Moving to Canada: Take 4

Last time I talked about my move to Canada, I was in a pretty fragile state. My loneliness and isolation had reached the point where it was tough to get out of bed in the morning, my motivation was waning, and I was just going through the barest motions of my life. Get up. Work. Workout. Sleep. Repeat. Those feelings were wearing me down and I spent many a night during the first part of December in tears or close to them.

Every time I would try and talk to someone about these feelings, they’d hit me with those dreadful generalist statements. “Oh everyone goes through this” “You just have to do ___ and you’ll be ok” “It’ll get better if you stick it out”. Yeah fuck that. How come people won’t shut up about embracing uniqueness until it comes to pain? Sure, if I want to pursue my dream of being a basket weaver, society loves me for embracing my own version of happiness, but if I say I’m sad because I feel out of place, they lump me into a group with everyone else that happens to feel sad. Obviously, seeking comfort in others wasn’t working, and thus, those hideous generalisms just made me clam up and wallow in my struggle even more.

Thankfully, I had a light at the end of my tunnel. The holidays consisted of three weeks of quality time spent in Chicago in a familiar environment, surrounded by people I’m comfortable with. This came at the perfect time. My family always keeps me happy and finally getting the opportunity to have deeper conversations with people who know and understand me was a huge weight off my shoulders. There’s just something about getting food with my friends and simply talking about life that makes me feel enormously calm and happy. There’s also something about the way my sister narrates life that makes me laugh until I cry so that always helps too.

Unfortunately, I was about to go back into the tunnel. Obviously, my return to Calgary was awaiting me in the New Year and I was dreading it. I was looking forward to seeing my boyfriend, but other than that, I would’ve been content to stay in Chicago. BUT, I did return and I returned to the most hectic month I’ve had since moving in the first place. I haven’t even had the time to be sad or lonely because my work schedule has kept me underwater.

This turned out to be a good thing. I have been so busy travelling for work and fitting in my few social engagements around my trips that my brain has no space to compute my feelings since returning. However, I have hit a small bit of luck. I finally met a girl that seems pretty cool and she actually got me into rock climbing. I’ve hung out with her and a few of her friends and although it’s all still in the tentative, surface level, lots-of-exclamations-to-show-positivity-while-texting stages, I’m honestly relieved I’ve met a few people that I could see myself becoming closer with. As hard as it’s been, I actually thought it would be harder to get to this point.

In the last two months, I’ve only spent about 4 weeks in Canada, but ultimately, I’ve been so much happier with my time here. What remains to be seen is if I can sustain this feeling. Is it because I’ve been so busy? My new friends? I haven’t distilled the actual source to the turnaround in my mood, but I leave for Mexico tomorrow so I guess I’ll have to just wait and see.

 

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PC: Michael Lankester

 

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For Business or for Pleasure?

This year, January will end up being roughly 4 1/2 weeks, and for 2 1/2 of those, I will be travelling for work. The nature of my job means that I usually work from home, but about twice a month (this month is more than average), I have to travel to visit clients. Business trips intimidated me quite a bit at the start of my career since I was never quite sure what to bring or how to act, HOWEVER, I’ve been on enough of them now that I think it’s safe to say I have them on lock.

Step 1: Prep

Travelling is already stressful, but once you add in the fact that you’re seeing a new office or new client site that you’re not familiar with to do your job, then you can really drive yourself into severe overpacking mode trying to prepare. If this is your first time visiting this place, bring all the tech you’ve got*. Every HDMI cord, adapter, charger, extension cord, etc. because you might not have the leisure of walking into a modern facility. My clients are split on this, some are very modern and can provide all these things, and some barely even have a conference room, let alone wifi connection.

In terms of personal items, obviously bring business clothes, but try and limit your outfits so that they all go with one or two pairs of shoes. Shoes are the real culprit when you’re trying to fit everything into a carry-on. Also, try and bring one casual (but still classy) outfit for dinners with colleagues or if you want to do any exploring on your own (this is usually my travel outfit). For toiletries, start keeping a stock of deluxe samples and small bottles to use on these trips since hotel toiletries can often leave a lot to be desired.

