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Oh My God! You’re from Canada?

5 Apr

When traveling, it’s funny how meeting someone from your native country is so exciting. It’s as if they’re your neighbours or something and you feel like you need to catch up on each other’s lives. I definitely fell victim to doing this.

When you meet other travellers it’s seems as if the initial exchange is always the same.

“What places have you been so far on your trip?”

“Where are you going next?”

Then there are the other, simple, polite questions about how old you are, whether or not you’re traveling solo, what do you do for a living, etc.

However, the most significant questions, it seems, is:

“Where are you from?”

This is pretty much the first thing someone asks me (sometimes even before they ask what my name is!).

If you’re both from the same country? Instant conversation starter. Instant feeling of belonging. Instant feeling of comfort. At least, that’s how it felt for me, especially as a solo traveller.

And it’s exciting! As if people don’t travel and it’s SO odd to meet someone from the same country as you (do you hear the hint of sarcasm there?).

One encounter really stands out in my mind.

A friend and I had just arrived in Huacachina, Peru at around 9 p.m. We checked into our hostel and then decided to go wandering around the town because it was tiny so knew we wouldn’t get lost. We ended up at this bar called ‘The Pub.’

Posing in front of The Pub. I swear this wasn't a staged photo!

I was wearing a hoodie with the name of the university I attend written on it.

We walked into The Pub and immediately noticed that two of the guys working at the bar were ‘gringos.’

So we went up to the bar to get a drink and one of the guys said,

“You go to Western?”

I was a little taken aback because I didn’t even realize I was wearing my university sweater.

“Um, yeah! I do.”

“No way! I go to Laurier!”

Western and Laurier are not only both in Canada. They are not only both in Ontario (a province of Canada). They are literally within an hour drive from each other.

And then on top of that, I found out that he was from Toronto, which is about 20 minutes from where I live.

Such an exciting moment. I love how you can live 20 minutes away from someone and never meet them, but then you go to a different country and you meet, by chance, in a tiny, off-the-beaten-track town.

The fellow Canadian and I frolicking in the sand

The world is seriously SO SMALL.

Is it as exciting for you as it is for me to meet someone from your native country?

Any stories like this one?

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What NOT to pack

29 Mar

My first post!

I’d like to start off by saying that I am currently NOT in South America, but I will be writing about my travels there. I have a journal full of stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that I’ve wanted to share ever since I returned from my trip.

So I thought, why not start a blog?

This was my first travel experience outside of the Canada and the United States, so I assure you that there will be A LOT of travel advice in this blog. This was also my first backpacking experience and let me tell you, there are SO many things I would’ve done differently. But hey, that’s what experiences are all about. You live and you learn. You make mistakes and you grow from them.

So I thought I’d start off with a post about packing. When I first left for Peru my backpack was completely full. I didn’t realize how big of a mistake this was especially since I loved everything item in my backpack and wasn’t really willing to throw out anything to make room. I ended up having to throw out a lot of things I brought for these reasons:

1)   My backpack was way too heavy.
2)   I needed room for souvenirs I was bringing home for myself and for others.
3)   I didn’t pack right for the weather so I had to buy some more weather-appropriate clothes and throw away my 100 pairs of shorts.

I still have the packing list I made, so I will give you an inventory of every single thing that I packed and then I will tell you where I went extremely wrong. Hopefully this can help first-time backpackers with their packing.

But first, I will talk about the backpack I used and why it is very wise to research before you buy anything. I, stupidly, did not do this.

My backpack:

Type: MEC Brio 60L

Weight: 2.5 kg

Pros: Looks nice, front-loading, comfortable, good quality

Cons: Heavy, too big

Worth it? Definitely. $99 Canadian, which is about the same in USD. Such a steal.

Will I continue using it? YES. For now, that is. Eventually I will invest in a better backpack. This was my first backpack and I had no idea what I was doing. I really should’ve done my homework when it came to something as big as this, but it’s okay to make mistakes. Shop around, read reviews, and more importantly, read travel blogs!

If I could choose all over again would I choose this pack? Probably not. I would’ve gone for a 40L and one that was a little less wide. When I had this bad boy all packed up I could barely lift it.

Did I see anyone with the same pack? I saw one person. A guy. For whatever that’s worth.

Keep in mind that everyone packs differently. Everyone has specific things they need to bring that others would never bring with them. Also, packing is completely destination dependent. You’re not going to pack the same clothes on a trip to Antarctica as you are to the Caribbean. You might not agree with everything I brought and I would love to hear your comments. To each their own, though.

