Category Archives: Travel

Future endeavours

Yes, I am already thinking of my future.  Future travels, future endeavours.  I have made a big step today for my future!

 

Trips I have in mind already – Costa Rica is on my mind.  Northern Canada.  Norway.  But I have made a bigger step to my future today.  Something I hope that will bring on a possible new career.

 

I want to become a public speaker to high school kids and young adults, talking to them about budgeting and living without credit.  I have submitted a proposal to the public library to start with weekend classes!   I am very excited to start something that I really feel I can teach young adults about.  I have experience with this, many years of personal experience, so I believe I would be a good person to show this to people.

 

I really believe that high school students should be learning life skills that are going to help them in the real world.  Budgeting is such a big part of this, as well as teaching them that they can live without credit.

 

I am excited to be pursuing this next chapter of my life!!

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Back to the real world

My life has been a bit surreal the past three years – leaving a full time job to become a TEFL teacher, traveling around Europe while teaching and then moving to teach in China.  It’s been amazing, and yes also a bit selfish.  I will admit it.  It has been very nice to think about myself and my welfare.  I had not forgotten that my family has been back in Canada dealing with everyday stuff and yes I have been stressed out at times because of the family matters that I was away from, but it was so nice to really think of myself for a few years.

 

Well, I am now back in Canada, living with my elderly parents, who are not very healthy.  The real world for me has come crashing back.  I will start a new full time job next week and I will be staying with my parents until some time after Christmas once I have managed to get enough savings up to move out on my own.

 

Living with sick elderly parents is challenging.  They are both fiercely independent and, even though my dad had a heart attack in the summer, are not happy that I want to do as much as I can for them.  And I really do want to do as much as I can for them.  Making sure they take their medication.  Wanting to do things for them, and them basically saying sit down and we can do it. I want to do everything for them and I know I can’t.

 

It’s scary and a bit sad to see how much my parents have aged over the past three years.  But I am a realist.  No one lives forever, and I know that probably sooner than later, the time will come to have to say good bye, for now, to my parents.  I am incredibly grateful to have been given this chance to come back and live with them and be able to help out when I can.  And although I want to continue to travel, and I know I will, right now I am here for my parents and am back to the “real world”.

 

I am anxious to re-start my life here and see old friends and make some new ones.

My hometown – adjusting to life back in Canada

I have now been back in Canada, and my hometown, since Wednesday evening.  It has been good to be back – it’s been over a year since I have been here.  It’s been good to see some of my family (haven’t been able to see everyone yet but I am working on it), and I know in the next month I will see the rest.  Getting used to living in a 2 bedroom apartment with my parents, temporarily until I find my own place, has been good.  It feels good to be back and being with them and being able to help out with them.

 

But the biggest thing for me is being back in a country where people understand me and I don’t get odd looks when I try to explain myself.  It is nice to be understood.  And not be stared at.  And laughed at for butchering the language of the country (although there are times when I have trouble with the English language haha).

 

My next couple of years will most likely be spent here in the Niagara region of Ontario and I have already been looking for jobs.  So far, the adjustment is going okay.  But I miss the ocean.  I miss the amazing scenery that has been my life the past three years.  It will probably feel like homesickness in reverse in a few weeks and I know it will be tough.  It is something I am prepared for.  I have been extremely lucky these past three years – luckier than a lot of people – but I am ready to settle down here and be close to my children again.

 

Life will go on here, adjustments made, a new life to start, with small trips planned here and there, and my blogging will continue.  It will take on a new path (my blogging) and I hope everyone will continue to enjoy my blogs, as much as I enjoy writing them.  And I am so thrilled to see that I now have 200 followers here!  Amazing!!  Thanks to all who have read and I hope continue to read.

 

 

Best of Chile

My South American journey has come to an end.  I arrived back in Canada on Wednesday evening, after missed connections and travelling back to LAX and then to Toronto.  My son and his friend excitedly picked me up at the airport (to applause! – that was fun haha).

 

I had an amazing time in Chile, and can recommend to everyone to take some time to explore the entire country.  From Santiago north to Arica, there is so much to see and discover.  I have made a list of my highlights of my trip.

 

Santiago

Santiago was the first stop, and was a typical big city with some interesting barrios, delicious food and amazing scenery.

