Posts tagged #adventure


Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI have an extra boring assignment that I need to finish before going to work, so naturally this is a great time to blog. Autumn is in full swing here in Toronto, and I have welcomed it with open arms, extra cups of tea and new ankle rain boots from Loeffler Randall. After I ordered them they got here fast, but because I don't have a doorbell, there was a lot of cat and mouse with the UPS guys (oh the joys of quirky downtown apartments). Now that I have them I wear them even when the sun is out. It's so nice not to have clunky rain boots and feel like a four-year old clunking around every time it rains.

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Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetFitness Club Fiasco took a mini road trip to London last Friday. Since I don't have a car I take the train out to Burlington and Jess (there are two of us in the band) picks me up, and then we all meet up and carpool. A bit of a process. Last week was the first time I was early for the train, and as I was buying my ticket I realized I left my keyboard at home. Who does that?

We are currently doing a fundraising campaign to finish our album. You can check out more information on that here if you'd like.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetMy heat was off last week for three days; there was a problem with the gas lines in our house so it was turned off for a few days. Wednesday morning I sat on the floor in my kitchen in front of my stove while I drank my coffee. It felt like a rite of passage in a way, in a cold, not fun, grumpy-that-I-have-to-go-elsewhere-to-shower kind of way.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThis has been a season of simplicity, finally painting my walls a pale grey, being organized enough (to my own surprise) to make my own lunches most days, lots of reading, lots of simple evenings with dear friends, lots of quiet. I think I am quick to let my time get away from me a bit, so I'm proud of myself for creating a sort of routine and slower pace in this busy city life. December is going to be an extra exciting month (can't wait to tell you all about it!!) so I'm trying to hunker down and stay focused and finish up this first trivial semester of school.

Happy Wednesday. xo





sweep (v).

d855f584964c5def1a37497bfab2937eScoop me up, take me out, to a field, or for a drink. Pack a bag and don't tell me, book a ticket and we'll go. Take me to the edges of the sea and all of the corners of the earth. Let us collect sand through the zippers of our suitcases and also the sand that gets stuck in the folds of our ears. Take me everywhere or take me just down the block, but tell me all of the truths about your wild and beating heart, and I will tell you all of the stories I could ever think to keep you smiling and keep you near.

brink (n).

a84df90b3a3e8c025f97b64d1e0e6cdbI am afraid of losing my breath. I don't like holding my breath under water for too long; remember as a child how someone would always challenge you to a breath-holding contest? I would hate those. Feeling your brain panic in your head, feeling your chest start to pound. I would always give up early, afraid my organs would rebel and punish me later. When I played basketball I would never push myself to exhaustion during a game; if I felt myself breathing really heavily, without being about to reign it in, I'd pray for a break, a whistle, a call from the referee to pause the game for a blink of an eye. If all else failed, I'd ask to sit down. Just for a few seconds. Just to feel like I was in control. And how the caution has translated into my life, how I estimate with a huge margin for chance mishaps, thinking what could go wrong, or at the very least, how many red lights I could hit on the way. It brings me too often to say, "why bother?", it keeps me from going all chips in. I think it's time to hit the pool and practice not breathing, bring on the threat of organ mutiny, run like hell until my lungs are wheezing in an unattractive symphony of grasping for air. On the brink of wildness is where I would like to someday be.


significance (n).

1b3b2150369d56cd1958c6d3a567a46cTo take home and bring back the posture with which you took in the world; to go back with great tales of courage and beauty; to recall the hope you were filled with the the refreshing of your mind and soul; to hold on to the wondering and discovery; to learn how to observe, to be a sponge and retain every little thing you've laid your eyes on; to remember what it all felt like, to be brutally aware that this is it, living, to the brightest and furthest, and somehow figure out how to keep all of those feelings as the structure to your everyday; that is why we go away.

bliss (n).

photo-43That great adventure was simply like this: my breath gone, over and over, over the simplest of things, like sprawling views of untouched meadows and the mist lifting off the fields just after sunrise, but also the collaboration in tiny markets of dinner for eight, and the rolling chats over cheap wine and sweet treats.