Step 2: Logistics

As I alluded to above, I recommend travelling with only carry-on luggage. I may one-day change my tune about this, but today is not this day. First off, travelling with only a carry-on means you can’t overpack too much, and secondly, it means the airline cannot lose your luggage. I do not trust the airlines to handle my bag and I cannot imagine anything worse than arriving on a work trip with none of the things I need to do my job.

Other logistics are pretty straightforward. Unless you work for a HUGE company, you probably won’t be getting picked up in an Escalade and staying in five-star hotels. So if you are responsible for your own bookings, Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott affiliates are usually safe bets for accommodations, and you can probably get away with booking Economy Premium flights at most.

Step 3: Arrival

Alright, you’ve arrived at your destination safely, and with all your stuff, so how do you act the first time? This obviously depends on why and where you’ve travelled, but the biggest tip I can give for this is to walk in the front door with confidence and start introducing yourself to everyone right away. It honestly took me a few trips to work up to this since I was so scared to do anything wrong I would wait until my boss introduced me. This is fine but it did not do my credibility any favors. Like always, confidence is absolutely key.

Step 4: Small Talk

You will inevitably have to make small talk. Whether it’s right at the start, at lunch, at a break, it WILL HAPPEN. I absolutely LOATHE small talk but you have to find some way to make it work for you. Because I work in a field where almost everyone is substantially older than me, I will either ask what they do for fun, or I will ask about their kids because EVERYBODY with kids loves to talk about them. If you can get the other person really going on a topic, it is less work for you!

If you can make the four elements I’ve listed here as breezy as possible then you are home free! Oh wait…you still have a job to do right? But honestly, that is the easy part. You already know how to do your job, the hard part is doing it in a new place surrounded by new people. If you can make the travelling and transition as easy as possible, there’s really not much else to worry about.

If you have any questions about business trips or any tips of your own, please message or comment below! I am always looking for ways to make these less stressful!

 

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PC: The ever judgmental Kiki Moussetis

 

*Unless explicitly told what tech to bring beforehand

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone, NOW

If you’ve ever spent even five minutes on my blog, you’d probably figure out that I absolutely LOVE to travel. Although I can’t travel as often as I’d like, every time I do, I try to go to places that challenge me. I’ve shared travel guides for my last couple trips on this blog, but recently I started working with the website unanchor.com to release far more informative guides on their platform, and my first guide is finally published!

Ok, you caught me, this post is partially about self-promotion (yes, go look at my itinerary, here and here!), but the real reason I’m writing a whole post about this rather than just sharing the link on facebook is because my first guide is a 3-day guide to Shanghai. The thing about Unanchor is that they want to work with people who have spent a substantial amount of time in the place they are writing a guide for which means I had to have spent at least three months in the place I was going to create an itinerary for.

About three years ago (omg it’s already been three years, what is happening), I spent the year abroad in Shanghai. But I’ve also spent that amount of time in different places in Greece, as well as different cities around California, Illinois, and now in Canada. However, I picked Shanghai because China is one of those countries that is never on anybody’s bucket list and that makes me infinitely sad.

Every time I’ve ever asked somebody where in the world they’d want to go, they usually pick a place in Europe. Sometimes I meet a more adventurous person and they say countries like South Africa or Thailand, but the answer has NEVER been China. In fact, when I told people I was going to China, everyone’s first response was “why?”, and that just killed me. My goal when I travel is to get OUT of my comfort zone, not to stay in it, and how many times in my life was I going to have the opportunity to spend a whole year in China hmm?? Europe is the easy answer for Americans because it’s closer than Asia and it’s easier to handle. Everyone speaks English, and people just feel like they will be safer and more comfortable since they know more about European countries than any other continent.

When I would bring up China, people would shrug and say “well, I guess the Great Wall would be cool to see”. China is so much more than that! (although the Great Wall is pretty incredible), and people don’t even realize. Part of this ignorance is due to the fact that between our school systems and our media, Americans get a pretty shitty education when it comes to any countries outside of North America and Europe, and fear of the unknown can have far-reaching consequences.

