This may come as a shock to you, but while my IG stories may give the impression that all I do is eat excessively and gallivant around the globe, I have an actual 9-to-5 career at a design agency. You know, one that requires sitting at a desk, chatty co-workers (I’m said chatty co-worker), and demanding clients.

Having Asian parents means that I wouldn’t be able to do anything as frivolous as quitting my job to travel the world without incurring their extremely terrifying wrath. Instead, having stereotypical accountant parents means I responsibly started contributing to my retirement fund after my first day on the job almost a decade ago. Very practical. But I digress…

Yes. A “travel addict”. That's what I'll call myself because it sounds better (and less incriminating) than “serial killer” organized in regards to trip planning. I can totally envision a lawyer quoting this blog post in my conviction if I ever end up a murder suspect or if my future husband goes missing which becomes headline-grabbing news that will inevitably inspire the plot of an Affleck-directed movie tentatively entitled “Gone Guy”. I will be famous. For horrible reasons but famous nonetheless.

On one of the first trips that I took abroad, the extent of my preparation was briefly scanning Wikipedia but in anticipation of my upcoming Greece trip, I have reached new heights of terrifying having arranged my “Eating” list into several specific, hyper-focused sublists. It’s my precious. I’d show you but then I’d have to kill you and then I’d definitely go to jail.

Guys, it’s finally happening. It’s t-minus two weeks until I’m escaping reality and hopping on a nonstop flight to Greece. Ever since I fell in love with travelling, Greece has been at the top of my list with it’s white-domed churches, fresh seafood feasts, and idyllic afternoons spent sailing across clear, turquoise waters (hopefully captained by a man of muscular Greek God-like stature).

It was a gruelling and painful process, but I finally managed to narrow down my Greek island sampler to a mere three islands – Milos, Santorini, and Mykonos – prefacing it with two nights in Athens. That seemingly impossible decision was followed by the excitement of all the thrilling experiences to be had at each destination.

"What are you?”
"No, but where are you from?"
"Were you born here?"
"I was surprised that you spoke English."
“I’ve dated an Asian before.”
"Are you good at math?"
"I don't normally date Asians but you look like a spicy concoction."
“Show me your kung-fu moves!”

These are among some of the first (sometimes only) things that people say upon meeting me, a Canadian-born Chinese. Whether it's an Uber driver reminiscing about his past flings or a really tactless opening line on Tinder, the initial conversation usually centres around my ethnicity. Despite having been born in Canada and living here my whole life, it's a constant, nagging reminder that I am considered an outsider.

Not going to lie, the first thing that comes to mind what I think of Turkey’s most populous city, Istanbul, is the infamous tune: Istanbul was Constantinople Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople… While probably factually inaccurate, I imagine someone had a hard time with the name change and needed a catchy song to remind them.

While gleaning tips from a friend about travelling to Israel, she suggested that on the way back, I extend my layover in Istanbul for two days. It was a much more pleasant alternative to being stuck in the airport for a tiresome 5-hours so I figured “Why not?”

Now the question remains: How do I maximize 48 hours in a city that I’ve never been to before?

Tapped out of vacation time for the year? Yea, me too. If Toronto-based microadventures aren’t satisfying your travel itch that just means you have to get creative with managing your calendar to get your wanderlust fix without risking your 9-to-5. What do I mean by that? Maximize your long weekends by looking for destinations are near enough that you aren’t wasting a second longer than necessary and are the best bang for your (limited) buck.

Avoid abusing your sick days and the subsequent wrath of your boss by checking out the best getaways from Toronto to get the most out of stat holidays:

“Climb the Masada Fortress,” they said. “It’s a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” they said. “It’s the thing you’re supposed to do when you’re in Israel,” they said. You know what they DIDN’T say? That it was 700 %#$^&* steep, crumbling steps 400 metres UP a maddening, winding path (aptly named the “Snake Path”) to the ancient fortifications in the middle of the MF desert in 40+ degree heat!!

What do you want me to say? That the expansive view of the desert from the top of the rocky plateau was awe-inspiring? Was it a memory I’ll treasure forever and do all over again despite how bone-deep exhausting it was? Do you want me to admit that the arduous 5am journey (sans caffeine, might I add) where I come out looking like a sweaty sewer rat was worth it? Is that what you want me to say?!!! FINE, IT WAS WORTH IT. But only just.

Israel presents quite the conundrum for me since it's not only host to some of the most gorgeous beaches (and bodies) in the world but the feasting opportunities are plentiful.

