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Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Thursday, March 26, 2015

We Regret to Inform You...

The process of getting a US Immigration Visa via

Oh man. Where do I even begin?

The last time we caught up I had just received my immigration interview date at the US Embassy in Montreal. Somehow six weeks have passed since then where not once did I manage to open up Blogger and finish a complete and coherent post, but we’re going to gloss right on over that and pretend that I’ve been here all along, okay?

The past week in particular has been a busy one. I flew back from Tennessee, picked up my medical results in Toronto (turns out that yes I’m immune to the chickenpox), celebrated my 28th birthday, nursed a wicked hangover that could only be cured by immense amounts of sleep and junk food, took a six hour solo road trip to Montreal and Ottawa (where I am now), and most heartbreakingly, received a denial of my immigration visa application. 

On Monday morning I found myself awake 90 minutes before my alarm as the anxiety knots in my stomach could no longer be ignored. I arrived a whole hour early for my appointment (a definite first for me!) which turned out to be fortunate because just to get through security at the front door took 20 minutes. No cell phones, cameras, MP3s, remote keychains for your car, purses larger than 10x12”, food or drinks... the list of prohibited items went on and on. 

After an excruciatingly long two hours past my designated appointment time (!!?!), I finally heard my number called over the loudspeaker and made my way to the back of the room for my interview. It was surprising how informal it seemed to just walk up to window eight and stand in front of the pane half-shouting my answers to the consulate officer on the other side. 

The officer double checked some of my documents and asked me a few simple questions about my address, my employment, how I met my husband, and what he did for a living. 

“So is your husband still working at the job listed here?” she asked.

“Yes, he is,” I replied.

“Okay, I’ll just need you to prove that. Do you have any of his pay stubs from this month?”

“Um… no. However, I do have originals of the ones we submitted with our application online and a confirmation letter from his employer,” I offered.

“Well, those are from 2014 so they’re outdated now.”

“And whose effing fault is it that my application has been sitting around for six months and the documents are now outdated?!” I wanted to snarkily reply. Instead I simply looked at her, hoping that the message would be conveyed through the subtle raising of my eyebrow. 

“Just a minute please,” she said as she walked away from the desk.

My heart started to sink. This wasn’t going the way I hoped. Why didn’t they just tell me I specifically needed to bring my husband's latest pay stubs to my interview? Why didn’t she want to see all the adorable wedding and travel photos I’d brought along? Why didn’t she care about the emails and itineraries and records proving the longevity of our relationship? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Immigration Update: One Step Closer to Not Being an Alien

Finally, finally, there’s some progress on our immigration case!

Immigration process Canada to US: finally success!
Photo thanks to Tracey Photography
After already having our processing date pushed back twice, I didn’t have any patience left for another delay with our application. (Quick update: my husband and I are in a long distance relationship as we wait for me to get my green card for the States. I live in Ontario and will soon be moving to Tennessee.)

We were told to expect news on Monday February 2, but our inboxes and phones were disappointingly quiet. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up that anything would be approved early, but am I foolish to admit there was a slight, tiny part of me that thought maybe this time things would at least move along on schedule?

I tried not to be heartbroken and instead channeled my frustration into planning exactly how much hell I would give the National Visa Center when I called their hotline to follow up. I decided to wait until Tuesday so I wouldn’t accidentally tell off the person on the phone who might be able to give me some answers.

Fortunately I didn’t have to make that call as the next day I received an email saying the pre-processing of my immigration visa application was complete! It’s now been forwarded to the US Embassy and I’ve been assigned an interview date in Montreal for March 23.

The feeling of excitement was shortly followed by the realization, “Wait, what?? March 23 - SEVEN WEEKS AWAY? Are you kidding me? We’ve already waited so long!” I was with a friend at the time who reminded me to be grateful because this was a major step in the right direction.

“You’re right, you’re right,” I replied, “This is good news. This means I can book my medical exam now and get the ball rolling with that. Yay!” We did a little happy dance in the kitchen to celebrate.

