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travel

Personal Essays

Leaving home is scary

A short essay on the fear we all feel from time to time.

Whether it’s the first time or the fortieth time, going away to university or leaving to climb Mt. Everest, leaving home can give us all a sense of dread.

Nine years ago I was sitting on the Halifax tarmac on a Lufthansa flight bound for Germany. My stomach turned as we started down the runway and as the wheels were lifting off, I glanced out the window at the receding ground and thought, “Oh no. What have I done?”

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Lifestyle

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

I PICKED THIS off the shelf for its cover. Inside my head, it pretty much went like this: “Young female protagonist? Check. Vintage colours with nice ink lines? Check. Good font? Check. Check. Cleverish title? Check. Some hint of travel-related bildungsroman-ness? Check. Book, I am going to buy you.”

So was it any good? Yeah, it was pretty good. The author had a fun way of writing that captured the flat humour of an intelligent (but immature) and sarcastic teenage girl well. (There were also Lord of the Rings jokes scattered throughout, so win).  A few characters and scenes fell flat, and a couple scenarios were oversimplified or didn’t go anywhere, but I found myself enjoying it nonetheless. It was very charming, and I still really like the cover. The narrative is a bit Garden State-esque, so if you liked the movie Garden State, but basically wish it had been cast with a young female protagonist, I’d recommend picking up this book.

I’m reading 41 books this year. See original post here.

Lifestyle

It is Better to Speak

Welcome to Wisdom Wednesdays – the new home of the quotes.

This photo brought to you by this extraordinary tree that was growing outside of one of the temples that I stayed at near Mt. Kuruson, in Western Japan.  This tree was the first thing I saw in the morning when I slid aside the paper doors and leaned out from my sleeping pad.  The sandy gravel around it is raked daily by the monks.

Middle of the mountains, agricultural surroundings, and a vegetarian buddhist diet.  No cell phone reception and nothing to do but tend to the temple and gardens. Ah, paradise. ♥

We have a huge amount of snow here in Halifax right now, which makes getting to and fro quite a challenge.  I’m trying my best not to become a hermit.  Luckily I walk to and from work every day, which guarantees I see the sun at least a little bit.  Right now I’m just counting down the days until spring and longer daylight hours.

p.s. This post is part of a weekly series I do of free wallpapers featuring one of my photos and a famous quote.  Click on the image above to download the full-sized wallpaper.  

Lifestyle

You Must Be Willing To Do Something You’ve Never Done.

The Woodside ferry crosses the harbour from Halifax to Dartmouth on a cold January morning:

Happy Sunday!  This can be a time of year when most of us retreat inside from the cold (especially in Halifax, where it’s grey slush city), but don’t forget to look out your windows and venture out of doors to experience the occasionally awesome things that do happen in the cold, such as the sea fog in the sunrise of a chilly morning.  

In preparation for the beautiful sunrise shots I imagine myself taking someday, I’ve been working on my early morning photography.  Before you know it, I’ll be summiting Mt. Fuji like a boss and taking yellow-border-worthy cloud sunrise photos (or maybe I’ll just get better at waking up early).

p.s. This post is part of a weekly series I do of free wallpapers featuring one of my photos and a famous quote.  Click on the image above to download the full-sized wallpaper.  

Lifestyle

Best Bike Tour in New York City

The best choice we made on our trip to New York was to do a bike tour of the city. Biking is the best. For me it’s always been associated with foreign travel and adventures.

We went with Marc Seidenstein of Bike the Big Apple for our tour, and it was 100% awesome. He kicked ass, knew EVERYTHING (even metric conversion rates for us poor Canadians) and really made the trip. He even had one of those charming New York accents that we Canadians enjoy. Marc was very relaxed and chill in our itinerary. In fact, we called only the day before to see if we could organize a private tour (he has pre-scheduled routes, but we wanted to see some specific sights!) and he was so obliging as to let us choose exactly what we wanted to see.

  • Our route: from near Union Square over to the East Side River esplanade and piers, under the Brooklyn Bridge, on to the Financial District, the bull statue on Wall Street, the Stock Exchange, up and over the Brooklyn Bridge, the DUMBO neighbourhood (where we got some great pizza for lunch), over the Manhattan Bridge, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Union Square.
On our way to the financial district! New York was actually pretty good to bike in. It might seem intimidating at first, with so much traffic, but most people aren't going faster than 30km/hour. Great bike lanes like this one also help!

On our way to the financial district! New York was actually pretty good to bike in. It might seem intimidating at first, with so much traffic, but most people aren’t going faster than 30km/hour. Great bike lanes like this one also help!

