Let’s go back to Switzerland

Let’s go back to Switzerland

I’ve been home from my grand European adventure for almost a month now. In the last three weeks I’ve started three new jobs, gotten a year older, and donated even more of my apartment to charity (forever en route to minimalism). I’ve slipped gracefully(?) back into Toronto life– aka big-city-life aka sirens-never-stop-life aka never-see-the-stars-life aka it’s-actually-okay-here-life.

I usually find it a little difficult to adjust to my regular world after being away for so long (I was gone for over two months!) but this time it was rather unremarkable. Instead of being all ~woooowww I’m home! How novel~ I was just like –oh yeah. This is Toronto. Okay-

This morning I ran out of soap in the shower and it was time to bust open the last remaining piece of my adventure– a bar soap I purchased in Cologne, Germany. As far as I’m concerned I’m still overseas in my heart so long as the soap remains….

maybe that’s a little out there. But hey! This is my inner dialogue and I can pretend, okay!

Alright… let’s go back to the beginning.

On August 26th I was hastily cramming my new backpack full of what I thought was necessary for two months of life on the road. I went through my mental checklist– clothes, toiletries, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, collapsible pillow– seemingly I was good. My boyfriend was a lot more confident in our packing abilities than I was, and so he waited patiently for me to say “oh but!” and “wait! what about” at least a few dozen times as we were preparing to leave.

We were subletting the apartment for two months to a couple from the UK who were miraculously a lot like us. The girl was around my age and we connected on some very key points so I felt pretty confident leaving my place in her care. I gave her my key and she said,

Okay, bye! Happy Travels!

Thus I left my home to be someone else’s home for a while, and I sauntered off to the airport weighing much more than I usually do when I leave my front door. As I mentioned a while back, this was to be my first ever proper backpacking trip. I was mostly excited, although somewhat unnerved… I mean, what was waiting for me across the pond? So many doubts running through my head: Can I really make this work for two whole months? What if I run out of money so fast that I can’t afford to eat and I end up sleeping in my backpack on some unknown European street, unable even to ask for help because I can’t speak the local language!? Oh god.

Despite these nagging doubts I actually went into this trip with a healthy attitude– I knew it wasn’t always going to be pleasant or easy (I was right), but I also knew the adventure would teach me so much (also right).

After checking in and with our burdensome backpacks vanquished into the ether it was time to board and get ready for one of the least pleasant parts of traveling… the dreaded flight. We were scheduled to land in Zurich around 8:30 in the morning, which I think is pretty brutal. I’d much rather land just before bedtime so I could sleep and adjust to the time difference. The thought of landing after an exhausting flight and then having to face a brand new day was a bit daunting. But hey, maybe I could sleep on the plane. I once slept through an entire flight (Auckland to Calgary) from beginning to end. Maybe flight miracles can happen twice?

 

Though our faces and hearts were optimistic, it was not to be…

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Somewhere, way up high in the sky, amidst this beautiful and seemingly zen window seat view, I got yelled at by the woman in front of me as I was innocently trying to sleep.

I think most people can agree how agonising it is to sleep on planes. No matter what you do there is absolutely no way to get a good night’s sleep or even moderately enjoy yourself. *inhale* You flip through inane magazines, watch movies you don’t really care to watch, half-heartedly read a book, or play chess with the computer and when all of that inevitably fails to entertain you, you toss and turn and pray to the universe that you might get just a small sliver of shut-eye, even though body part after body part is falling torturously to sleep and everything you ever learned about your breath and meditation is coming up short until there you are – somewhere in the sky in no man’s land – questioning your entire life and wondering how you ever found yourself on this god forsaken plane in the first place. *exhale*

Or at least that’s how it is for me.

So back to this woman… at some point during all of this turmoil I suppose I accidentally bumped her chair as I was shifting between uncomfortable positions, and where most people would feel a slight sting of annoyance and shrug it off, she decided to turn around over top of her chair to aggressively poke me and wake me up.

“You kicked my chair,” she just about yelled.

It was apparent that I had ruined her holiday before she even landed at her destination.

I was a bit dazed, but I immediately apologised and told her it wasn’t on purpose. I think most everyone in the world would understand, but no…

You’re making it so I can’t sleep!!” she exclaimed, and then she just stood there looming over me with hatred in her frazzled looking eyes, waiting for a more satisfying response.

So I said, “Yes, well I can’t either because there’s a crazy woman yelling at me…”

….

..

.

