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!

 

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If nothing else, Canada is gorgeous.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

A Girl’s Guide to Defecting

As many of you may know from my recent blog post here, I am moving to Canada in just a couple weeks now! While I’ve moved WAY too many times in the last few years, moving to another country comes with a whole set of different challenges that you normally don’t have to worry about when you’re moving within one country. I love the idea of living abroad, and although Canada isn’t exactly as exotic as I’d like, it is still a foreign country and a new set of logistics need to be considered. So if you’re the same as me and are considering, or have considered living abroad, here are some things you should take into account:

  1. THE LAW. I know, I know, this one is obvious. But it is worth repeating here because each country has its own immigration laws and regulations, and you should become intensely familiar with those rules to avoid any mishaps. Common ways to live abroad include getting work or student visas that provide you with the correct documentation to live in a country that is not your own. If you’re a U.S. citizen, the Federal Secretary of State website is the place to start for this info. For me, I’m in a unique situation since I work from home for an American company. For this first year at least, I won’t claim that I live in Canada, and I will make sure I go back to the states at least every few months to prevent violating immigration law. If I live with my boyfriend in Canada for a year or longer, he can actually sponsor me for permanent residency and things become a whole lot easier.
  2. TAXES. The only certainties in life right? Death and taxes. Just because you move away does not mean you are free of paying your government money. In fact, it gets even more complicated because you will have to file in both countries. I make money through an American firm, but will be using Canada’s resources so I have to file twice. I’ll be honest, taxes are already complicated enough as it is, so I’ve decided to hire an accountant for this. It’s expensive but I will definitely need the help and peace of mind of putting this burden on a professional who can make sure I don’t lose too much money.
  3. HEALTH INSURANCE. Maybe you’re on your parent’s policy still, or maybe you have insurance through your work. Either way, chances are, your policy doesn’t really apply abroad. I have Blue Cross Blue Shield and they do have emergency insurance for if I were to break my leg or something abroad, but as far as getting checkups or other appointments, I have to come back down to the states if I want coverage. There are ways you can extend your coverage abroad, or buy a separate policy for extended trips, but you will have to make sure you contact your health insurance providers for more details.
  4. CELLPHONE. Ideally, you would simply buy a Sim card in whatever country you moved to and get a new plan with one of their providers. However, because I will be constantly going back and forth between the states and Canada for work, I 1.) Don’t want to commit to a Canadian plan and 2.) Don’t want to change my number. I have Verizon and they have quite a few options for people traveling abroad. For now, I have added Canadian Access to my phone at a limited capacity for an extra charge, and will add more as I need it.
  5. MAILING.  If you leave the country there are still going to be some important documents that you might not want to forward across oceans and continents. I know I will change all my subscriptions and official document addresses to my parent’s address. Make sure you obtain a PO box or an address for a person you trust for official documents and tax purposes. Figure out how to forward your mail with your current postal service or call/email all your subscription services and change your address manually.

There are obviously a billion other little things to consider when moving period, but when moving abroad, the most important thing is to make sure all your legal affairs are in order. Moving to another country is honestly a logistical nightmare and for me, I really had to do my research and talk to people that had done something similar to me to figure out how they handled all this. Information online can be vague or misleading so it is best to find forums for expats or official government instructions to get a better handle on the things you need to know. Wish me luck!

 

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Photography by the lovely Clara Yu

 

I’m Moving…Again

I have an important announcement.

Drumroll, please.

I’m moving to Canada.

No, this is not a drill, practical joke, or political piece (although my timing is great regarding that). I really am moving to the city of Calgary, Canada in one month’s time.