Falafel, hummus, shakshuka, couscous – all gastronomic delights characteristic of Israeli food incorporating elements of various styles of diaspora Jewish cuisine, particularly the Mizrahi, Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of cooking. The question is: Do I choose to maintain a somewhat fit beach body or do I engage in ab-destroying bingefest of all the drool-worthy food to be found throughout the country?

For me, food will trump any and everything, every time but I've always been a "have your cake and eat it too" kind of person – or more accurately, "have your cake and everyone else's too" – so I've employed numerous strategies so I can frolic on the beach without impeding my compulsion to eat everything within reach.

Firstly, pack a lot of muumuus, sarongs, and stretchy-waisted pants. Secondly, take advantage of the fact that one-piece bathers are back in style. And finally, when all else fails, hire a stripper to create a diversion and run into the water for cover while everyone is looking the other way.

OR you could not give AF what other people think, embrace your healthy body, and willfully ignore your inevitable fate of being homebound once your legs can no longer withstand your weight. All great options.

Usually watching reality tv involves an unhealthy amount of cheese ( or “cheeses” as my co-worker would say as it’s several different types), a bottle of wine, a heap of self-loathing, and ends with me hurling abusive epithets at the opportunistic shillers of Sugar Bear Hair on the screen. The trivial dramas played out by generally unscrupulous characters is a safe outlet for me to unleash all my judgements on from the privacy of my couch.

But there are exceptions to every rule and the reboot of Queer Eye on Netflix — where five fabulous gay men school an unkempt oaf in fashion, style, design, culture, and cooking — is that for reality television. While makeover shows usually rely on the trope of derisive criticisms and superficial transformations, this one is the epitome of feel-good tv where they place as much emphasis on bettering the internal state as much as the external. It makes you feel all the feels because even when you’re crying, they’re joyful tears.

There are few places that have histories as impressively long and fabled – not to mention tedious for tour guides to study in it’s entirety – as the ancient city of Jaffa, out of which Tel Aviv has now grown.

At approximately four thousand years, Yafo – as it is also known – it is one of the world’s oldest ports and has been invaded and ruled by countless empires – Babylonian, Persian, Ottoman, Roman, etc…It is an archaeologist’s dream to dig down into the “tell” – an artificial mound formed by the accumulated refuse of people living on site for thousands of years (gross, right?) – and discover the ruins that had been built upon ruins by past conquerors.

“The Dead Sea” sounds like an ominous location in a horror movie that I’d be too much of a weenie to watch. An army of the undead would emerge from the water, dragging their rotting corpses on to shore to drag the living into it’s dark depths. Dundunduuunnnn!!! … Great, now I’ve given myself a mild phobia of large bodies of water. I have a very robust imagination and an overdeveloped fight-or-flight instinct.

But real talk, there’s nothing scary about the Dead Sea, unless you have a fear of eczema-ridden Russians, capitalizing on the health benefits of the mineral-rich mud and the salty waters.

Listen. Let me start by saying that I don’t have anything against vegetarians or vegans. Heck, I have a good friend who’s vegan and if that’s not irrefutable proof that I don’t discriminate, I don’t know what is! I am just so obsessed with food that I can’t comprehend the superhuman discipline (see: insanity) it would take for someone to willingly cut something as delicious as meat out of their diet. I JUST CAN’T. Also, I’m Chinese so I grew up seeing the entire animal (including the head and feet) served with a dish and family members fighting over who gets to eat the fish eyes (it's good luck!) so maybe that had a role in my desensitization to the meat-eating plight.

I even conceded to enjoying the vegan “cheese” platter that my friend brought to a party. Although I do feel strongly that they should come up with a different name because IT’S NOT CHEESE and therefore should not parade as such. Call it “gelatinous squishy cubes” or something. I don’t know! I don’t work for the universal vegan marketing team, I just think calling it “cheese” is just setting you up for disappointment AND it’s a filthy lie or at the very least, vaguely dishonest.

It’s hard to take a bad photo in Israel considering that idyllic blue skies dominate nine months out of year. It improves the quality of my visual content, making it seem as if it’s due more to talent than to accommodating weather conditions. A serious upside to this sunny state of affairs is the abundance of outdoor shopping and specialty vendors to be found – a fantastic way to get a firsthand feel for local culture and community.

