How I Became A Nomad


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"“Oh yeah? Well you’re a nomadic Gypsy!” is a wannabe insult my brother often hurls at me. I say “wannabe” because it’s not really an insult to me, but I know he means it to be a little more derogatory than I take it. I like changing things up, moving around, seeing new things, breaking the routine. I like being a nomad.

I don’t want to cast my dear brother in a bad light here. No, not at all. We get along (pretty) well and have a loving, teasing, bickering older sister – younger brother relationship. (If only he would listen to me more!) But with me at twentysomething and him, still at twentysomething but three years younger, and our being different people and all, we have different ideas about the paths our lives should take.

Recent sibling selfie.

Recent sibling selfie.

Having recently graduated from college, my brother moved home, bought his dream car (a bright orange, ’69 Chevelle) and took a full time job working in the family business. He’s happy. He’s good at it. He’s needed. He’s got a plan to save for a down payment on a house and wants to buy one when he’s 25 or 26. I’m proud of him.

Now, we’ll take a look at me at his age. I finished school, started this blog and fled to Italy. I came back to Canada with no idea of what I’d do, but with the notion that I needed to find a job. So I found one, in an office. The job was stressless, the pay was decent for entry-level and it had the added bonus of being right across the street from my parents’ house. Ottimo. Great.

So I did that for a year, reading blogs by travel gurus like Nomadic Matt and Chris Guillebeau  when work was slow, slowly becoming bored and feeling trapped behind my desk. Luckily, the universe was on my side. The company downsized and let me go, which I documented here. Around that time, my first magazine article was published here, and I received my first cheque for writing. I took a month off, enjoyed Christmas and then went back to school for a semester to get a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. Then the adventure really started.

Saviour on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg

Saviour on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg

I got a  job leading student groups around Europe for the summer and I did a bit of my own travelling. I came back to Canada and started teaching, both ESL and Italian. I did that for 8 grueling months (it’s not that the work was grueling, but the commuting was) and continued to write. In May, I went back for round two of students in Europe, scored a couple more writing gigs and did some more travelling. Now I’m back in Canada, teaching English for four months and preparing for my next trip.

Two Canucks and  the Kiwi hot air ballooning in Turkey.

Two Canucks and the Kiwi hot air ballooning in Turkey.

Oh yeah, didn’t I mention it? In December I’m heading across the world to New Zealand to be the maid of honour in my best friend’s wedding. She’s a bit of a Canadian adventurer too. So’s her Kiwi fiancé. (One day I’ll write their story on here and really wow you all).

I’ve currently got a one-way ticket to New Zealand, but it’s not going to stay that way. I wanted to make sure I’d get there in plenty of time for the wedding, so I booked my ticket back in the summer. Now I’m sorting out my travel details. I think I’ll hit up Australia and Hong Kong while I’m away, because, what the heck? Right? Right.

I’ll probably be gone for about 6 weeks, but it could be longer. How do I get this time off? I have a job that fortunately/unfortunately (but more fortunately, at the moment) is done by contract. Yep. 7-week teaching contracts. I’m here for two contracts, then I don’t give my availability for the next one. If I’m back before the start date of the March term, I’ll probably be able to grab some teaching hours then.

But that’ll all go up in smoke if my Italian work Visa comes through. Fingers crossed, and if the gods of bureaucracy smile upon me, I’ll be heading over to Italy in the spring for some undetermined amount of time. Until I get itchy feet again, and feel the need to go somewhere else.

People ask me all the time where I’m off to next and how I can make it all work for me. I’m still muddling through, making mistakes, but, at the moment I’m happy with this “nomadic” life I’ve created. It means I get to do interesting things, in interesting places, with interesting people.

Mud baths in Turkey! Photo credit: Lance Jackson

Having a mud bath in Turkey. Photo credit: Lance Jackson

This post is the intro to a short series I’m planning to publish here, entitled How To Become A Nomad (And Not Give Up Everything). I’m aiming to let you in on a few of the tips and tricks I use to juggle my life, pack in all this extended travel and not have to pawn all my possessions. Look for the first installments in coming weeks.