Why, you ask? Well, there are a couple reasons: chiefly, that my boyfriend lives in Calgary and since my job allows me to work anywhere, we decided to do away with the long distance thing and move in together. And also because I can never stay in one place for long. Just look at the last four years:

  • August 2013: Moved to Malibu, CA
  • May 2014: Moved back to Chicago, IL
  • August 2014: Moved to Shanghai, China
  • May 2015: Moved back to Chicago, IL
  • June 2015: Moved to Tujunga, CA (Thanks, Kay and Jim)
  • August 2015: Moved to Thousand Oaks, CA
  • May 2016: Graduated Pepperdine and moved to Chicago, IL
  • June-July 2016: Euro Trip
  • September 2016: Moved to Downtown LA, CA
  • September 2017: Move to Calgary, Canada

I know it’s typical for college students to go back and forth and not settle during their university years, but I do think I’ve moved around a little more than the average student/young professional. This past year living in DTLA has been the longest I’ve been in one place since leaving home, and I’m moving yet again!

However, the decision to move wasn’t quite as easy as it seems, and I honestly have quite a bit of anxiety over it. First of all, even though I’ve moved around quite a bit, I always knew I was coming back to somewhere, whether that was Chicago or California. With this move to Canada, I have no idea if I will end up staying there or where I would move next.

Secondly, it is a BIG deal to me to move in with my boyfriend. Moving in with a romantic partner means we will be merging our lives. And the scary part, of course, is if things go south with the relationship, it is much harder for me to rebuild my life again after shifting all the way to Canada. Furthermore, I am moving to my boyfriend’s home turf. His family, friends, and activities are already established in Calgary, whereas I will be starting from scratch — no family, no friends, no social life at all. That is absolutely terrifying for me. I don’t want to rely solely on my boyfriend for all of my social needs, but that is how it is going to have to be at the very start until I start getting involved in my own things. Moving to California the first time was different because I was a freshman at university, and everyone knows freshman are all desperate to make friends so we were all in the same uncomfortable situation. This time around, it is only me in the uncomfortable situation and I have to figure it out by myself.

Lastly, I was initially apprehensive about moving to Calgary. All my life I’ve lived in or around extremely large cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, Shanghai, etc. These cities are enormous, gorgeous, and have tons of opportunities. Calgary, on the other hand, is a bit smaller and still developing. That’s not a bad thing, but I’m not used to it. I also admit I’ve been spoiled by the sheer variety of activities, food, and landscapes afforded to me by those cities. Calgary has a much different feel to it and the major points of interest are things I had never even considered doing before, like skiing, camping, or cycling. I have visited a couple times and definitely felt out of my element.

So there you have it, in spite of my fears of not having any friends, not having a social life, not fitting in with the activities, being too bored, of my boyfriend and I breaking up, I still decided to move. I still decided to move because I decided it was important to continue to challenge myself.

I know it’s Canada and I won’t have bigger issues to tackle, like language or vastly different cultural norms (although I will never understand the big deal about hockey), it is still a different country and I will have to build my life there. I’ll have to learn what I like about Calgary and what I like doing there. I’ll have to learn how to live with my boyfriend, and I’ll learn how to create my own social life from the ground up. So while it’s comfortable to live in places I know so well, with people I already love, I know I will grow so much more by putting myself in a place I barely know, with people I definitely don’t know and force myself to make it a great opportunity.

 

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Checking out my new horizons…

 

“I would never let my daughter do that!”

Fatherhood is an interesting concept for me to think about because although I have a father, I can never become one. In the wake of Father’s day weekend, I’ve been thinking about why I appreciate my own father so much. While he’s done so many things for me that I can never be grateful enough, one trait, in particular, stands out.

My dad always made my sister and me feel capable. He always encouraged us to get out of our comfort zone, learn new things, and have new experiences. He rarely made us back off on a new opportunity because he was scared for us. This was prevalent when we were kids when he would push us to be better at our respective sports, or when he would try and get us to read books outside of class that pertained to classroom topics to increase our knowledge so we could get ahead.

