What it’s Really Like to Travel for Work Every Week

Next Monday I will take my last flight of 2018 home to Chicago for the holidays. That flight will be flight number 70 for me this year. SEVEN ZERO. Seventy flights, seventy different planes. I traveled 30 weeks out of this year for work, 4 weeks out of this year for planned vacation, and 4 weeks for family/friend visits in between it all. That is nearly 38 out 52 weeks spent away from home. I know some people travel way more than this, but this is the first year I’ve had to cope with a schedule like this.

I thought about writing about travel tips or airport routines but I wanted to focus on something more important. What I actually want to talk about is the toll this travel has taken on me this year. I never thought that I would be on a plane this much, and if I did, I’m sure I thought it would be infinitely more glamorous. In the past, traveling was always an exciting event. Airports were fun to explore, and the rush I would get when the plane would take off would last me until my destination. Unfortunately, only a small percent of my trips this year invoked those feelings – my vacations. The rest of my trips were for work and decidedly un-glamorous.

My work travel is slowly killing me. In the past, I would travel once or twice a month which I think is my ideal. I get a chance to go and visit new clients, explore a couple of new cities, great. But for most of this year, I have been shuttling back and forth every single week. A lot of San Francisco with some Denver, Seattle, LA, and Salt Lake City sprinkled in. Monday morning fly in, work, work, work, Thursday night fly back. This is pretty typical for consultants, but because the first year or so at this job I didn’t travel this much, I didn’t realize how much this type of schedule would drain me.

I don’t want this to be a depressing post, but I do want to be honest about what it feels like to travel for work all the time. The first issue I have is physical. It’s much harder to get into a good routine of working out when your schedule is never consistent. I can’t join a gym or commit to new types of training since I would never be able to participate. Eating well is a nightmare since while I’m traveling, I can’t cook for myself so I have to spend increasing amounts of time getting my hands on foods that are actually good for me. Just the plane ride itself can be hazardous since they are known incubators of disease and can also do a number on your skin and hair since the air is so cold and dry.

The second, and far more damaging issue with this way of life, is the emotional part. It is lonely, living this way. The actual traveling part is always done alone. I go through security alone, I sit at the gate alone, I fly alone, I uber alone, I eat alone. Then when I get to the client, that’s obviously all work. I get some social interaction, but being a consultant is having a lot of either work conversations, or small talk conversations that don’t really mean anything and are more draining to participate in than refreshing. Evenings are usually, once again, spent alone. There are occasions where I’m able to meet friends that are in that city, or there are work dinners, but nine times out of ten – I spend the night alone.

Doing this every once in a while wasn’t so bad. But every week? It starts to wear you down. I grow more and more resentful of my trips because they take me away from spending time with people I love. Earlier this week my Monday morning flight ended up getting delayed by two and half hours and I broke down in tears in the bathroom because if I had known this before I left my apartment, I could have spent those two precious hours in bed with my boyfriend instead of wasting away at the airport yet again.

There are, of course, two sides to every story. Travel really wears me down, but I do have an insane amount of air miles, credit card points, and hotel status that I can take advantage of now. I’ve barely paid for any of my vacations out of pocket because I have so much status to use up. I also have my airport routine down pat and most of the time it only takes me ten minutes or less from the curb to the gate area. Sometimes, I even get upgrades and then I really feel fancy. But all of that feels hollow compared with what I’m sacrificing.

I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way, and I can only imagine how much more guilty and awful I would feel if I had kids or something that I was leaving behind each week, but I also have met a ton of people that cope with this lifestyle just fine. They leave every week, are home on the weekends, and that’s just their life. Part of me knows that eventually, I too, would get used to this, it would just become my norm and I would figure out how to feel less lonely. But part of me also doesn’t want to. I don’t think I want to be one of those people that is everywhere but lives nowhere. Maybe this lifestyle is easier for people who already have an amazing community built up at their hometown, but I feel travel pains ever more acutely as my social life in Calgary hangs by a thread since I’m never there to nurture it. When I travel, I feel like I’m missing out, and when I return, it’s obvious that I have and that feeling is killing me. And it’s not missing out on parties, or dinners that gets to me, it’s missing all the small moments – watching a movie with a friend on a weeknight, laughing with my boyfriend while we cook dinner together, going to a gym class where I see the same people every Tuesday. None of those things can happen for me with this life, and THAT is what is killing me. THOSE are the things I’m becoming more and more attached to, and I’m coming to the realization that I don’t want to live a life that means giving those up all the time.

