playing tour guide!

Jun 25, 2012

I have so much to blog about, but life has been so busy! After a week of being on the go, I'm finally home. I have a million things to do and the house is a complete state of chaos with dishes strewn about the kitchen... seems like a perfect time to cozy up on the couch, forget about my responsibilities and  write a blog post.   I'm certain that you will all agree. Aside from my husband, of course. 
Last weekend was a wonderful weekend for reunions.  I consider myself very fortunate to have friends from all corners of the world.  This is not much fun when we are separated and missing each other, but quite awesome when we get the opportunity to meet up somewhere on the globe and catch up.
The very first friend that I made on my journey to Dubai was a fellow Albertan named Naf, who was chasing the same dream.  We met at the Toronto airport before boarding our flight, and later we'd end up being in the same training batch. Last week Naf and his beautiful fiancee Sayaka were enjoying a short vacation in Calgary.  Ryan and I made the 3 hour journey just to have a brief visit over Tim Horton's coffee... an obvious choice.  It was great to see them again and chat about life in Dubai... all that has changed since I've left, and all that never will.  Our visit was short, but hopefully we'll see them again somewhere in this world sometime soon.... we're crossing our fingers for Japan, because that seems a bit more thrilling than Calgary.

Before leaving Calgary, we had another stop to make.  I had a very important friend en route to Canada after 11 years away, and I insisted on being there to greet her when she arrived.  It had been nearly 10 years since I'd last seen my friend Sami, who was visiting from Texas. We had some time to kill before she landed, so we enjoyed a bit of our favourite Calgary activity.... plane spotting! We watched and snapped photos until we saw Sam's plane fly overhead.. our cue to head to the terminal! I waited patiently, Ryan waited not so patiently. We were worried that we'd somehow missed seeing her come out. As it turns out, she got held up in customs after trying to bring pepper spray across the border.  She eventually came out and I ecstatically started shouting at her.  We were finally together again!! She was so surprised to see me there, and her parents were quick to invite us along for dinner.  We chattered away, very giddy and silly. It's amazing how time and distance has no effect on some friendships.  Ryan and I returned home, allowing Sam time to settle in after bombarding her with our presence.  After a relaxing Father's Day Sunday spent with our families, we went back home and back to work. Luckily, I only had to endure 2 long days before I was free again! Tuesday night, I packed my stuff and hit the road, saying goodbye to my husband for our first night apart since we've been married. You'd think that after all of the time spent in a long distance relationship, we'd be conditioned to time apart... but apparently that's not how it works.  It was a quiet night as I hung out with my mom and my puppies, preparing for the excitement of the next day. 
Wednesday morning I woke up and lazed around the house until Sam called. I quickly got ready and drove out to pick her up.  We decided to go on a reminiscent tour of Red Deer. We drove past our junior high school where we'd met, and then headed to the mall to indulge in a favourite from our younger years... Slush Pup! Back when we were 14 and not the smartest, we'd purchase blue raspberry slushes and load them with "Shocker shots"... essentially making them sour to the point of barely drinkable. We opted for one shot as opposed to the eight that we used to ask for, and it was still super sour. I'm pretty sure that we were lying to ourselves when we used to think that drinking such a thing was delicious.  High on sugar, we drove downtown to the Vietnamese restaurant where we met her parents and friends for a feast of pho. I could eat the stuff every day, and lately it feels as though I have.

       After lunch we headed to Sylvan Lake, where we wandered the pier and watched a group of people building cardboard boats. We watched them for a rather lengthy amount of time. Just as they were about to get in the lake and race, the rain began.  It was pouring rain and cold, and we ran to seek shelter, missing the race. We quickly got over our disappointment as we headed to the infamous "Big Moo" for ice cream.  That evening we met up with another long-time friend (and recent newlywed), Laura, for dinner. The three of us chowed down on delicious food while chatting for hours as though we'd never been apart.  Eventually, we called it a night. I drove Sam back to the place that she was staying and headed back to my mom's house in an attempt to get a good night's sleep before what would be a very busy day.  
I woke up the next morning, loaded the car, and headed to pick up Sami.  I got off to a bit of a late start when the highway was closed due to an accident and I had to take a detour through the city. I'm so impatient when it comes to driving in my slow-paced hometown.  Here in Edmonton, drivers race to their destinations.  Slowly but surely, I made it. I picked up Sam, and we headed west for mountain adventures!

