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Why You Should Buy Souvenirs (and why you aren’t less of a traveller if you do)

If you follow any major travel websites, blogs, or Pinterest boards, chances are you’ve heard something along the lines of “experiences, not possessions” or maybe you’ve read about people who never buy souvenirs, preferring to travel light or to save their money.

And while I appreciate all of those arguments – I’d much rather have plane tickets than a designer purse, for example – I am one of those people who ALWAYS buys souvenirs. In fact, I’ve bought souvenirs (sometimes multiple souvenirs) in every country I’ve been to, even if it’s something as small as a thimble or a postcard. I have lugged bags full of knick knacks all over the world, sent boxes full of treasures home, and budgeted souvenir shopping into every trip I’ve taken. Some may call that materialistic, but I just call it sentimental.

Because the fact is, I LOVE looking at the souvenirs I’ve brought home from around the world. I love walking around my flat and picking them up. I love remembering where I was when I bought it, or who I bought it with, or who I bought it from. I love surrounding myself with little memories of my travels. Of course, I have photos and journals, too, but there’s something about having a little piece of a place to yourself.

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Please Stop Telling Me I “Just Need to Meet the Right Guy”

Last weekend, after walking around Broadway Market, I sat with a friend of mine in my local pub. Over a couple of pints of Guinness, we talked about a huge range of topics: journalistic integrity, the future of travel blogging, football, and where 2017 would ultimately take us. I started to talk about my current visa situation in the UK, and how, within the next year, there’s a chance that I’ll no longer be able to live in the country.

“So that’s it? You’d just move back to Canada?” This friend and I only go back about three years, so he’s only known me as someone who travels a lot.

“No, I’m planning to spend half the year in Canada, and the other half of the year abroad. So maybe the autumn in Europe, and winter in Asia or South America. Who knows? As long as I work online, I can kind of do whatever I want. It’s the life I’ve always wanted, a balance of being settled and travelling often. I mean, I’m single and I don’t want kids, so I can go anywhere and do anything my heart desires,” I laughed again, but he just looked at me, blankly.

“You don’t want kids?” he asked, a surprised look on his face. “How can you be so sure?” I was a bit annoyed that THAT was the point he picked up on – not the fact that his friend had just declared she was on track to build her dream life and travel the world.

“Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought, and at this point in my life I do not see children in my future,” I took another sip of my beer, hoping he’d just accept my answer… you know, the answer ABOUT MY OWN LIFE. I have had this conversation so many times, and it’s getting old.

“Yeah, right,” he chuckled. “You say that, but I guarantee you’ll end up having kids. You just need to meet the right guy.”

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When Did Travel Blogging Get So Boring?

I was 19 when I started my first blog, way back in 2003. Back then we weren’t talking about things like “self-hosted Wordpress sites”, “search engine optimisation”, or “Google analytics”… I mean, social media was only in its infancy (no, I never had Myspace, to every early 2000s hipster’s horror) and I would only get Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram years and years later.

If you’ve read my blog for long enough, you might know the story: my Livejournal morphed into Blogspot around 2008, and Blogspot morphed into Wordpress into 2013 (for those who are like, what the hell are you talking about and what is this morphing of which you speak? Those are all hosting platforms for blogs. I’m still experiencing the effects of a botched migration from Blogspot – none of my previous photos made it through. Nightmare). It was around 2012 that I realised, holy shit, travel blogging is a thing? Like, people have social media and make money and work with tourism boards? And in 2013, I went to my very first travel blogging conference, a TBEX conference in Toronto. There, I learned what SEO is (that search engine optimisation I mentioned), that my numbers weren’t good enough for anyone to work with me (I had under 1,000 followers on each of my social media platforms, and I was getting about 3,000 to 5,000 hits on my blog per month), and that there was a weird hierarchy amongst some bloggers, as in some bloggers were actually kind of famous. I remember going up to some random guy (oh how I WISH I remembered his name) to introduce myself, but before I could, he picked up my name tag/lanyard, looked me dead in the eyes, and said, “I’ve never heard of you,” before he walked away.

So yeah, I was pretty disheartened after that conference. Despite that, I kept blogging.

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Italian Reds

To me, Italy is a country full of colour, full of life. It is a country of beautiful chaos, of the hustle and bustle of busy squares, of Vespas zipping through traffic, of restaurants carrying a cacophony of sounds through the night, people laughing and plates clanking and corks popping. Perhaps this is why I see the colour red everywhere in Italy: the crumbling walls of buildings, the sweet ripe cherries in the hot sun, the swirls of pasta on the plate, the dark oxblood of a perfect glass of wine, the splashes of colour against a rainy sky or a crowded beach. To me, red represents that Italian energy, that vivacity, that beauty.

