“And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
On this day last year, I was in California. I had just driven down from San Fransisco to Los Angeles and spent my first couple of days exploring the quintessential LA sites, such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame and took a bus tour of Beverly Hills, Mulholland drive and various “celebrity” homes. This particular morning, I woke early and made my way to Beverly Hills again, but this time with visions of living out my Pretty Woman fantasy (minus the escort/wealthy businessman part, of course). After taking some photos of the quiet streets and classic signage, I found an adorable little restaurant for breakfast. I had a mimosa type brunch cocktail aptly called “Pretty Woman” and sat there, munching on my enormous omelette, feeling bewildered that this was currently my life. I was sitting on Rodeo Drive, sipping a cocktail and anticipating a (very small) shopping spree on the three-block landmark I’d only ever seen on TV. Who was I? In five short days I’d be living out my bucket list Coachella experience in Indio, California, but not before galavanting around the infamous Venice Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica Pier and Palm Springs.
Is this real life?
Today, I’m sitting at home, typing on my laptop and looking through old photos. I love taking tons of photos and sometimes have to remind myself to live in the moment. But today I’m grateful for my shutterbug qualities and reminisce on the memories; closing my eyes to get a glimpse of the sun on my face and the salt air around me. Today is exactly one month of my new reality-quarantine. Thanks to the COVID-19 virus there is literally a global pandemic occurring. Starting in China and expanding all over the world, entire countries enter lockdown. Thankfully in Canada, we haven’t gotten to that stage, yet. Everyone stockpiled toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning products and I’m nervous to leave my apartment even to walk my dog. The studios I teach Pilates at have been closed to curb the spread of the virus, as have most stores and restaurants deemed non-essential. Other cities, such as New York, are in crisis mode, flying doctors and nurses in as a desperate attempt to save lives and continue the fight. Front line workers are in a seemingly losing battle against illness, fatigue and dwindling medical supplies.
Is this real life?
Life is a wild, unpredictable ride; it’s what happens when you’re busy making plans. There are heartache and despair, death and sorrow, joy and happiness. It’s all intertwined and inevitable. Next year will bring more challenges and more successes. Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
“So be sure when you step. Step with great care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
Firstly, 2013 was not that long ago; a mere 6 years and yet when referencing travelling internationally and how much data and mobile usage have changed in that time, it might as well be a lifetime!
My first major experience of travelling internationally was in 2010 and we used hostel computers to send emails back home. The idea of mobile data was still a foreign concept to me, as I still had a basic flip phone and therefore, not having data access was not at all out of the ordinary for me. Flash forward to 2013 and my first iPhone (yes, I waited until the 5 to get onboard from my Blackberry) was practically glued to me at all times. The novelty of a smartphone had just been experienced and I was hooked. This new found freedom to Google wherever and whenever and download app after app to play addictive games to waste hours upon hours was such a new experience for me. Which is what made my 2013 trip that much more difficult to get through without the easy access I was now accustomed to. At the time, Rogers who is my service provider, had 3 package options while travelling. I can’t remember the specifics but each one came with talk and text plans but no data whatsoever. I easily blew through my plans each month I was away (4 in total) and would have to get another and sometimes another still. If you used one plan up, you had to wait until your next billing cycle to get that same plan again, which meant I’d have to get the increasingly less talk and text plans as the month went on. Calling cards worked too but they can be a hassle to purchase and dial in a rush, so out of convenience I’d use my cell phone. My biggest reasons for using the talk and text up was of course due to travelling alone, I’d call my mother or a friend to chat or tell them about some amazing thing I saw that day. But often, I’d also use up my plans to call my mother for help finding a place or a phone number I needed if lost. I had written out loads of directions to my hostels, etc. before leaving and yet, inevitably, I’d end up lost or confused and need help. Asking strangers for directions in a place you can’t speak the language, sometimes very early in the morning or late in the night, is not the best of ideas as a female travelling alone. About halfway through my trip I was introduced to City Maps which is an offline GPS mapping app that allows you to search for addresses or places, gives directions and shows you which direction you are walking. The issue was you had to download the maps while using Wifi so if you forgot (like I did in Bilbao at 11pm) then you were screwed and would have to use your data to download or find a traditional map. I had used maps prior to learning about the app but sometimes the map wouldn’t show enough of the city and would be essentially useless for me to find my hostel. Also, nothing screams #tourist more than a giant map. That evening in Bilbao nothing was even open to find a map, so I opted to download the map and was hit with a $65 charge at home for the 2 mins it took to download. It’s also worrisome until you get your updated usage to know if you’ve properly turned off all the data roaming and mobile data so you would not be accidentally charged. The whole experience was a dance of plans and phone calls and map downloading and timing it all as best as I could and there was much room for error. In total, I spent upwards of $1500 in extra charges and plan fees during that trip and remember I had no data usage except that one charge either.