SO, my first guide is dedicated to combating that fear. The itinerary is for three days spent in Shanghai and covers a whole gambit of Museums, traditional sites, amazing restaurants, and clubs to give people an idea of just how cosmopolitan and entertaining Shanghai really is. There is also an appendix section chock full of information to make going to Shanghai seem far less daunting. I’ve added common phrases (in Mandarin and English), how to get around using public transport and taxis, cultural norms to be aware of, the best areas to stay, and so much more.

If you’ve ever been interested in visiting China, even just as a passing thought, PLEASE JUST GO. I promise you’ll love it and getting out of your comfort zone is so much more rewarding than staying in it. Plus, you’ll always have time and energy for the easy destinations. NOW is the time to challenge yourself with new experiences.

If you want to check out the actual guide, click here. But if you have general questions about Shanghai or my time there, feel free to comment or message me, I love talking about that experience!

 

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The beautiful Shanghai Skyline; Feature photo is of Nanjing Road in Shanghai

 

Lonely but not Alone

About six or seven months ago I wrote a post about how being alone doesn’t make you lonely (read it here, if you want), and I still stand by that post. Getting some quality alone time is still an important source of mental recovery for me, but there is a major difference in my life between when I wrote that post and what I’m about to write now. Up until that point, I had only ever experienced loneliness in spurts. Of course, everyone feels lonely from time to time, and for me, it was a fleeting feeling, something I could sleep off and be good to go the next day.

However, things have changed a bit since then. As I detailed in my last post about moving to Canada, I shared that I’ve been feeling a bit isolated since I moved. I wake up every day and at least once a day, if not for most of the day, I feel lonely.

On the surface, I might not seem that lonely. I live with my boyfriend so he’s usually around, he and I go out almost every weekend and hang out with various friends and family, and I have my own family and friends spread out over the world that I know I could call for anything.

So then why do I feel this way? I’m busy all the time, I’m meeting new people, and attending events. It seems like I shouldn’t feel this way but it keeps happening so I’ve narrowed my feelings down to three components:

  1. I work from home. This will naturally isolate and prevent me from making work friends or attending work social events as people who work in offices do. Even though I’m afforded a lot of flexibility because of this, it is a major hurdle when moving to a new city.
  2. I feel out of place in this city. Yes, Canada isn’t too different from the U.S. on the whole, but is Calgary different from L.A? They are on OPPOSITE ends of the spectrum. Although L.A. isn’t my absolute favorite city, I fit in with the culture there much more so than in Calgary. So even though I live here now, I still feel like I’m a fish out of water
  3. I have not made any of my own local friends. This is probably the biggest issue and I think it’s the most difficult to solve. I have some amazing friends from L.A. and from all over, that I am so close to but the thing is that it takes years to get that close to someone. It is SO rare that you sit down for coffee and have a four-hour conversation right off the bat. So even though I’ve met a couple people on my own, it hasn’t made me feel too much better because the deep conversations I build most of my relationships on are off the table for now.

The worst part of this feeling is that I feel like I’m not allowed to feel this way. I know that’s irrational and I can’t let anyone make me feel like my own brand of loneliness isn’t valid, but when I look at my life as a whole, I do have a lot of people I am super grateful for and that makes me feel even guiltier that I feel this way.

Alright, alright, CLEARLY I’m not in a good place right now but I’m not the type of person who can just sit back and do nothing. So, what will I be doing to combat the loneliness?

  1. Working from home is a tough one to overcome BUT for this one, I’m thinking of looking into co-working spaces, which are like offices for those who have stay-at-home jobs. I have also taken on more side projects which keep me busier and introduce me to different kinds of people (although still remotely). Lastly, I’ve resolved to make an even bigger effort in staying in touch with my friends and family from home and around the world. Even though they’re not here, every time I talk to them I do feel way better.
  2. Fitting in in Calgary is going to be hard for me since I don’t want to change too much of my personality and hobbies. I like the person I am today, and I am constantly wary of losing that. BUT, it never hurt anyone to pick up a new skill so in an effort to get more into the active/outdoorsy culture here, I have been learning to ski (last month was cross-country country skiing, this month will be downhill skiing), and I’m going to take up rock-climbing. I’m also making a list of everything I want to see and do here while I have the chance, to make exploring more exciting for me.
  3. Last but not least, the making new friends bit. I’ve met a couple girls now that I’d like to get to know better so now it’s just a matter of sucking up my pride and asking them to hang out whenever I can. I am also still looking constantly for things I could get involved in that would allow me to meet more like-minded people but a resolution is still pending on that front.