Posted on June 7, 2013 and filed under the word project-.

last leg: london.

photo-36It's so strange to be writing from the comforts of a Toronto apartment, where summer has hit and the heat is rising, and writing with the luxury of a computer and fast internet for the first time in six weeks. It was like I had a dream, the most lovely of dreams about travel and foreign cities and beautiful, far off friends, and now it's off to the races. Nothing has changed but everything is had a whirlwind two days in London. It wasn't near long enough but it was a fantastic little visit! I arrived in the afternoon and, after some transit confusion, got to Carrie's pad, dropped my stuff off, and headed downtown to meet with Tripp, a dear family friend whose grandparents were my grandparents' neighbours in the sixties. I got horribly lost and confused, but Tripp rescued me, and we walked along South bank at dusk, walked across Millennium Bridge, and ate at Wildwood, which was delicious. photo-41 photo-40photo-33photo-35On Tuesday I got the full-on cultural experience of the pouring London rain. (As a side note, Carrie was sweet enough to clothe me in warm, dry clothes, as did Lindsay when I was in Germany, and I just have to say that it meant the world to get to wear normal clothes after wearing the same three shirts over and over and over for five weeks. It's a simple thing but it was such a gift at the time). With only one day to see the sights, I had to be choosy. I've been to London before, so I've seen the palaces and the tower of London and gotten a taste of the parks, so I decided to go to The Globe Theatre to see A Mid Summer Night's Dream. If you're ever in London, I would say going to the Globe is a must. It was just perfect, even with the rain (you can see it pouring down in the picture of the stage, and above you can see me with the definition of "rain hair"). It was such a pleasure to get to see Shakespeare where it has been performed for years and years. photo-34Carrie met up with me after the play and we had a quick bite and whisked off to see Iron And Wine. The opener for the show was John Smith, whose voice sounds like an approaching storm out at sea, blew me away. Everyone go find his album. Capping the whole trip off with incredible music was just perfect, and specifically to be with Carrie on my last night, who was a catalyst in me planning this Europe trip in the first place, also felt significant.

So here we are, back in the city, with sun and flowers everywhere, back to work tonight already. I didn't think feeling this amount of gratitude and peace was possible, but here it is. I am a lucky girl indeed. Thanks for visiting.


germany part one, but mostly: what i ate.

ImageForget any sort of sensitivity to bacterial cultures or wheat that have plagued me in the past: this week is all about beer and bread. And schnitzel. And pretzels. And cake. And eating in general. Germany and I were meant to be friends.

I got into Munich on Monday afternoon and met my longtime friend and former roommate Lindsay at the train station. Lindsay moved to Germany in September after marrying Roland (affectionately called "ze German" by our group of friends). We saw the Rat Haus which is the old city hall of Munich, and the Hofbrau Haus, which is a huge hall where Nazis used to have large meetings, and had an authentic German dinner of spinach dumplings in a magnificent cream sauce (read: fatty and divine) and veal with mashed potatoes. Beer of choice? Hefeweizen, which people usually have with breakfast. We had another pint at another beer house before taking the train to Straubing, Lindsay's and Roland's town.
On Wednesday, Lindsay made us boiled eggs and we had fresh bread with a plethora of spreads (is this the same as calling your boyfriend and telling him everything you've eaten that day yet?), and after some window shopping we stopped for coffee. Fact: Germans are enthusiastic about cakes with their midday coffee, so we had a slice of macaroon-almond-mocha cake and lemon-cream-marzipan-something-or-other (just to fit in). And then I had a great massage in town to get rid of the aches and pains of the camino. We had a lazy afternoon and evening (probably from all the cake), watched a movie, and talked to our other old roommate on Skype. We ate dinner but I feel like I need to break the trend of listing everything i've eaten in this country so far so you'll just have to survive without knowing what was for dinner (but it involved salmon and vegetables). We also picked up movie theatre popcorn for our movie at home and they only have kettle corn at the local theatre so we excused our late night snack as being "cultural" and munched away.
Tomorrow holds a trip to Oskar Schindler's hometown, a 12th  century torture chamber in a courthouse, a restaurant that's been open since the 1200's, and a drive to Roland's parents' house in the Bavarian countryside. Oh. And eating.

thoughts on arriving.

