Andrew W.K. sends Shaunanagins a shout out!

Just got a party-hardy shoutout from Andrew WK himself!

My friend Mark met Andrew WK (who I’ve chatted with on Twitter) today, and he wanted to send Shaunanagins a shoutout. According to my friend: “It was his idea.  He said you can post it on your blog if you want. Or not…”

Um, YES.

(Oh, and to endorse him right back, Andrew WK is playing Maverick’s tonight. Consider checking it out if you’re in Ottawa!)

 

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Watermarked: How Rivers, Oceans, and Leaky Faucet-ing Won Me Over

It rained a lot in British Columbia.  It wasn’t really wet, as rainy weather goes; In Victoria, “rain” seems to mean “a mist gracefully puttering from the sky.” The light sprinkle was a little lacking in pyrotechnics, at least by my standards.  “Do you ever get, like, storm storms here?” I asked my uncle.

He shrugged. “Not really. Maybe 3 or 4 since I moved here, if that.”

I shuddered at the thought. “Man, I could never live like that…love storms way too much.”

Never. Overstatement, I know.  Of course I could live like that.  Besides, Vancouver Island’s water action trumps any old rainstorm because it is surrounded by the freaking ocean.

Downpours and lightening strikes might lose this round (though I do still love them).

Later, as I dipped my toes ceremoniously into the chilly West Coast ocean, I wondered why I cared so much about rainstorms. I wondered, too, why hitting both oceans in one month felt so profound and incredible–it’s just water, right?

My whole trip across Canada was watermarked. I don’t just mean I saw a lot of water flowing through the country (though, that too). I mean my internal responses to oceans and rivers and even rainy weather were hella powerful. Eventually, I caught onto the pattern.

And apparently got SUPER excited about it.
And apparently got SUPER excited about it.

Water. Water falling–from the sky, from a cliff, through the cracks. Water rushing past the train. Reading by rivers, walking through rain storms, tears. I’m a leaky faucet sometimes, and have no complaints when the world is, too. Watching the country I call home pass by my forever tear-producing eyes, with its tiny streams and life-giving lakes and salty oceans, I can’t help but take off my shoes and breathe it in because this is what being lucky feels like.*

Traveling across Canada, I became very aware of the water surrounding me, and intensely grateful of what it meant–for myself, for the life around me, for the very definition of Canada. I walked along a lot of rivers, you guys. I used 8 different showers, in 8 different cities, and had many people to thank for it. And, of course, this happened (and was awesome):

A Mari Usque Ad MarI also had those leaky faucet moments, of course. The only thing worse than being a history geek is being an emotional, embarrassingly patriotic history geek. Being an emotional music lover is just as fatal, especially since this damn beautiful country kept throwing me history and music…and water…and wonderful people. All at the same freaking time.

So I wept a few times, all warranted. Most notably, I broke down in the middle of a museum. Also in a train station. Also on the train itself.  They were tears of privilege–I missed my guitar, I loved my country, I felt strongly about how my family got here.

And when I cried, it rained. Or I made my way to a waterfront. Or the train passed by a river. I was surrounded by water, and it started feeling really special.

I’m not sure what to make of this alleged connection between water and my soul and this country and the world.  No guarantees, but I may just be re-entering “finding myself” territory. This experience may change my habits, or at least my outlook.  I might try to get a little more quality time with the canal, appreciate the taps and tubs and scenery I take for granted, light that candle that smells like the beach.

Like I’ve said before, this was never my intent with this trip…but here I go. Growing as a person. Making connections. Damn it. Sorry, guys.

At least there were a few funny, awkward stories in between the oceanfront epiphanies.

My phone tracked everywhere I took a photo last month. Pretty amazing.
My phone tracked everywhere I took a photo last month. This is the result. Pretty amazing.

Another thought bubble from the cross-Canada trip, one that I can’t seem to pop:  Until last month, I probably would have claimed that I could never live out of a small, tattered school bag. Could never deal with not knowing where I was sleeping the next night. Could never sleep on a train. And, oh man, could never feel close to someone less than an hour after meeting them.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, double wrong.