Surviving Paris: The Arc de Triomphe


Warning: Paris is a city that undoes me like no other. Terrible things happen (or almost happen) to me in Paris. Paris turns my slightly disasterous self into a very disasterous self. Read on and you’ll know what I’m talking about…

Before embarking on my study abroad trip to France, I had to endure the “use good judgment while you’re in a foreign country” lecture from my folks. I felt I didn’t really need to hear it, especially in the check-in line at the airport.

“Mom. Dad. Seriously. For 20 years I’ve made good decisions. What makes you think I’m going to start making bad ones now? Just because I’ll be in another country? Please!” I rolled my eyes and hoped the subject would be closed.

After a couple more parental reminders and some very tight hugs, I was checking my bags and on my way to France for five weeks of living la belle vie! I mean… studying French.

Fast-forward three weeks. Delighted to have a long weekend to spend in Paris, my friend and I were intent on cramming as many experiences as we could into our 72-hour sojourn. Climbing the Arc de Triomphe was one of them. So there we were, strolling happily along the Champs-Élysées towards the Arc, dressed in our spiffiest French duds, wearing our spiffiest French heels. Normally I would not totter around a foreign city in heels, but looking the part was essential to fully experiencing the French lifestyle. Obviously.

As we approached Place de l’Étoile, I could see why the square that housed the Arc was referred to as the “Square of the Star”. 12 lanes of frenetic traffic swirled around the Arc which stood like an island in the middle of a very fast-moving stream. The sun was beginning to set, and we were hurrying in order to get a twilight glimpse of Paris from above.

“So, do you see a crosswalk anywhere?” I asked my friend as we approached the Place.

Non!” She replied in her most zealous French accent. “I don’t see a crosswalk or a stoplight or anything. Rien!”

“Hmm.” That was just a little concerning. I surveyed the Place and indeed did not see any indication as to how we should cross to the Arc. No signage, no little French man waving his arms, nothing.  “Do we just…cross? Wait for traffic to slow then make a break for it?”

“I guess.” She replied hesitantly. “It just doesn’t seem very safe, you know? I mean in Canada they’d probably have an official, well-marked way to cross. Safety first!”

“You’re right.  But, this is France, ma cherie! They do things differently here. Maybe traffic dodging is a skill they’d like everyone to have.” That was a decent rationalization, right? The French did do things differently. And, when in France…

Time was ticking and daylight was fading. With a mutual shrug, we toed up to the curb and waited for the flow of traffic to lessen.

“Ok. One, two, three…Allez!” And we were off, clip clopping across the massive expanse of road as fast as our heels would allow. About halfway across, a look to our left told us that we had not crossed in time, and that cars were turning into the Place and proceeding in our direction.

Naturally, we started to scream.

Just then, we heard the not-so-distant wail of sirens as a police car careened towards us and skidded to a halt in the middle of the road. We stopped, traffic honking and speeding all around us and braced ourselves for the fine or the arrest that was sure to come.

Mesdames! What are you doing? You could be killed! Turn around maintenant and use the underpass to the Arc. It is located over there!” cried the exasperated gendarme.  He pointed to the half-hidden entrance to the underpass, muttered something about touristes and promptly sped back into the fray.

Chastened and feeling foolish, we waited for traffic to lighten up as we made a run for the very welcoming, traffic-free sidewalk. We managed to make it up the Arc without further incident.

Looking down on the Place from above, we surveyed the very large amount of road we had tried to run across, took stock of the very high volume of cars that flooded onto the road each second, and realized that we could have very easily been mowed down by a speeding French driver…

Place de l’Etoile – As seen from the Arc de Triomphe

I guess I could have used that “good judgement” talk after all, but I prefer to blame Paris. Why? Because the city has it out for me! Literally. Just wait until I post about the time I was nearly dismemembered by a Parisian metro (subway) or the time I nearly died hailing un taxi…