If you’re in Jerusalem, Machane Yehuda Market – also called The Shuk (or Machne if you don’t obviously look foreign (like me) and want to be mistaken for a local) – is a bustling hub of activity and a feast for the senses. It’s an exemplary traditional, Middle Eastern-style marketplace with over 250 vendors – the largest market in this holy city, selling everything from antiques to artisanal delicacies, fresh meat and produce to local beer and handmade goods.

Can I start by saying how much I loved Israel? Tel Aviv in particular captivated me, usurping the top spot on my favourite places list. For the first time in my extensively stamped passport’s existence, I wondered how I'd be able to pack up my life in Toronto – white bedroom and all – and transplant it directly in to this thriving, cosmopolitan city.

The easiest route would’ve been to marry the potentially homeless man who proposed to me one night during my trip. At least from what I could understand from his garbled English, I think he was proposing to me. Either way, I haven’t quite reached that level of desperation. Not quite.

You know what people who live in Tel Aviv are called?

Tel Avivans.

Doesn’t that sound so fancy and elegant? It’s one of the many things I loved about the second most populous city in Israel (the first being Jerusalem) in addition to the back-of-the-throat pronunciation of the “h”s in Hebrew and how wet wipes were provided practically everywhere! Oh yea, and everyone STUNNING. It was quite upsetting for us mere (significantly less firm) mortals with average body fat percentages.

One of my biggest pet peeves – closely followed by a lack of spatial awareness, slow walkers, and dolphin lovers – are people who think they have nothing left to learn. If you don’t think you can grow anymore or improve as a human, then you might as well lie down and die. Harsh? Definitely, but what can I say, Mercury is in retrograde and I’m feeling kind of savage.

Mark Manson is the author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck” – a sort-of self-help book which asserts that happiness is the pursuit of the ideal self. This suggests that happiness is NOT achieving what one desires but the act of chasing it. Unless you’re perfect (or delusional) improvement is necessary to becoming the “ideal self.”

It’s hard for me to sit still when there’s a new city, ripe for exploring, but after three days of hardcore outdoor activities at Pursuit Series in the nearby Sanborn County Park, my body was wrecked. I had a scant 24-hours in San Francisco and since I had my accommodations sorted – I was squatting on Kelly's couch – I turned my attention to how I was going to spend the day.

Despite everyone I know telling me that I’d just loooovvveeee San Francisco, I only knew a total of 3 things before my visit:

Why is there this prevailing belief that in order to “find yourself” you must quit your job, say ‘Sayonara (suckers!)’ to your friends and family, and hop on a plane to another country? Are we born divided from ourselves and life is just one big, elaborate game of hide-and-seek, where the grand prize is becoming whole? Is part of me toiling away at a 9-to-5; building a career while the other untethered (more fortunate) and incorporeal half of me is chilling out in a yurt surrounded by towering redwoods or scaling the lush mountainous peaks of Machu Picchu waiting to be “found”? Damn, I drew the short end of the stick.

Happiness is the pursuit of the ideal self (not necessarily achieving it) and I subscribe to the belief that everything we need can be found inside of us. Success has more to do with personal effort versus our whereabouts which takes the pressure off of deciding whether a villa in Italy or a sailboat cruising Greece is more conducive to soul-searching. So, if finding ourselves is NOT location dependent, what is it about travel that makes us evolve into the person we always wanted to be (and secretly hoped we were)?

Working as an art director/designer in the entertainment industry, I have seen more than my fair share of musicals and stage shows but by no means can I be considered a theatre snob. Case and point: I really enjoyed Legally Blonde The Musical, ESPECIALLY the song where the protagonist questions whether a key witness in a trial is gay or just European. SO relevant. But it is hard for a show to impress or shock me anymore but Sleep No More in New York achieved both of those things.

Always game for the unique and unusual, I took a much needed break from eating myself into a coma to experience this site-specific show. The story is heavily based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth but stripped of all dialogue and presented like a suspenseful film noir.

It has been a lifelong goal of mine to be carried around in a golden palanquin – Cleopatra-style – by four rugged, well-muscled, shirtless (naturally) men. There’d be an additional two – one to keep me cool by waving palm fronds at me, and the other to feed me peeled grapes and tell me how beautifully luminous I am…or luminously beautiful. I’m not picky.

While I am profoundly disappointed that this has yet to become a reality, I have not quite given up on the dream. Instead, I’m taking actionable steps towards getting what I want, meaning I am strategically selecting destinations for my trips to put myself in the optimal position to realize my vision, hence – Tel Aviv. If the rumours about physically blessed Israeli men are true, I have a high chance that my transportation will be covered while I’m there.

