How I learned that no one can take everything

It was 8:20pm at Mendoza, Argentina’s bus station and we were ready to hop on a bus heading north to Salta in 10 minutes.

Then something happened. Something I didn’t think would ever happen to me.

Within the 45 seconds it took me to ask the bus driver a question, someone distracted my travel partner and my small backpack was gone. Everything important, except for my phone, was in there. Passport, debit and credit card, driver’s license, camera, memory cards, journal and cash all gone. I felt scared, angry, sad and vulnerable all at the same time. I felt stupid for leaving my backpack on the ground. I knew better than that.

I immediately threw my big backpack on and ran. To where, wasn’t sure, but it was to look for what was stolen. About a minute later I stopped. Everything was blurry around me. People were running around catching buses, talking, laughing and I felt as if I was going to faint. I was stuck in Argentina with no way to prove my identity and no money. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that my photos from the past month and a half were gone and so was my camera.

It was in that moment I snapped out of it, standing there in the midst of the bustling station, and realized I could handle this situation in three ways:

1) Have a breakdown.
2) Get to the Canadian Embassy in Buenos Aires, get an emergency passport and get home.
3) Stay positive, get a temporary passport and finish the three-month journey through South America.

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I don’t know how I chose option three, but I did, and it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I turned around and walked up to the police officer about ten feet behind me and told him I’d been robbed.

Once this happened and the decision to move forward was made, everything started to change. We met an officer who spoke great English that night. He helped us figure out where to file a report and find a last minute hostel for that night since the one we’d been at was fully booked until the next day.

The next couple weeks in Mendoza were especially memorable. The hostel staff was not only incredibly supportive, but they became our friends. We even broke the record of how long someone had stayed there! Between connecting with the officers again and new friends at the hostel, we learned more about Argentina than we could have dreamed. We also really got to see what the city of Mendoza, and the great wine, has to offer.

When my temporary passport finally came, the hostel manager woke me up while someone filmed my half-asleep and excited reaction. It was a strange feeling though. That place had become our home for more than two weeks, we made friends there and now it was time to move on.

Yes, I would love to still have my camera, photos and to have not gone through the trouble of getting a temporary passport. For some reason though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. On a personal level, I realized I had the capabilities to get through an incredibly stressful and emotional situation. I pushed through something I didn’t think I ever could.

That’s what travel can do. It can throw you into situations where you feel uncomfortable or scared, but that’s where you get the opportunity to show yourself you can conquer that. You can push on. You can stay positive. You can do what you once thought was impossible.

Why the airport isn’t so bad

I’ve noticed three big differences between me and most others when it comes to airports. Most people don’t like getting there too early, don’t like being there alone and don’t enjoy the process. I happen to enjoy all of those.

Since people tend to think I’m crazy for this, I figured I would try and explain myself.

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First off, why I love being there with some serious time to spare. Other than not missing my flight, there’s a three other reasons:

  1. There’s no worry, frustration or time pressure when waiting.
  2. Guaranteed time for grabbing a drink and food.
  3. It gives me time to chat with people.

This brings me to my next point, being alone in an airport. It’s the best. We aren’t used to spending time alone and when we do, we’re anxious and try to act busy. Next time you’re at an airport, look around. You’re not alone, we just choose to be. You already have something in common with everyone, you’re travelling somewhere. Strike up a conversation, they probably have some great stories. 

Lastly, the process as a whole. Getting there, dodging through crowds, the long check-in and check-your-bag lines, security and waiting to board. It all sounds dreadful. It’s hard to enjoy it, but it really is a great time to test your patience and get excited about where you’re heading. 

One thing I think we all need to remind ourselves is that not everyone in the world can experience this and travel as easily as we do in North America. It’s special and a privilege to be able to visit different parts of the world with such ease. If we all start thinking this way, then maybe we won’t think of the airport as a chore but as an exciting experience essential to our travels.

Banff’s Best Eats

After living in Banff for a year and a half as a food lover, I made sure to hit as many restaurants as possible. Despite how small the town is, there’s a lot of them offering up a variety of food. I mean, it is a tourism hub after all.