When I have never done something, sometimes I assume it’s because I could never do it. This is one of the lies my brain tells. Maybe your brain tells it, too. I am forever grateful for the people who reach out and pull me out of that. Because as much as I was “traveling alone”? None of this was done alone. It didn’t start alone, and it hardly ended that way.  I still remember studying with a girl in my history class, telling her about my trip. She looked at my small, black backpack, filled with a few books and a laptop, and said “Yeah, I traveled Europe using something about that size. You could do it easy.”

So I did.

I still remember when my co-worker, Julia, dropped off her ukelele at the office; “You can bring it with you if you want, I never use it anyways.”  She insisted that she was sure I could learn how to play it, and suggested I cover it in stickers from across the country.

I did that, too.

An old high school acquaintance Facebooked me after reading my blog, offering her air mattress in PEI. Another friend told me his wonderful folks could host me in Saskatoon. West Coast family members welcomed me with open arms.

So I stayed with them.

Friends before me had conquered enough of the train that I felt I could take it on.

I trusted their judgement. And they were right.

After awhile, all these wonderful friends and prayers and instincts sent the message that “You can trust God. You can trust some people. You can trust yourself.”  No one learns to believe something as crazy as that alone. And certainly, no one can confirm it alone. I needed a ton of help, coming from all sides–from upsides, downsides, from inside, outside, from everywhere.

Is this getting cheesy? I’m sorry. I promise it’s honest. I just owe a million thank yous. Even though my trip was through my own country, more of a backyard bash than an exotic adventure, it taught me some crazy things.  And now I know Canada–I don’t care for it any more, or any less, but I know it now.  I’ve reconnected with water, profoundly so. I am filled up with stories. I’ve visited my aunt and uncle in their hometown and it’s about damn time, really.

And now I’m home. I took the bus to work today, past the Ottawa river. My heart lept at the sight of it, just a bit–a new response, to say the least.  I gazed out the window and smiled.

A Mari Usque Ad Mare.

* By the bye, the “being lucky” thing is pretty serious:  lack of access to safe drinking water affects a LOT of people around the world.  If you’re one of the lucky ones, consider paying it forward: http://thewaterproject.org/

How I Learned the Ukelele in a Laundromat (and other East Coast stories)

An update on the “vagabond chic” look: My original “disheveled at the airport” collection is so last week. Make way for the super-sexy “laundromat after a rainstorm,” fashion fans…

IMG_0604[1]
I try, really.
Features of the collection include a messy ponytail, rolled up jeans, and tired, wet feet. I’m also pretty sure there’s sand in my backpack–a souvenir from two beachy days in Prince Edward Island.

I modeled the collection in Moncton. The small, humid laundromat was stop #2 on a quest for clean clothes, and I greeted it by getting barefoot and playing the ukelele with a friend I met two days ago. Stop #1 had been a shop on the corner with a large sign reading “LAUNDROMAT.” That place, they told us, was actually not a laundromat. It was a cool-kid cafe/bar called “Laundromat.”

I’m not hip enough to understand these things.

Pictured here: Not actually a laundromat
Pictured here: Not actually a laundromat

When we finally found a place with quarter-devouring washing machines and dryers, we made ourselves nice and comfortable. Waiting for our clothes to wash, we braved the stormy (and very empty) streets to seek out cheap pizza, shitty wifi, and a compact, Disney-themed umbrella from the drug store.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye to my new friend and jump on a train to Quebec. I actually jumped, you guys. It was a thirteen hour train ride and, oh-my, was I ever excited for it.

The train is the real heart of my trip. All these big adventures and bigger revelations are just spaces in between.

I made small talk with the cute guy in front of me at the station (“Oh, you’re from Ottawa? Me too!”) and, as he briefly disappeared from sight, I jumped on board with a wicked smile on my face. I bought a ham sandwich and little container of white wine on the train, and “je m’excuse, je m’excuse” passed by the friendly French man beside me. The man smelled like smoke and had a giant skull and crossbones inked onto his leg, but his voice was gentle and his smile was genuine and –yes! He kept speaking French to me even after hearing my troubled accent.

