Wednesday, February 24, 2016

4 Travel lessons I learned the hard way

Let me start off by saying that I'm writing to you from Toronto, Canada. Not all of this will be applicable to you. But hey, maybe it will be. Here are a few things I wish people told me before I hopped on a plane to tour Europe:

1. Don't take toilets for granted. Also to go with this, it's normal if you have to go up (or down) a sketchy staircase to get to a single toilet stall. I'm use to clearly marked washrooms back home, so I refused to use the hidden bathroom in Italy. Such a mistake because it was hard to find another. Oh, and while we're at it, I don't recommend dehydrating yourself to avoid having to find a toilet. Trust me.

2. "Blending in" isn't always best. Yes, you should avoid looking like a lost tourist. But if you're in a tourist area, everyone's a tourist anyway! I read online that Rome was "conservative" and people typically wear jeans and leather jackets in the autumn. Makes sense, right? Well it's 20 degrees around this time in Italy, which is actually summer temperature in Toronto. My goodness, I overheated so hard. There's absolutely no point in blending in when you're gonna stick out by sweating like a fool anyway.

3. Bring all the meds. Even if you don't think you'll need them. Do you know how to ask a pharmacist for stomach ache medicine in a different language? Do you know how to read the ingredients in a foreign language on the side of the bottle? No? Then save yourself the struggle and bring your own.

4. "Fresh air" is subjective. Not only is smoking in restaurants against the law here, but smoking too close to others will probably get you the stink eye. On a similar boat, strong perfumes and cologne is a pretty big taboo. We like our space to be unscented. In France, I found myself frequently in situations where I couldn't catch a breath because of someone sucking on a cigarette or who was leaving a trail of designer perfume. I know that this was embedded into the culture, but I forgot how it would affect me.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016


I've never been a fan of places like Value Village. To me, walking in is like stepping into a big warehouse where old things are just lumped together on racks. I'm not willing to put the effort into this "thrifting" that everyone talks about. I recently strolled into Valley Antiques in Hamilton and was pleasantly surprised at what an independent shop can do.

There's something charming about a bit of organized clutter. Displays organized to showcase, intrigue, and occasionally go "hey, I have that...I wonder how much my old crap is worth!" They really don't make stuff like they used to.

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