“Not all those who wander are lost.”

I’m a contemplater, which means I often get really philosophical about life and simple realizations tend to blow my mind. I turned 24 on Saturday, and leading up to my birthday I was bombarded with feelings of awe and wonderment at life.

I had a moment of clarity while thinking about where I was a year ago and how I thought the next year of my life would look at the time. On my 23rd birthday I was living in Armstrong, BC, having just left Australia suddenly, and I had my first shift at a job that I quickly learned to hate. My “plan” was to live in Canada for three

My good friend Candice and I at Lake Louise last summer.
My good friend Candice and I at Lake Louise last summer.
I’m sure Banff is one of the most beautiful places I’ll ever see.

months while waiting for my new Australian visa to be approved then catch the first plane back to sunny Queensland. I never could’ve predicted what was in store for me, and in hindsight I’ve realized that life is truly what you make of it. I chose BC rather than move back to Ontario partially because I didn’t want to settle in too much and uproot my life and my relationships when I left Canada “in three months”. Eight months later, my current relationships deepened, I started a brand new, sure to be life long friendship, I was stunned daily by the glorious mountains surrounding me, and I discovered new passions. What started as a transition stage of life turned into a major chapter, a chapter where I learned to be more open minded, that I love to cook with alternative food, and that I’m obsessed with mountains. Most importantly, I learned to never sit still and let life pass you by. I learned to find something good about every day — whether it was going for a walk with my sister and brother in law, having a delicious coffee, reading a good book, waking up and seeing sunshine flood through the windows, or witnessing hoarfrost twinkle on the trees, there is always something good in every day. I had a regular customer at a restaurant that I worked at in Vernon, and without fail he would always say “every day is a good day, and some are better than others.” It’s those simple things that are what’s best about life.

Now I’m 24, I live in Ireland, and I have no idea where I’ll be in a year from now. It’s an exciting age, because I’m starting to figure out what kind of

Coffee time in Stockholm.
Coffee time in Stockholm.

person I want to be and what I want out of life, but I still have time to change my mind a whole lot. I could settle down at any time or I can keep globetrotting. I can party all night or I can stay home and read a book. I can wear my nose ring and still be taken seriously. I can dance like crazy or sip on wine while discussing philosophy and values. I’m finished my degree but could still get a Masters. The options or endless, and I’m so grateful.

I want to be the kind of person that follows through. If I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it. I said I wanted to move in October, so when I was offered a job in Dublin I did some research and applied for a visa after five days. I said I wanted to travel Europe this year, summer specifically, and I have flights booked to Edinburgh, Brussels, and Barcelona, and plans to see many more countries in the warmer months. I’ve been talking about getting a tattoo, so I went for it. I said I wanted to be settled in Dublin in a week — I did it in five days. I’ve found my favourite coffee shops. I’ve seen Irish countryside. I’ve had a pint of Guinness and different kinds of whiskey straight. I can sing along to a few token Irish tunes. I say “half three” instead of “three thirty”. I live in Ireland, and after having Australia snatched out from underneath me, I feel a sense of urgency to enjoy each day and every cultural experience. I can’t waste any time.

The world is at our finger tips and all I have to do is seize the good opportunities, have some music ready to make the soundtrack to my life, and bring a water bottle and maybe an apple or two. There are so many countries to explore, coffees to drink, songs to sing, and people to  learn from. I can’t wait. Life is thrilling and utterly unpredictable, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

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The amazing Wicklow Gap.
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Oh autumn, how I love thee.

au·tumn

noun /ˈôtəm/
autumns, plural

The third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall, in the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May

– the countryside is ablaze with color in autumn

autumn leaves

– he was in the autumn of his life

Canadian

Change. Change is good.

I’m partial to always having a little bit of change in my life, so I can appreciate seasonal change.

Of all of the seasons, autumn is by far my favourite. Yes, I would even pick it over (gasp!) summer.

Autumn is especially beautiful in Canada’s maple tree regions. I spent last year in Australia and I’m pretty sure I completely missed “autumn” because it was just a slow transition to slightly “cooler” temperatures. Winter began and I frantically asked my friends, colleagues, bus drivers, “but what about autumn?!” Needless to say I was very pleased that I got to experience autumn in Canada this year.

In the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, the fall season consists of lots of balmy sunshine, cool nights, and temperature highs ranging from 15-20 degrees Celsius. In the towns you’ll find lots of beautiful yellow or red trees but the mountains remain green. I had hoped that there would be more colour changes but with such beautiful weather who could complain?