Even as adults he never tries to pull us back for safety’s sake. A chief example is the nearly two-month long trip I went on by myself last summer. No family, no friends, just me! Most people, especially men who are my dad’s age, balk at this and say something along the lines of “Oh I could never let my daughter do that!” When I ask these people why, they always say something like “oh she’d get lost”, or “What if she’s attacked or taken”, or sometimes they don’t even have a reason! And I think to myself ‘Do you not think of your daughter as a capable person? Do you not think you’ve raised her to be smart and competent enough to be ok on her own?’ I don’t get it at all. When I said I was going alone, my dad barely batted an eye because he knew I was totally capable of handling any chaos a trip like that could throw at me. He has always thought very highly of my and my sister’s abilities and I’m only just now realizing how much it meant that he never underestimated us.

Nowadays, I work with a lot of men that are my dad’s age, and they sometimes develop this strange protective affliction. I say ‘affliction’ because they’re NOT my parents and shouldn’t be concerned with protecting me from work and should respect my ability to get the work done. But they sometimes end up treating me like their own daughters, but unlike my dad, they treat me as though I’m naive and fragile, and unable to do certain things on my own.

My dad NEVER does this. He would, of course, teach us new things or skills, but he never just assumed we needed protecting and for things to be done for us because we were incompetent. He EXPECTED us to know how to do everything for ourselves.

Surprisingly, and unfortunately, I’ve found that my dad’s behavior is a huge departure from how many fathers treat their daughters. Most tend to protect and worry about them more so than their sons and think them more at risk in the world, and less capable of handling that risk. Even if they don’t mean to do it, they feel their daughters are more fragile, and thus need more protection – from boys, knowledge, the world, EVERYTHING – but not my dad.

I could go on and on about everything else that makes my dad special, but he already knows he’s the best so I’ll leave you all with the thought that daughters should be expected to be capable, confident, and competent and any father who stands in the way of those traits, stands in the way of his daughter’s success.

 

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Me, My dad, and My sister all having a grand ol’ time in Mykonos last year.

 

Romance on the Road Part 3: I See Stars

Alright, brace yourselves people because the islands is where it starts to get REAL romantic, REAL fast. Our first day in Santorini was cute. We went to the beach, went to dinner and had a little alone time later where we went stargazing at the beach. But I REALLY want to get to the next day because the last eight hours of the next day were possibly THE MOST romantic hours of my entire twenty one years of living.

So, we were all at the beach when Dean went off with another girl we met at the hostel at around 4pm, leaving me and Jack alone.  We swam, we cuddled on one beach chair, and he even slowly removed my top to give me a back massage and re tied it without trying anything (which basically made me go insane).

We knew we wanted to catch the sunset in Oia that night as it is considered, perhaps, the most beautiful sunset in the world and around seven we realized we needed to get a move on, as Oia was on the other side of the island from where we were. We put some clothes on over our swimsuits and rented an ATV. The man at the rental shop asked us where we were going that night and when we told him, he gave a chuckle and said we couldn’t possibly make the sunset tonight. Challenge accepted.

We hopped on and RACED across the island. We didn’t have a map or wifi, we just used the street signs and intuition to cross the island. About halfway through our ride, we rounded a mountain and saw the sun start to set over the water. It was such a movie moment. I got goosebumps and threw my hands in the air and yelled. It was exciting, amazing, exhilarating…. there’s almost no words for that feeling in that moment. We finally got to our destination and ran up to the viewpoint. We had made it for the sunset with LITERALLY ten minutes to spare. We watched the orange sun dip below the pink sky and of course sealed the sunset with a kiss (I’m seriously not making this up folks).

After watching the sun disappear, Oia was bathed in a purple, gold glow in the twilight so I made Jack run around with me to take pictures using this magical lighting. My hair was a mess, we were still covered in salt and sweat from the beach but we were having the most fantastic time. Eventually the light got darker and we snuck out on to the top of one of those white churches (just google ‘greek island’ and I guarantee those churches pop up)  and watched the twilight turn to stars. We talked and kissed for a while and then decided to go and get dinner. We raced back across the island and sat in a seaside restaurant to eat and watch one of the last games of the EuroCup. We ordered a ton of food and ate like barbarians (I’m a savage eater, but Jack thought it was cute anyways). We made bets on the game and were just completely on a high from the sunset. After dinner we walked around and talked and sat (and may have fooled around…) on the beach (where there was a METEOR SHOWER) until about four in the morning before finally making it back to the hostel. How’s THAT for romantic?