And so begins my life for the next month:

IMG_0599[1]

The train reached Quebec at 6 am, and I dragged myself through the tourist-covered streets until hostel check-in time and–oh! Here I am! Sitting at a hostel bar in la belle province, reflecting on the last two days.

(That’s a lie. I’m actually sitting here feeling way-too conscious of my feet, way-too happy about this beer, and way-too guilty that I fell asleep during a bus tour today. For the sake of the segue, though, let’s just say I’m reflecting on the last two days.)

To be reflected upon.
To be reflected upon.

In the days since my last post, I finished up in Halifax and headed to Prince Edward Island. I arrived in Charlottetown at noon(ish) Wednesday, and left at 8:15 Friday morning.

Translation? I had 44 hours in PEI. Ready, set, go.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled my trip. I’m pretty sure I was bitter–I always hated labeling the damn province in grade school geography. Or maybe I looked at the province on a map and said “Psh, that’s small. I could walk across that in 44 hours.”

Either way, I didn’t give myself enough time on the Island. Not even close.

Thanks to the people I encountered, however, it was (limited) time well spent. I suppose that’s part of this whole traveling thing, right? “What was your name, again? Right. That. Let’s do something cool.” My people-luck went as follows: I crashed on the air mattress of a wonderful girl I knew in high school (thanks, Alex and Danny!). I adventured with another girl I met on couchsurfing, Amy, who was being toted around town by a local named Bob.

(Amy was crashing in Bob’s spare bedroom. Everyone, it turns out, crashes in Bob’s spare bedroom. If you’re ever in Charlottetown, you should too. More on that later.)

On Thursday morning, I walked past an old Protestant cemetery. An artist, Carl Philis (potter by trade), spotted my interest right away. Carl had a paint can in his hand, and was working on the cemetery’s restoration. “If you come by some time later when you’re free, I can give you a tour around.”

I knew there would be no later. “Well…I’m free now, I guess. Can you give me a tour now?”

And he freaking did. His boss stood by smiling as he spent at least an hour showing me the history of PEI, stone by stone. I wasn’t used to such unscheduled hospitality.

“In Ontario, everyone’s just in a hurry to be late,” he explained. “It’s not like that here.”

IMG_0469[1]

He was right. When I arrived an hour later than expected to visit my Islander aunt, she was only happy I was there at all.

Bob was most flexible of all. From beginning to end, his main priority was for Amy and I to have a good PEI experience. I told him I was an Anne of Green Gables fan as a kid, and he happily drove us to Cavendish for the day. He showed us the tourist-y “Avonlea Village” and the trails around Green Gables in the after-hours, saving us from paying for the tourist traps. Bob was a Green Gables tour guide in a past life, and is an expert host in this life.

People-wise, I hit the jackpot in PEI. When my aunt told me she had sending me prayers for “travel mercies,” I practically fell all over her.

“It’s working! It’s working! Keep it up!”

Poking my presence into Bob's "map of guests"
Poking my presence into Bob’s “map of guests”
Yeah. This guy hosts hardcore.
Hardcore hosting.

To recap, a few pieces of advice if you ever visit Charlottetown:

  1. Stay with someone awesome and central.
  2. Look up Bob. Seriously. I will put you in touch personally, just drop me a line.
  3. Eat potatoes. And seafood. And donair. Dude, just eat.
  4. Go to the beach. This will be easy, since it seems that a good chunk of PEI is straight beach.
  5. Clap your hands and stomp your feet at a Ceilidh. If you don’t know what that is…look up what a Ceilidh is first. Then go to one.
  6. Talk to any and everyone. Chances are, they will talk to you right back (and then some).

And with that…

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Hammer Quebecer time.

The Journey Begins Before it Even Starts (wait, what?)

I learned awhile ago that the “journey” was a significant part of any voyage.  Maybe even the most significant part.

I know this is not a new idea.  I just Googled the thought and came up with a whole bunch of cutesy quote pictures to back me up (always a good sign…right?)

The clichés are with me.

Usually, my definition of the “journey” has to do with road trips, running for trains, and airplane (mis)adventures.  When I was 16, I decided to sleep on a bench during a twelve hour layover in France–and classy is as classy does, that is now the sum total of my Paris experience.  Total strangers on train rides have offered insights on communism, abusive relationships, grieving, and the Beach Boys (you know, typical polite conversation).  Confusing maps, broken down buses, tight connections and “Oh! Finally! Coffee!”  are all memories. They’re good memories. They’re funny.