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The darker the line, the more I’ve done the route.

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One of the only flights I did for fun this year – my boyfriend flew me over the rocky mountains

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Moving to Canada: Finale

As of last month, I hit my one-year mark of living in Calgary, Canada. This is the official conclusion to my moving to Canada series that has slowed down over the course of the year. I’ve spent a whole year residing here, picking up new hobbies, making new friends, and exploring. What did I learn?

Making friends, especially in a smaller city is HARD. Like BRUTALLY HARD. The thing is, in cities like LA, or New York, there are SO many people that aren’t from the surrounding area, that state, or even the country so you bond with other people that didn’t grow up there over your same ‘otherness’. In Calgary though, it’s smaller, so more people you meet are from the surrounding area or provinces. As such, there is a tribal knowledge that is tough to break into. This isn’t a dig at Calgary, I’m sure this would happen in any city of similar size. Everyone has gone to school together, or lived and worked there for years and they have all these little things that just don’t make sense to an outsider. Jokes about different parts of the city, a restaurant that used to be where that bar is, different sets of hobbies, etc. It’s one of those cities that you can walk around pretty much anywhere and bump into someone you know (to be clear, I am not a fan of this. I adore the anonymity in big cities). To truly fit in, would take a long while. I have done a good job I think, making friends, but more often than not, I still feel like I’m on the outside.

I also am having way more of an identity crisis than I bargained for. Before moving up here, I was pretty indifferent to being American. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed due to our incessant antics around the world. But since moving, I’ve become way more patriotic. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why, though. Since Americans and Canadians look and dress pretty much the same, I am often assumed to be Canadian and this irks me. Part of it is because I can’t help but compare the two countries since they are so similar but so different at the same time. The other part is because I think I’ve realized how much being an American is integral to my personality and the way I am, and I am intensely reluctant to give up that part of myself.

There is a certain comfort in things that are American versus Canadian for me. Like how everybody is so rude on the road in America. That might sound like a terrible thing, but I miss it. I miss talking about the audacity of American politics with people who don’t see the situation as an elaborate media joke. I miss the sheer amount of things to do in U.S. cities like Chicago and LA. Pop up shops, concerts, art shows – they never skip major U.S. cities, but they definitely skip Canadian ones. I miss the fact that everything is instantly at your fingertips in the states whereas in Canada the mail takes for fucking ever. I miss the intensity of ambition that is ever present in American cities whereas Canada is more laidback (I’d like to point out that this is most likely due to the fact that they have amazing benefits no matter your socioeconomic status so there’s not as much worry). But the point is I MISS IT. And right now, I’m not willing to let that part of me go.

So this is the struggle of identity I face now. How do I keep my American identity while still successfully assimilating in Canada? Is it even possible? Or must I say sorry to everything and sell my soul to the oil industry?

The thing is, Canada is great in many ways. Since being up there, I’ve learned a ton of new hobbies – skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking and I’ve learned to enjoy the outdoors a lot more. I’ve also really enjoyed being closer to my boyfriend, discovering cool parts of Calgary, and learning how to set up a life from almost nothing.

And maybe I only feel this way because I’ve truly only been halfway in this whole time. Due to my job, I’ve spent nearly the same amount of time outside of Canada as I have in it. How can I really be a good judge of the place when I’ve never worked there and only developed the bare minimum of a social life since I’m gone all the time? A terrible one probably.

But this is all I’ve got right now. I’ve tried my hardest to make the most of the situation, but I’m at a loss of how to continue this way. I have no roots in Calgary, but also not enough time there to plant any. In the same vein, turns out it is ridiculously hard to get a job in Canada as an American, and what’s more, is that Calgary doesn’t exactly align with my career interests.

But all of that aside, let’s say I got an amazing job in the city, and joined a bunch of things to meet people. The risk in the back of my mind is the feeling that I’d have to give some part of my identity up to be 100% happy up there versus clinging on to my familiar self and perhaps only ever being able to achieve 70% happiness. When is the proper time to allow yourself to change?

So many questions, so little answers. To help cope with this feeling of being in between, of being lost, I’ve dedicated a large amount of mental space to taking things one day at a time. Right now, I’m not moving anywhere different, and I don’t have another job on the table. So why drive myself nuts? The best I can do is navigate each day and ask myself what I can do to make myself as amazing as possible no matter where I am.

To catch up on my entire Canada series, you can start here.