I was able to speak with my husband later that night and though we both lamented the fact that my interview was far away, at least there was finally momentum with our case: I’d officially moved into the last stage of processing.

Shadows at golden hour
Photo thanks to Tracey Photography

The next day I called to book my medical appointment and was fortunately able to get one within a week. I was a bit nervous as I didn’t know what to expect or exactly how critical this doctor would be. Fun fact: I’m immune to the chickenpox (so is my mom). What do the chickenpox have to do with anything? With all of the talk that vaccinations are getting in the media lately, I was worried because I’ve never received the varicella vaccination which is required if I want to immigrate to the States. 

I didn’t know how much of a stickler this visa doctor would be, but everything turned out to be okay. As long as my blood work confirms I’m immune (or, if I’m not, I get the vaccine later this month before he forwards my results to the embassy), this isn’t even an issue. The only problem I had was getting a $40 City of Toronto parking ticket during my appointment. Boo.

Now for the best news of all: I was able to confirm with a US Customs Officer that I can visit my husband in the States! And my parents offered me a return ticket with their rewards miles! And in March it’s usually 10 degrees (50 F) warmer in Nashville! I’m so stoked. I’ll be spending the next month in Tennessee, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa then, if my interview goes well, road tripping back down to Tennessee at the beginning of April.

So, cheers my friends! (I’m on my second glass of wine as I’m writing this.) Here’s to being one step closer to not being an alien!

(Sorry for all the exclamation points.)


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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Secret to Making Your Long Distance Relationship Survive Long Distance

The Secret to Making Your Long Distance Relationship Survive Long Distance //

When my husband and I first started dating we were in a long distance relationship for over two years. We met in the spring before my fourth year of university when I was a student in Ottawa, Canada. I was a dreamer who was finally able to become a planner and wanted to move abroad after I graduated. A working holiday visa in New Zealand and teaching English in Korea were my top two choices. 

Little did I know that at 21 I would fall totally in love with the man I would eventually marry, and I can especially tell you that I didn’t expect him to be a US Marine who was stationed in North Carolina. The distance from Ottawa to Camp Lejeune proved to be a challenge, but one that we were able to overcome. I juggled a co-op placement and full course load while M was training full-time, but he would fly me down every month or so and we would hang out like a “normal” couple, both of us trying to enjoy the present and push away that gnawing feeling of a looming departure date. Airports were our best and worst friends.

Soon it was time to make post-graduation plans, and though we’d been in a relationship for almost a year and I loved my boyfriend, I wasn’t willing to put my travel dreams aside. M found out he was going to be deployed later that spring on a seven month anti-piracy mission. I decided to move to Korea then travel around South East Asia.

Fast forward to today: after living together for four years (and being married for two of them) somehow my husband and I find ourselves again in a long distance relationship as we wait for my US immigration visa to be approved. This time we have it easy compared to before, something I try to remind myself whenever I get discouraged – we both have access to cell phones, cheap long distance plans, reliable internet, similar timezones, and the luxury of an occasional visit. 

In all of this time of being apart from the one I love, I’ve grown to consider myself an unwilling expert in doing the long distance thing. It really does take time, effort, money, and a deep sense of partnership to nurture LDRs, but the kind of communication skills you develop are invaluable in getting to truly know your partner and building a solid foundation of trust for your relationship. 

So, what can you do to help your long distance relationship survive long distance?

3 Tips to Help Your Long Distance Relationship Survive Long Distance //


Text messages are cute and emails are great, but ideally these should supplement, not replace, your Skype/FaceTime/phone conversations. Just as you would in a “normal” relationship, connecting regularly about your day, your feelings, your plans, etc. is an important part of involving each other in your lives. If your partner is deployed, for example, and not able to interact this way, consider writing letters for him to open at a later date. I have a stack of envelopes comparable to Allie’s in The Notebook from when M was deployed. The excitement you get when you receive letters in the mail is pretty amazing, not to mention all those love notes are adorable to flip through in later years.