When you head to Banff, make sure you hit up my six favourite restaurants in this beautiful, Rocky Mountain town, or at least two. I promise, they won’t disappoint.

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The pizza at Bear St. Tavern will be in your dreams often and they will introduce to you a way of eating pizza that’s new to most. They serve up the delicious pizza with chili oil and honey. It sounds strange, but trust me when I say you have to at least try it because it will surprise you.

Recommendations: The Godfather, The Wheeler Hut and the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos.

Check them out on Twitter @BearStTavern

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Nestled on the Fairmont Banff Springs’ golf course, The Waldhaus Pub & Patio has epic views and German food. The pub is located below the restaurant and it’s my go to spot in Banff. I challenge you to drink a boot of beer. Don’t worry though, you’ll have plenty of time since the atmosphere is lively and you won’t want to leave.

Recommendations: Big Rock Banff Springs Lager, Warm Pretzels, German Mac & Cheese.

Check out the hotel on Twitter @FairmontBanff

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By far my favourite burger place, ever. Whether you feel like trying something out of your comfort zone or something a little more safe, Eddie Burger has some serious burgers for you. They are creative, delectable and huge. Make sure you have a Trashcan to wash all the goodness down.

Recommendations: Stampeder, Eddie Presley, Rocky Mountain Burger

Check them out on Twitter @EddieBurgerBar

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Brew Pub is a great spot for not only tourists, but locals as well. With great beer and food, along with a balcony looking onto Banff Avenue, it’s a perfect spot to hang out. Any night of the week and any season this place will be busy with people looking to have a good time.

Recommendations: Poached Pear & Arugula on Sourdough, The Waldorf, Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Check them out on Twitter @banffavebrewing

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If you’re looking for a quick snack throughout the day, breakfast or lunch, Wild Flour is the bakery to check out. All of their products are locally-sourced and contain natural ingredients, making it a local favourite. If you get the chance to pop in when a local artist is playing some music, make sure you do and grab a cup of coffee!

Recommendations: Gourmet Grilled Cheese (add tomato), Crumble, Mexican Hot Chocolate

Check them out on Twitter @WildFlourBanff

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Best sandwiches, ever. Squish offers a wide variety of sandwiches for everyone. Grab one of these and take a walk down Banff Avenue to check out shops. Or, grab one to go, throw it in your backpack and do the quick 45 minute to one hour hike up Tunnel Mountain and reward yourself with the sandwich at the top.

Recommendations: Italian Panino, Reuben Squish Style, Veggie Pocket

Check them out on Facebook at Squish Sandwich Cellar

Cameraless travel

It’s almost unheard of nowadays to travel without some sort of camera. I love having that trail of photos behind me and snapping a shot at every view and moment. It wasn’t until fate forced me to travel cameraless that I came to realize, I need to stop focusing on documenting everything and experience the moment.

It happened in stages. When we were in Argentina, my camera was stolen and I was down to just my iPhone 4s. Just three weeks later, when we reached Chile, my phone ended up getting stolen. Now, I had no way of documenting other than through other people and writing things down. This bothered me. I couldn’t have my own photos anymore, what was I going to do while everyone else was snapping away? I quickly figured it out and what obsessing over the perfect photo was doing to me.

This realization came when we were on a tour of the Sacred Valley, just outside of Cusco, Peru and we had about an hour to wander around the ruins in Pisac. I climbed up to the top of the trail into the ruins with the group and when we reached the top, it was a perfect photo-op. After participating in a few candid moments I saw a small patch of dirt on the edge of the mountain. Sneaking away from the group, I made my way up. It was quiet and I had a view of the whole landscape. Since I couldn’t grab a camera, I just sat there. I sat there and thought about where I was, took deep breathes, closed my eyes, then looked around while thinking about how lucky I was to experience all of this.