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The outdoors are a major perk of Canada living

Vacations are More than Relaxation

Long time no see, huh? For the last three weeks I was on vacation in Italy and Greece, and unlike in the past, I did not post while I was away. I even have some posts pre-written that were planned to be released while I was away but for some reason, I never felt the sense of urgency to actually post them while I was traveling. This time, I decided to treat this vacation as a vacation from all things – I did not work, I did not workout (apart from a couple runs), and I did not indulge my normal blogging schedule.

I was able to completely focus on my vacation and actually relax. I have kept such a rigid schedule the past couple years and I think I finally needed a vacation from all of my normal commitments, even the self-imposed ones. For the past year, I was consistently adding more and more commitments to my life whether they were social, self-improvement initiatives, or work-related. And after this trip, I realized that many of them are draining my life, more than adding to it.

Vacations, in general, are always great for me to take a step back and remind myself of what is actually important to me, but this time it was more than that. In a rare change of pace, this last trip was a trip more about the people than the places. I got to see one of my absolute best friends, as well as spend a Greece trip with my family like we used to. Spending so much quality time with people that are so important to me made me rethink my priorities a bit. I’m still working through this whole thought process but the basic idea is that I’d like to flip my thinking about how to plan my life.

I won’t go into it too much here because I still haven’t thought through it all, but the short story is that this vacation was more rejuvenating than most for my perspective and while I apologize for missing three Wednesdays, I don’t regret it at all. In fact, I’ve actually been thinking on going on a longer hiatus from my blog, and leaving it to someone else, but more on that later.

I’ve rambled a bit now, but this post only had one intention, and that was to explain my absence from the blogosphere to the few hundred of you that read my posts every week and to reiterate the point to our overworked populations that sometimes it’s ok to go completely off the grid and just feed your soul (although I definitely fed my stomach as well). I will return next week with some regular content, until then, let me know if you’d like more explanation on my change in perspectives and I’ll be happy to accommodate.

Where is Your Passport?

I was going to write about my personal travel bucket list this week, but a few days ago a colleague brought an extremely troubling statistic to my attention. He told me that only 10% of Americans have valid passports. I was confounded by this and immediately looked it up. That’s way too low, right? Well turns out that even though the number isn’t quite as dire as 10%, there are still only 41% of Americans that have valid passports. Not horrible, but definitely not great. That means that out of 325 million people nearly 170 million of them don’t have a passport and have thus probably never been outside the country.

I recognize that I may find this surprising because I grew up relatively privileged, with a passport since birth so that I could travel to Greece to visit my dad’s side of the family. I used to think that the people who didn’t travel simply didn’t because they were too scared or too unsure about how to plan or afford it. And while I do understand that there are financial and emotional burdens to undertake in getting a passport and in overseas travel, I also know that those obstacles only account for a fraction of the 170 million who don’t have passports. This number has to include people who don’t even have a base desire to go anywhere outside their home country and that is unimaginable for me.

Obviously, I am a travel nut. I love to see new places, experience new things, and explore different cultures. I think an inordinate amount about dropping everything to become a travel blogger and am constantly updating my bucket list (and by ‘updating’, I mean ‘adding to it’). It is incomprehensible to me that there are people out there who have no desire to see other places. Even my most homebody type friends have at least one far away place they’d love to see someday.

The reason I believe this is important to discuss because I learned some of my most important lessons about myself and about the world from travelling. Travelling to different places is an exercise in perseverance, and most importantly, in empathy. Depending on the place you’re going, there are certain obstacles to overcome: language, transportation, etc. which all enhance problem-solving and personal creativity by figuring out ways to survive that you wouldn’t normally have to use at home. However, the more important skill, in my opinion, is the practice of empathy. It is easy to sit at home, watch the news, and believe everything you see about the rest of the world. But it is quite another to actually travel to a place, and experience it for yourself.

For example, for many people, all they know about countries like Afghanistan are that they are war-torn terrorist hotbeds. But if you look at travel blogs and videos from people who have visited, they will rave about the food or the kindness of the people. I truly believe every single place on this planet has SOMETHING to offer and it’s a terrible waste that there are so many people out there who have no desire to experience something new.

I am probably at a loss with this concept because I don’t really know too many people who do not have a passport. I know I sound like a spoiled brat, but I honestly can’t imagine having never experienced anything outside my own country. If you or someone you know doesn’t’ have a passport,  I would love to know what their reasons are for not having one or for not travelling. Since nearly 60% of Americans don’t have one, there’s gotta be a reason, right?