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Hiking in Kalamalka Park in September.
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Otter Lake by Armstrong, BC in October.

I also spent a couple of weeks in Ontario this October. Ottawa is BEAUTIFUL in autumn. It takes me about 20 minutes longer to get anywhere because I’m constantly distracted by the beautiful colours around me. Trees turn different shades of orange, yellow, and red, and it makes regular day tasks more enjoyable. Driving to do groceries is beautiful because of the long tunnels between tall golden trees. Walking to get the mail is beautiful because in the distance the Gatineau Hills look like a blurry water colours painting. Walking through a forest is beautiful and almost sensory overload – hearing the leaves crunch beneath your feet, seeing amazing hues in every direction, smelling the  earth and fallen leaves, and feeling just enough cold in the air to make you feel alive.

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My brother, Isaac, and I in our family’s maple bush.

autumn

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WE LOVE AUTUMN!

Top 5 reasons why I love autumn:

1. Natural beauty.

2. Thanksgiving (my FAVOURITE holiday).

3. Pumpkins. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, decorative pumpkins, pumpkin patches. All. Things. Pumpkin.

4. Fall clothes (layers, boots, knits).

5. And, thank goodness, it’s not winter.

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A season for change

Dah dah dah dah! Spring is here.

It’s currently 8 degrees outside, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I went for a walk today because I had to say hello to the sun. It’s been so long since I’ve spent some time with the sun, and it would’ve been rude to ignore it.

I’ve been thinking lately how frustrating it is that I’m in Canada for my two least favourite seasons – winter and spring. However, since I’ve been here I’ve been reminded of the beauty in both seasons.

View from the kitchen window.

For me, winter’s best quality is its outward beauty. Snow covered mountains, snowflakes drifting from the sky, and hoar frost covered trees are some of the most naturally beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Winter completely transforms a scene, magically covering yesterday’s mistakes and replacing them with sparkling beauty. It’s a treat for the eyes.

Outwardly, spring is muddy, wet, and not yet warm enough to bare any skin. However, it’s exciting because it holds the promise of summer. The children that live on Robyn and Chris’ block have been taking full advantage of the warmer weather and snow-free pavement. They’re always biking, playing basketball, or drawing pictures with chalk on the pavement. When I was a child I didn’t think about the mud or the fact that spring isn’t as “good” as summer. I was thrilled with the change and loved it for what it was. As soon as the weather warmed up I would shed my coat, put on my rubber boots, and bike all around the farm for as many hours as possible. Once the snow melted, I’d spread a quilt out on the damp grass and read a book. I only saw the positive, not the negative.

It’s the time of year when I become inspired to make changes, probably because the change around me is so stark I can’t help but feel like it’s possible for me to change as well. I find myself thinking maybe I will head back to school one day for a post-grad program. I catch myself imagining all the different cities I want to live in and possible careers I could have. I even go so far as to picture myself settling down in my own home, planting a garden, and writing a book.

Spring is special, even if in the beginning it’s not as beautiful on the outside. It does something to people. Gives them hope.

Spring warms my heart and fills me with inspiration — even if I do still need to bundle up in three layers.

Okanagan Fires

I got a taste of true Okanagan summer last week.

Until last week, it hadn’t really felt like summer — the weather seemed more like fall. It was still pretty cool outside and rained off and on a lot. Normally, Okanagan summers are extraordinarily dry. One of the reasons I wanted to come here for the summer was to get away from Ontario’s rainy weather (although I have come to the conclusion that it’s quite possible that the rain follows me, considering that Ontario has been dry and it’s been raining here).

Anyways, last week was sunny and really hot – we had an awesome day at the beach and everyday at work it felt like a heatwave under the layers of our uniforms.

Two days ago there was a fire really close to Armstrong. A wood plant  caught fire and on my way home from work I saw everything through a thin filter of smoke, which got more and more thick the closer I got to Armstrong. There were planes flying all around the area, trying to control the fire (you can watch a video of the fire here). It was pretty scary, because I had no idea if it was a wild forest fire or what. There was no local news on TV and the radio was playing the UK Top 40 (seriously?! I found out more about the UK than my own city that night. FYI, American artists are tearing up the charts over there, too.)

