a book I’ve closed the pages of and moved onto the next. Stored on the shelf waiting for the next person to immerse themselves between the lines on the fragile paper. It’s amazing how adaptable people can be. I never imagine I would enjoy my experience this much, that I’d see this small country as a means of home and place not only of refuge, but of enjoyment, growth, adventure, romance, solitude, sadness.
Life is spent trying to find who we are, who we want to be, what we want and where it will all take us. Since birth we have continuous events and situations that are put in front of us to test us, prepare us and get us ready for when the time of decision actually comes. That’s how my life has been so far. Going to Ireland was always meant to be a life changing experience. The chance for me to explore the unknown, learn things about myself I never knew or never allowed myself to think about to much, influence how the rest of my life would be and all together just take everything I have and turn it upside down. For months I thought I would never get that feeling from this experience, that it would just be a trip that came and went, not playing a big part in my future. I was wrong, completely wrong. This experience has already affected me in ways which, I’d like to say are inconceivable but that wouldn’t be accurately true, will always remain with me. There are moments that really make it sink it, what I’m doing, what I’m going to do over the next year and a bit, moments such as looking back nearly nine months and not having a complete grasp of it. I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s like a fleeting dream. The month before I left has had some of the best moments in my life. Filled with love, friendship, excitement, anxiety and tears. I would never go back on those moments no matter what the outcome of them were but I also wouldn’t replace where my life is right now with those moments. I miss part of it, but miss isn’t even the right word anymore. I’ve accepted how much they meant to me and I’ve been able to put them where they belong inside of me and live with what my life is at this current stage.
Just call this Janik’s self-finding journey. I’ve been trying to write a blog for a few weeks now. When I was done my shift at work and had time to kill, on my “me” days where everything is about getting coffee at Nosh, reading, writing, hitting the gym and overseeing my week, or even when a catchy sentence would spark my interest and feel like it’d be right at the beginning of a blog entry. Every time, no matter how far I came, I just couldn’t find the words to go on. They weren’t right and didn’t fit together. This entry is different. Call it a combination of one of the best weekends I have in a long time, the post-work exhaustion preventing me form properly thinking about anything relevant, my favourite song written by someone considered a distant memory, the never-ceasing rain or the strong desire for sweet potato fries waiting for me at home, but whatever it is the sentences and words I wanted, no needed to share just came to me and flooded out.
I feel like it’s come to an end but writing this feels right in every way. Sharing how I feel about my two homes in Ottawa and Cork, the way my life has seemed to align itself and all the other words included in this blog, they wouldn’t be here to read unless I knew they were meant to.
I lay in bed this morning thinking about the next blog entry I was going to write. I had a great intro and knew exactly how I wanted to phrase certain points that would be brought up during the next few sentences. I couldn’t wait to write it down because as a writer we know that starting a story can always be one of the most difficult parts. Whether it’s finding a way to capture your readers’ attention, deciding what you want the angle of it to be and what emotions you want it to evoke. There always seems to be a type of door stopper preventing you from getting on with the stories and thought the whole blog is about. This being said, after coming up with most of the entry in my mind, sleep took me over and all those thoughts were forgotten. The thoughts I have before bed will more than not become a part of the dreams that fill my mind while I sleep, the dreams that are forgotten upon your awakening leaving only the trace of emotions which were felt during those few hours. So for now I go with what is present in my mind tonight.
Although it’s been yet a week since I’ve been back in Cork, it hardly feels like I was in Canada for two weeks. Waking up in the room I’ve known for years, being greeted first thing by my three adorable puppies, and having the opportunity to see my friends and family at any moment I wished without having to plan a suitable time for a Skype date or making plans for months yet to come. What remains with me is as is after a dream, the feelings I was overcome with during my stay. I can’t fully say that I missed Ottawa as a whole. There are certain places I feel very attached to and was delighted to frequent, but what I missed was the presence of those closest to me. The family I’ve always known, the friends I’ve come to known and those I look forward to knowing more upon my return. I can say without fail that I missed my family the most. I knew I would miss them as soon as I left for my trip but I took for granted how much they mean to me. The things they’ve done for me over the years can never be matched by another and I will forever be grateful to them. Beyond them I will forever love them. Forever is a word I’ve often frowned upon, including in my block, but when it comes to my mother, father and brother it is accurately used. Nothing can break that bond which is built from the moment we first met.
I was ecstatic to be surrounded by friends and family, as well as have a breather from work but there was a part of me tugging the other half, trying to drag me back home. It was like my shadow had never boarded the plane but instead remained in Cork and was waiting for me, trying to draw me in so we could be reunited. I said it, I called cork home, and I mean it. They say home is where the heart is. A big part of my heart is my family and close friends, but another big part of the love for what I’m doing. To be on a different continent meeting some of the most amazing people and being able to live through experiences I never knew if I’d actually go through with them and not. So yes I couldn’t wait to get back home to spend time with my best friend and roommate, and even be back at work with a bit of a routine during the week. That and the chance to start planning future trips which will commence in a few weeks.
I’ve gotten heck for calling Cork home from a few people actually, mainly friends in Ottawa who want me to be back there so we can go back to how our friendships used to be. I understand to a certain degree because if my best friend or good friend up and left for an approximate amount of time I would want to see them, but on the other side I’ve had my best friend leave nearly every summer for 7 years and I myself have gone away from the place I grew up. To be able to travel, explore place you could only dream of and go through experiences you can’t live through at home it all worth the wait. In reality too, what is a few months or few years away when you have the rest of your lives to build on your friendship. Friendships you want to remain in will always be there regardless of your life situation and where you are, but the opportunity to travel and put yourself in alien situations isn’t as easy or attainable.
I feel like this blog is becoming more and more a way for me to express my opinions on the different sensitive subjects of the world when it comes to people my age or people in similar situations. That’s alright though because this blog has never had a specific direction, just a use for me to update people and a memorial for me to have in the future once this endeavor has come to an end. The next step is to print out these entries, collect them and have them when I’m older and looking back at all this. When you look at my personal journal it covers the events of my days and my inner thoughts on people and situations. Reflecting on myself, those around me, things around me, anything. This blog has that same purpose but lately I haven’t felt the need for a daily or even weekly update of my events. Once the travelling begins with my fair Dani this will all change. You can then expect an unhealthy amount of pictures and gushing over the beautiful landscape we plan on visiting. Until then you’ll have to bear with my inner turmoil of thoughts and views.
Missed this beautiful immigrant too much over my stay in Canada.