The actual “traveling” is always at least half the fun.

Currently, though, I’m becoming acquainted with another side of “the journey.” This part is happening at home, in Ottawa. No wheels underneath me. No open road or visible sky. Instead, this part involves sitting on my couch with a mug of hot tea. (I should point out that it’s not really a couch. It’s a futon mattress propped up against a wall. Again, classy is as classy does.). Music is playing, a YouTube lyrics video of a catchy song on repeat for the 10th time. And browser tabs. So many browser tabs.

Train schedules. Tourist destinations. Hostels. Bus fares. Airline discounts.  Local blogs and forums. Festival lineups.

Oh-my-goodness, am I really doing this? Am I really taking a month off to travel across Canada? More importantly, how do I even start planning for this?

Props to my brother Mike for wood-burning my awesome Canada flag.
Props to my brother Mike for wood-burning my awesome Canada flag.

I have a plane ticket to Halifax. I have a 21-day train pass, scheduled to start as soon as I’m done with the Maritimes. My family and friends across the country have been warned.

I’m scheduling, scheduling, scheduling. It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be. It’s a whole lot of fun. And it’s definitely part of the journey.

I Have Chosen My Word for 2013 (and it’s going to make for one interesting year)

I’ve been seeing a few 2013 “year in a jar” projects around the interknots.  It’s a super cool idea. Here’s how it works: You get a jar. You get pieces of paper. You proceed to write down things about your year as they happen (milestones, quotes, et cetra). You place these things in the jar. You read them at the end of the year…and hopefully, feel awesome about what you’ve done.

That’s the plan, anyways.

Coming soon to the jars: cool stuff.
Coming soon to the jars: cool stuff.

And so I made one. My friend Laura made one, too, since we were having a catch up night near the end of 2012.  We were armed with $2.00 jars from Wal-Mart, ribbon, sparkles, leftover craft supplies, and letter stickers.

Ah, letter stickers.  What have you done to me?

Short on inspiration (or maybe high on it, in a way) I messily spelled out the words 2013: HAVE AN ADVENTURE EVERYDAY. I stared at the word Adventure for a while. This was mostly because I was tired, but also because I like that word. I like it a lot.

This.
This.

And here is the part of the post where I declare my word for the year ahead to be “Adventure.” 

(I even have a fancy Adventure jar, so you know it’s legit.)

This, of course, makes HAVE AN ADVENTURE EVERYDAY more than just some adorable words on an adorable jar. This is a full-out goal; A messy, beautiful, terrifying, inspiring goal (<<adjective overload, my flowery friends).

My jar, I have decided, will hold Adventures. Not quotes, not cuteness.  This is purely business. The jar will be reserved for daily proof that I try new things, face fears, make friends, laugh hard, and love harder.  Because in the end, my goal is to wake up each morning, look the world in the eye, and say “What, Life? Yeah, I’d tap that.”

Fun fact: This was my desktop background for MULTIPLE years.  Inspiration, y'all.
How’s that for perspective? This was actually my desktop background for well over a year.

The way I see it, there are two necessary steps to fulfilling the HAVE AN ADVENTURE EVERYDAY goal:

1)      Do more Adventure.

2)      See stuff as Adventure.

The first one seems obvious.  Adventure involves a steady process of keeping your hands feeling dirty and your soul feeling clean. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of mindset.  Yeah, skydiving is an adventure. But so is reading an amazing new book. So is eating alone in a restaurant (It’s easy for some people. It terrifies the rest of us).  So is the epic quest for strength, grace and dignity in the face of disappointment—or even putting oneself in a position where disappointment can go down.

The way I see it (subject to change…as always, I am as fallible as it gets), every day has the potential to hold a badass story or two. Sometimes, adventures are right there, photobombing our lives.  Other times, we have to get off our butts and say “Yes” often enough to create them.  If I want to HAVE AN ADVENTURE EVERYDAY, I need to be active: move to DC, get out of the comfort zone, dance in the grocery store (in that order, probably).  But at the same time, I need to be calm enough to notice the adventures that find me.