Okay I didn’t really say that. I took the boring road and just said I would be more mindful which I guess she accepted because she finally turned around and slumped angrily back down into her chair. But jeez it was a really awkward situation. I mean if I kick your chair, and you yell at me, and I earnestly apologise, then… what more do you want from me? Should I sing you a lullaby? Guide you into savasana? Prostrate myself at your feet? What?

Anyways there wasn’t much getting back to sleep after that, but it didn’t matter. The hours went by and we would be touching down soon enough. Switzerland was finally in sight through the plane window, and that little magical feeling was beginning to set in.

It was happening.

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There’s not much to say about that first day, it was all a bit of a haze. One thing I can say with confidence is that I took the world’s best nap which more than made up for the grind of the flight. We were lucky enough to stay at a friend’s apartment who was out of town, so we had a cozy bed, a kitchen, and a base to make the most of the first day– which was mostly wandering as you might expect.

Zurich is a lovely city with some really nice architecture and even nicer canals. Also, the day had literally PERFECT weather. Clear skies and bright sun. It was so hot and I was so glad I decided to pack shorts, although it turned out to be one of only three or so days where shorts were acceptable attire, and the rest of the time they just took up space. Another thing we learned that day which we had to relearn every week thereafter– grocery stores in Switzerland are closed on Sundays, and many restaurants as well. Just doesn’t happen where I’m from.

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When we finally felt tired from our long day, we decided to hang out with some ducks and get our feet wet in the water…

Well that pretty much sums up day one.. so that’s one down and another sixty or so to write about.

Have a great weekend everyone! xo

dawn to dusk

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Dawn didn’t bring her tranquility
anymore. Days passed by like skipped pages,
and nights brought perilous denouements.  She
tucked in with her screams caught in her throat like
a preparatory battle cry, and she woke with an excess of
freshly spilt tears, an aching body, and a heavier heart.
Triumphant.


 

Thanks for reading xo

~Heather Anne

Ziplining through Mexico

Ziplining through Mexico

A discovery I’ve made about myself in the last year or so is that I absolutely love having an adrenaline rush.

It was never the case when I was a kid or even a teenager. In fact when my family went to Canada’s Wonderland when I was very young I distinctly remember feeling overwhelmed at the idea of being on even the tamest rides. Seriously. I was standing behind my parents in line for one of those rides where you’re sitting in a little pod that lifts you up and spins you around upside down (you stay in by momentum). It’s a ride that isn’t even that interesting, let alone scary, but I can recall with great detail being a little girl in that line. The fear, the terror, the panic setting in as we inched closer and closer to the front of the line. It didn’t seem to matter how many smiling faces I observed from other park patrons, I ended up bawling at the prospect of actually getting on that ride and in the end I opted to just watch my parents go on. There I was, a little redheaded girl crying lamely as this gentle baby ride whirled her parents around for a gripping and worrisome 2 minutes. Afterward they took me on one of those old wooden roller coasters to show me how fun they could be and that there was nothing to be afraid of, and that thing was so wildly out of control to me that it only solidified my aversion to thrill rides and adrenaline sports for essentially my entire childhood.

Fast forward to now, and that couldn’t be more different. I love roller coasters, sling shot rides, sky diving, giant swing rides, hell even just regular swings. You don’t get much of an adrenaline rush on a park swing but I still love it. That little bit of weightlessness is very relaxing and enjoyable to me. When I was traveling around New Zealand back in November I would always go and swing in the campsite playground as my brother and father took care of all the campervan chores. One particular campsite had this miniature zipline and I probably rode that thing, no joke, about 15 times. Probably would have done it more if not for a bunch of actual kids showing up and spoiling my fun. I never managed to have a proper ziplining adventure in New Zealand, though it was something I wanted to do, so when Pam and I were in Mexico last month and I saw that zip-lining was on the list of potential activities I thought now is the time.

Fortunately for me Pam is very adventurous and easy going so it was not at all hard to convince her to go like it was to convince my brother in NZ. We took some time off from lazing around on the beach and flipped our way through some catalogues. We found an adventure that seemed to work well for us: it boasted various ziplines that take you through the mexican jungle (including the longest in Mexico — the superman), as well as some offroading UTV fun, and even a random water slide.

Normally these tours are provided to fairly large groups and take about 6 hours, but Pam and I were lucky enough to be guided on a private tour for two and so we finished in less than half that time.
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Upon arrival we were taken through a brief orientation by our tour guides, going over the basics of the equipment and safety. The most important thing for us of course is to get the basics of the hand signals so we could understand how to get from one end to the other without getting stuck. Which I can’t imagine happens too often.