The same way you’d schedule one in person, put aside a block of time for a virtual date night. For some, this means syncing up your favourite TV shows and “watching” them together, for others it’s hanging out on Skype while cooking dinner and drinking wine. If you usually talk on the phone, try to turn your video on for date night so you can actually see your partner’s cute face, funny mannerisms, etc. It’s a nice treat :)


This goal, to me, is imperative to figure out before you even agree to be in a long distance relationship because what’s the point if you can’t be together in the end? On the second day that M met me he told me he’d move to Canada when his contract with the Marines ended... I just needed to wait two years. I told him he was batshit crazy. He replied that we had something special that was worth pursuing and he would do everything in his power to make that happen. Sometimes when you know, you know. 

What about you – have you ever been in a long distance relationship? What advice do you have for couples who are living apart?
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Still Be Stylish When You're a Budget Traveller

Those of us who like to travel on a budget know that just because we’re carrying backpacks and taking overnight buses doesn’t mean that we all like to wear gypsy pants or *shudder* the dreaded zip-away-cargo-pants-shorts combo.  

I personally view travel style as an extension of personal style, not its second class cousin. I usually stay away from “travel clothes” per se (with the exception of this awesome travel belt) because they’re too utilitarian for me. 

You know how you usually feel better when you look better? Just because you’re a backpacker or travelling on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your style. Here are four tips I swear by for looking put together on the road.

How to Still Be Stylish When You're a Budget Traveller


Capsule wardrobes are having their moment in blogland right now, but if you’ve ever packed remixable outfits for a trip then you know it’s the exact same concept. When packing for travel, especially if you’re only bringing carry-on, choose tops that match with all of your bottoms and never underestimate the power of dresses. I wrote a lot about this in my post about what to wear for backpacking Central America if you’re interested in reading more. The most important takeaway: make sure pieces are versatile so you can wear them for more than one type of scenario.


Based on the colours you chose in step one, pick a few accessories in complementary colours that will match the majority of your outfits. Simple pieces that coordinate with each other are a perfect way to look put together without putting in a lot of effort. A scarf in particular is the ultimate multitasking accessory, especially if you're travelling within conservative cultures.

For jewellery, I recommend bringing no more than one pair of earrings, a necklace, a funky ring, and a set of bangles. You can mix and match from day to day, plus it leaves lots of room should you pick up any more accessories on the road (which, duh, is bound to happen). 

Packing tips for backpackers: choose complementary accessories. More on


When you’re regularly on the move, it’s important to have clothing that dries quickly, washes easily, and isn’t too heavy or bulky. In hot and humid environments, the key for me was to have a few moisture-wicking pieces in my wardrobe rotation. They’re great for staples like leggings and tank tops and can often be worn again after they’ve been aired out.  


Why bring it if you don’t like it? When I pack for trips, I choose clothing that I enjoy wearing regularly because if I’m packing a capsule wardrobe I’m probably repeating pieces every few days. It’s important to have items that are flattering and make me feel good wearing them. And  how could I forget – travellers take a ton of photos! Do you really want to be wearing the aforementioned zip-away cargos in all of your pictures because they're the only pants you brought? Not unless you're my dad (sorry dad).  

How to not look like a backpacker when you're living out of a backpack
What are your secrets for not looking like a backpacker when you’re travelling long-term?

PS: My travel makeup essentials + a pre-travel planning checklist for anyone who's getting ready to pick up and go.
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How to not look like a backpacker when you're living out of a backpack

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Dream Vacation + $200 Cash Giveaway

The question of where I'd go on a dream vacation has always been surprisingly difficult for me to answer. I think that's what happens when your eyes are filled with wanderlust and everywhere in the world seems like an adventure waiting to happen. (Seriously, check out my wanderlist on Pinterest  it includes a little bit of everything!)

Choosing to travel to Central America earlier this year was something that happened mostly because of costs and timing. Considering that I'm based in North America, travelling south isn't too expensive. 

But there is one country I've always wanted to see. In high school I took a world religions class that started with Greek mythology. Around the same time the movie Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants came out and BAM  just like that, Greece made it to the top of my travel bucket list. (Sidenote: Out of all the girls in the movie, didn't you think Alexis Bledel would've been the one to make it big? I totally thought her Gilmore Girls star power would've taken her further.)