Those 10 minutes of solitude in the midst of one of the biggest tourist spots in Peru was when I realized I needed to start taking everything in before reaching for my camera. On a personal level it allows you to really experience where you are and think about what the moment means to you. It changed the way I travel in a positive way and I hope that it can do the same for you.

The world is a beautiful place, challenge yourself to let all your senses experience what it has to offer before you camera lens does.

10 albums for your next road trip

The road trip. Some love it, some hate it. One thing is for sure though, if there’s a bad music selection, everyone hates it. In light of the Grammy’s airing last Sunday, it’s only appropriate to discuss albums to road trip to.

There are many more that I would recommend, but for now let’s keep it at ten.

Beck
Morning Phase

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For the record, I didn’t choose this because of the most recent Grammy debacle. I chose it because Beck has always been one of my favourites and this album blew me away. It’s got the typical chilled out feel his albums have that immediately make you feel like hitting the road. If you haven’t heard this one, get on it and listen to the popular song Blue Moon if you haven’t heard it.

Gregory Alan Isakov
The Weatherman

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Now this is a guy not a lot of people are aware of. This South African born musician spent his life traveling and his music reflects that. Obviously this makes for some solid road trip music! On top of this, the music he creates can only be described as beautiful. If you’re new to him, listen to the songs Amsterdam and Living Proof as a starter.

The Naked & Famous
Passive Me, Aggressive You

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This is a more upbeat album for those afternoons you are just really excited and feel like being inspired. The song Young Blood on this album is perfect for road trips as it’s about being young, learning and being free. This is an album you could play in the car, let run through and no one will complain.

Hilltop Hoods
Drinking from the Sun

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This awesome Aussie trio is essential for all you hip-hop lovers out there. It’s perfect for a day you’re feeling riled up on the road trip. Some songs are aggressive, but who doesn’t like a bit of that? Highly recommend checking them out. Start with listening to the song Shredding the Balloon, seriously epic.

Haim
Days are Gone

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I’ve recently fallen in love with this album, if you’re on an all girls road trip it’s perfect. They sing songs that many women in their mid-twenties can relate to (sorry guys). Many of you have likely heard the songs Don’t Save Me and The Wire but there are plenty other great classics on the album.

Odesza
Summer’s Gone

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If you want some electronic music to jam to, this duo will do the trick. You can zone out to the music on this album and it allows your daydreams to roam free. Perfect for a day you’re getting close to a new destination since it’ll get you ready to go. If you haven’t listened to them check out the song Above the Middle.

Beastie Boys
Solid Gold Hits

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If you’re feeling tired one morning, throw this on and it’ll all go away. Even if people don’t know the Beastie Boys well, they at least know a few songs, and they are more than likely on this album. It’s perfect for people to sing to and really, for lack of a better word, just gets people stoked.

Broods
Evergreen

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This album is new to me, but it all started when I feel in love with the song Bridges. Her voice reminds me a lot of Lorde, which may partly be because this duo is also from New Zealand. The music though, is much different. With more of an upbeat feeling to the album, it’s perfect for a road trip. Also give the song Mother & Father a try.

Death Cab for Cutie
Plans

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Now here I am going all the way back to my high school days, and it’s worth it. Death Cab for Cutie is one of those bands that will always calm your mood, perfect for a long day on the road. If you haven’t heard this one, check out the songs Marching Bands of Manhattan and Crooked Teeth.

Broken Bells
After the Disco

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This album is pretty epic. When I first discovered it I had it on repeat for months and always pictured myself road tripping to it. With more of an indie up-beat feel, it’s perfect for a day where you might be getting tired of being on the road. It’ll perk you right up. Check out the song After the Disco, you’ll likely recognize that track.

Super Bowl: Easy last minute dips

The Super Bowl isn’t just around the corner, it’s tomorrow. If you’re still scrambling to figure out what snack to make for the big party, just like me, there’s no need to worry. Pinterest has the answers.

Sometimes Pinterest has so many recipe ideas it can get overwhelming, to the point where I’ve needed to walk away from the computer. So, I thought I would save others the stress of searching and compile a list of the best dip recipes, because let’s face it, dips are the best.