  1. The Andes – the incredible mountains looking over the city.  Absolutely stunning to see from all parts of the city.
  2. Cerro San Cristobal – the hike up to the top of the hill was breathtaking.  The statute was so amazing to see up close, and the entire trip to go up to the top was great exercise.  The ride down on the funicular was slightly terrifying for me, but was fun.
  3. Barrio Bellavista – the area at the bottom of Cerro San Cristobal is teeming with funky bars, restaurants, shops and graffiti filled buildings.

Santiago

Valparaiso/Vina del Mar

Second stop was Valparaiso.  The funkiest city I experienced in Chile.  It was cool, eclectic and had an edge to it.  I would travel back to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

  1. Graffiti – almost every other building had street art or graffiti filling it. Incredible art to see.  Every turn found more art to view.  Stunning!
  2. The beaches – Vina del Mar had the most pristine beaches, the incredible first views of the Pacific Ocean and the walks along the beach.
  3. The food – so many different varieties of food to try, the aromas, the taste.  It was delicious to wander the streets and try new foods.

Valparaiso

Vina del Mar

La Serena

This pretty little town set between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean was breathtaking.  The sunsets over the ocean, viewed from my terrace at the hostel, was my evening ritual.  I couldn’t get enough of walking through the streets and seeing the sites.

  1. The festival square – I arrived on a Sunday morning and wandered down to the main square, where a festival was taking place.  The music, the food, the crowds of people – it was a feast for the eyes and nose!
  2. The views – most impressive views of the ocean.
  3. The calmness – I was impressed with how calm the city was.  Everyone walking around seemed so relaxed and happy – I would be happy living there too.

La Serena

Antofagasta

The “pearl of the north”.  Antofagasta is a city that offers so much – it is on the edge of the Atacama desert, so it is a dry city.  Not much rain falls here, but it is fascinating.  It prepared me for the dryness of the desert.

  1. The sea life – sea lions, pelicans – but sadly no penguins.  The fish. It was very cool to see the sea lions and pelicans.
  2. Seafood – the seafood of the Pacific is the best I have ever had.  Antofagasta has many restaurants to sample so many different fish dishes.
  3. The wharf – I spent most of my days wandering down to the wharf, to watch the fishing boats, to eat fresh fish, to people watch.  Antofagasta was a very pleasant surprise!

Antofagasta

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro – the driest desert on earth.  It was dry, dusty, I felt like I was in the old west – the adobe buildings, the stray dogs – it had such an interesting feel to it.  I discovered a lot about myself here, and overcame fears I have had in my life.

  1. Valle de la Luna – the Moon Valley.  The most incredible part of my entire trip to Chile.  Sounds a bit corny but it truly was life-changing for me.
  2. Pukara de Quitor – a visitor’s area about 30 minute walk from San Pedro.  Walking across a river, climbing to the second rest stop, and looking out over the valley.  Worth the sunburn I got!
  3. The Milky Way – I  was lucky to have been in a hostel that I had another terrace to sit out on.  And we were far enough away from the town’s lights that I could look up in the sky and see millions of stars and the milky way.  Incredible!!

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Arica

Surf City!!  My last stop and I picked a great place to end my trip.  I spent almost every day on the beach.  Such a relaxing way to end this amazing trip.

  1. Playa Chinchorro – my beach of choice.  A 10 minute walk from my hostel.  A 5 km beach with white sand, warm waters, body boarders, and surfers.  Lots of fun to watch!!
  2. 21 Mayo Av – the pedestrian street in Arica – restaurants, little shops, street vendors, buskers (rapping in Spanish is always interesting to hear!) – something for everyone!
  3. San Marcos Cathedral – the Cathedral that was designed by Gustav Eiffel – such a unique cathedral to see.

Arica

I am now back in Canada for a couple of years – but I will still continue to take small trips while I am here.  For now, I am going to get back to being a Canadian and taking in all things Canadian.  I will enjoy being back with my family and friends.

 

So long Chile

Hostel living

When I decided to head to Chile, I started thinking of the most economical way to do it.  I knew I wanted to travel city to city but I knew hotels would be too expensive for me to stay at.

 

Not having any idea about what it was like to stay in a hostel, except with a misconception that they are dorm rooms with a lot of partying young people, I decided to at least take a look and see what the pictures show.  To my surprise, hostels are not only dorms!!  In fact, this is the best way to travel in my opinion!  I was able to get single rooms in all the hostels I have stayed at – and in fact, two of them I had full apartment style rooms.  With my own kitchen, my own bathroom, a table to sit at and a terrace to sit out on at night.  And luckily for me, they were both at my two favourite places of Chile – La Serena and San Pedro.  And I am happy to say that NONE of the hostels have had any loud parties that didn’t allow me to sleep.  For that, I am very grateful!