ImageImageImageI have the art of sleep on lock down out here: I shamelessly rock silicone ear plugs and an eye mask every night. And even with my commitment to a good night's sleep, Wednesday's sleep was mediocre at best. In Arco, I stayed in a narrow room with quadrants of eight beds separated by half walls (customary for the camino), and I would say one out of three people in the hostel were snorers. Loud snorers. Combined with hacking and bubbling and gurgling and flapping cheeks. Oh the symphony of sounds in that room! 

The gentleman across from me was an alarm clock going off at random intervals, and had me awake for good at 4:30. I eventually got out of bed and started packing my backpack for the last walk of the camino. 
We were on the trail just before 6am, and it was dark outside. This finally gave me an excuse to use my very bright head lamp as we walked through forested trails in the dark for about an hour. It was a little rainy and a little misty, and very quiet and beautiful in the morning. 
The last few days have been a challenge for me as there has been a very obvious shift in the atmosphere of the camino; a lot of people start 100km's out from Santiago for more of a tourist experience than a pilgrim's experience, and it left me feeling defensive of my experience and maybe (admittedly) a little judgy. There are many more people on the path in the last three days and, yesterday, I felt crowded and squished by what we call "day packers". I was also in a rush to get to pilgrim's mass, so instead of enjoying the last 18k I was sleep deprived, claustrophobic, soggy and a little grumpy. 
When we got into Santiago, an incredible wave of relief and amazement came over me; the realization of this great accomplishment and flashes of the incredible highlights of the last month. I snaked through the streets to get to the open square across from the cathedral. I heard church bells. I turned the corner, and there I was: at the end. In a stone plaza, with a giant church. There were tourists and people in matching ponchos huddled under the building across from the cathedral steps. I dropped my walking poles. Reed comically said, "Well THIS was worth the walk." It was a strange feeling, and I thought: I have seen some of the most beautiful scenery of my life on this trip, the mountains, the valleys, fields that go on forever, birds singing me along for hours, tiny towns that aren't even on maps that have fed me and kept me warm, met the most amazing people, and now here at the end I am surrounded by stone. Something about it didn't feel quite right. 
We went to mass and we were shivering and it felt cold and my eyes drooped. I took communion and didn't feel the solidarity of the pilgrims; people were walking around and answering their phones during the service. So different from the mass in Roncesvalles where everyone, despite language barriers, were bouncing with excitement and expectancy. So different from the countless dinners on the trip where people shared their stories and their experiences and lessons, and encouraged one another (communion). 
I am relieved to be finished, I am unbelievably proud of myself. I am humbled and grateful for all of the beauty that I have seen, in nature, in the faces and hearts of others. And I have seen, now more than ever, how true this cliche statement is: that it really, truly is about the journey, not the destination. 
Posted on May 16, 2013 and filed under from jess-.

Boadilla el Camino to Carrion De Los Condes, to León, to Hospital de Orbigo, to El Ganso. Olé!