I know loneliness is not uncommon, especially in today’s day and age, but these feelings are wildly new for me, so I’ve been struggling quite a bit with them. If you have any advice for combatting loneliness in a new city, feel free to send me a message or comment below!.

 

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Artsy PC again by my fave: Kiki Moussetis

 

Lessons from the Fam

As the holiday season comes to a close, I am going to end my three-week trip back to my hometown in Chicago and consequently end my time with my family for awhile. I know the holidays for some can be the worst time of year BECAUSE of their family, but for me, my family brings a lot of joy. And the winter holiday season is one of the only times I get to spend a bunch of time with them since leaving home nearly five years ago.

Family is a highly subjective concept. I know people with hardly any family at all, and people with family trees so complicated they have eight sets of grandparents they keep in touch with. Although I have a relatively large extended family, my immediate family is obviously what has made the biggest impact on me. From the outside, it looks pretty standard: Mom, Dad, and a little sister. Just four of us. My parents have a healthy relationship and have done everything in their power to give my sister and me tons of opportunities, while my sister and I progressed as typical siblings do, getting along one minute and then being best friends the next.

I realize I am wildly fortunate to be living with the above situation, as there are many people who don’t get to come from a stable, healthy household. Every time I come home, and stay in my heinous pink/orange colored old bedroom (I have only myself to blame for the color palette), I always end up reflecting on how this family has fostered me and my personality. Of course, I am a flawed individual but there are certain lessons that got started in my family that I believe made me a much better person.

  1. Knowledge is Power: This lesson is something that my dad would say all the time but my parents made it their business to enforce it. Books of all kinds were everywhere in the house, my parents would read to me and my sister constantly, and going to the bookstore to pick out a new book was a huge treat. Even though we read mostly fiction books at the time, we were still learning — new vocabulary, grammar, and new ideas and concepts. As young girls, the majority of our Christmas lists were filled with books and we would just devour them. This has stuck with me in a big way. I continue to read voraciously and attribute my relatively strong writing and critical thinking skills to all of those books.
  2. Not good, not bad, just different: Although this phrase wasn’t always used, it’s content was always implied when our family encountered things that were vastly different from our own norms. My sister and I went to school in a very diverse school district and as a result, we had questions about other people and other traditions that we were exposed to. Both of my parents were very good at stressing the idea that people are different, and even though it is important to recognize those differences, it doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than we are. I believe this lesson made me a lot slower to judge others and a lot more open to understanding other cultures when I encounter them through travel or in another person.
  3. No jeans with holes: This is kind of a silly one, but my mom would not let me wear flip-flops, sweatpants, loungewear, or jeans with holes in them for a very long time. Although I possessed these items, I was not permitted to wear them to school (leading me to smuggle my flip flops into my elementary school haha). I don’t really remember these rules being enforced too much after I turned eleven, but the lesson was already there. The lesson was to always make an effort to look put together. She never pushed makeup on me or girly clothes, but my mom recognized the importance of putting effort into one’s appearance and I carried that with me. It is always important to look polished and professional because people really do judge on appearances, and I would never want anyone to assume I can’t handle myself because I can’t handle my own appearance.
  4. Listen & Practice: Last one, best one. My father said this CONSTANTLY. It was his way of wording the key to success. If my sister or I was struggling with anything or we had just started a new sport or class, he would say “listen & practice”. It seems simple, but many people fail on at least one of these two counts. They either fail to do their due diligence and listen to teachers or mentors properly, or they fail to put in the work on the back end. I have used this concept constantly throughout my life and I like to think it makes me a very coachable person. I really do take criticism well and try to manifest it into an improvement. I also have an intense amount of discipline so that if I really want to master something, I will work every single day until I do.

There were, of course, many other lessons I was taught as a kid, but the ones I just described were so ingrained in the fabric of our family that I can clearly tell they made a big impact. They taught me to keep learning, have discipline, be professional, and to be open-minded. Those lessons are things that a lot of people don’t get from their family and that, to me, are invaluable for the rest of your life.

 

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Aren’t we cute?