Cliffs of Santorini

Mykonos Sunset
images via Paper Planes
The white-washed buildings, iconic blue roofs, gorgeous scenery and amazing history make me want to visit asap. Can you imagine the snorkelling and diving to be had? It would definitely give Belize a run for its money. Alana from Paper Planes is currently travelling through Greece so I'm living vicariously through her blog posts until I save up enough money to get there myself.

Speaking of money, you know what would be really nice right now? Winning $200 cash. And that's what's going on today! I've gotten together with some awesome ladies to give you a chance to win $200 through PayPal. Enter in the rafflecopter below!

(If you follow me through Bloglovin, Twitter, Pinterest, and/or Instagram you've already got entries waiting for you!) 

Jackie ~ Our Nashville Life // Kelly ~ Six One Six
Shelly ~ Behind Blue Eyes // Cat ~ Oddly Lovely // Melany ~ Melany's GuyDlines
Desiee ~ Love Desiree // Danielle ~ The Lifestyle Project // Dee~ A Deecoded Life
Kimberly ~ p.s. remember this....// Brainne ~ Being Bracco // Helene ~ Helene in Between

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Does Home Mean to You?

Last week it was finally time for me to make the 14 hour drive up to Canada. M and I have said many goodbyes throughout our periods of being in a long distance relationship but (if I'm being totally honest) I still cry like a baby every time.

As we’ve had delay after delay with our immigration case, I knew my husband and I would be facing a period of separation. We’d already spent a month apart earlier this year as I was travelling through Central America but it’s different when it’s voluntary. This time the government is forcing us to go our separate ways as my tourist visa to the States has expired. I was trying to be optimistic last month but you know what? Let’s be frank about it  having to live in a different country from your husband just sucks.  

It’s hard when there are so many answers that are unknown. When am I going to see M again? Is my immigration visa going to face another delay? Are we making enough money for it to be approved? Will we be together for Christmas?

In the soft light of day break, we hugged and kissed a tearful “see you soon”. I got in the car and watched my husband’s figure shrink in the distance as I continued to drive farther away from my love. His reflection in the rear view mirror became blurrier as my tears refused to subside. 

Rainy day in Tennessee
It probably wasn't too safe for me to be driving when my vision looked like this
Why am I being so dramatic? I chided myself. I'm going back to Canada. I'm going to be with my family and friends. I'm going home. 

The last sentence gave me a lot to think about though as I continued to drive north. What does home even mean to me?

When I'm travelling I use the word very lightly. I'm so sweaty after this hike, I can't wait to go home and shower, I say, referring to my guesthouse.

When I arrived in Tennessee earlier this summer and walked into a Starbucks with a sign on the door that said No Guns Allowed, I immediately took pause and thought, Well this isn’t like the Starbucks at home. 

When I lived in Ottawa and visited my family in Toronto, at the end of the weekend it was time to go back home ie: the apartment that M and I shared as he was finishing his university degree. It might’ve been small but it was our own.

Handmade Guatemalan ponchos
We're total nerds for buying matching sweaters in Guatemala, far less wearing them at the same time. Trust me, I was embarassed for us! haha
And now here I am sitting in my childhood bedroom. This house is familiar and comforting and home in a sense, but it’s not my home any more. My parents are getting ready to sell it next spring so when I pack up my things and leave this house, I’m leaving it forever.

2014 has been such a year of transition for me. Half of my clothes, my life, and my heart are split between Ontario and Tennessee.

The only notion of home that I keep coming back to is the one that we shared in our wedding vows: “My arms will be your shelter and my heart will be your home.”

As you grow older into adulthood, what does home mean to you? Do you use the term as interchangeably as I do?

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Travel Route Through Central America Part II

Travel Route through Central America //

In case you missed Part I, catch up here!