But that’s not that only reason I chose the second most populated city in Israel for my next adventure. I also really like hummus.

The day we visited Aït Benhaddou was bracingly crisp and the uninterrupted blue sky provided a striking contrast to the red, high-walled, structures of the village. Lush greenery lined the base of the worn, earthen buildings that seemed to almost pile on top of each other, towards the centre while the unified tone gave the illusion of one enormous and intimidating mass.

After a night of dancing, 4am peking duck, and generally making the most of a 40-hour Montreal getaway (and the $4 tequila special), my Asian twin and I woke up in our AirBnB feeling like dehydrated corpses. We were in need of some serious rejuvenation and where better to do that than at a spa.

However, after a weekend of constant eating, we were not looking forward to forcing our fats into revealing bathing suits but I imagine that’s what one pieces were invented for! We poured ourselves into an Uber and headed down to the Old Port of Montreal where Bota Bota Spa is moored.

Yes, moored.

Gather 'round children and let me tell you a story.
It's a tale as old as time.

Girl goes to Paris. Girl is surrounded by endless opportunities to stuff her face with profiteroles, macarons, eclairs, butter, cheese, brioche, etc….Girl becomes fluent in the language of food, beginning with how to say waffle in French (gaufré). Girl eats everything in sight. Girl can't fit into pants anymore. Girl gets depressed and has clandestine meetings in fromageries with decadent triple cream truffle bries whispering seductively "Who needs abs or clear skin?" in her ear. Girl has a personal epiphany, accepts her love handles and buys a closet full of muumuus. Girl stays in Paris. Girl claims it's because she cannot bear to leave the charming city of lights when in reality, she can't afford to pay for two plane seats – a seat for each butt cheek – back home. Girl's life is turned into a predictable rom-com featuring Diane Lane, leading girls all over the world to embark on their own Parisian love affair with food à la Eat, Pray, Love (but without the Pray and Love).

People are often confused by Cherry and I, mostly due to our rhyming names that end up making us sound like, at best, an easily-marketed circus duo or twins with unimaginative parents. When we introduce ourselves in succession, whether it’s in a loud bar or registering for a dance class (where I inevitably embarrass myself), people either think they misheard us or we’re drunkenly slurring, often resulting in a scene reminiscent of the iconic scene in “Dude, Where’s My Car”:

“What’s your name?”
“Ok, and your name?”
“No, no, I got HER name already. What’s YOUR name?”
“Yes, I already got her name. Your name.”

Rinse, lather, repeat this tedious Q&A several more times.

Are you one of the unfortunate souls who’s glued to your couch every Monday night watching weekly episodes of “The Bachelor” while simultaneously checking Twitter, seeking validation for your outrage from people’s live comments? Yea, my neither…

Years ago, I somehow found the fortitude to claw my way out of the Bachelor hole and reclaim Mondays as my own until two years ago when I was lured back by the quick fix of producer-concocted drama of bro-downs, catfights, and false romances blossoming before my very eyes. Is it quality TV? Hell no, but it’s almost worth the 2 hours a week of my time for satisfaction I glean from the savagely accurate memes and articles dragging the infuriating (albeit entertaining) reality TV stars.

This season’s lead has been aptly described in Ali Barthwell’s regular Vulture articles as “the human equivalent of a beige driving moccasin” and a “beige pashmina come to life,” a man so boring and unempathetic on TV that the producers are attempting to distract us from his dry toast personality by inserting more exotic locations than usual. Last week’s Fantasy Suite dates transported us to Ica, Peru, giving me déjà vu of my own time there.

It’s my birthday today (!), otherwise known as the one day a year I get to force my friends do what I want, where I want and they can’t complain (to my face, at least). I’ve never been one to hide under the covers in a delusional attempt to avoid the aging process, but I can’t say that I’ve always anticipated the day with the same enthusiasm that I have for attacking a bowl of pasta.

Like most people, I viewed the departure from my idealized 20s with the same dread reserved for the last day of vacation. It’s society’s cut-off time for what is considered “youth” but you know what goes hand-in-hand with oh-so-pretty youth? Stupidity. It would’ve been more apt if Michael Jackson had made the title of his song "Pretty Dumb Thing" (instead of "Pretty Young Thing") but the abbreviation doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily as "PYT". In honour of my birthday, I would also accept "Pretty YEUNG Thing" (ahha thanks Ruvena!).