A while ago Rogers announced a “roam like home” feature which essentially allows you to use your current plan to travel to the US and Europe for an additional charge per day. For the US it is $7 /day and to Europe, it is $12/ day up to a maximum charge of 15 days per billing cycle. After 15 days, you do not pay more and keep using your current plan as normal! That means in comparison my trip to Europe now would result in a bill of only $720 with data usage for 4 months. I only just got to use this new option as I hadn’t been away in some time and so I was a bit nervous and apprehensive that I’d somehow come home to a crazy bill again. I read and re-read the description and small print to verify I didn’t have to turn off anything while travelling or that I’d have a hidden limit. I still nervously checked my account during the first 24 hours for any extra charges but I was completely safe and was able to search, Google, use my phones GPS, hire Lyft rides and call my mom all for a fraction of the price it was in 2013. My mind was blown!
Now, if you do not have a large data or talk plan then you still might need calling cards, maps and Wifi or if you are travelling somewhere not covered by this feature. I also cannot comment on other service providers and their travel options but I was pleasantly surprised by Rogers on this one. I only wish this was around in 2013! #rogersroamlikehome
This blog was not written to promote Rogers as a service provider, as I’m sure other companies offer similar travel options (or they should), but only to acknowledge how technology has changed in the last decade in one particular way (as it’s changed in many other ways too).
I hope this post helps you in your travels and if you don’t have data options, then I highly recommend City Maps to easily get around and not stand out like an obvious tourist.
Let me preface this post by saying Coachella was my FIRST festival experience EVER! I know, I know, it’s shocking given my love of music and the lineup of concerts I have attended. It’s true though.
The reason I have never attended a festival before is that I have some issues with claustrophobia (I’ve left subway trains and elevators due to panic attacks before) and I’ve just been afraid of what to expect with the crowds. I had always wanted to go to Coachella because, like most, I have followed the plethora of Instagram posts and fashion #ootd that circulate before, during and after the festival. I’m not going to lie, the hippie fashion and the idea of wearing glitter absolutely everywhere was my ultimate goal when I bought my tickets. #noshame
Originally, I was meant to go with someone else but after that fell through my cousin Jeni ended up signing on to go with me! Although I have kept in touch and spent some time with my cousin over the years, we have not spent time alone together like that since childhood and I can honestly say (I hope she will agree!) that we had the BEST time of our lives!
We started our Coachella adventure by driving from Venice Beach to Palm Springs for lunch (and a photo op) before heading to Indio and our motel. We did make a pit stop at Target and I fully understand the hype in the US. Nearly $200 later, a couple of pool floats and a few bottles of wine, we finally made it to Palm Springs. We had a nice lunch at LuLu’s (although it took too long to get served initially) and I saved room for dessert which happened to be the biggest cotton candy I have ever seen! We then continued on to our motel.
The Western Sands Motel was the most expensive shit hole I have ever stayed in, obviously because it was Coachella weekend and everything was exuberantly overpriced. But it did the job, the bed was clean and we were a mere 8 minute drive to the festival entrance. I’d do it all over again too, so that’s saying something.