List of what I packed

Clothes

  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 2 pairs of jeans (threw one out)
  • 1 zip up hoodie (bought another one when I was in Peru)
  • 1 black cardigan
  • 1 light jacket
  • 10 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of sock, 3 bras (one strapless)
  • 1 black dress, 1 colourful dress, and one black/purple dress (only needed 1 or 2)
  • 1 skirt
  • 7 t-shirts (threw out 3 of them)
  • 5 tank tops (only needed 3)
  • 3 nice shirts (only needed 1, maybe 2)
  • 1 long sleeve shirt (bought 1 more while in Peru)
  • 1 pair of black sports pants
  • 1 pair of capri pants
  • 5 pairs of shorts (only really needed 2 or 3)
  • 1 bathing suit


Shoes/Accessories

  • 1 sunhat
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • 1 pair of heels (see below!)
  • 2 pairs of flip flops (threw one pair out)- only one pair is pictured
  • Bandana
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses

 

Toiletries (not pictured individually)

My toiletry bag compared to my friend Chris's!

  • 1 bottle of shampoo/1 bottle of conditioner
  • Bar of soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Women’s products
  • Tweezers, Nail clippers
  • 3 Disposable shavers
  • Makeup
  • Blow dryer
  • Hair straightener
  • Hair spray
  • Vaseline
  • Mini first aid kit
  • Hair ties, bobby pins, hair brush, comb

 

Electronics

  • iPod, headphones, and charger
  • iPod speakers (broke a week before my trip ended)- these actually got a lot of use
  • Canon Powershot, case and charger
  • Two 4 GB memory cards (should’ve brought 3 or 4)
  • USB drive


Other

  • Journal and Pens
  • Guidebook
  • Spanish phrasebook
  • 1 Book
  • Frisbee- not pictured
  • JanSport backpack for my daypack
  • 1 small shoulder bag
  • 1 roll of toilet paper (best thing I brought!)
  • Deck of cards- not pictured
  • Passport, insurance info, contact info, money, etc.

 

Note: ALL of this fit into my backpack, but it was filled right to the top.

Where I went wrong:

1) What I would reconsider for my next trip:

Straightener- I’m one of those girls who straightens her hair at least 5 out of 7 days a week. In Peru, I used it twice and only because I felt like I had to justify bringing it since it was too expensive to throw out. One reason why I love backpacking – no one cares about looks.

Hair dryer- To be fair, mine broke on Day 2 of my trip when I was using it to dry my flip flops. DON’T bring a hair dryer. You will NEVER use it.

High heels- WOW, I know. I’m a little embarrassed to put this one up here. I don’t feel like I need to explain my reasoning on this one.

Makeup- I’m not gonna lie, I did wear makeup. BUT I did bring way too much. Stick to the basics if you want to bring makeup (eyeliner, mascara, an eyeshadow). There’s nothing wrong with wearing makeup, even when you’re backpacking around South America.

Frisbee/Deck of cards- Threw both out.

Nice clothes- Brought way too much. Next time I’ll stick to a skirt, one or two nice tops, and one dress. You can always buy things in the places you visit if you need new clothes.

2) What I should’ve brought:

Money belt- Got to be safe!

Tape- So simple, yet always overlooked.

Scissors-You’d be surprised how many times you would kick yourself for not bringing scissors.

Some sort of organizer for my clothes (like a packing cube)- I just stuffed all my clothes in my bag and it was a pain-in-the-ass trying to find things.

Netbook (Now, this depends on how long my next trip will be. If it’s 2 months or less I probably won’t bring it because I can’t afford it, but if it’s for more than 2 months, I will definitely invest in one- Any suggestions?)

A clock (or a watch that has an alarm)- How did I forget this?!

Some kind of small pillow or pillow case (to stuff with clothes)- overnight buses can be killer without a pillow.

Travel Towel- I bought 2 very small towels in Peru, but they were still so bulky.

Button up shirt- everyone needs a button up.

Bottle opener- I needed one of these so many times. A corkscrew would be good too, so I’ll probably just get a Swiss Army knife next time

Head lamp- good for the obvious reasons, but also really good in hostels. There were so many times that I wanted something from my bag really late at night or early in the morning, but I felt too bad to turn on the lights. This would’ve been perfect.

More memory cards- you can never have enough.

Gum- I really wish I brought gum because it was impossible to find in Peru and gum would have been a lifesaver.

 

Also, be prepared to lose things. I swear I lost something every other day, including my credit card. Losing things while backpacking is like losing socks in the washing machine (which clearly end up in Narnia).