As an independent traveller, the most daunting part of planning a trip for me always starts at the very beginning: narrowing down which countries I want to visit (spoiler alert: my wanderlist includes pretty much everywhere) and then figuring out which route I’m going to take. 

I’ve been asked a lot why I chose to backpack through Central America specifically when I could’ve travelled to anywhere else. My husband was open to going everywhere but Africa (he’s deployed to several countries there and doesn’t want to revisit right now). A safari is high on my list but maybe that’s something I’ll do on my own  Africa was off the list. I’ve been to Asia before and Europe can get really pricey. What about going down south? We were planning to drive from Canada to the States anyway to see family so it’d be a perfect base point. 

When we considered budget, timing, and proximity, travelling for a few months through Central America came out on top. Last week I talked about the first half of our backpacking route that started in Honduras then continued to Belize and Guatemala. Today I’m sharing part two which includes El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. I’m looking back on the route I planned vs. the route I actually took and sharing some advice I learned along the way.

El Salvador ~ 4 days

I left off writing about my final day in Antigua, Guatemala before heading to El Salvador. Originally I’d hoped to make my way right across the country but the timing was too tight. I chose to skip Parque Nacional Los Volcanes and San Salvador in order to relax for a bit at a turtle sanctuary in El Cuco that I'd heard a lot of great things about. The beach there was amazingly empty during the week and great for beginner surfers (but not so great for paddleboarding).

Wanderlust on El Cuco Beach in El Salvador //

Instead of taking public transportation to cross borders for the 12+ hour trip, through a ton of TripAdvisor research I found a shuttle service going from Antigua to El Cuco. Conveniently they'd partnered with the sanctuary where I was planning to stay and my $50 bus ticket also included one free night's accommodation. Score!

When I was ready to leave El Cuco, I couldn't find a boat going onward to Potosi, Nicaragua, so I decided to take a simpler route with the shuttle company and go right into Leon, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua ~ 10 days

Don't be like me and arrive in a new city at night without having accommodations booked in advance! I arrived in Leon at 10 pm with a bus full of other backpackers who hadn't secured reservations yet. On one hand, at least I had a few new friends who were in the same position as me. On the other hand, there weren't enough beds for everyone.

We pulled up on a street that had four hostels in view and I raced into one to grab their last private room with a private bathroom. The next couple of days were spent making new friends, volcano boarding, exploring the strangest museum I've ever seen, and catching gorgeous views of the largest cathedral in Central America. 

Travel route through Central America //

From Leon I caught a ride to the airport in Managua and flew to Big Corn Island. Ferries were entirely unreliable when I was backpacking through so I splurged on a round-trip air ticket to get across Nicaragua to the Caribbean coast. Little Corn Island, where I ended up celebrating my birthday, is even farther from the mainland and thus harder to get to. 

On LCI, walking and wheelbarrows are the most common forms of transportation (yes, seriously  there aren’t any roads, far less cars). The boat ride out was absolutely terrifying and I legitimately thought we were going to capsize several times but by the grace of God I managed to make it alive. 

For the record, LCI was totally worth the trek. The water was crystal clear, diving was incredible, the beaches were quiet, and even the cockroaches didn't scare me away!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Updated: Backpacking Route Through Central America Part I

Backpacking Route Through Central America

This time last year I was knee-deep in planning our trip to Central America. I blogged about my route through the area and one year later it’s still my most popular post! I thought it was high time to write an update for any travellers who are trying to plan an itinerary and looking for some inspiration about where to go in Latin America.

This post is filled with details about the route I actually ended up taking, what I would keep the same or change, and some tidbits of information you'll find useful along the way.

(In case you’re curious, check out my original post about our backpacking route or you can skip ahead to Part II of this itinerary.)