Planning my trip to Morocco last year was the first time I went from casually dipping my toes in the waters of serial killer organized to a full-fledged, cannonball leap into the deep end. From occasionally jotting down notable restaurants, I progressed headlong into hyper-specific from the standard list of establishments to visit, to types of local cuisine to try, to the ninja-level one listing locations and arranging them based on address and proximity to each other for maximum efficiency. Yes, I am fully aware that that is not normal and I don’t judge you for being more than a little frightened. And not just because my go-to move is a death strike to the jugular.

But, dear reader, there are two reassuring things to consider to put your unsettled mind at ease. Firstly, you are safely ensconced behind your computer or phone screen where I can’’t physically reach you (yet). Secondly, you get to benefit from all of my obsessive research and meticulous planning skills because I have put together a comprehensive itinerary of a culturally authentic trip to Marrakech INCLUDING an unforgettable night spent under the stars in the Saharan Desert, complete with camel rides!

Guys. Can you believe that it’s the middle of February already?! January seemed to last forever so it’s like February is speeding up to compensate for lost time. Also, it boggles the mind that it’s been TWO YEARS since I started blogging? If you do the math, that’s approximately 100 blog posts! If you had told me that I had to write 100 blog posts in two years, it would’ve seemed impossible, but all those little steps towards a long held goal led to where I am now.

Coming out on the other sides of things, I love reflecting on what I’ve learned along the way. Last year I mused over the lessons I learned about the act of blogging but this year I contemplate on more existential lessons like what keeping a weekly blog has taught me about myself.

In regards to relationships, the term “better half” has never sat easily with me. I suppose the over-achiever in me in conjunction with my Asian, 99%-isn’t-good-enough upbringing isn’t content to develop only as far as to form HALF of a person. I would rather bring a WHOLE person to the table, and be met in kind by another whole individual.

Having been in some form of a romantic entanglement over the last 15 years, the most valuable lesson that I’ve gleaned is that while a healthy relationship requires compromise and balance, each person needs to be able to stand by themselves. We have to be as committed to ourselves as we are to our partners. It sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but taking care of ourselves allows us to be the best person we can for our loved ones.

As a three-time repeat visitor of Paris, I’d accomplished most of my must-do list of the city – gazed at the Eiffel Tower, perused patisseries for the perfect macaron, admired French Impressionist art at the Louvre, etc…but I’d still never managed to cross “Attend a REAL cabaret show” off of my bucket list.

Working in the entertainment sector of the advertising industry has afforded me endless opportunities to attend musicals and theatre shows in Toronto, so while cabaret was not an unfamiliar concept to me, attending a performance in the city it originated from – the City of Lights – promised to be one of those authentically French experiences that I was chasing.

Repeatedly pressing the pedestrian crossing button is all the power we have over traffic lights, we can’t convince the clouds to part to reveal sunny skies, and we can’t control whether someone speeds up to walk in front of you then inexplicably slows down (WHY?!). If someone has a negative opinion of us, we may be able to persuade them to change their minds but we can’t force them to. What we can control is how we react to the things that happen TO us and how we choose to view it.

Perception can have a seismic effect on our lives. We can choose how to interpret the events that occur in our day-to-day instead of being prey to them. To master your mind and overcome perceptions that have become habitual reactions may seem like an intimidating feat of Herculanean proportions but that’s not necessarily the case.

Ahh a new year, a fresh slate of unmolested vacation time. Was that a weird way to phrase it? Sure, I could've substituted "unused" for "unmolested" but it's a goal of mine to attempt new ways of expressing things. For example, in last week's post I wanted to use "corpulent" to describe an egg yolk BUT I felt it was too vulgar.

Anyways, the new year always inspires travel bloggers to write blog posts listing the top spots they want to explore that year but I’m adding a little twist to the theme. While I love immersing myself in different cultures in pockets all over the globe, what inspires me to venture out are specific experiences that I want to collect. I’ll start planning a trip by choosing an experience – like sleeping under the stars in the Saharan Desert – as a central pillar then I build the rest of the trip around that.

Remember when I said that in Paris that "breakfast is not a thing”? I don’t mean in terms of it being the first meal of the day or what time it's eaten. I mean in the sense that their "breakfast" errs on the conservative side – continental, subsisting simply of coffee and a croissant. Is the coffee a high quality, caffeinated delight? Mais oui. Are their croissants delicately flakey, golden, buttery goodness? Not the point!