1) Buffalo Chicken Dip 

This is a classic and probably my favourite dip ever. While in South America I craved this an obscene amount of times and it was one of the first things I made when I got home. It’s creamy, a bit spicy, cheesy and all around delicious. Don’t eat it with celery though, get those chips and baguettes out!

2) Spinach Artichoke Dip

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Recipe from Mr. Food

Yet another classic, done right. This dip is seriously good, I have made this one a couple of times and love it. You can use fresh spinach as well if you have some sitting around, just make sure to wilt it down first.  Also, don’t feel obligated to serve vegetables. Probably a good idea to try and eat healthy, but who cares on Super Bowl Sunday?

3) Jalapeño Popper Dip

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Recipe from Simply Gourmet

This one I haven’t made before, but how can you go wrong with jalapeño, bacon and cheese? It’s got to be good.

4) Loaded Baked Potato Dip

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Recipe from The Stir

I’m not the biggest fan of baked potatoes, therefore, only the topping is consumed when I do have one. For this reason alone, I’m pretty excited about this dip.

5) S’mores Dip

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Recipe from The Recipe Critic

Really don’t think I need to say much about this one.

6) Chicken Enhilada Dip

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Recipe from On My Plate

This recipe is sheer Mexican goodness with the right amount of spice and an overload of cheese. Two beautiful things.

7) Triple Layer Party Dip

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Recipe from Soup Addict

This one looks fresh compared to the others. It would probably a good option if you are heading to someone’s house and don’t want to use their stove! It also just looks really, really good.

8) Cheesecake Fruit Dip

This looks unreal. If you like cheesecake this would be not only a great idea for a party, but also for yourself one night when you binge-watch Netflix (because we all binge watch and should never be embarrassed by it).

9) Hot Caprese Dip

Simple and amazing. Take the three ingredients of the classic caprese salad, mix it together and bake! So easy, so impressive.

10) Philly Cheese Steak Dip

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Recipe from Chef in Training

This is so Super Bowl appropriate. Everything you love about a Philly Cheese Steak in a hot and steamy bowl. Serve it up with some toasted baguette slices and you’re golden!

Winter travel guide: Banff for the non-skiers

Winter travel to most people means hitting the mountains to ski or snowboard. I’m here to tell you that if you don’t do either of those you can still go to the mountains, never hit the slopes and still have a trip to remember.

After living in Banff, Alberta and not being an avid snowboarder, I found other ways the town offered winter pleasures.

1) The food.
There are some incredible restaurants in Banff. My favourite, Bear Street Tavern, was even featured on the show “You Gotta Eat Here!” The pizza there will change your life. No, I’m not exaggerating, you’ll understand when you go.

2) The spa.
There are many in Banff that offer great treatments. The only issue is, they can be expensive. A good way to work around this is to have your own spa day. The Willow Stream at the Fairmont Banff Springs offers spa access. This gives you a full day to use the steam room, sauna, hot tub, waterfall pools and the lounge areas.

3) Walk the emerald lake.

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It’s 100% worth the trip to Lake Louise in the winter. The drive is about 45 minutes from Banff and you can see the lake completely frozen over with the stunning mountains around it. Part of the lake is made into an ice rink, so bring some skates if you can!

4) Tubing.
You don’t need to ski or snowboard to go down a mountain, go tubing! Make it exciting and come up with some creative competitions while you go down the hill. The losing team can buy the first round of drinks!

5) Dogsledding.
An unforgettable experience, especially in that landscape. It’s something that not everyone has a chance to do, so why not get out in the fresh snow and try something new.

6) Get a birds-eye view.
Head up Sulphur Mountain, by cable car of course, to see Banff in all its glory from above. In the summer, thousands of people look at this view. In the winter there isn’t as much commotion and you can drink your hot chocolate while taking in the snowy view that most people don’t see.