The Background: My Travel Parameters

  • I backpacked to all seven countries in Central America (Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama)
  • Length of travel: for me, three months (my husband decided to leave early after seven weeks)
  • I chose to splurge on activities rather than luxurious accommodations, however...
  • We opted for private rooms/bathrooms whenever possible (this continued after my husband left. I’ve totally outgrown the dorm room thing). I thought this would cost about $25 USD per night but including fees, taxes, etc. it averaged out to more like $35 per night
  • I like museums, ruins, and volcanoes but I’m not obsessed with seeing, touring, or climbing them all
  • I stuck to public transportation for the most part, but there were times when it was simply easier to take a short flight or hire a shuttle service. I think the convenience combined with less stress and a more pleasant experience was worth paying extra.
  • Daily spending averaged about $35 per person per day. You could get by on much less, but we like to eat and drink, and fortunately could afford to spend more than the bare minimum
  • I’d describe my travel style as “the upper end of a budget traveller”

Backpacking Route Through Central America

Honduras ~ 1 month

Day one of our adventure: we flew into San Pedro Sula airport, took a bus to La Ceiba, and broke the bed in our hostel that night. The next morning we unexpectedly decided to fly instead of ferry to the island of Utila where we stayed for the next month.

Where to go in Central America: Utila, Honduras
An unexpected expense but a very cool experience
We chose to spend so much time in Utila because we wanted to get our open water certifications and have ample time to dive (where it’s ⅓ of the price compared to Belize!). I half-jokingly refer to that first chunk of our trip as “our vacation.” We stayed in a charming guesthouse, we read all the time, and were really comfortable. The rest of my trip throughout Latin America moved at a much faster pace, which is good because I got to experience a lot, but it wasn’t as relaxing.

At the time, I was ready to move on after two weeks, but looking back on that first month I can’t deny it felt great to slow down and adjust to life on the island. Regardless of your style and how fast you like to travel, Utila is worth staying at for more than just three days. A lot of backpackers get their diving certifications here and immediately bounce but I'd recommend hanging out for a bit longer. While you're here, stuff your face with as many baleadas as you can because they're delicious, inexpensive, and you'll be hard pressed to find them outside of Honduras!

Sunset over Utila Bay
I miss these wicked sunsets from our dock overlooking Utila Bay. This photo hasn't been edited at all. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Choose the Perfect Travel Purse

I think all of us ladies can agree that when we’re packing for a trip, whether it’s sightseeing in the city or backpacking abroad, it’s important to choose a travel purse that’s secure yet versatile. Unless you don’t mind paying extra checked luggage fees or carting around 50 pounds on your back, space is limited and you don’t have the luxury of bringing several different types of bags to match various outfits.

Travel purses are unique because they need to be way more functional, secure, and durable than our everyday bags. The sleek clutch that’s your go-to for bar hopping or the gorgeous camel tote that you love for running errands? Yup, you guessed it – they’re not going to cut it on the road (especially when you’re travelling in developing countries or visiting busy and touristy areas).

My travel style has evolved over the past year and now I’m a strong advocate for a capsule wardrobe. This means that I plan out what to pack in advance and choose remixable pieces so that I can maximize my total number of outfits (my rule is that each item must coordinate with at least two other pieces). When I packed for Central America I opted for a neutral palette of black, white, and tan and chose to accessorize with complementary pops of colour in the accessories. 

Now that I’ve got more than a few international trips under my belt, I want to share four of my tried and true tips to help you choose the perfect travel purse:

How to Choose the Perfect Travel Purse via


Though it may sound obvious, I’m going to list my most important tip first – a good travel purse needs to have a zipper at the top! It’s much too easy to reach inside a tote bag unnoticed as compared to unzipping a purse. Choosing a purse with at least one solid zipper helps to deter pick-pocketers and keeps your valuables safe.  


I tend to gravitate towards crossbody purses in general but they’re particularly essential when you’re travelling. The liberty of being hands-free is so important when sightseeing, especially if you’re like me and love taking photos. Crossbody purses make it much harder for thieves to swipe and run (like that time my bag was stolen at the beach). Pacsafe even makes slash-proof straps that offer the ultimate peace of mind for those who are concerned about safety. 


Travel is messy. Liquids spill, food crumbles, and sometimes there’s just no avoiding it – your bag is going to sit on the floor. A perfect travel purse is one that’s durable and easy to clean. Nylon, microfiber, and leather are popular options with the latter being my favourite due to its versatility. I personally stay away from canvas as I find it easy to stain and discolour.