Just before ditching civilization, we stopped at Tim Horton's to get our caffeine fix. It was Sam's very first time trying an iced cap, and it was love at first sip! We continued driving, with Sam snapping photos every 30 seconds as we grew increasingly nearer to the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.

I always try to see places as though it's the first time I've ever been there, despite visiting these parts on a regular basis. This was easy to do with an enthusiastic Texan who was in awe of her surroundings.  
We drove down the gorgeous highway for hours, taking in the beauty and scanning the side of the road for wildlife. A few frustratingly slow drivers and construction zones later, we arrived in Banff!  
I love the pretty little mountain town and nearly everything about it. After a bit of confusion, we managed to meet up with one of Sam's friends, Candice. We'd only just met, but her enthusiasm for visiting the candy store made us instant friends.  
By this point, we had all been on the road for quite some time and we were rather hungry. As the frequent Banff-goer, I was nominated to decide our lunch destination.  Of course, I didn't even question it... we were going to the Old Spaghetti Factory, because it happened to be the best place, ever. That, and it was my last week of non-paleo eating, so I intended to stuff myself with as much dairy, sugar and carbs as I could get my hands on.  I indulged in bread, soup, pepsi and lasagna. Oh how delicious life was.
After lunch we proceeded to wander the main street, popping in an out of stores along the way.  I normally refuse to cross the street unless there is a clearly marked crosswalk, but when we spotted the candy shop across the street, there was no stopping any of us. We made a beeline for the door, taking in the sights and smells of my version of paradise.

Shockingly, I left empty handed, choosing instead to have an ice cream cone.  After a lengthy time staring at the flavours indecisively, we each picked one... birthday cake flavour for myself, since it would soon be my birthday.  
Ice cream in hand, we continued on our merry way, until we came across a photo backdrop. The tourism employees adorned us with various mountaineer accessories, and we posed for photos with our nerdy helmets on.  Our poor little Texan was quite concerned about how her helmet fit, until it was determined that she had it on backwards.  This provided a great amount of comic relief for Candice and I, for the remainder of the day.

 Next on our list of plans for the day was to ride the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. I was shocked that I was the only one who'd ever been to the top... both by gondola and foot. (Yeah, last year we hiked to the top. For fun.  Who does that?!) We bought our tickets, hopped inside our little capsule, and away we went. Sam enjoyed it for all of 5 seconds before realizing that we were in fact dangling from a cable and moving up the side of a mountain.  Once we made it to the top, she'd calmed down and agreed that it was completely worth the moments of sheer terror.
The views were incredible, and the normally windy and cool summit was sunny and calm. It was as though the day was made for us.  We strolled along the boardwalk at the top, laughing at a lady who got her high heel stuck between the boards (just past the sign advising suitable footwear), and trying to get the attention of the adorable chipmunks racing around.  We snapped hundred of photos before deciding that it was time to head back down to a lower altitude.  We rode back down, and Sam was much calmer on the second attempt.  

Back at the car, we decided to continue our exploring, driving past the glamourous Fairmont hotel (castle) and onto the Banff creek.  We walked the path for awhile, staring at the powerful waterfall, never tired of taking in the scenery around us.  When it was time to return to town, we had a few important stops to make... the chocolate shop, and Lululemon. Eventually, Candice had to return home, prompting Sam and I to head to our hotel to check in.  Once we were settled, we headed for dinner. I'd decided to share some of mine and Ryan's traditions... thus we went to Boston Pizza just down from our hotel. Our pizza was delicious, and got us in the mood for bed time.  It had been a long, long day! It didn't take us very long to be fast asleep, oblivious to the trains passing by and people making noise in the hallways.   
We woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to hit the road again. After filling up with gas and grabbing some coffee, we drove off. It was my first time driving in the area, without Ryan's vast knowledge and sense of direction.  Despite this, I was determined to ensure that Sam had a great time, and off we went in search of the Spray Lakes road.  We drove up the steep, gravel road, stopping briefly to take photos of mountain goats before carrying on towards the lakes.

 Once there, we got out, took photos, and Sam gushed about the amazingness of the place.  I had to agree. Us Albertan's are pretty lucky to live where we do.

We took in the last bit of mountain beauty before hitting the highway and returning to Red Deer. There, we said our goodbyes and I continued on to Edmonton to reunite with my husband and pack... for another road trip! I'd had a great time playing tour guide, and I'm quite certain that Sami enjoyed herself just as much!

severe case of the fever.