 

In Santiago, I was lucky enough to find an apartment for the week I was there – which was good.   It helped me just rest, be on my own, get over major jet lag and get used to a new country.  After that – it has been all hostels.  Single rooms, with a shared bathroom and a shared kitchen.  This time of year here in Chile, it is the end of winter so there are not as many people travelling and I was fortunate to be able to have the place in Valparaiso to myself for 4 of the nights I was there.

 

Most of them have been great, with great owners who are super friendly, meeting other travellers from all over the world.  And hostels are very reasonably priced.  Far cheaper than a hotel, with amenities like a kitchen to use.  I have only been disappointed with one (the first one I was at in Antofagasta – dirty kitchen and unfriendly hosts – I was happy to be there for only three nights!).

 

I know my travelling has not finished – there are so many other places I want to see – and I now know that staying in hostels is the way to go for me.  They aren’t for everybody, I know, but for anyone who is looking to save money and travel longer, definitely research hostels – single rooms are a bit more than the dorm rooms, but definitely worth it to check out!!

The trouble with WiFi…

This trip through Chile has been amazing, and amazingly frustrating at times!!   WiFi is not readily available in places, and in some hostels, while they advertise that you have “free WiFi in all areas”, it does not mean it is reliable WiFi!.

 

Take, for instance, where I am now.  They advertise free WiFi but what they neglect to tell you is that yes, it is free and available throughout the property, however, being that all the rooms are on the 2nd and 3rd floor, as you get further up, the WiFi is much less reliable.  And, for some odd reason, the WiFi here only seems to work on one electronic device at a time – so I need to turn WiFi off of my phone so I can use my laptop.  I know I know – first world problems right?

 

But in the age of instant communication, and when you have family wanting to make sure you are okay, it is very frustrating to have unreliable WiFi.

 

Another interesting thing about Chile – there are very few places you can go and get free WiFi.  In China, it seemed like every restaurant, mall and school had free WiFi.  Everywhere you went, you could connect (sometimes even on the bus!).  The same was true about Prague – I was always able to get on somewhere.  But not in Chile.  Which is good and bad.  It’s good, because you actually see people communicating with each other (shocking right??).  But again, it’s “bad” because for travellers, some times it is very important to have that luxury of WiFi connection.

 

While I have enjoyed not having WiFi all the time, I would like to have it when I am back in my room relaxing and wanting to search the web!

 

What do you think – should we have limited WiFi throughout the world so that we can communicate better with each other, or should there be more access to the internet??  I am interested in hearing other opinions!

San Pedro – more than just a desert town

My week started off with a late arrival on Sunday.  Monday had me wandering around the town, seeing what there was to offer and just getting a general feel of the area. It was dry and dusty – of course!  But there was a certain feel to the town.  A feeling, to me, that something was going to happen here but I just wasn’t sure what.  Monday ended with me sitting on my terrace of my two floor, apartment-style hostel (I really do love hostels!), watching the milky way and a million stars.  I had no idea just how spectacular it was to see the milky way!!

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The square of San Pedro

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The volcanoes of the Andes

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Tuesday I had booked the morning tour with Tours 4 Tips – again cannot say enough about this company!   If anyone is in Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Santiago or San Pedro – book the walking tours with these guys!  Absolutely phenomenal!!  Anyway – it turns out I was the only one scheduled for the tour so I had the pleasure of a private tour with a lovely guide by the name of Pauline, a French girl who fell in love with an Atacamen boy and stayed in San Pedro.  She was full of knowledge and so much energy – I had such a lovely time – and what was supposed to be a two hour tour was almost a three hour tour because we talked about so many other things.  She deserved even more of a tip than I gave her!

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My awesome private tour guide Pauline

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A very salty tree that grows in the desert

Tuesday night a big windstorm happened, and it continued all day on Wednesday.  I am not a fan of blowing sand in my eyes, so the day was spent doing very little.  I managed to go out and get some fruit and vegetables at the monthly market that Pauline told me about – it was awesome!  Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – was sold there.  Even a kitchen sink!!!  I spent about two hours browsing the market, sitting in the town square, getting some lunch, then headed back.  I had booked the Valle de la Luna tour for that night but it was cancelled because of the wind.  I re-booked for Friday afternoon.