Purses for travel with crossbody straps
My sister and I with our purses in Belize 
Exploring Nashville, TN
Exploring downtown Nashville with a purse that's sturdy enough to carry my DSLR camera
How to Choose the Perfect Travel Purse
Taking a break from the heat in Music City

I think it’s crucial to organize your travel purse so that everything has a place and you’re not fumbling around in front of vendors when trying to pay for something. Call me paranoid but the indecision of pulling your purse inside out to search for that elusive item is a signal to snatchers that you’re vulnerable and flustered. It’s so much easier to organize your purse when you have multiple compartments and pockets. Bonus points, of course, if the compartments have zippers!

In my opinion, a perfect travel purse has all of the characteristics above, is versatile enough to go from day-to-night, and comes in a complementary colour to suit the majority of your travel capsule wardrobe. I've picked a few options below if you have an upcoming trip or happen to have your eye on a new bag that will transition perfectly into your travel style.

What are your must-haves when choosing a purse for travel and your day-to-day life?

Which purse should I pack for travel?

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Country Roads & Travel Planning

The perfect transition piece - the chambray shirt from

Travel Style from

Casual travel style /

Madewell chambray shirt / Everlane tshirt / Old Navy linen shorts / Sperry shoes

Sunday was one of those days that can only be described as good for the soul. 

I stayed in bed until 10.30, ate a simple breakfast, and knew that I wanted to get outside and do something that afternoon. My time in the US is winding down so I’m trying to make the most of the days that I have left by living like I’m travelling, even if I don’t have the money to go far.  

As you may have noticed from the header of my blog, I love wine. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my love of whiskey though, particularly Maker’s Mark and Jack Daniels. Turns out both of these distilleries are within driving distance of where we are in Tennessee. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work out because sampling tours aren’t available on Sundays and obviously samples at a distillery are a must.

My husband and I decided to push the tour to this upcoming weekend and combine it with a little getaway that we’re splurging on to celebrate our second anniversary. We’re taking a couple days off to explore the local food and music scene in downtown Nashville, and since historic Lynchburg isn’t too far away, Jack Daniels it is!

Anyway, that still left us with the issue of what to do on our Sunday afternoon. We decided to take advantage of the beautifully pleasant temperatures (fall has finally arrived! It’s a blessed 75F [24C] around these parts) to visit Dunbar Cave and some local lakes. With the sunroof open, blue skies above, camera in hand, snacks, and a picnic blanket thrown in the back seat, we took off exploring. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Puerto Viejo: My Favourite Town in Central America

Si senorita, this boat will take you straight to the buses in Moin. Then the driver will show you the minibus to go directo to Puerto Viejo and you get there at 3.30. Solamente 40 dolares,” the hostel owner assured me.

“Okay, so boat to the bus stop, then directo right to Puerto Viejo?” I asked.

Si senorita,” he confirmed.

By this time I’d learned that directo does not mean 'direct bus' in Central America (if you’re looking for a bus that doesn’t stop along the way to your destination, you should be asking for an express which are quite hard to come by). Regardless, it was the best option, and because of my timing, the only option to get from the island of Tortuguero to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. At least I wouldn’t have to deal with taxis and transfers doing this by myself, I thought.

The next morning I woke up at eight, grabbed a quick breakfast, and set out on a three and a half hour boat ride down the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. I’d spent the day before exploring Tortuguero National Park but, to be honest, there isn’t much more to see on the island and I was ready to move on. 

Waterfront homes in Costa Rica
Homes on the water in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo: My Favourite Town in Central America

The beautiful canals of Tortuguero, Costa Rica
The beautiful canals connecting Tortuguero to mainland Costa Rica
The shuttle boat was surprisingly comfortable and I was so relieved to sit back, relax, and catch a little nap, especially after the disastrous ferry experiences I’d had earlier in Central America. Maybe this day of travel will go smoothly after all, I thought.

Yeah right. 