How “American-style breakfasts” – fit for starving, massively hungover, linebackers – are not en vogue in Paris is almost as unfathomable as people who skip breakfast all together. Why would anyone willingly deprive themselves of the complete and utter joy of eating? You don't need to be a mathematician to estimate that more meals = more happiness.

Provided that you haven’t been living under a rock, Instagram has an app that generates your “Best Nine” of the year in order of popularity. While it’s interesting to see what content that you created has resonated the most with your audience, end of the year is usually a time of SELF-reflection. What posts meant the most to YOU?

The first year of blogging for me was a lot of trial and error – figuring out the ins and outs of maintaining a blog. My second year has been much more personal – finding my niche, releasing ghosts of my past, recording my most treasured moments and discoveries.

What is a recipe for restaurant success these days? Good food is essential for a solid foundation, the vibe should be dynamic and the décor should be stylish. But nowadays, establishments are also paying attention to whether they are “Instagrammable”. As ridiculous as that sounds, being IG-worthy is a smart marketing strategy since the more photos that are snapped, the more eyes see your place in an organic way, and the more clientele you gain through free, word-of-mouth advertising.

Not gonna lie, I find out about most restaurants – especially ones in different cities – through Instagram and Pink Mamma in Paris was no different. From the minute it popped up in my food-dominated feed, I was on a mission. 

The French are widely renowned for having one of the most refined cultures in the world and that kind of thing doesn’t happen without a strict social etiquette. There is an accepted way of being – talking, eating, socializing, thinking – that is somehow bred into the population from the womb. It explains why France is where the term “faux pas” originates from, to describe a deviation from the accepted French way. 

Completely merged into everyday usage, faux pas was first coined in the 1670s, meaning “false step” that can be an actual loss of physical balance but more commonly refers a social gaffe. Think drinking gravy in front of party guests. Apparently a HUGE faux pas, no matter what country you do it in (or so I’m told). 

The first time I made a conscious effort to take photos for blogging and Instagram purposes, was during my trip to Colombia. I discovered that my love of creating content warred with my resolute desire to live in the moment and my distaste for being attached to my phone.

How could I balance the two? How could I be present in my life AND #doitforthegram without compromising the quality of either? I could never be that kind of person who treks for an hour to an awe-inspiring waterfall only to snap a quick photo without really enjoying the view IRL.

The moment/memory/experience would always take precedence over the photo but was there was happy medium?

The sun had long retreated below the horizon and replaced by the moon when our driver and guide – dubbed ‘Fancy’ to reflect his tastes – pulled the white van over on the gravelly dirt road.

Our troupe of self-proclaimed ‘Spinster Sisters’ – as we were deemed unfit to be Moroccan wives due to our lack of mint tea brewing knowledge – emerged into the crisp air of El Kelaa M’gouna, eyes adjusting to the darkness and ears to the deafening quiet. We were in the middle of a huge, empty stretch of land outside of town, only barely able to make out a looming building through a thicket of trees in the faint glow of the moon.

Full of trepidation, I thought to myself: “This is it. Kelly has finally bartered me for 3,000 camels and a shoe store and this is the hand-off!”

Let’s do some math: If you go to Peru for 12 days and visit 4 vastly ecologically diverse cities (while factoring in travel time in between), how long can you spend in each place?

Answer: Not very effing long.

But what is the alternative when you have limited vacation time and Peru has so many amazing experiences to snatch up faster than you can grab the last slice at a work pizza lunch?

They say that it's unrealistic to expect to get everything from one person and I agree. I don't need to gossip about boys to my parents and I don't need to have in-depth discussions about why leggings should never be worn as pants to the guy I’m seeing. Unless HE wears leggings as pants, in which case we have much more concerning things to discuss.

It's the same with friends – specific friends are more suited for different situations. I have pals to wax philosophic with over expensive wine, gym buddies to get my sweat on with, and amigos to eat myself into a coma with because we share the same values….those values being that tacos trump abs. Every. Time.

Normally I avoid writing about social issues, not out of indifference but rather because I feel like it’s all been said already or that my voice won’t make a difference. In fact, up until yesterday, I was in the process of writing an entirely different post when I suddenly felt compelled to barrel down a completely different route.

