SOL: Snippets

I find myself floating through life
Descending into reluctant sinners’ caverns
Lipstick smudged and making loving to a bottle
Trying in vain to forget fingers brushing hair, mending scars
Strong arms wrapped around me twice as you whispered, “You’re beautiful.”

I find myself using cheap escapism techniques
Boarding planes to avoid the memory of you beaming at me like the sun
Your body wrapped around me like the moon, my celestial being
Scanning airports for your face with the futile hope
That you will come with hands full of every profession you choked down.

3AM Thoughts // AKA “This Poem Is Unfinished Business, Much Like You & I.

SOL: Perfume

He prefers me drained of hope
Bitter more and sweet less
Stinging taste buds and assaulting eyes
Pliable in his conquering hands
Indifferent to emotion and
Therefore impervious to shame
Morphing into a concubine doll
Bending to another player’s whims
He inhales deeply, asks what I’m wearing
Breaking into a wolfish grin when I reply, “Ambiguity.”

3AM Thoughts // AKA “You Taste Better After Heartbreak.”

SOL: Tourist Indulgences, Cooking Like a Spaniard & Self(ie)-Loathing

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Tourist Indulgences

I celebrated my birthday on a Thursday in a low-key fashion, but I was determined to do something to mark the occasion on the weekend. As it was, I found myself getting up at 6AM on Saturday and hitching a ride with my hosts to Barcelona. While they went off to take care of work and exams (i.e. real-life problems) I wandered off on my own to explore the city.

I had two hours to kill before things began to open so I grabbed a tram from the port and made my way towards Plaza Catalunya. After a short walk I found a café appropriately named TapaTapa and downed two coffees while using their WiFi to map out each destination. The last time I was in Barcelona was a year ago and I never made it to the Sagrada Familia – an error I intended to rectify this time around. After a quick 25 minute walk I was stumbling into throngs of tourists and knew I had reached my destination. Construction of the Sagrada Familia began in 1882 and it became Gaudi’s pride and joy in 1883. It’s still heavily under renovation and I found that the scaffolding and cranes subtracted from the overall impression of the cathedral. I wandered around to the opposite side and noticed it was older and had a lot of character, which can be seen in the photo above. Ultimately I’m glad I went to see it and I will revisit it over the course of my stay here to gain further appreciation for its history.

After posting a photo of the cathedral to social media, a friend recommended that I read The Shadow of the Wind, a novel by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón that takes place in Barcelona. I was a bit skeptical but I ended up reading the nearly 500 page tome in a matter of two days. The story is a gripping criminal narrative full of twists; all of which is accomplished while name-dropping plazas and streets within Barcelona. I am more than a little excited to venture back into Barcelona this weekend (an hour away by train) to check out a few of the streets mentioned in the book as well as wander through the Gothic District.

Spanish Cooking Lessons

One of the few sentences I have learned in Spanish is “Soy vegetariana.” In a country full of meat-lovers and greasy carnivorous tapas, finding vegetarian food has presented the occasional challenge. One of my hosts is a food enthusiast and is constantly trying to find bio and organic alternatives for me. As it is, I learned how to cook rice à la València methods this weekend using an oven and soup broth. How it’s done is simple: In a pan, heat soup broth to a low boil and then reduce. In a baking pan, drizzle uncooked rice with olive oil until it is lightly coated and then cover it with the broth in a 2:1 ratio. After that the additions are at the mercy of the chef: I added chopped zucchini, pine nuts and garlic to my first dish and it turned out wonderfully. Everything is put into the oven at about 280 degrees for 25 minutes or until all the broth evaporates. Once it is done remove it from the oven, mix it together, and let it cool.

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I made another dish on my own today and went wild with the seasoning; this batch had brown rice, onion, tomato, zucchini, chili peppers and some curry flavour. I tossed it in the oven and due to the larger batch it took about 50 minutes to cook all the way through. It tastes amazing and now I have a week’s worth of meals ready to go (preparing several meals in advance does not seem to be a popular concept in Europe). Next up for my cooking lessons is the local favourite of paella.