The confusion began once the ride ended. I felt a sense of panic rise within me as we pulled up to the dock and there weren’t any buses waiting. A handful of eager taxi drivers approached the boat and started hauling out bags. If I’ve learned anything throughout my travels it’s that nothing is for free. Call me cheap but I didn’t want to pay any “expected tips” so when random men started grabbing my pack I immediately snatched it back and waited for the boat driver to direct me to where I was supposed to go. 

Apparently there must’ve been some miscommunication because the driver had no idea what minibus I was talking about and, feeling anxious in the moment, my brain wasn’t pulling the Spanish vocabulary that I’d learned in Guatemala fast enough for me to communicate properly.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Downside of Falling in Love with an American

Last week we were hoping to embark on an epic road trip up the eastern United States and find ourselves in Canada by this time. We wanted to enjoy a few weeks catching up with the family and friends we left behind before my husband starts a new job next month. New York, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and a week at my friend’s cottage were all on the list. 

As you can probably tell, that trip never happened. 

There is a huge downside of falling in love and marrying an American and that obstacle is dealing with the expatriation process. 

First dance lighting and photography
Completely and totally in love with this American
Considering that I’m from Canada, people have naively assumed that the immigration procedure would be a breeze for us but we’ve been going through the spousal visa process for over eight months and it seems never ending! I can’t tell you how many frustrated hours and tears have come from it. Even just visiting each other’s respective countries causes suspicion that we’re planning to sneak in our spouse illegally (remember that time I was detained at the border?). 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chasing Monkeys in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Hmm… more like slowly and quietly observing monkeys and other rare wildlife in their natural environment while we followed them in a silent electric boat, but that’s not as catchy of a title now is it?

I don’t remember how I heard about Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica, but once it was in my head I couldn’t get it out. I decided to change up my original route of backpacking Central America so that I could spend more time in the Afro-Caribbean communities that are present along the Caribbean coast. I preferred the laid back vibes of these towns and since I was backpacking by myself, I could go wherever I wanted! Birds, manatees, turtles, crocodiles, and monkeys consider themselves residents of the waterways along the small island village of Tortuguero so I made my way there to explore the coastal park for a few days.

Boat tours are the most popular way to see the park. I normally try to stick with locally owned and operated expeditions, but when I heard that Casa Marbella was owned by a Canadian whose electric boat tours had excellent reviews, I didn't wait to sign up (call it national loyalty or whatever you will but I can't help being a little biased to my home country!). Sadly his charming guesthouse didn’t have room for me to stay but I was able to reserve a spot for the next morning’s tour departing at 5.45am. 

As the dark blue skies of dawn lightened with the sun’s arrival, a local guide named Roberto navigated our group of eight through the park’s canals and expertly pointed out the exotic animals that camouflaged themselves among the vegetation. If I would've tried to do this tour by kayaking on my own, I know I would've missed the smaller animals that Roberto was able to identify. Sometimes it just makes more sense to join a tour.

I hope you enjoy this mini-photo essay of the wildlife that I had the privilege to observe while visiting Tortuguero. For a quick video of these monkeys in action, check out this post from earlier in the summer

Chasing Monkeys in Tortuguero, Costa Rica on
Capuchin monkey scrounging for berries 
Capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Wildlife
Camera shy
Capuchin monkey of Costa Rica

Capuchin monkey of Costa Rica
Starting to get nervous because he can sense what's below 
Caiman lizard in Tortuguero
I spy with my little eye... 
Caiman crocodiles in Costa Rica
A caiman crocodile 
Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Bird preying in Costa Rica

Bird preying - making the kill in Costa Rica

Bird preying - making the kill in Costa Rica

Wildlife in Tortuguero National Park
Iguana laying out in the sun 
Fauna in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Wildlife in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park
Nicknamed Jesus Christ Lizards because of the way they appear to walk on water   
Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Chasing Monkeys in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Have you ever been on a wildlife tour? Going on a safari in Africa is next on my dream wanderlist.

Linking up with Bonnie and Camila for Travel Tuesday.

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