The next morning we managed to get up relatively early and go get breakfast together before Dean woke. Once we all got together, we packed up and went down to the port to catch the ferry to Naxos. Now this is how I KNOW Jack was into me. Naxos is not a touristy island, like, AT ALL. I wanted to go because I had been to the touristy ones already, the only reason for Jack to go was… me. Regardless, we arrived in Naxos and we could tell our time was winding down.

Naxos didn’t have the same speed as Santorini so we lounged on the beach, watched some games, and ate a lot of food. After Naxos was where we parted ways. I was planning on meeting my family in Mykonos and the boys were headed to Vienna. At breakfast on our second day in Naxos, they were figuring out travel plans and they realized that they couldn’t stay another night in Naxos like they had originally planned. Logistically, to save both time and money, they had to leave that evening, on the last ferry back to Athens. I could see the wheels turn in Jack’s head, trying to think of a way to get around this issue, but there wasn’t one. Instead of another day, we only had a few hours. Dean knew what was going on so he made a solid effort to give me and Jack some alone time until the ferry left. We of course went to the beach, and played in the water and then decided to have a solid talk.

We talked for a LONG time because this was a big predicament. We both liked each other a lot but our travels were taking us separate ways and although we do live on the same continent, we don’t live near each other at all. What to do? Well, against all of my cynicism, and rules and whatever, we decided, right there, on the beach in Naxos, to give this (whatever “this” was) a try. We agreed to keep talking and to maybe meet up when we both got back home. This decision tore me in half. I wanted to be hopeful because I really liked Jack, but I also knew he had some things to take care of at home and how unlikely long distance relationships can be. We texted and FaceTimed throughout the remainder of our respective trips but then we both returned home.

Once we got home, my cynicism actually began to ebb away bit by bit. Jack has visited me twice now. We met in the middle the first time and he drove fifteen hours to Chicago to see me the second time and things just get better and better each time. We talk all day and make sure we FaceTime every night even for just a few minutes. It’s honestly unbearably cute and if I were looking at myself from the outside I’d probably VOMIT, but because I’m in it, I can’t help myself.

I’m unsure how to conclude this story, perhaps because there is no clear conclusion. This whole story is so unlikely and so romantic I had to stop many times while it was happening and check that I was awake, that I wasn’t a character in some cheesy chick flick. But it did happen, I actually met someone amazing in the most romantic of ways and we are continuing the relationship on home soil. It’s insane, ridiculous, and heartwarming all at once. I have no advice for replicating this experience, so my only tips are to be open to all kinds of people, especially when traveling. But also be selfish. Once you really start feeling yourself and only worrying about making yourself happy, all kinds of things open up. *WINKY FACE*

Romance on the Road Part 2: Hot and Heavy

The next morning, I had planned on going to the beach very early to beat the crowds. However, the clouds got the best of me and I packed up after about an hour to head back to the hostel. On the way back, I saw Jack and his friend. I told them the beach had failed me and that I was going to Monaco for the day instead. OF COURSE, it turns out that was their plan as well. Two other guys from the hostel were also planning on going so all five of us headed to Monaco. The rest of the day was spent in Monaco, and then at the beach before the nightly festivities (read: free wine) took place.

Throughout this whole time, Jack and I acted like normal hostel friends. At this point, I figured it would be a one night thing that was fun, but that’s all it was so there was no reason to make it weird. However, that night, he invited me up to his room and we spent hours on the stairs talking and then dancing because he of course knows how to swing dance (I feel like guys who can dance are universal kryptonite for girls…) and then we cuddled all night (in a SWELTERING ROOM, I might add. Their AC was broken and between the 100 degree weather and body heat, it was the bad kind of sweaty night…).