ImageImageThere has been a very distinct shift in the last few days; the pin has dropped on many different fronts. One, I am now traveling with just one other Canadian, Stef, who I have been with since the beginning of this walk in St. Jean. We took the bus from Carrion De Los Condes to León, leaving behind quite the crew of characters who made their way so quickly into my heart and so often had me in absolute stitches of laughter all the time. If I come home with some semblance of a toned stomach despite the consistent diet of baguettes and churros, it is to their credit and not the 30 ish kilometers I am walking each day. 
With our bus trip, there has been a shift in the way I am counting the days; I have gone from counting how many days I've been going at this thing to how many days I have left; instead of kilometers traveled I am counting k's to go (from 815k's to start I have whittled it down to 240k's thank you very much. I have also decided to count distance traveled in kilometers and distance left in miles to make the numbers sound more intense and tolerable, respectively). I think we have about 8 more days of walking, maybe 9. It seems so short now! 
While passing time between waiting for the bus at 11am and getting shoo'd out of the albergue (hostel) at 8am, I wrote in my journal, and it was like everything had words and meaning, and everything I've been mulling over had a name and a category. The flood gates have opened. Instead of concentrating on not twisting an ankle and when the next town will be, my thoughts have shifted and my mind is clearing. This too has been a change.
Carrion de Los Condes was a really special stop. It was our last night with our large cooky gang and we ran in to Oz and Sherry, a hilarious and sweet couple from Virginia who we thought had gone on much further. We all stayed in an albergue run by nuns from Madrid. At check-in the informed us there would be a meeting at 5pm, and asked if anyone played guitar, alluding to a sing-along. We dutifully showed up, and sat in a circle with people from all over the world. We were instructed to go around and say our name, country, and why we're doing the camino. It's so crazy how, when in a room with five or so different languages, you can piece together what each person is talking about, because, more or less, we all are here for the same reasons; to be refreshed and encouraged, to seek peace and clarity. We were handed song sheets in Spanish of hymns and funny folk songs, and giggled as we muddled through. It was a really beautiful moment that should have been a  really silly thing, but somehow was profound and very, very special.
The last two nights have been some of my favorites. Though the walk out of León was very boring, right beside a highway the whole time and nothing to look at except industrial wastelands, the evening at the albergue was picturesque. We stayed in a quirky house with a stone floored courtyard, and a garden. The bathrooms were even outside in this little square! through a pathway under the rooms there was the kitchen to the right, and out back there was a garden and clothes washing area. We shared dinner with Reed, a 19 year old from Virginia who is going to be president someday  (seriously), and shared the dinner table with four French and one Italian. While we were winding up dinner, the Frenchman, Bernard, started to sing, and the French serenade lasted about an hour. Again, it was a lovely night filled with far away music. 
Wednesday was a great day despite the heavier rain in the morning. We started off in farm land and we are back to that red clay path I find so beautiful, and walked through shrubs and meadows with birds singing the whole day. There were a lot of towns we walked through that had a lot of ruins from old houses that had been knocked down, and I always find myself wondering who lived there when it was a house, and what their life was like. 
We stayed at an adorable private albergue run by a young hippie from Astoria in El Ganso. We had dinner with a cute couple from Florida who are doctors and had a lengthy conversation about the history of diseases and how they spread through travel, and the history of genes. Sounds dry but Craig could read the phone book and it would be fascinating! Dawn you can tell is made of roses inside, with the kind of listening eyes that make you want to pour your whole story out. 
It rained all day today, and I climbed a mountain. I was all by myself and literally in a cloud, and in forest and fields the whole time. Even though it was pouring all day, it was my favorite by far. The scenery is stunning and refreshing me step by step. Tonight we have a communal dinner in our hostel in the cutest town ever (I wasn't planning on stopping here so I have no idea what the name of the town is, and I went straight to this bar to eat!) 
Many blessings and lovely thoughts to you from the happiest pilgrim there is. Image
Posted on May 9, 2013 and filed under from jess-.

Burgos to Hontanas, to Boadilla el Camino.