We arrived around mid-afternoon and got to work getting glittered-up for day one! I opted for a classic high-waisted jean short and poncho combo with a silver silk tank top, on-trend bum bag and black boots. I loaded up on accessories, a crapload of glitter on every surface of my skin and hair and added every necklace and bracelet I own plus a scarf. The dust is real but for some reason, I never actually used the scarves I brought to cover my face; they looked darn cute though at least. My hair which had previously been a bit frizzy from the ocean air in Venice Beach, now magically became Insta-worthy waves from the mix of salt residue and desert heat. I’m still daydreaming about that hair…
Since neither of us had been to Coachella before, getting around took a minute to get used to. We may have also entered the beer tent (a couple of times) thinking it was our VIP area and wondering why the lineups for drinks were so long… *facepalm* But eventually, we figured out our way around and took in some shows! Day 1 highlights for us were Diplo, Janelle Monae and Childish Gambino, the latter being absolutely incredible and unexpected in his musical brilliance.
Getting back to the motel was a lot harder to navigate then getting to the festival grounds (ps. Lyft was the best for that) and our first night we ended up walking all the way back, about 45 mins in total. But keep in mind a good 15 minutes of that is just exiting the grounds themselves. We didn’t have the hook up for any after parties and being that we both wake up regularly very early for our day jobs, we called it a night!
Day 2 saw us blowing up our pool floats (I forgot how hard that was by mouth) and attempting to get cute shots in our not-so-cute motel pool. Thank you portrait mode! And once again we got ready in our Coachella-finest as we drank some more wine and Straw-ber-itas. This day I chose my new favourite leopard-print skirt with a low-back ribbed bodysuit and matching scarf. Once again my bum bag and boots made an appearance, as did the copious amounts of glitter and jewellery. We thankfully had a locker on-site, as this night we needed to go back for warmer layers as the evening wore on. We were warned the evenings got chilly but the first night had been so mild that the second night took us a bit off guard. This day we also ventured more around the festival and found a second VIP area, taking in more artists along the way. Highlights from this day included Maggie Rogers, Wiz Khalifa, Billie Eilish (who we admittedly had not heard of prior, somehow) and of course Weezer. I cannot believe it took me going to Coachella to finally see Weezer live but they did not disappoint!
Seeing as Kanye was set to host his Sunday service for Easter the following day (which we did not attend) and Kid Cudi was playing, I knew he’d make an appearance and thankfully I was right. This was the first time the whole festival that we both got a bit claustrophobic because the crowd was just crazy and we were in the thick of it. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Kanye but when he performs, you cheer and sing along, it’s what you do. It was a pretty epic experience for us both and I’m glad we braved the crowd! Tame Impala was the headliner this night but after a brief stopover at his performance, we moved on, definitely not our thing. #sorrynotsorry
And just like that, it was Day 3. By now we both began getting some stuffy noses from allergies we thought but we were both excited and sad for our last day at Coachella. My hair was still on point though and that’s really what mattered most, let’s be honest. My outfit today consisted of a crochet crop top, black shorts topped with a long fringe wrap skirt and the same bum bag and boots previously worn. I had brought other shoes but the boots were so comfy I decided not to chance it with other footwear. This was the first day I tried on multiple outfit options but I wanted to really go all out! I did bring another outfit for later on but decided against the effort of changing as the night wore on. This was by far my favourite day at the festival as Jeni and I really got to have a heart-to-heart and bond a bit more. By now I also knew the pizza place was the best for food and we found a bartender who would make us lemon drop type cocktails (shots aren’t allowed technically). I haven’t touched on that yet but the food was pretty hit and miss inside the festival and drinks were ridiculously tiny. Although nothing was particularly awful, it was severely overpriced and even more so when you consider it was in US dollars ($16 US for a minuscule glass of wine? *another facepalm* Ok, give me two, thanks).