Jun 13, 2012

Somebody save me. Save me from the boredom, free me from the restlessness.
Save me from the monotony that is my life!
In other words... somebody buy me a plane ticket. 
I don't know how to describe travel fever to somebody who has never experienced it. I'm not talking about a sniffly, runny nose and high temperature.... nope, not that kind of fever. Once you've been bit by the travel bug, the fever just keeps on coming back. Those of you who've been in my shoes know the feeling exactly. It's a ridiculous longing... a persistent yearning. You catch yourself staring at vacation photos for hours, wishing that traveling back in time was a realistic possibility.  Home becomes undesirable, routine becomes excruciating. You drive your friends and significant other crazy with your sudden clinginess and fear of boredom. The only cure is more travel. I'm not positive, but it could be a life long condition.  
We endure the pain for various reasons... whether it's a lack of sufficient funds, inability to get time off of work, or responsibilities like family or children. We suffer through it, waiting for the day to come when we can go off into the world and create new adventures.  
Maybe this sounds cliche, but travel changed me as a person. High school me would have never, ever imagined wandering cities like London and Hong Kong all by myself. Or striking up conversations with strangers that would become life-long friends.  The very thought was leagues out of my comfort zone.  When I moved to Edmonton in 2005, I was afraid of walking to the grocery store alone... no word of a lie. It was a big city, therefore, I'd more than likely be shot.  Travel gifted me with such an open mind and fearless attitude, and I fully endorse it to all of you shy, nerdy teenagers wondering what to do with your life... assuming you can deal with the side effects of a life long addiction. 
I need a fix. I need it fast.  I need ethnic food, foreign languages, and gorgeous landscapes that pose oh-so-perfectly for my camera.  In the meantime, I need a paper-bag before I hyperventilate from the madness of it all.  This may sound ridiculous to some of you, but I take comfort in the fact that there are people that will read this who know all too well just how crazy the fever can be.  

When you spend 3 years hopping around the globe and then come back to stay in one place all of the time, it's only natural that you are going to fight some serious withdrawal.  All this frustration induced blogging just because I opted to print photos and delved deep into the layover albums. I'm off to Sweden now... okay fine.... Ikea. 

celebrating 3 years in the mountains!

Jun 5, 2012

I'm not going to lie, I'm missing my old life. I miss going places. I miss excitement, and constant change. I miss being so passionate about my career and being proud to tell people about it.  Ask me about my job now. I've found myself replying "Oh, I'm just a receptionist.." Did you catch the key word in there folks? Yeah... "just"... I'm "just" working because I have to these days... not because it's something that I genuinely love doing.  Up until a few months ago, I was living my dream... now, I'm just living. 
I'm still lucky. I've got a great, supportive person that I call my husband. He cheers me up when I'm feeling blue.  This weekend, we celebrated 3 years of togetherness, and he took me to the mountains because he understands how important it is to me to cram as much as I can into a weekend.  He gets that I'm not a normal person content with relaxing. What the heck is that? I want to go places, do things, and I'll happily pass up sleep if there is something more exciting happening.  
We woke up Saturday morning at a ridiculous hour. With caffeine, anything is possible. We drove Ryan's parents to the airport as they jetted off to the maritimes for 2 weeks. I was insanely jealous, but still excited for what was in store for us.  I drove as Ryan caught a bit more sleep... he's a bit of a grumpy boy without it. 
We switched over a few hours in to the drive, and headed into Banff National Park... yay! There is something about the mountains that makes me so happy.  Just past the park gates we spotted a big fuzzy black bear. I generally spend an entire mountain trip peering out the windows with hopes of seeing a bear, so I was thrilled to find one right away. It was a sure sign of a good trip ahead.

We carried on driving towards Lake Louise, with a slight detour at the Saskatchewan River Crossing store for  some ice cream. It may have been chilly outside, but you can't mess with tradition. 
Because I'm married to the greatest man ever, he drove to the Alberta-British Columbia border just so that we could take a photo with the sign and say that we'd went to BC. He doesn't  understand how such a small thing can make me so happy, and he doesn't try to. He just drives there because he loves me, and because he knows that I'm like a giddy little kid when it comes to crossing borders. We took our photos, and then turned around. I was satisfied just having left the province for all of 5 minutes.  