The next day was spent chatting with Jack and his friend (we’ll call him Dean* as he was pretty cool too), as well as others. When nighttime rolled around, a large group of us went to watch the game in the fanzone and then went to the beach at night. Jack then invited me to his room a second time. However, this time we had a huge talk on the balcony in the hall before going to bed. There were some heavy topics that needed to be discussed at that point, but some feelings definitely arose. Cuddles ensued. The next morning Jack and Dean left. I walked with them to the train station and hugged them goodbye and by lunch, they were gone.

I was vaguely introspective for the rest of my time in France, but soon enough I was off to Spain. I definitely tried my best in Spain to regain my selfish ways and as my new friend Raquelle* could tell you, some of those Spanish nights were not my proudest moments when it came to guys…HOWEVER, Jack and I were still texting a bit and within a few days of my departure to Spain he told me he and Dean were going to meet me in Greece when I flew there after Ibiza. This was unprecedented. This guy was actually gonna adapt his trip and FOLLOW ME to Greece. That’s either hella stalkerish or hella romantic and I’d rather go with the latter…

A few days later, I landed in Greece and met them straightaway. We spent that night touring around Athens and then I took them to my apartment where they met my grandmother. (SO CUTE). The next day, we had decided to meet in the morning for a full day of touring Athens and when I turned up at their hostel, Jack came downstairs to greet me and suggested we go across the street to a cafe while we waited for Dean to wake up. I think Jack just wanted some alone time with me and we had a great chat at the coffee shop but it was a little difficult to figure out how to act after all the romance of France. When Dean joined us, we spent the day drinking coffees and walking around the city.

We planned to go to Santorini the next morning early, so I invited them to stay with me that night. Jack definitely wanted more alone time with me so he suggested going up to the balcony. We went up there and started talking just about the trip and normal things, but the tension was palpable. I don’t think either one of us knew exactly where the other stood since we had been acting like normal friends since meeting two nights ago in Athens. Then, up there on the balcony, looking out over the night lights of Athens, he put his arms around me. Objectively, a small gesture, but the fact that he did it and the fact that I accepted it, defined our relationship as definitely something more than friends in that moment.  We proceeded to talk (and kiss, of course) until the wee hours of the morning when I finally had to pack up my stuff (into one purse, check out my previous article) and we were off to the islands!

Check back soon for the EPIC conclusion….

Romance on the Road Part 1: Drink the Wine

I may have mentioned that I experienced some romance on my trip this year…Is there anything more cliche than summer romance? NOPE.  And unfortunately, although I possess an above average abhorrence for cliches, I, myself, have fallen prey to this particular one. This was the one thing everyone wanted to know about so here is the story of my travel romance.

Let’s start at the beginning. I left for Europe DETERMINED to have a good time. I wasn’t going to think about exes, school, my new job, my future, NOTHING but having fun mattered. So when I started traipsing around Europe, I had many flirty encounters and some good conversations with a few guys but  as we were all travelers it was all harmless fun since we all change locations every couple of days. And then I got to Nice. I should’ve known France was trouble… apparently romance seeps out of the very PORES of that country….

So how did I meet this guy? WELL, I arrived in Nice in the early afternoon and decided to go shopping. I was a little cranky from the bus ride and needed a new purse anyway (but actually, mine broke on me in Genoa…), so when I finally sat down to eat at this kebab place, I was famished. About twenty minutes after I sit down and start eating, these two guys walk up. I heard them speaking English but as I was on the phone with a friend and inhaling my dinner, I didn’t engage until they sat down and commented on what I was eating. At that time, my kebab was all over my face, so I obviously was able to assure them that it was good. They didn’t seem like tools (like so many groups of guys can be) so, I tried to keep the conversation going after they opened it up. After covering most of the small talk points, we figured out we were all staying at the same hostel that runs a promotion every night for free wine (FREE FUCKING WINE), so we agreed to meet up for free wine night a little later and I left the restaurant.