The highlights from the performances this day were Khalid, Dermot Kennedy, Zedd and of course, Ariana Grande. Zedd brought out both Maren Morris and Alessia Cara to perform their songs with him and I was again pleasantly surprised. He puts on a great show with remixes of everything from AC/DC to Queen! We danced the most to this show and couldn’t get enough. Fun fact, we both grew up in Brampton which is where Alessia Cara is from too and it occurred to me how lucky we all were to now be at Coachella!
The headliner was Ariana and by gosh did she ever deliver! The group of guys behind me kept screaming how much better she was live than on the radio and I couldn’t agree more. That woman can SING! She performed for about an hour and a bit in total and even brought out the Biebs himself (Justin Bieber) to an eruption of screams from the crowd. Again, love him or hate him, you cheer when he comes on stage. She was probably my favourite from the whole festival but I really didn’t see one bad performance, it was an incredible experience.
Truly, I would do it all again in a heartbeat and desperately want to! This was by far one of the best experiences of my life and I think it was only made better by my cousin getting to attend with me.
I think she said it best, “nothing will ever be the same again after this”. #coachella2019
“Travel far enough to meet yourself.” -David Mitchell
As some of you may know, I just returned from an incredible trip to California! I have some more blog posts coming soon telling you about my favourite parts and sites worth seeing, but first I wanted to delve a little deeper and explain why I think it is so important to travel alone. Now, I don’t mean that you have to travel every single time alone, but travelling alone at some point in your life is necessary.
This was not the first time I have travelled alone out of the country, back in 2013 I backpacked through Europe for 4 months all by myself. At that time, I was using it as an escape and as a way to deal with my grief over losing my father. It taught me more than I can put into words. Travelling and seeing those spectacular places, sites and sceneries brought back a sense of joy into my life again. But travelling alone brought me back my sense of self, my independence, my inner strength and the ability to appreciate my life again. That trip put me back together emotionally, helping me to grow and heal. I was 28 during that trip. Returning home, I felt like I could do anything, I felt invincible.
This time around, at 34, something shifted and a new piece of myself appeared. It’s hard to explain but basically, I stopped caring what other people thought of me. I used to care a lot what others thought of me or if they liked me, etc. and was picked on and teased a lot during my formative years which only increased those feelings. As I have grown older, those feelings have diminished over the years and I’m now well aware that I can’t please everyone, nor do I want to anymore. However, like most, I’ve still had moments of embarrassment, self-doubt, people pleasing and unsureness. On this trip, those feelings all but disappeared. If I did have a moment of hesitation I was quick to shake it off and move on. Some of us are built to worry and question ourselves and others have an innate ability to be completely self-assured and confident. For me, travelling alone is where I’ve been able to grow and become a more confident version of myself and at 34, I can honestly say I’ve never been more self-assured. Travelling alone is where I see how capable I truly am. I can rent a car and drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I can speak up and let the front desk know when my roommate is freaking me out. I can go to a restaurant and have a meal by myself. I can avoid being hit (or spit on) by a crazed homeless man. I can trip and fall on a curb, take care of myself and not have it ruin my day. I can make new friends. I met two amazing women on this trip, both in their 30’s travelling alone also. As women, there is more concern for us travelling by ourselves and worry about our safety. It made me so happy to see these women just out there, living their lives, seeing the world and not letting fear stop them! Returning home from this trip, I am actively trying to keep that confidence, to not let thoughts of self-doubt creep back in. Like my cousin said (she joined me for Coachella!)- “nothing will ever be the same again”. Travelling changes you.
Seeing the world is important and I wish everyone could travel, widen their perspectives and expand their minds. My hope from this post is that even if you can’t backpack for 4 months or travel out of the country, you could at least go to a meal, a movie, a weekend getaway alone. Become okay with being alone sometimes and learn who you really are.
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”- Freya Stark