Famous view along the east side river and over to the Brooklyn Bridge (Manhattan Bridge in the further background).

Famous view along the east side river and over to the Brooklyn Bridge (Manhattan Bridge in the further background).

The famous Brooklyn Bridge. It's big now, but imagine when it was first built! Most buildings would have been only a few stories tall at that point. It would have towered over everything.

The famous Brooklyn Bridge. It’s big now, but imagine when it was first built! Most buildings would have been only a few stories tall at that point. It would have towered over everything.

The bull on Wall Street. All decked out for Christmas. We also touched his goods, for good luck. (p.s. That's my sister on the left. She's currently single. Message me for details.) ;- )

The bull on Wall Street. All decked out for Christmas. We also touched his goods, for good luck. (p.s. That’s my sister on the left. She’s currently single. Message me for details.) ;- )

I can only imagine how crazy it must be inside. Since 9/11, they've tightened up security, so we didn't get a chance to see inside.

I can only imagine how crazy it must be inside. Since 9/11, they’ve tightened up security, so we didn’t get a chance to see inside.

You see all kind of great interactions around these classic New York Hot Dog stands.

You see all kind of great interactions around these classic New York Hot Dog stands.

Approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. Bikes to the left; pedestrians on the right!

Approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. Bikes to the left; pedestrians on the right!

So much iconic architecture.

So much iconic architecture.

It's pretty cool to see all three bridges stretching across the harbour.

It’s pretty cool to see all three bridges stretching across the harbour.

I think Mom was freezing by this point.  

I think Mom was freezing by this point.  

Halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge, we ran into some protestors coming from the opposite direction. They were protesting in response to the lack of police accountability in response to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and also Eric Garner who was a New Yorker. The protest was mostly young adults - it was inspiring to see so many people come out and demonstrate their frustration in a non-violent way. The protest was led by police, and proceeded peacefully as far as I could tell.

Halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge, we ran into some protestors coming from the opposite direction. They were protesting in response to the lack of police accountability in response to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and also Eric Garner who was a New Yorker. The protest was mostly young adults – it was inspiring to see so many people come out and demonstrate their frustration in a non-violent way. The protest was led by police, and proceeded peacefully as far as I could tell.

Under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Where we stopped for lunch in the DUMBO neighbourhood. Damn delicious, authentic NY pizza. If you live in the area, I recommend checking it out. With gentrification changing DUMBO around, it may not be here forever. A tip from Marc: look for police and postal vehicles when choosing a place to eat. They can park anywhere they like, so they have first pick of restaurants. The street outside this place had four UPS trucks parked on it.

Where we stopped for lunch in the DUMBO neighbourhood. Damn delicious, authentic NY pizza. If you live in the area, I recommend checking it out. With gentrification changing DUMBO around, it may not be here forever. A tip from Marc: look for police and postal vehicles when choosing a place to eat. They can park anywhere they like, so they have first pick of restaurants. The street outside this place had four UPS trucks parked on it.

I owe Marc the heads-up for this shot. See how the Empire State Building is perfectly framed between the legs of the Manhattan Bridge? I wish I could have stuck around for different kinds of light - I bet it would look great during sunrise!

I owe Marc the heads-up for this shot. See how the Empire State Building is perfectly framed between the legs of the Manhattan Bridge? I wish I could have stuck around for different kinds of light – I bet it would look great during sunrise!

See that carousel to the left? Miraculously it sustained sustained no damage during Hurricane Sandy despite being surrounded by floodwaters five feet deep.

See that carousel to the left? Miraculously it sustained sustained no damage during Hurricane Sandy despite being surrounded by floodwaters five feet deep.

Beautiful Christmas fire escape in Little Italy.

Beautiful Christmas fire escape in Little Italy.

I’m sure we could have gotten even further if I hadn’t been stopping for photos all the time. We had a great day. There was a chill in the air, but it was sunny the whole time. I wore a shell over a zip up thermal and was great. We started out from the Union Square area around 11am, and were pulling back in around 4:30pm. 

Marc answered all our weird questions and was more than happy to take us to see whatever we desired. I think he possibly knows everything that ever happened in New York. Fun fact: did you know that a woman oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge? She took over the project once her husband (who had been the lead engineer) came down with severe decompression sickness (from going down into the base of the bridge below the riverbed and then ascending too quickly). She is credited as “the first woman field engineer” and is just generally sort of a badass. You can read more about her here

I would definitely recommend taking a bike trip to anyone who visits NYC. Not only is it a great bit of exercise, but you get to see the city like a local and visit a ton of unique neighbourhoods.

Tiny Christmas trees for sale everywhere!

Tiny Christmas trees for sale everywhere!