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The circuit they take you through provides some pretty fun mission impossible type activities. We rappelled, climbed a woven ladder, and then shimmied our way awkwardly across a rope (above). Which, to be honest, was the most worrisome part of the day for me.

Next up was the UTV adventure, which Pam took the wheel for.

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Pam’s huge smile and my look of concern makes me laugh every time. We only nearly toppled over once. Not too bad for our first off roading experience.

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After that you take a little hike up to the Superman, the longest zipline in mexico where they lay you on your belly, load you up with weights and then send you careening off a cliff at 100 km/h to sail overtop the jungle.

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You can’t even see the landing zone from up there.

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As you can imagine it’s very exciting. You really feel a bit like you’re flying, and the views of the forest are obviously beautiful.

So that was our fun adventure day. Something to do when you need a break from playing in the ocean or lying on the beach.

If you’ve ever thought about going I’d highly recommend it.

Have any of you ever been? Experiences?

Thanks for reading! xo

New Zealand part 1

I wish I was the one jumping off this building.

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Tip toeing delicately across the platform, heart pounding in my chest, voice caught like a dead weight in my throat. Inching closer and closer as I peer over the ledge; my sanity begging me to please come to my senses.  I can imagine both the fear and the exhilaration that must come from the fall. I ache for that fleeting sensation of freedom, the bewilderment of falling through the air. I can almost hear the wind whispering the secrets of the universe as I whip by it, though I imagine it’d be hard to decipher under such a circumstance.

“What’s the meaning of life?” I would cry, but I’d have already reached the ground long before I could catch the answer.

Of course I’m not talking about a 911 crisis here. I’m standing at the bottom of the Sky Tower in Auckland. It’s your typical city tower with sweeping panoramic views of a very pretty city, only for some reason someone thought “wouldn’t it be cool if we allowed people to jump off this thing?”

It’s my first day in New Zealand and I’m stood outside my hotel, gaping skyward as person after person plummets a whopping 630 feet from the top of the tower to the landing pad. I’m exhausted from the gruelling flight which stole an entire day of my life (seriously, I left Friday night and arrived Sunday morning) so maybe that’s why I’m tempted by such a crazy prospect. I think I must be losing my mind because I march straight up to the payment desk and ask how quickly they can suit me up. The clerk smiles at me and says I can suit up in 15 minutes… just as soon as I cough up $225.

This is where the story comes to a crushingly dull end. There’s no way I’m paying $225 to fall 630 feet when I can pay $400 to fall 16 500 feet. But that will come later.

It’s been a long planned trip, and for years it seemed like it was so far in the future it was never actually going to happen, but here I am in New Zealand for an entire month of adventure and camping. My father and I cooked up the idea to come here a few years ago. Let’s do it, we said. And miraculously, beautifully, joyfully… here we are. We’ve come with a hefty bucket list, keen hearts, and a sense of discovery. My older brother even decided to join in on the fun, making this the first family vacation since my childhood.

Here are some highlights from the trip so far:

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Coming face to sort-of face with the Moa, New Zealand’s unfortunately extinct flightless bird. The largest of these birds could be 12 ft tall and upwards of 500 lbs, apparently. I also came face to actual-face with a kiwi bird, which I learned are more bird-mammal hybrids. The park I visited finds and raises kiwis from egg to adult in order to increase their survival rate in the wild. The cost of raising just one egg is $3000 US!!.. well worth it, I say. They are unique gems, such a joy to see and enjoy.

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Hiking (oh! pardon me, tramping, as it’s called here…) Maunganui Bluff. The images above are all taken on the same hike. Can you believe how breathtaking this country is? I’m just blown away every time I wake up and admire the scenery around me. Throw a dart randomly on a map of New Zealand, and guaranteed, you’ll find something beautiful.

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Seeing Te Matua Ngahere… the father of the forest. A very old, very large tree. I think there’s some debate about the actual age of this tree, but let’s just assume somewhere in the 1000s. Girth 16 41m!!

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Glow worm cave tour! I actually just finished this up today. Sat in a boat and cruised in the dark through a cave lit by a stunning galaxy of glow worms.

And this isn’t even everything, I had quite the adventure in Hobbiton yesterday, but I think maybe that merits it’s own post. In any case, the further along in the trip we get, the more overwhelmed I become by just how much there is to do and see in this country. It’s hard to imagine spending any less time here. More updates to come! 🙂

Hope you guys are all doing well. If any of you have been to NZ, please drop a comment down below and give me some tips for things to do that you loved! I’d love some insight 🙂