That won’t always be easy. Actually, it’s supposed to be messy/beautiful/terrifying/inspiring, which really means that it can’t be easy. But In the end, I will hopefully have a jar stuffed with memories and a life stuffed with stories.  That qualifies as “worth it.”

January 2, 2013

Dear self this year,

Find adventure. Let adventure find you. And please, write it down when it does.

Sincerely,

A terrified little girl (aspiring to be: a terrified little girl doing cool stuff.)

Why I Dyed My Hair Brown…Then Lied About It

I have been a blonde all my life. All of it. When my hair was long, it was long and blonde. When my hair was short, it was short and blonde. When I got highlights this Spring, they were to lighten up my already light hair. After shaving everything off for charity in high school, I was left with a head of blonde fuzz. The email address that defined my early teen years was the ever-creative “busy_being_blonde.” You get the point–golden locks are my JAM.

Sorry, they were my jam.

Just a little change…

BAM! Brunette. Just like that. I coloured my hair on Saturday, and life has been a whirlwind of catching people offguard since.

It’s very, very, very different, but I really do like it. The people around me like it, too. And everyone, me included, would like to know “WHY” I chose to do this–WHY I chose to go this dark, this dramatically, this suddenly.

Fair enough, right? It’s a very new look, so it’s reasonable to wonder what fueled the decision. And it would be reasonable for me to answer questions about it. Which I do.

Regretfully, none of these answers are true.

“I guess I just felt like a change!”

Lie. I do not “feel like” a change. Not a real change, anyways. And even if I did, does dying your hair count as a legit change? It might make a statement about where you’re at, or accompany a change nicely, but it’s not exactly life-changing in and of itself. I’m a mobile and adventurous 20 year old, you guys. If I did truly feel like a change, dying my hair would be pretty weak.

“I have always wanted to give it a try, so I thought I’d just go for it!”

I don’t know what my definition of “always” is, but…no. Not even. I don’t think there was a single day before this Spring’s blonde highlights that I even considered touching my hair colour. And going dark? That idea dates back to maybe a few weeks ago, if that. Liar, liar.

“I thought it would be nice to go with a warm colour for the winter.”

…That doesn’t even make sense.

“Well, I was Audrey Hepburn for Halloween, so I just went all out!”

Yeah, except I frantically pulled together the Breakfast at Tiffany’s costume last-minute. Seriously last minute–the afternoon of the 31st, to be exact. Also, I didn’t dye my hair until November 3rd. Also…who does that?

Though I did get to bring a little brunette to a Halloween bash Saturday night. Maybe I DID dye the hair for festive reasons after all…

(Note: if anyone does go all out enough to perma-dye their hair for Halloween then…I take back that last question. Also, that person is awesome.)

“I don’t know, I just felt like it.”

I did feel like it, yes. Or at least, I didn’t not feel like it (obviously). “I don’t know” is a cop-out, but it’s fair. It’s a simple way of saying “why” isn’t totally identifiable. Which is…about half true.

The Truth

Alright, here’s the other half of the truth. Like I said, I don’t know quite why I did it. However, for your reading pleasure, here is the lame back story as well as I can remember it:

It was a few weeks ago. I was in the office. In passing, my friend/colleague told me that she used to be a brunette. She added that chocolate brown hair looks good on pretty much anyone. Intrigued, I responded with “Would it look good on me?”

“TOTALLY.”

I think she had reasons for this. Maybe she didn’t. Either way, the conversation ended with me proclaiming that “I guess I will dye it in November, then.”

“DO IT!”

Just like that. I imagine that she immediately forgot the conversation, but I didn’t. If there’s one thing I like more than making random plans and commitments (like dying my hair in November), it’s keeping them. Basically: I really like to say things. I don’t like to say things I don’t mean. So when I said “I guess I will dye it in November, then,” I meant it.

And now I’m a brunette. That’s the truth…at least, as far as my mirror and memory can tell. Shout out to the lovely ladies at Hair Junkie on Laurier Street West for a fabulous first experience!

(‘Sup, dark side?)