Turns out free wine night was the PLACE TO BE. So TONS of people at the hostel were down there and the two guys and I ended up in a huge conversation with a bunch of other people.  We all had a quite a few drinks and I was definitely a little tipsy. Eventually, the more talkative of the two guys before, we’ll call him Jack*, asked to use my restroom because my room was on the first floor and his was on the fifth. Me, being the skeptic, assumed this was a move to get me alone, but I liked him enough by then that I agreed. We went to my room and he used the restroom and then noticed that the window in my room opened onto a small balcony and then onto the roof. So of course he insisted that we go out to sit on the roof, and then we talked. We sat up there for close to an hour and just talked…but not like that superficial bullshit small talk, we really spoke on where we were in life as well as other deeper topics. That conversation is honestly probably where things started to shift a little bit for me because up until that point, all the interactions I had with guys were friendly, flirty, or just fun, but nothing that almost felt… meaningful.

We soon realized that we should rejoin our hostel friends downstairs, but when we returned, they had all left. We shrugged and figured they had gone to the Fanzone (a setup for soccer fans to watch the games of the EuroCup on huge screens) and decided to walk down there. Nope. Fanzone was completely empty. Alone again, the tension started to rise, so we continued our conversation on a walk down to the beach. We walked along the beach and discussed so many things I can’t even remember all of them! We just walked and talked until we came to a small cove where we sat and looked for stars. It was a cloudy night so we ended up spotting more planes masquerading as stars than actual stars. But we had gotten closer and closer and the tension was starting to become difficult to ignore. So right around this point Jack pulls such a cheesy move: he says ‘if I find another real star, I get a kiss’. Lo and behold, he found another star and I can’t say I was mad to give him that kiss.

I can honestly say it only gets better from here so keep your eyes out for my next installment!

Sex on the Beach

No, I’m not talking about the sinfully delicious cocktail, I’m talking about honest to goodness beach BANGING. The whole concept has a passionate, romantic connotation, and after this summer, I definitely have a few opinions to share.

First off, the prettier the beach, the more careful you MUST be. Pretty beaches traditionally come with GORGEOUS, soft, powdery sand. And that sand WILL get everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. So think about that for a second…Most of my experiences with this occurred on rocky beaches or beaches with grittier sand that wasn’t as sticky.  However, if you really start to get hot and heavy on the powder, find a nice big beach towel to lay down on, or don’t say I didn’t warn you…think SANDPAPER. DOWN THERE.

Second, I recommend girl on top for any beach shenanigans. My reasoning for this is very simple. Female sex organs are internal, which means sand and other things can literally get INSIDE us. Whereas men have their sex organs outside of their body and don’t harbor the same risk. Girls, if you’re on top, you’re farther away from the sand, which means you’re more likely to escape that sandpaper feeling I was referring to…

Third, unless you own your own private island (in which case, INVITE ME), chances are, your beach sex will be taking place in a tourist destination which means avoiding other beach goers as well as the authorities. And THINK OF THE CHILDREN. To combat this, one, obviously go under the cover of darkness, preferably between the hours of 2 and 4am to have best chance of privacy. And SECOND, wear a dress. You can just pretend you’re cuddling or play fighting if you get caught on top of one another but everything is still hidden under the dress.

Ok, lastly, sex on the beach can be difficult to pull off due to the aforementioned. But honestly, what cancels all of that out, is the spontaneity aspect. The idea that you’re with someone and you have to have them, RIGHT there, RIGHT now, on the sand. Honestly, as long as you don’t get caught by the police, the other stuff doesn’t really matter, and it’s pretty fucking hot. 10/10 highly recommend.

Wander Alone

Long time, no see. I haven’t written in QUITE awhile and that is due to the fact that in the last couple months, I graduated university, got a pretty insane first job, and just spent the last seven weeks backpacking by myself through Southern Europe. On said trip I hit Athens, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rome, Lake Garda, Genoa, Nice, Barcelona, Ibiza, Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos, and Agistri. I booked everything by myself and I traveled completely alone from place to place.

