Without Maps

I’m still in lalaland as my brain lingers on thoughts of travel. This happens to me every time I go somewhere...even if it is just to the other side of the country. I’m always pumped with this sense of adventure that I cling to for as long as possible...so allow me to indulge myself.

One of my favourite parts of traveling is exploring places by myself. It’s such a liberating feeling to know that you can just pick up and go whenever and wherever and not need anyone to do it with. It’s terribly empowering. Not just that but I have a certain way of traveling that I know doesn’t jive well with a lot of people. I don’t like having concrete plans or rigid schedules, rather just a general idea of what I want to see and do. You discover so much more when you’re open to let the day take you where it wants to. You discover gems that aren’t on the maps and you meet people you may never otherwise meet. There’s that thrilling feeling of uncertainty that just keeps you on your toes all day.

I got to do that while in Vancouver with random excursions all throughout my time there. I traveled up to Capilano on a whim and got to see the natural beauty of Northern Vancouver. While there I made a new friend from New Zealand, Matt, who randomly became my traveling partner and handy photographer for the next two days. I also randomly decided to check out the Chinatown in the city...a place I usually don’t enjoy visiting. But there I found the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden, a sweet little garden authentically designed in the Chinese tradition. It was odd to see this little piece of China in the middle of Vancouver...but ‘tis the celebrated diversity of this good ol’ nation of mine that makes it just an everyday spot.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden

The next day I ventured off to Victoria, BC (photos here)...totally was not in my itinerary, but as usual, excited by the thought of adventure. Didn’t really know how to get there...had such a complicated array of transportation -- a bus, a train, a ferry, a shuttle -- making for a trip that took nearly five hours (one way!). But the scenery en route was so gorgeous. Had a horizon full of islands throughout the ferry ride, a welcome view at any time! Plus, I happily got to visit the capital of British Columbia, a small city with a certain old school charm to it.

Hatley Castle in Victoria

I love that uncertainty of travel. Not knowing where exactly you’re going and having no maps laid out in front of you...just relying on a combination of the guidance of others and your own inner compass. A little slice of “carpe diem”.

"Magellan This City" or rather, this campus!

For awhile now, I (as a rep for blogUT), along with some friends, have been working behind the scenes with My City Lives to film a video series exploring the University of Toronto, St. George Campus. For those of you who don't already know (and take note, cuz you'll be hearing this name more often!), My City Lives is an online platform that gives us, the citizens, the opportunity to capture and share our daily experiences around the city on video. If you check out their website, you'll see that the web stories are presented on an interactive map that shows exactly where each video was filmed so you can learn more about our city based on the narratives of others. It's a simple yet incredibly powerful idea...

Now the idea to shoot on campus arose out of the need to create and build an accessible resource for first-year students who often find themselves lost during those first few weeks of university, both physically and socially. It's a terrifying and potentially alienating experience to find yourself out of your comfort zone in a totally different environment with people you don't know. It's overwhelming. I know because I've been there myself.

Those physical, antiquated maps with grids and street names that the university provides its froshies are no longer enough. They don't even begin to scratch the surface of what the campus is all about. As my friends at MCL say, "Ordinary maps are lifeless...we present a view of a city by the people who make it breathe". So here's to hoping these videos breathe life into this lovely, historically rich and vibrant campus!

**Thanks again to Adil, Coleman, and Saleema who made this all happen. Below are some sample videos but you can view the entire series here.

Ciao belli amici!

Ciao from Venice, Italy!

Made it to this quaint little city yesterday morning and no sooner do I step out of the train do I see that famous Grand Canal with all the gondolas. Let me tell you...it's everything I imagined it to be! Everytime I step outside, it shocks me to see boats and gondolas as the main mode of transportation. And walking along so many bridges to cross not a street, but a canal! It's like I'm living in a totally different world!

I've been spending the past two days just walking everywhere and turning at every small little alleyway and trying, as much as possible, to take the unbeaten path. I've done some hefty exploring walking from San Marco to Accademia to Rialto to San Lucia...and let me tell you, my feet are on fire! I feel like I've walked the entire island already (almost actually).

The weather has been gorgeous and promises to be for the rest of the week...lovely to see everyone just hanging outside with a glass of vino listening to the live band playing in the background. It makes me think of everyone back in Toronto who are always so excited when patio season comes knocking around the corner. Excited to find a spot near the canal sometime later this week and just take in the sun and a good book. This, my friends, is the dolce vita!

Anyway, I've got to run. I've got an early morning train to catch tomorrow AM to Milan. Just for the day though and then I go back "home" to Venezia.

Ciao for now!

lost and found

Hurray! It's been one week since we arrived here in Brno and already so many crazy and wacky stories to share. A fireworks competition is being held down here for the next week or so, called Ignis Brunensis...so we've been in on some scenic treats for the past couple of evenings. Last night we all went to down by Brno Lake to check out the festivities, which is about 45 minutes away from where our residence is. The place was crazy packed!! All of Brno must have been there that night...and of course, I had to get lost and lose track of where the rest of the group is. Thank God, I wasn't alone though...that would've been a nightmare! So took a couple of trams, a taxi, and did a lot of walking and tadah! ...found our way back to good ol' 50 Kounicova. Getting lost in a foreign place with no one who speaks your language? Awesome. And being able to find your way back? Double awesome.

And what adds to all the awesomeness is the people that you meet along the way. Already I've met so many interesting people from all over the world. Last night while on our trek to find our way back home, we met a couple of backpackers...one from Florida and another from Brazil. They had so many fascinating stories to tell about their travels. I just love listening to what they've done and where they've been! Also ran into folks from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Britain, Poland...it's too cool! I've never been exposed to so much of the world like this before!  And the different languages everyone speaks and the struggle to communicate with each other....I don't know...I think it's beautiful!

Anyway, we're off to see some castle nearby! Here's to getting lost...and hopefully finding my way back ;)