ImageImageInstead of taking a bus, I ended up taking a day off in Burgos and continue to walk for at least another few days until I can more accurately predict how many days I have to skip (trying to walk as much of the camino as possible). After sleeping in until about 11 (glorious!), the gang had a big breakfast, and took a tour of the massive cathedral. As far as ancient Catholic Churches go, this one is quite bright and majestic. I always get a bit squirrelly thinking of how much money is going to these big vacant buildings, but it was impressive nonetheless. 
After the cathedral and a stop for an afternoon cake and tea, a few of us checked out the very well curated Museum of Evolution. Apparently this region of Atapuerca is stocked with old fossils of the ancestors of Homo sapiens (aka Homo heidelbergensis, Homo antecessor etc, and yes I had to get someone else to spell those for me). Because of my Christian high school education (or maybe the fact that I didn't show up to class most of the time?) I am painfully naive to the studies of paleontology. It all kind of messes with my brain a bit, but it was really crazy to see all of the research being poured into this tiny town. 
On the way to Hontanas, I had to say goodbye to a group of four due to their achey ankles, shins and otherwise. It's pretty strange how you can get so close to a group that, 13 days before, you had no idea existed! 
Today was the first day in over a week that it was warm all day. I'm conflicted with the sun as I am quite insecure about the sock tan that is quickly inhabiting my ankles, but I love that I'm not wearing everything I brought with me just so I'm not shivering! 
We are walking through the Maseta, translated to "sparce", which is the flat lands part of this trek. I thought it would be vacant and straight and frankly that I'd go completely crazy, but I am really enjoying it so far. I found in the earlier terrain I was concentrating so much on just getting up the hill (or mountain range), or not twisting my ankle on the rocky, uneven trail, or not snapping my knees on the descents. The last three days have been incredibly refreshing and peaceful. I can't get enough of having all the uninterrupted time in the world, silent road with chirping birds everywhere. I have been mulling over the dearest people in my life, thinking of what richness they've brought to my world, and speaking blessings and hopes for them. It makes me wish i had all the internet connection in the world in the evenings to express my gratitude for the incredible city of people I have around me. I even find the way we tell stories out here is different, with no reason to pass over a detail; we just give the most vivid description of the loved ones we're talking about we possibly can (or maybe I'm just with a very chatty bunch?). 
Once reaching Boadilla el Camino, and after showering off all that gucky sunscreen and washing the only tank top I brought with me, I treated myself to a flawless ice cream bar and a glass of riesling (yum!). I can smell dinner cooking and it smells fantastic. I'm sure I will only be up for a few more hours, and then back to the grind tomorrow. This simple routine suits me just fine. 
Posted on May 5, 2013 and filed under from jess-.

Najera to Santo Domingo, to Belorado.

ImageImageImageGreetings from another tiny, ancient town in the middle of the Spanish countryside. I just finished my third day of walking really cold, grey weather, but there was no hail today so that was an improvement! What happened to the 25 degree weather from last week? Spain is obviously in a weather crisis. 

When I got to Najera, I started feeling shaky and under the weather, so I went to bed around 8, and woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. Needless to say, there is little to report on the last day and a half, as I spent my walk yesterday with my head down, pushing through, immediately laid down for a four hour nap, got up just long enough to skype with mom and dad, and went back o bed for 12 hours. It certainly did the trick because I feel right back to normal. 
Today's walk felt like I have definitively turned a corner, I feel stronger and my knees feel the best they have in all nine days, and I felt like I could've kept going, which is all really encouraging. 
We got into Belorado just before it started raining, and I think the plan is to grab a bunch of groceries and make a dinner for a group of about six of us. It's a beautiful routine out here, to simply get up and walk, take in this beautiful countryside (albeit currently very cold!) and eat and share with new friends. 
Posted on April 29, 2013 and filed under from jess-.


photo-12photo-13It's only half way through the month and I'm already doing a round-up, and that's because in three sleeps, I'm taking off for Spain! It's been a crazy few weeks, collecting all of the final equipment I'll need, saying goodbye to friends, trying to calm my nerves and talking myself off the ledge, and breaking in my shoes as much as possible. Here's what has been keeping me busy before I leave:

photo-26photo-27photo-28We had the perfect girl's night. Last Monday, despite the thundery, crazy weather, I trekked up to High Park to have breakfast for dinner with Trisha, Hanna and Jenn. These girls have been so sweet and welcoming to me, always really inclusive and inviting, and are hilarious to boot. We had the best girl time ever, drinking tea out of mugs from Jenn's impressive city-themed collection (I obviously chose the Spain mug). While we were chatting after dinner there was an insane lightning storm, and even though I've lived here for nearly four years, I'm still in awe of Toronto's Spring and Summer rain storms. photo-25photo-14I went to the Muse concert. I previously wasn't the hugest fan of Muse, but going to their live show, they made a huge fan out of me. Their set and the lights and their sound was all flawless, and every song was epic! The bottom picture is of the crowd while we were cheering for an encore- pretty cool, hey? photo-24photo-23I hung out with Josh and Lauren. As the rain continued through most of the weekend, I trekked with Fresh takeout to Josh and Lauren's hotel for some pep talks from one of my favourite couples. photo-15I said goodbye to Katie. She is one of my biggest cheerleaders, and one of my dearest friends. We had lunch and she helped me pick out a new case for my new phone (always a tough decision) so it'll be safe when I inevitably drop it down a mountain along the coast of Spain. photo-22photo-20photo-18photo-19photo-17There was a send-off for me yesterday. A few lovely friends came to 416 Snack Bar last night for drinks and yummy finger food (three words: Mini. Mac. Sliders: A big mac in mini form except with real meat and more pickles). This is one of my favourite little corners of Toronto, with great music and atmosphere and great food! We cheers'd my trip and had a lot of great laughs.