Self(ie)-Loathing

I can confess to occasionally indulging in a few habits that are asinine and downright vain. Before embarking on this trip I was determined to document it more than the last time, so I invested in what has become the bane of my existence – a selfie stick. Now, before you cast judgement (which, by all means, do, I can hardly blame you) before purchasing one of these “monopods” I regarded them with a scoff and barely disguised disgust as well. That said, for a solo-traveler and a narcissistic millennial, it is a technological godsend. Considering I have been cursed with T-Rex arms, the length of the selfie stick alone has come in handy more than once. After slight deliberation (and self-loathing, as mentioned) I purchased THIS brand from Amazon.ca.

It arrived a week before I left, and admittedly, I was smitten with it upon testing it out. It extends up to one metre and it doesn’t require you to connect it via wire or use a remote; all you have to do is link it to your Bluetooth and press the shutter button on the handle. One downside is that it needs to be fully-charged every time you plan on using it but otherwise it’s incredibly convenient and if you don’t mind bemused looks, it will definitely come in handy when you visit national monuments on your own (though several museums and public areas have banned the use of the sticks on the premises).

That said, taking pictures of ourselves was popular long before some jackass decided to coin the term “selfie,” thus condemning the action to pop-culture phenomenon hell. If you need to find me this weekend I will be the obnoxious tourist reeking of North American influence, brandishing my selfie-stick with an inane mixture of loathing and pride.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Twenty-Four

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The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.

// Jean-Paul Sartre

It is bittersweet to acknowledge that I am already another year older. The past twelve months have flown by, yet each one held its own milestone. I am eternally grateful for the life I lead and for the people who enrich my life and support me throughout all my ridiculous endeavors.

While it brings me existential angst to reflect on the fact that another year has already passed, I am comforted by the knowledge that I am in a better place emotionally, physically and mentally. I’m constantly in the pursuit of growth, whether it be through new cultural experiences, challenging relationships or continuing education. While in my 23rd year I was internally focused on rebuilding my foundation, in my 24th year I will start living externally and bringing to fruition the goals I have internalized for years due to fear of failure. It has come to my attention that I have been choosing the “safe” options for far too long and I want to start taking risks and pursuing happiness on my own terms.

I am constantly astounded at how quickly we can alter our lives and at how rapidly our goals can change. Last year I was preaching ad nauseam that I was going to eschew all acceptable avenues of living and perpetually travel the globe as a nomadic yuppie hipster. Travel will remain one of the great loves of my life; in order to fully understand yourself and the world you live in it is imperative to experience new climates, cultures, and styles of living. However, I do believe that there comes a time when being rooted and establishing a home base of your own becomes less of a hindrance and more of a luxury.

If I am brutally honest, my travels last year were used as a coping mechanism; the adventurous equivalent of a jet-pack emergency release. Life had simply become too much for me to handle and leaving the country felt like the only way to re-calibrate and regain control. I didn’t realize how much more stable I had become until I began to prepare for this trip and realized that I did not need to leave this time around – I wanted to (albeit reluctantly at times). Even now, I can feel that my relationship with travel has changed and this will be my last extended trip abroad. The desire to flee is not omnipresent; my priorities have changed (for the time being) and I am more interested in building a future and investing my time with those who are important to me.

Leaving home this time around was bittersweet but settling in Spain has given me the kick in the ass that I needed. If I am going to willingly separate myself from the people I love, I want to be able to have something to show for it in the end. While last year I genuinely needed time to balance myself, I now have the tools I need to pursue my goals and make things happen. My youthful entitlement has evaporated and I want to push towards what I want – fear of rejection or failure be damned.

My goal for my 24th year is simple, straight-forward, and ultimately clichéd as hell; I aspire solely to create a life that fits my own ideals of health, wealth and happiness. I do not wish to be rich, mass success holds no appeal and I do not dream of fame. I simply want to be happy (inside and out) and as a result, bring happiness to other people’s lives.

As my birthday is rapidly coming to a close on this side of the globe, I want to once again thank my friends and family who thought of me today. Sending lots of love from Europe.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Red-Eyes, Ski-Trips & New Routines

Today marks the end of my first week in Europe, though it feels as though I’ve already been here for a month.