 

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Me in Peru exactly a year ago where your passport is needed for everything as it’s your only form of ID

 

Moving to Canada: Take 5

It’s been a minute since I last wrote about my move. It was at the end of January and I was finally feeling pretty positive about my relocation. I had started to make some friends, and my work life was getting increasingly busier. So busy, in fact, that I hadn’t had any time to reflect on how I was really feeling.

It’s nearing the end of six months and I’ve finally had a slow weekend to relax and think a little bit. I think I’ve started to settle into a rhythm here in Calgary.  Work has picked up a ton which keeps me busy (and keeps my stress levels engaged). I travel almost every single week, so I guess it’s a good thing I have such cheap rent now since I hardly spend time in my apartment during the week.

I’ve also really been trying to work on those friendships I started back in January. Since originally just going climbing with a couple girls a few times a week, I’ve done a ski weekend, and had some double dinner dates thrown in for good measure. I’ve gotten loads better at downhill skiing as well as steadily progressing on rock climbing, and actually look forward to being outdoors (shocking, I know).

All in all, I am starting to feel good about my life here. But that is just it – I feel good, but not great. I don’t believe this is any fault of the people I’ve met, the city itself, or even underlying homesickness. I believe it’s my own unrest that is leaving me dissatisfied.

I was talking to a friend earlier in the week and we were discussing how most people in our friend group always need to feel like we’re moving forward and part of that feeling is physically moving locations at every available opportunity. I’m particularly guilty of this (7 places in 5 years), but I can’t figure out where it stems from. I fear to stay in any place longer than a year and view part of my success synonymously with changing locations. And now that I’m past the halfway point in my lease in Calgary, I’m starting to feel myself growing restless.

Where do I go from here? I’ve conquered my fear of moving to a new city in a new country and building a life from scratch, and part of me craves doing it all over again. The other part of me simply fears growing complacent by staying in one place for too long and becoming comfortable. One of my favourite ways to challenge myself is by moving to new places and I’m terrified of ever growing too attached to a place out of convenience.

So my new questions for myself are as follows: why do I feel the need to move around? And if I don’t move, how can I still find ways to push myself?

Does anyone else feel like their success depends on moving around? Or feel afraid of staying in one place for too long and becoming too comfortable to move again? Let me know!

 

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PC: The talented Megan Lawson

 

How to Vomit in Your Own Hands

Great title, right? Unfortunately, on my trip to Mexico, I got intimately familiar with what getting sick on the road is like.

Those who know me know that I hardly ever get sick. Like, I barely even get the common cold. Consequently, I’ve been lucky enough to evade any travel sickness for quite a while now, so I guess it was only a matter of time before it caught up with me.

On my trip to Mexico last month, I had a slight bit of food poisoning. And when I say slight, I actually mean 24 hours of being violently ill. As the title would suggest, it was not the most glamorous affair, but I did learn a few things.

First off, I learned what food poisoning feels like (or at least, I think I do). We never could trace back my sickness to exactly what had upset my stomach but the symptoms were all there. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Graphic, I know, but bear with me. When you eat something that your stomach deems unacceptable, your body completely rejects it and tries to rid itself of the substance however it can, hence the unpleasant symptoms. For me, the nauseous feeling was intensified because it was hot and muggy, and when the sickness actually hit me, we were on perhaps the roughest bus ride I’ve ever been on, and thus my nausea could no longer be contained, and I threw up what little I had eaten that day, into my own two hands.

This brings me to the second thing: you should always travel prepared. I’m not saying you need to be like Mary Poppins and pull a whole hospital out of your bag, but you should always take a couple of key items, whether or not you commonly get sick. First and foremost: TISSUES/NAPKINS. I got in the habit of carrying napkins around with me when I was in Shanghai for a year because many places do not provide toilet paper in public bathrooms. Thank goodness the habit stuck, because I had some napkins in my bag to help me clean myself up while I was still on the bus.

Another great item is disinfecting wipes. I say wipes because a bottle is just extra liquid for your TSA approved bag, and also because on the whole, I am against hand sanitizer. I think it’s silly, it kills the immune system, and it dries out my hands, so I am NOT a fan. HOWEVER, if you throw up in your own hands, or do something equally disgusting, it might be nice to have a couple stashed nearby so you can at least feel semi clean until you get yourself to a real bathroom with real soap.