Anyways, it was a brand new experience for me because fires are not common in Ontario. I was sitting watching TV and out the front window you could see all this smoke floating around, and this is a pretty regular thing in the Okanagan.

The fire was controlled and I don’t think anyone was seriously injured. The next day the temperature cooled outside and it rained off and on all day. My drive home from work last night was a totally opposite experience from the day before — there was some sun peeking through the clouds while drops of rain splattered my windshield. To the left of me there was a beautiful, large rainbow shining.

At home, instead of seeing smoke outside the window, as I stepped outside the front door I was greeted by two beautiful rainbows. I guess everything works out in the end.

Spot the differences: Ontario versus British Columbia

So I’ve been in British Columbia for over a month now, which is just enough time to notice some differences between Ontario and BC. The following is a compilation of eight differences. wooooooo

1. Tim Hortons

In BC, you’re able to use your debit card to pay at Tim’s (whereas in Ontario there is not one Tim’s that lets you do that). Also, there is a wide variety of lattes and espresso to choose from. Starbucks is more popular here than in Ontario, so that may be why there’s an espresso option. Ontario needs to catch up cause our Tim’s is slacking!

2. Minimum wage/Maternity leave

Although our Tim Horton’s may be far behind the ones in BC, Ontario gets a couple of points for minimum wage and maternity leave. The minimum wage in Ontario is higher (even though I would wager a guess that the cost of living is higher in BC), and mat leave in Ontario is also way better than in BC. Don’t know why, just something I’ve noticed.

3. Ciders/1516

Okay, so at all of the restaurants I’ve worked at in Ontario, none of them sold ciders. I think I have one friend that drinks Strongbow, but besides that I’d never really heard of a cider. They’re so popular in BC — people drink them like it’s their job. Also, the most popular beer at one of my jobs is 1516…What’s 1516? Yeah that’s what I was wondering too. It’s a local, Okanagan Springs beer. We definitely don’t have that in Ontario.

4. Smoking/Drugs

Apparently there are a lot of drugs in BC, and I never really heard much about hard drugs in Ontario. People talk about them all the time and drug issues are constantly being brought up on the news. It’s interesting though cause one girl I work with comes from Manitoba, and she said that she thought that drug use was very minimal here compared to her hometown. I guess every province is different.

Smoking is also way more popular in BC than in Ontario — it’s still very common for people to smoke here. I think it might be because smoking was banned in restaurants earlier in Ontario than it was here.

5. Pronunciation

Okay, this is nit picky, but everyone here calls Cabernet Sauvignon wine “cab sav” instead of “cab sauv,” — refusing to acknowledge the “U”. Must be because there is zero French influence here.

6. Hitch hiking

I never ever see hitch hikers in Ontario, and the first day I got here we saw several. It was so uncommon to me, I thought they were being

Don’t try this on the side of the road. Only use thumbs up with caution.

friendly so I threw them a thumbs up back. Turns out they weren’t being friendly… (Unfortunately I’m not that ignorant and that never happened). Anyways, I see hitch hikers every day on my way to work. People say the reason why it’s more common is because it’s so much warmer here.

7. Laid back

In general, people here are super laid back. Have to wait in line for half an hour at Tim’s because everyone is paying with debit or feel like having a friendly chat with a hitch hiker? Meh, no big deal dude.

I work with a guy who is from London and used to work at a golf club there, and one of the first things he said to me was that it’s way more laid back here (which I’ve found to be incredibly true). The warm weather and beach type atmosphere must have something to do with it. I went to a job fair and a lot of the girls were wearing jean shorts and tank tops, whereas at job fairs in Ottawa people wear nice pants and blazers. In general, it’s a lot more “chill” than “formal” here.

8. Landscape

So I think the reason why people are okay with #2 (minimum wages/mat leave) is because it is so amazingly gorgeous here. The scenery is unbelievable. Every time we drive in to town I’m blown away by how beautiful the mountains are. Also, it’s been raining quite a bit too so everything is really green right now. I love when it rains because patches of clouds hang in the hills and you almost feel like you can reach out and touch them. It’s also neat that you can look at the mountains and see patches of sunlight and cloudy areas, and mean while it could be raining wherever you are…It’s different than Ontario because when it’s flat all you can see is wherever you are, whereas when there’s elevated land you notice all the differences in your surrounding areas. So cool.
Anyways, those are the main differences I’ve noticed so far. Both provinces are sweet and have their pros and cons. One excellent similarity is that the people are great in both places.