The next few days include running to MEC hopefully only once more for some water purifier tablets, packing my backpack a few more times, probably a couple mini breakdowns, phone calls to Vancouver to chat with family members before I take off, and trying to sleep and avoid the weird dreams I've been having (like last night when I dreamt I left my backpack at home and was trying to figure out how to get it shipped to Paris and the flight attendant yelled at me for not turning off my technology).

This week puts an end to The Word Project until I'm home in May, but expect lots of updates from Spain! Thank you for visiting and for all of your encouragements and comments; this little website is a blast to write and I'm so happy to have all of you reading. You'll hear from me again once I land in Europe!



photo-11The equipment is being gathered, the plans are coming together, and soon, I will leave for Spain. On Sunday, my jitters got the better of me and I had a minor meltdown while on a giant walk, religiously breaking in my shoes. All those tiny doubts that I've been shoving down and pushing away came sneaking up all at once: What if I can't actually do this? What if I'm not strong enough? What if I haven't prepared nearly enough [probable] or haven't brought the right things? What if I get horribly, horribly lost [again, quite probable]? What if I never figure out blister prevention and it's just horrible the whole way? What if they take my face wash away at the airport? What if I lose my passport? Though some of these fears are more warranted than others, they are nothing to mull over and over in my head. They could happen (I will get lost. I will blister, at some point), but they could not, and it doesn't do anything for me to give all of my brain power to being anxious. I have been trying to concentrate on what I'm excited about, even the smallest things like the fun gear I've accumulated (like my rain jacket! Is it green? Is it yellow? Who knows!) and my new inflatable pillow. I'm looking forward to the quiet and the space and the simplicity of "today this is your task and this is the journey, and the road on which you walk it." I'm looking forward to being in Spain and being close to the ocean. I'm looking forward to being on my own, and all of the challenges that go along with that, and proving to myself that I can do this. I have been trying to envision myself on the walk, on winding country roads, with a pack and a map, and I don't recognize that woman. I can't see her yet. I am looking forward to getting acquainted with this Jess, the one who can navigate her way, albeit clumsily and roundabout at times, across a long stretch of land, despite fear and doubt, despite this throbbing timidity that is having a seizure in my chest.

This is by far the craziest thing I'll have ever done so far. This may very well be the craziest thing I ever do. This is the kind of thing that I'll bring up with my kids to prove that once, before diapers and dealing with picky eaters and (God forbid) a Mom-Haircut, I walked my terrified ass across the whole width of Spain by myself with a tiny backpack and bleeding feet.

How necessary that we do what is difficult. How necessary that we show ourselves that we are much more than what we limit ourselves to.



contagious (adj).

2a7871b2ca7528352ee187134434dafcI'm not quite sure what to do with the wildness in you; it terrifies that small but prominent part of me that is afraid to ruffle the feathers and has the foresight for the cleanup that would have to be done in the morning. I'm not quite sure what to do with your wildness, the release and surrender you practice, the YES you shout over and over and over throughout your day. Your spontaneity sets me off-guard, it is alarming, and I get nervous, but the spark and the heat that rolls on my skin, the ignition I feel in my chest, the rising of the hair on the back of my neck when I'm around you, it makes me want to follow your abandon all over this town.  

Posted on February 18, 2013 and filed under the word project-.