Lastly, bring some standard meds with you. We’re talking painkillers, Alka Seltzers, and any and all manner of indigestion drugs you think is applicable. When you’ve got food poisoning, there aren’t many drugs that can help at the moment, but they will help mild discomfort and might help after the fact as well.

While I was sick, I did a couple of important things — Once we got back to our hotel room, I immediately stripped to my underwear and got a cold washcloth to keep myself from overheating. My amazing boyfriend went out to get me some more cold water, coca cola, and plan crackers (or tortilla chips in Mexico’s case). The Coca-Cola I mixed with water to drink to settle my stomach. Ginger ale is ideal for this, but Coke is a reliable brand pretty much everywhere in the world. The plain crackers were so that my body wasn’t running on empty, but they are also such a mild food that they wouldn’t irritate my stomach any further.

By far the worst thing about food poisoning is that no matter how badly you try and take away the nausea, your body will insist on ridding itself of whatever you ate/drank and you have to let it run its course. At the start, I would try and prevent the vomit for as long as possible, but there was no way around it. Once I let myself be sick whenever I could feel it rising, things progressed a lot faster. Eventually, your body will be spent and there will be nothing else to get rid of. I was able to go to sleep and woke up the next morning feeling weak, but markedly better.

To recover, you must still be gentle. I continued to sip only water or coke mixed with water, and only ate plain foods the next day. The day after, however, I was able to eat and drink normally.

Being sick on the road is perhaps one of the worst things that can happen. Luckily, I was only down for 12 hours, had someone to take care of me, and we were staying in a hotel instead of a hostel so it could’ve been much worse. I remember the epidemic that swept my Shanghai study abroad group that put the majority of us down during what was supposed to be a field trip to Yunnan province. I escaped then, but I wasn’t able to escape forever.

Have you ever gotten sick while traveling? How did you handle it? I hope I don’t make a habit of this, but being prepared never hurt anyone!

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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

 

Moving to Canada, Take 3: High High’s, and Low Low’s

November was a very strange month for me. However, this was the first WHOLE month I spent in Calgary so I finally got an accurate picture of what living here is actually like.

First off let’s talk about the high’s. Since I got my routine figured out in October, in November I was able to break out of my shell a little bit. I would go on walks around the city by myself, I would take breaks to go work in different cafe’s, and I signed up for ClassPass to try and find some fitness classes that I liked where I might be able to meet people. I’ve even been skiing every weekend in an effort to improve my deplorable skills before a group ski trip in a couple weeks.

My social calendar was also surprisingly full. There were dinners with my boyfriend’s family, one of my boyfriend’s friends came to stay with us for a week, there was a banquet at the flying club where my boyfriend won an award for most proficient private pilot (yes he flies planes, it’s nbd), there was a fondue night with friends,  I cooked my very own Thanksgiving dinner, and we hosted a game night which of course, got very heated (Monopoly will do that to a person).

However, even though November was super busy and a lot of the activities I described above made me smile, there was also the feeling of soul-crushing loneliness brewing beneath the surface. Ok, ok, I know. There’s no need to be so dramatic, BUT, this month was the definitely hardest thus far. My poor boyfriend doesn’t know what to do with himself because he’ll see me happy at an event on one day, and the next day I’m crying in the bathtub all evening.

Even though I’ve been extremely busy, I can’t help but feel that I’m losing myself in this new place, and allowing myself to be absorbed by my boyfriend’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hanging out with his family and friend’s and am enjoying (mostly) learning new skills like skiing, but I don’t have anything yet that’s my own. Back in L.A., even on my loneliest days, I had things that would make me feel peaceful and grounded. I would go to the beach alone for hours, and I had restaurants and cafe’s near my apartment that I could rely on for comfort food or green juice, as it is in SoCal. And of course, most importantly, I had friends nearby that I could reach out to who could help me through any negative feelings or just to discuss life with. I realized the other day that I hadn’t had a deep or open conversation with anyone here besides my boyfriend. Those types of dialogues are how I build friendships and not having them has really been taking its toll on my emotions.

Overall, this month still had more high’s than low’s, but the lows were just super low. I’m trying new things all the time, but I’m just at a loss with how to create my own life here. I know building a new social life takes time, but in the interim, I would at least love to find a few things here that make me feel independent and in control. Honestly, the mission for December is to just do as much as possible before I leave for Chicago to celebrate the holidays (AND my 23rd birthday, wow). I know that trip will perk me up a bit, so right now it’s my light at the end of the 2017 tunnel.