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Travelling Through Europe By Train

Travelling through Europe by train – it’s how it all started for me. The feeling of freedom, the joy of independence, the ability to see the world out the window, just there, right there. I was 22 when I took my first solo adventure, a summer backpacking trip that would forever alter the course of my life. That summer made me grow into the person I am today, ten years later. And when I think of that trip, I think of trains.

From May until August of 2006, I took trains across Europe. I remember the face of the man who validated my train pass that would last me for the entire summer, a flimsy ticket that, if I lost, could not be replaced. I still have it; it’s stamped May 14th, starting in Amsterdam.

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My Month Without Alcohol… and Men (Week Four)

It’s the final week of this experiment, but I’m starting to realise it no longer feels like an experiment, one with a hard end date. Technically, next Sunday (or, if we’re counting all of January, next Wednesday) I can have a drink. Technically, I can go on all the dates my heart desires… though truth be told, it’s not like I’m getting offers for dates left and right. Dating, for me, has always felt like a “when it rains it pours” scenario, because I either go through long spells of no romantic encounters or periods of time when multiple people seem to be interested.

I once read an article that said that men can smell sex. First of all, ew, and second of all, I’m not sure that that drunk guy at the bar is like, “Wait a second, my spidey-sense is tingling. Are those PHEROMONES I smell?! Did this fair maiden perchance copulate with someone else recently, therefore making her much more attractive and worthy of my competition?” I’ve also read an article – probably by the kind of guy who quotes The Game and thinks that “negging” is a great way to pick up chicks, man – that said that men can smell desperation.

So wait… am I desperate?!

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My Sister’s Influence

I went to South America because of my sister. She went to South America because of a bottle of mezcal.

Wait. Let me back up. At 22 years old, I took my first long-term solo trip around Europe. That led to years of solo travel and living abroad, including a year travelling through Asia. In that year, I’d met another backpacker who became my boyfriend. When we broke up, I felt totally lost; we had made all of these grand plans together, and suddenly I was stuck in a Winnipeg winter trying to save my pennies as a bartender. I had no idea what to do next.

“You should go to South America, you’d love it,” my big sister Zalie said to me the night I got dumped, as if it was the natural next step. And just like that, a seed was planted, a fire lit. Within five months of that conversation, she was dropping me off at the airport to fly to Belize, where I’d start a nine-month journey through Central and South America.

People often ask me where I got the confidence, the bravery, or the idea to travel the world on my own.

“Easy,” I say to them. “I simply followed in my sister’s footsteps.”

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Why I Marched: Thoughts on the London Women’s March

On Saturday, January 21st, I walked over 10,000 steps with approximately 100,000 people in London – millions of people when you include the entire world. Together, we marched for women’s rights (for all women’s rights), for LGBTQIA rights, for worker’s rights, for immigrant rights, for disability rights, for reproductive rights, for civil rights, for environmental justice, and for ending violence.

It was a cold but beautiful day, the sun coming out to cast light on our route. I showed up alone, but from the moment I stepped out of Oxford Circus tube station – Bond Street was already overcrowded and closed – I felt a sense of unity, of solidarity. Thousands of us walked down Oxford Street towards the American Embassy, but the streets were already so crowded that we were soon brought to a halt. We didn’t start marching for at least an hour or so, but it didn’t matter; we were all talking to one another, cheering, singing, and making new friends. I saw people of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all walks of life.

Here’s why I decided to march.

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My Month Without Alcohol… and Men (Week Three)

I drank again last night. A lot.

After exploring Camogli yesterday, I took the train a few stops to Nervi, which is just as devastatingly beautiful as you’d expect from a small fishing village on the Italian Riviera. It was very quiet, but I walked along the promenade, took lots of photos, and then tried to find a restaurant that was willing to serve me pizza at 4pm, an unusual time to eat in Italy. I found one that overlooked the sea, and I spent the rest of the afternoon eating four cheese pizza, drinking a lightly sparkling white wine that’s famous in Liguria, and feeling on top of the world. Honestly, I didn’t expect to fall in love with Italy as much as I have in the past three years – it’s an unusual feeling, to want to keep returning to one country instead of exploring somewhere new. I love Italy for its culture, for its food, for its brightly coloured villages that jut up from the water, for its whitewashed stone buildings that appear on mountaintops. I love that, whenever I go into a restaurant, it is filled with people laughing and greeting each other, a beautiful cacophony. I love how much the small things in life seem to be appreciated in Italy – the perfect espresso, the smell of a lemon, the double kiss on the cheek, the way the wine sounds as it pours out of the bottle.

Oh yeah, and did I ever tell you about the Italian guy?

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