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Licancabur Volcano in the distance

Thursday- I headed out to Pukara de Quitor, an area just outside of San Pedro.  I walked, and it took about an hour to walk there.  A local man said – oh just cross the river and walk for about 20 minutes – turns out you actually have to cross a river!  Good thing I was wearing my boots – my feet didn’t get wet at all traipsing through the river!  On to Pukara de Quitor – I had been told it was a hill you could climb and have a lovely view of San Pedro.  No one told me it was an actual visitor’s site that cost money – good thing I almost had enough – the lovely lady at the desk let me pay the student’s fee.  Gracias!  So, I headed to the “hill” – it was more than a hill but not quite a mountain.  I met a lovely mother and daughter and we ended up going up together.  I conquered a big fear that day – I normally do not climb anything that has no railing to grab on to in case I feel I need to – well there was no railing and I managed to get up to the second rest stop (almost to the top).  A HUGE feat for me.  I was very proud of  myself, and was also amazed at the view at this point.  Walked back down and headed back to town.  I was so proud of myself, that I took myself out to the best burger place in town – and it truly was the best burger.  Thursday, at that point, was the most amazing day of my entire trip.  Until….

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This view

Friday happened.  I woke up to a beautiful blue sky, no wind, the temperature was just right.  A perfect setting for my Valle de la Luna tour at 4pm.  I arrived, backpack ready with water, sunscreen and my coat for the cooler temperatures near the end of the tour.  With the group, we loaded on to the van to head out to the Valley.  I had asked if I needed to be in really good shape, was this difficult, etc., and I was assured that it was not that difficult.  Well, turns out, it was more difficult, both physically and mentally, for me than I had imagined it would be.  The beginning was easy, a nice easy sandy slope towards this hill.  As we got up a bit higher, I noticed that the people ahead of me were turning left, and some were stopping, gasping and looking up.  This did not bode well for my fear of heights!   As I got to that point – I stood there in complete shock.  This was not just a hill.  This was rock and sand, climbing up the side of the hill, about 200 metres (this is what Klaus, the guide, told us after).  I was petrified and frozen in the spot.  I looked up and just said No.  Klaus was encouraging me, saying I could do it, he would help me.  I just kept shaking my head and saying no.  I was so completely afraid, I didn’t know what to do.  But then I saw a couple about my age, maybe a bit older, going ahead and doing it and I thought I can do this too.  I just don’t look down.  Well, I got about half-way up – and couldn’t go any further.  I was frozen.  And on the verge of tears.  I was absolutely petrified.  And Klaus – my hero – told me to just wait and he would help me.  So there I was, on the side of a “hill”, waiting for someone to drag me up there.  He came back, talked to me, told me it was okay to cry, told me to take deep breaths, and that I could do it.  After several minutes (felt like hours), he finally got me on the right track, I put my foot and leg where he wanted me to, grabbed his arm and had complete faith in him that he was going to get me up – and I did it.  I made it up to the top.  The other members of the group were cheering me on, and congratulating me.  I just felt like crying and would not stand up LOL.  After that, there were two other hills but nothing like that.  I was shaking the whole time, but I DID IT!!!   I was so proud of myself, and proved to myself that no matter the obstacle, I can do it, with lots of encouragement and Klaus holding me up haha.  I made such a huge breakthrough that day – I have many fears and now I know that I just need to take deep breaths, tell myself I can do it – and just do it.  At the end of the tour, we went to the lookout to watch the sunset over the valley, and I said a little thank you to the universe/God/my spirits/my guardians.  Truly the best day of my time in Chile.

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The entrance to Valle de la Luna

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The three sisters

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The view from the “hill” – I made it!

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My hero, Klaus, and I standing at the top of the hill!

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The amazing sunset in the Valley

Saturday, it was my last day.  I did a final walking tour in the afternoon, enjoyed some lunch in the square and headed to the bus station for an overnight bus ride to Arica.

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After the Saturday tour, the group – three Canadians and two Australians!

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The square – one last time

San Pedro was amazing – I will never forget what this town, and this entire trip, has shown me about myself.  My strength, my attitude and my life – so many ways I have changed and all for the good.  I LOVE CHILE!!