If you are female, know anyone female, and have social media (see: everyone) then no doubt you have come across a post in some form – a tweet, Facebook status, Instagram caption, news article – starting or ending with “Me Too.”

What is “Me Too”?
A powerful online movement has risen in the wake of the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein – a hugely influential film producer and studio exec who has launched many a successful Hollywood career.

Sometimes not having a plan can be liberating and the notion of going where the wind blows – like a barefoot, wild-haired, nomadic gypsy – appeals to the romantic in us. But sometimes, it’s like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute – thrilling then immediately followed by all-consuming regret.

On one hand, we should be open and flexible to what the universe brings to us BUT if you really want something in life – a promotion, to lose weight, a family – are you willing to gamble it by leaving it up to chance? Understanding that we can’t control everything, don’t you want to do whatever you can to at least put yourself in the ideal position to achieve your goals?

If that’s the case, then your new mantra should be:
Don’t blow with the wind. Be the storm.

Within minutes of stepping through the door after returning from a life-changing home from a trip to Cuba, I donned my rattiest pyjamas and was devouring an entire pizza while getting teary-eyed while watching Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. The post-vacation blues hit me hard.

It wasn't the reality of working nine-to-five or the return to routine that had me depressed because after running around a foreign country nonstop, the familiarity can be comforting.

Despite the countless hardships of the country’s past that has continued on to this day, the people are still so full of infectious joy and passion. That resilient enthusiasm for life crystallized for me what was really important in life, liberating me from the trivial worries that cluttered my day-to-day. I loved how Cuba made me feel free.

Before attending the Pursuit Series in San Jose, I believed myself to be a reasonably fit individual. I lift (bro), twist myself into pretzel-esque, yoga positions, and while I hate running, I trick myself into a healthy amount of cardio by boxing, dancing, and spin.

But by the time two shiny, air-conditioned shuttle buses pulled up to the edge of a forest (a 15-minute drive outside of Sanborn County Park) with 14 active, outdoorsy Californians (who live in a state of perpetual summer) this carb-obsessed Canadian was seriously questioning her physical competency.

We picked our way through the forest, avoiding questionable patches of poison ivy, enjoying the light hike as rays of sun came streaming through the towering trees. Upon entering the clearing where the Adventure Out guides were waiting to teach us the ropes (literally) of rock climbing, I slipped on loose dirt and leaves and tumbled in on my ass. Elegant as always. If this was an indication of what my first experience rock climbing outdoors would be, it was going to be a difficult couple of hours.

People don't think that I'm the type of person who can camp but I have a very strong, (some might say) overdeveloped survival instinct.

In grade nine self-defense class, when the padded instructor lumbered threateningly towards me, I punched him in the ONE place I was told not to. Not there you sickos! His face was off limits because it was only protected by a thin sheet of plastic but when you have a large man coming at you…you react without thinking!

One time, when someone jumped out at me during a ghost tour of a cemetery in Scotland, I (to my everlasting shame) pulled my friend in front of me like a human shield! True story.

After spending the morning at Yves Saint Laurent’s infamous Jardin Majorelle, my motley crew of five ladies – hailing from all corners of the globe – hopped in a cab to make our 1pm reservation at a Marrakech restaurant that tops all the must-visit lists. Interrupting our discussion (debating what to do with the 3,000 camel dowry Kelly was being offered for my hand in marriage), the taxi driver dropped us in front of a grand archway and informed us that we had to proceed the rest of the way by foot.

Not wanting to miss our reservation, our group hurried into the narrow, twisting alleys of Souk Semmarine. We stopped on every corner, not only to confirm with local shopkeepers that we were on the right path but to collect members of our party who inevitably became distracted by some shiny or embroidered souk treasure or another.

Some days feel so terrible and heavy, like you’re one of those sad little orphans in A Series of Unfortunate Events or at the mercy of Murphy’s Law. Days so low that even the heartiest bowl of pho cannot salvage it. I know. What can’t be remedied by carbs!? I’ll blame my savage mood on the weather, lack of sleep, crossing a black cat, mercury in retrograde – legit reasons. But sometimes you just gotta call it what it is: A bad friggin’ day.

The hardest part about it is understanding that having a bad day isn’t a reflection on who you are as a person. There are starving children in Africa, who am I to have a bad day? But we do, and when we do we need to give ourselves permission to feel whatever we feel – even if it’s negative – instead of internally berating ourselves for being ungrateful or a horrible person. We’re only human!

"Do the thing you’re supposed to do in the place you’re supposed to do it."