Eventually we made it to Lake Louise. It was much less busy than a typical weekend in spring or summer, thanks to a bit of rain.  We didn't complain, as this meant less tourists getting in the way of our photos. 
During a brief period of sunshine and no rain, we stopped to watch a bride walk down (up) the aisle (hill).   It was a gorgeous place to get married, although I certainly preferred my own barefoot beach type wedding. 
We carried on along the path around the lake, snapping photos of the beautiful blue water as we soaked up the sunshine. All of a sudden we heard a strange sound, like an incredibly strong wind that we couldn't feel. We looked across the lake to see an avalanche on the mountainside! So cool! It was a small one, but the sound was thunderous.  I took photos, Ryan took video, and as we carried on along the path we saw a few more... fuelled by a mixture of rainfall and warm sun melting the ice.  Avalanches are scary, but great to see from a distance. 

 As we made it to the far end of the path just in time to turn back, it began to rain.   By rain, I mean pour. By the time we made it back to the car, we were soaked and cold. I was so happy that we had Ryan's parents car for the weekend, complete with heated seats. I think that my new life goal is to one day own a vehicle with heated seats. 
We headed to Banff, where we warmed up with hot wings and French onion soup. Life was wonderful.  We finished off with Starbucks, and then made our way back to Canmore to check into our hotel after a long day. 

 After a short power nap, we were ready to carry on with the evening. We wandered the town, as I babbled on about how we should live there, if only there were job opportunities.  The town is overrun by rabbits, which annoys the locals... but thrilled me. Baby bunnies were all over the place, and I begged Ryan to catch one and let me take it home. He refused, much to my dismay. 
We made a quick loop through Canadian Tire, just because it's Ryan's favourite store, before heading onwards to Boston Pizza. We've got our traditions when we come to Canmore, and one of them is eating until our stomachs hurt and sipping caesars and beer. Great traditions, if you ask me! This time around we even splurged and ordered an incredible chocolate dessert... we were celebrating, after all. After an early morning, we opted for an early night, and retreated to our room for a wonderful sleep. 
The next morning we took in the free hotel breakfast before packing and hitting the road. I begged until Ryan gave in and stopped at Beamer's Coffee... a small local place that I've grown fond of in past visits. My caramel mocha was delicious, just as I'd anticipated.  We went for a short little tour around the Spray Lakes and then made our way back towards Calgary. So long, mountains. I'll certainly miss you.  

In Calgary we browsed the mall, stopping at our very favourite store... Homesense. Rarely does a weekend go by without a visit to that store. We left empty handed, which is a bit rare for us.
It was time to head north again, and for the first time in his life, Ryan drove the car straight through  Red Deer without stopping. We did, however, stop in Ponoka to visit my grandma and stuff ourselves with an amazing dinner of shrimp and crab. How spoiled we are! 
The weekend had been wonderful, but sadly it had to come to an end. We left Ponoka and headed home, headed to bed, and back to another long work week.  I felt so fortunate to have had our little getaway, as it helped a little bit with my restlessness and travel withdrawal. Still, if anybody cares to fund my travel, I'll gladly become a professional travel blogger. Heck, I'll write you a book. Any takers?  Just don't use my blog as an indication of my capabilities... I don't proofread here... 

3 years on...

Jun 1, 2012

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a boy and girl met. 
It wasn't love at first sight. The girl was determined to go places in life... far away places... like Australia. She wasn't about to let any boy get in the way of her plans, and so off she went to the other side of the world. While she was there, she talked to the boy.... nearly every day.  She began to grow quite fond of him, though she'd never admit it. She was certain that she only felt this way because of the distance and the fact that there was no chance at a real relationship from thousands of miles away. 
A year later, the girl came back home.  The boy picked her up at the airport, and from that day on, they began to spend a lot of time together.  Friends would ask questions, wondering when they would start dating... to which they'd always shrug off. It would never happen.  They were just friends. The best of friends, but still... just friends.  After 8 months of nonsense, they finally accepted their fate... and 3 years ago tomorrow... the boy finally kissed the girl, and the rest... well... it has all seemed to fall into place quite nicely.  

Sure, they are married now, but who says they can't still celebrate the day that they started dating?  After all, this year they are finally both in Canada! 

I love you, my best friend, turned boyfriend, turned fiancé.... now husband.
  Thanks for the last (best) 3 years of my whole entire life.