 

 

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If I look like a deer in the headlights, it’s because that’s how I feel about my life right now. jk, it’s because my skis can smell my fear. PC: Michael Lankester

 

Moving to Canada: Take 2

Alright guys. At the beginning of last month, I detailed how the first few days of living in Canada had gone for me, and in case you forgot, I was not in a good place (see the first article here, if you need a refresher on my misery).

But because I know this move is going to be a period of tons of changes and phases, I figured I’d start a series on my blog chronicling how it goes. So here it is: my first full month in my new country.

October was a little strange because I really only spent 20 days out of 31 actually in Canada. For one week, I had a business trip to Seattle and for another week, I was visiting my family in Chicago. However, most weekends and other days were all spent in Calgary.

Even though I spent some time away, I will admit that I definitely enjoyed my time in Calgary a little bit more than I did in the first few days. I realized that Amazon and can still be useful and Canadian Netflix is actually BETTER than American Netflix. (Although my HBO doesn’t work here so I have to figure something out before the final season of GOT. YES I’M ALREADY WORRIED ABOUT THIS). I got into my normal routine of working from home, working out, and tried two boxing gyms. I also hung out a couple times with some of my boyfriend’s friends and family. Even though I know I need my own friends, it was obviously nice to talk to someone other than my boyfriend every once in a while.

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I can recognize that Calgary, for the most part, is like any other major city in the U.S. It has a vibrant downtown where everything is walking distance and it has bars, shops, and restaurants, as well as skyscrapers to form the skyline, so getting used to the city won’t take long. I’ve begun walking around by myself to run errands and familiarize myself with how to get around.

The hardest part of moving, and I suspect it will be the hardest part for awhile, will be developing a social life of my own. Working from home really works against me in this respect, since I have to find other ways to meet people. My first thought is to join a boxing gym or maybe a cycling class and go regularly to start to see the same people. But unlike making friends in college or at work, I would still only see these people for one or two hours a week, so building up a repartee with them will still take a while even once I commit to one.

My next thought was to join a couple groups online for people of similar interests, as well as an expat group, but so far I haven’t found any events that I have been able to attend. November might be a little bit better for this since I don’t have any travel planned but we’ll see. Luckily, I feel a bit more settled after this past month and I can mostly focus on trying to meet people and cultivate new hobbies for a new city. Wish me luck!

If you have any suggestions on how to make friends in a new city, please comment! I need all the help I can get!

 

canada1

If nothing else, Canada is gorgeous.

 

 

 

Dear L.A.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas (Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Tujunga, DTLA) for about three years now (not all in a row, but close), and I can safely say I have a pretty harsh love/hate relationship with this place. L.A. is ugly, has boring architecture, the traffic is the WORST, and there really are a ton of people here trying to be famous or get discovered at every ice cream shop, club, and street corner.

However, even though I can say a million horrible things about Los Angeles, I also have a few good thoughts on this place and as I prepare to abandon it (only three more days!) in favor of the Great White North (aka Canada), I thought I’d write a little letter to Los Angeles to thank it for how it has contributed to who I am today.

Dear L.A.,

We have been through a lot together. My whole college career, internships, amazing friends. But I’ve known since the day I set foot in this town that it would be a temporary living space for me, and now the day has come for us to part ways.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you, you’re not the prettiest city I’ve ever had the pleasure of courting, but certain parts of you are incredible. I can’t deny that your proximity to the Pacific doesn’t make me justify your numerous other flaws everytime I set foot in that warm sand and get salt water in my hair.

Ugh and the food! You do so many things so well: Mexican, Chinese, Italian. You have a million dessert shops, each offering better cupcakes or ice cream than the last. And the best part? All of it is gorgeous because you know half your revenue is from being reposted on Instagram.

You’ve also taught me much about taking care of myself. Although you can get a little dramatic with all your overpriced juice cleanses and fancy gym memberships, you really showed me that it is ok to put a priority on self-care. You gave me all sorts of healthy eating options and introduced me to heaven in bowl form: acai bowls. You also made sure I never got bored exercising and offered me my choice of many boxing, yoga, swimming, and hiking prospects to stay fit.

And even though you can be way too expensive and way too superficial, you were also the place where I met some of my absolute best friends.  These are the friends that taught me to be more open minded, more social, and more generous. They taught me it’s ok to depend on others and to be vulnerable with them. They are friends that I can laugh, cry, or be silent with. The kind that truly change you as a person, shape your life, and stay with you forever, and for that, I will always be grateful.

See you again soon L.A.

Love, Melina