I was fortunate enough to take some time after my thesis was finished and had celebrated my 25th birthday to travel to the west coast for the first time in my life. My two week trip took me to San Francisco and Vancouver to visit friends and family. It was also a great opportunity to do a bit of personal exploration, taking time for solitude, self reflection, and outdoor adventure. While this post isn’t really water- or career-related, it feels important to include as part of my personal story.
When arriving in California, I was whisked away to Point Reyes, where I stayed with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins on their summer holiday. It was so amazing to see the natural beauty of California. The vegetation and topography were not what I was expecting and it was truly breath taking. We went on many hikes, through the hills and along the beach, seeing dolphins and elk along the way… no big deal or anything…! The highlight was without a doubt getting to know my family in California better and I look forward to heading back for another visit sometime soon. Thank you so much for the wonderful visit!
While in San Francisco, I did more walking, exploring the touristy areas by myself and then catching up with old friends and visiting some of their favourite places for food and beverages in the Mission. I was amazed by how many people I know living there; it was so great to see everyone again! One of my friends with one of those fancy tech jobs got a bunch of tickets for a San Francisco Giants game that weekend, so I got to see probably the coolest stadium ever while I was there. Thanks for that, Mike! We spent some time in Dolores Park (#doloyolo?) and I found that I was surprised to see so many people in one place, relaxing and being so friendly. Maybe it was a function of me finally relaxing and taking in my surroundings more so than I had done in years, but I definitely found that California had an extremely friendly and laid back atmosphere that I was not accustomed too. Also, I didn’t have homework… strange feeling to me still!
After my week in San Francisco, I was headed back to Canada, this time to Vancouver. I was happy to be coming back to Canada and beyond excited to finally see Vancouver, having heard countless stories from friends about this city they had come to love. Everyone I had spoken to all summer about my trip was so excited for me and I was thrilled to have so many suggestions from them on places to check out!
The beauty of Vancouver was really overwhelming; I felt like I was walking around in a daze, not wanting to blink and miss a second of those spectacular views! My first full day in Vancouver, I walked more than 40 km, weaving in and out of the city streets, walking along the seawall, and venturing through Stanley Park. The more I walked around the city, the more I love it. I felt like everyone I spoke to was a good friend so travelling alone never felt lonely at all! In fact, while I was there I was able to catch up with several friends, old and new, planned and spontaneously. Siobhan introduced me to Gastown and the best sushi I have ever had in my life! Aline and I explored Granville Island together and had the best fish and chips in the history of the world. Thank you both so much for taking time to show me around!
While doing the Grouse Grind, I ran into a friend from Waterloo completely randomly! We were both travelling along and decided that we should do a day trip to Whistler together the following day. We took the Greyhound up there first thing in the morning and proceeded to do the Wedgemount Lake hike in Garibaldi Park – the most spectacular and challenging hike I’ve ever done. Waterfalls, trees, glaciers, mountains, sunshine – talk about the perfect day! Katherine, thank you so much for planning that for us, it was the highlight of my trip!
My favourite part of Vancouver was the ability to go from such a vibrant urban setting and then minutes later find yourself surrounded by trees, completely alone. Stanley Park is the best! I can certainly understand by Vancouver has such a buzz about it. It is a city unlike any other and I cannot wait to return. On the last day of my trip while running to catch a bus to see another site on the outskirts of the city, I finally saw the 2010 Olympic torch. It stopped me in my tracks (and I did eventually make it to my bus), but I had the best flashback to watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with my best friend, Sydney. I was remembering how exciting those Olympics were for everyone and how that was the first time I felt that amount of Canadian spirit in the air. It felt really special to finally experience a piece of it first hand. Later, I watched the sunset from the beach while writing post cards to friends and family and felt an overwhelming sense of calmness. I feel very fortunate to live in such a beautiful and vast country.
The purpose of my trip was to experience a part of the world I had never seen and always dreamed of visiting – basically a reason to travel anywhere. However, it felt like more than that to me. I was hoping to take some time to figure out what my next step might be: where do I see myself? what do I want to do? what direction do I want my life to take? how I can contribute to the world? what is my motivation? what do I want and why? I ended up leaving with more questions than answers and the thought of returning home seemed to muddle any sort of clarity I felt like I had fleetingly obtained during my trip. I was going to be coming back to Ontario, but would be leaving Waterloo, my home of seven years. I have since moved back home with my parents and I am still unsure of what path my life will take. The only things I do know are: 1) at the very least, its good to keep asking those questions if you ever intend to find answers and 2) I feel extremely lucky to have so many inspiring and supportive people in my life. I sense that my next year will be a formative one and I’m scared and excited to see what will happen next…