I left Toronto last Wednesday on a red-eye flight to Brussels with Jet Airways. I’ve never flown with them before, but they had an amazing deal to Europe so I figured I had nothing to lose. I had a transfer from Brussels to Barcelona, but most of the people on the plane were continuing on to Delhi. It was possibly the biggest plane I’ve ever been on, with each row seating nine people. I was lucky enough to be in the middle section with three empty seats beside me so I stretched out and tried (unsuccessfully) to sleep. I would definitely recommend Jet Airways to other travelers; the plane was clean, the staff was friendly and helpful and they served Indian food for dinner which was easily the most enjoyable in-flight meal I’ve ever had.

At Brussels I had the pleasure of a six-hour layover, most of which was spent binge-watching TV shows on a reclining seat. I refueled on a green smoothie and tons of water to try to replenish nutrients, but by my fifteenth hour of consecutive travel I felt like a used-up sponge. When a change of clothes and a fresh face of make-up didn’t rejuvenate me I resigned myself to day-dreaming of a hot shower.

After an initial delay the flight to Barcelona (with Air Brussels) boarded quickly and arrived to our destination in under two hours. After grabbing my luggage and winding my way through the carbon-copy airport I finally met my new host family. In exchange for teaching their son English I will be given room and board. After a quick drive we reached the town of Sant Pol de Mar, where I will be residing for the next few months. They were excited to unveil the new room they had been working on and it did not disappoint. The room was finished a few hours prior to my arrival and it was amazing. They converted half of their garage into a mini-apartment, so I have the luxury of my own room and bathroom on a separate level. I like having my own space and this more than suffices. They decorated it with red and white accents and even hooked me up with a new TV and sound system. In terms of accommodation, this place is above and beyond my previous arrangement with Workaway.

Since there is never a dull moment, on Friday, after having spent barely 12 hours in Spain, the entire family piled into two cars and we all drove to Font Romeau in France for an Easter weekend ski trip. This was the main source of my trepidation in preparing for this placement because I may have exaggerated my skill level when the family asked me if I a) knew how to ski and b) enjoyed it. I said yes to both and simply resolved to figure it out later. Prior to last weekend, I have been skiing once in my life; at age 10 on a grade 5 field trip, and I ended up tangled in an orange safety fence. We arrived at the resort at the top of the Pyrenees mountain range within three hours, rented our equipment, and on Saturday we hit the slopes. Literally.

The night before, I wiki’d “How to Ski.” On our first hill they glided down with the ease of professional skiers whereas I rolled down with panache, or as one of my hosts said, “You fall with flair.” After a few hours I improved and was on the same level as the four-year-old. Ahh, humility. All in all, the weekend was an absolute blast; the scenery was breath-taking and it was a great bonding experience for all of us. They had rented a small chalet about five minutes from the centre of Font Romeau and it was gorgeous! I was constantly looking at the mountains while trying to make it down the hill without breaking anything.

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A word on the language barriers. Within the first three days of landing I was speaking a confusing menagerie of Catalan, Spanish, French and English with a bit of miming for good measure. Catalan is a local dialect and has a lot of similarities to French, so luckily I can understand and read most of it. Spanish still escapes me.

We finished off Easter weekend in France and by Tuesday we were back in Spain and I had created some semblance of a routine. The host-mom gave me a tour of Sant Pol, brought me to her son’s school and took me on a bike ride to the neighbouring town of Calella. On Wednesday I was able to be more independent and had the morning to myself (which I spent running and laying on the beach) and picking up their son from school. Childcare is hard. I don’t know how all the stay-at-home-moms do it, but kudos to those who are able to handle 24/7 child-rearing.

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It’s only been a week but I am already sure this trip will be a positive experience. I am always astounded by how easily people open their homes to others and how completely they absorb workers into their lives. I’m blown away by the hospitality and gregarious nature of my hosts. This placement offers new challenges and learning experiences and I welcome both with open arms and an open mind.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: +

Over the summer I’ve realized that the easiest way to ensure you are surrounded by positive energy is to be the source of energy.

Look for the small pleasures in an otherwise lackluster day.
Improve the lives of the people around you with a tailored compliment or genuine smile.

Life is hard, yes, but there’s no need to make it more difficult than it already is.

Safe travels,
AS