7) Snowshoeing.
If you’re feeling active one day check out snowshoeing tours. This not only gives you a chance to try something new that’s a lot of fun, but you can see areas on the trails you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

8) Go for a winter hike.
This is for people who are experienced hikers, but when you get to the top, it’s so worth it. Tunnel Mountain (about a 45 minute hike in the summer) is also open in the winter. However, some days it really isn’t safe to climb so make sure you check with the concierge at your hotel beforehand. Most importantly, make sure you have proper gear for hiking in the winter.

9) Afternoon tea.
Hot tea and sandwiches on a cold day can always be comforting. The Fairmont Banff Springs does it right though. While you sit and relax you overlook the Fairholme Mountain range through floor-to-ceiling windows. It was by far one of my favourite things to do in Banff.

10) Mind-blowing scenery.

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Need I say more?

The resolution that will stick

I don’t normally make new year’s resolutions, but this year I did and it needs to stick.

For years I have been talking about doing a half-marathon. Each year it starts out good and each year, I back out.

Why? Something always happens, I get a boyfriend and eat a lot, don’t have time for the gym or forget to sign up. This year I’ve realized that they were all excuses because I was too scared to actually do it and I knew it would be a massive challenge. With a 5km and 10km run under my belt, why am I so scared?

Millions of people make these new year’s resolutions and never find success. Maybe what we need to do is look at these resolutions and figure out why we haven’t hit that goal. If it’s because we’re scared of failure, we should probably throw that fear out the window and kick its butt.

Who’s in?

Addicted to ramen

Just like many other people around Toronto, I have fallen deep in love with ramen. This filling and delicious Japanese noodle soup is filled with strong flavour and a range of ingredients. Yesterday, I had an immense craving for some ramen and found a simple recipe online. It isn’t what you would get at a ramen shop, but it does cure the craving.

Click here to check out the Simple Homemade Chicken Ramen recipe from Fork, Knife & Swoon.

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A successful bowl of homemade ramen.

If you want to learn more about ramen check out the show The Mind of a Chef, season one, episode one. Chef David Chang (Founder of Momofuku) goes to Japan eats a bunch of ramen and shows viewers how to make some themselves.

Warning – that episode will probably make you want to go to Japan.

Battling the post-travel blues

Coming home from travelling can be harder than people think. Especially if you have been gone for longer than just a couple of weeks. Last year, coming home from Europe after three months really brought on the post-travel blues. This time, after spending three months in South America, I returned in December ready to battle them.

In the midst of the battle I came up with some tips to conquer this transition.

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1) Give yourself a week to wind down.
This might sound silly to some people since you came home from an exciting and appealing experience. What some people don’t know is that when you spend a couple of months or even a year constantly bouncing around, it’s exhausting. Spend some time relaxing instead of immediately diving into real life. I mean, don’t do this for several months, but give yourself a week to get used to being home.

2) Focus on something important.
After week or so, focus on something that contributes to your life at home. It will not only help you get used to the return, but it will give you a sense of purpose. When I came back from Europe, there were times I felt useless because I didn’t have a job and was living with my parents. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. At my age, one of the biggest stressors for people that have been away for an extended period of time is looking for a job. This is what I have decided to focus on, applying for jobs that are of high interest to me and setting up information interviews with industry professionals.

3) Researching your next trip never hurts.
Whether you have come home from a one week vacation or a one year journey, everyone knows how it feels to come home and want to go somewhere new. It doesn’t hurt to research. This gives you something to do and look forward to. Learning more about the world can benefit you anyways, so why not expand your knowledge while you have time?

4) Keep busy.
This one is important. You’re constantly bouncing around while travelling, meeting new people, doing multiple activities a day and planning. You become used to that lifestyle, then you come home and it stops. Keep yourself busy. Go to the gym, start cooking, pick up a book, see friends you haven’t seen in a while, anything! Eventually you’ll get back to normal.

5) Print your photos and make your album.
This is a great thing to do while transitioning back to life at home. You’ll be able to see all your memories printed and remember the journey. It takes time and it will allow you to come to terms with the fact that you’re back home. For me, making the photo album can be compared to getting closure after a tough break-up.