When I first told some of my friends I planned on going alone, they looked at me with incredulity. “You’re going ALONE?” They would ask almost in hushed tones, “Aren’t you scared?” And even now when I tell people what I just did, they are impressed that I would embark on such a trip all by myself. Honestly what I’ve found, is that people have two major hang ups about going on trips alone. 1.) Security and 2.) Companionship.

Security is an understandable concern. I was a lone female traveler and there are of course crime and shady characters to watch out for. But honestly, you’re probably not that much safer from pickpockets and such with friends than without. And as long as you’ve got a reasonable degree of street smarts, you’ll probably be fine, especially in Europe. Which brings us to our next concern, the much bigger concern: Companionship.

At our core, humans aren’t really meant to be alone. We like being around other people because we want someone to share our experiences with so we can be sure someone understands us. This was the hardest fear for me to overcome as well. Right before I left, I had an anxiety-ridden conversation with my mom in which I relayed my reservations to her. I had started freaking out that I had just signed myself up for seven weeks of pure loneliness. However, as soon as I got started, all those fears quickly dissipated.

The thing about traveling alone is that you get to be COMPLETELY selfish. I quickly learned that I could get up when I wanted, see what I wanted, eat what I wanted and meet/not meet the people I wanted. I didn’t have to drag my travel companion out of bed, or worry about their food proclivities or even worry about a girlfriend at the club. I didn’t have to worry about compromising with family,  and I most certainly did not have to worry about staying on track with a tour group. I got to do WHATEVER I wanted, WHENEVER I wanted, and HOW I wanted. That may sound horrifically indulgent to some, but that’s because not many of us get periods of time in our lives where we get to be this selfish. That’s the price we pay for companionship. There’s always someone else to worry about, therefore we can usually never focus solely on our own desires.

Now, just because I was selfish almost to the point of hedonism doesn’t mean I was alone. Oh no no no, in every city I met new people–Finnish, Canadian, Australian,French, English, Italian, ALL SORTS! Aside from my first day, there wasn’t a twenty-four hour period in which I didn’t meet at least one person and hang out with them in some capacity. In Dubrovnik, I partied with a tour group filled with Aussies and then kayaked all of the next day with a girl from Finland. I met a friend in Italy and met up with friends of said Italian friend when I got to Barcelona. I encountered a string of Canadians from Genoa to Nice and actually had the most romantic night of my entire life in Santorini.

Because you are constantly seeing new things and meeting new people, the companionship problem solves itself. You meet people who are in the city for the exact same reason as you and you can make plans together or plans to meet up later. Either way, the option to have people to share your travels with creates itself. The onus is on you to create the opportunity for people to meet you and to facilitate compelling conversation.

In short, I got an average of four hours of sleep per night, saw sights in the morning, lived at beaches in the afternoons, drank a lot of wine and beer…and liquor, gorged myself on carbs and ice cream, and had more than my fair share of flirtatious encounters in every city. I saw some of the most beautiful places and got to meet different and interesting people every night, and I loved EVERY SECOND OF IT.

The thing with traveling alone is that it basically is the ultimate test in putting yourself out there. You have to check your insecurities at the door and you have to overcome obstacles all by yourself. But because you’re all alone, there’s also no one to judge you if you do screw it up. Sure there’s tons of people you’ll interact with everyday, but the beauty is that YOU NEVER HAVE TO SEE THOSE PEOPLE AGAIN. Most of the time, you just gotta swallow your pride and go for it. I didn’t have data/wifi so you bet I was lost all the time. I bought the wrong kind of ticket at least three times, and sometimes my transport was simply on strike. To make friends is even more humbling. Twice, I faked not knowing where I was going so I could ask fellow tourists for directions and ultimately infiltrate their group. I met two people in France while savagely devouring a kebab and later accidentally dining and dashing. I desperately begged one of my roommates in Ibiza to save me from another roommate and when all else failed, I simply would spend a little time wandering alone.

I honestly learned a lot on this trip and thought I would break down any tips I picked up into more posts, so if you are curious as to how I fit seven weeks of stuff in a backpack, or how I didn’t get sick, or even tips on travel boredom, be on lookout for those articles in the coming weeks.