I came across this line while reading What I was Doing While You Were Breeding by the hilarious comedy writer, Kristin Newman. While I related to her prioritizing adventure over the traditional life path – marriage, house, babies – this phrase really resonated with me, articulating what I have long felt to be my personal travel mantra. What is the thing that I can only do/eat/see here and now in this moment? Carpe that diem!

When I travel, I take what I want much more boldly and decisively, maybe because life flies by at a more rapid clip and my time in any given place is so limited. Maybe I'm just more aware of life’s brevity so I'll shed my inhibitions and ride a camel or get a mud massage in a volcano because why the hell not?

Studying design is not only learning how to actually design but learning how to see. The problem with that is you can’t STOP seeing everywhere you go, from a hack Photoshop job on subway posters to misaligned items on a menu that lowers your opinion of the trendy restaurant you’re dining at. It’s enough to make a designer lose their appetite. Almost. But not really because nothing makes this designer lose her appetite.

I loathe being dependent on someone or something to achieve a goal so much so that I refuse to drink coffee to avoid of becoming too reliant on a caffeine fix to start my morning. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t play favourites with lipstick shades for fear of the colour becoming discontinued so imagine how having to depend on another person to travel must chaff me. Finding a travel buddy with the same budget, flexibility, and goals is a feat of Herculean proportions akin to finding a seat on the subway during rush hour.

Itching to hop on a plane and too impatient to wait for other people to become available to make it happen, I booked a flight to Costa Rica – an ideal destination for solo female travellers. Not only is it a tropical paradise but it’s full of escapades that was sure to get my heart racing.

The prevailing misconception of the food scene in Cuba is that it’s no bueno, largely because of the limited trading and access to fresh produce. But since Raul Castro’s economic reforms in 2010 that stripped the limitations on at-home restaurants in Cuba, paladars have been changing the game, creating innovative dishes and working around the restrictions placed upon them.

If you can’t find drool-worthy meals then you didn’t do your homework. Lucky for you, dear readers (all two of you), I did the digging for you and scoured the internet prior to my trip, finding feasts all over Havana to satisfy all types of foodies.

Now that I’ve detailed how to get from Marrakech to the Saharan Desert and all the epic stops to make along the way, I can tell you about sunset camel rides across rippled stretches of golden sand, “glamping” in the desert at Kam Kam Dunes, and sleeping under the Saharan stars. It was truly a magical experience that I would highly recommend placing at the top of your bucket list.

During one of my classes in my first year at OCAD, the instructor posed the question “Why did you choose to get into graphic design?” To which I distinctly recall a classmate responding “Because I want to change the world.” While lacking the BS factor, my motivation was somewhat less noble having chosen design because I wanted to combine my love of art and writing.

That, in combination with not coming from an art-focused secondary school always made me feel like a bit of a fraud throughout my tenure at university. I imagine it’s how hipsters feel when they wear a Ramones tee without ever hearing a single track by the band.

Wobbling precariously along the edge of a dusty road by one of many little farms outside of the tiny rural town of Viñales, my feet scrambled for purchase on the pedals of my little-too-tall-for-me bike. I finally managed a smooth turn of the pedal when my wheel went over the lip of the road and steeply tipping me forward, down into the tobacco field I had been struggling besides.

As I hurtled through the leafy plants at an alarming speed, I thought:
“Tobacco is going to kill me and I’ve never even smoked in my life!”

In any travel group, people take roles based on what they are naturally inclined to do. As a perpetually hungry, plant obsessed designer, I am the one dragging everyone to inspiring activities and the most Pinterest-worthy restaurants serving delectable dishes that make you crave it long after you return home. But I’m not just looking for great food, customer service, interior design, etc…but the place must also possess a vibe with a certain je ne sais quoi.

Tall order? Definitely but I’m very single-minded when it comes to sniffing these spots out and as Montreal is a culinary destination with a vibrant art scene, it was an easy task. Here is A Designer’s Ultimate Guide to Awe-Inspiring Spots In Montreal:

A cool wind from the nearby ocean cut through the dry heat that persisted into the night at Jardines 1830. As soon as darkness engulfed the outdoor patio of the restaurant/club, based in a colonial mansion situated in the Vedado district of Havana, it began filling up with local and visiting “salseros” alike.

Any performance anxiety I felt in anticipation of showing off my skills (or lack thereof) was dulled by tangy lime and mint-muddled mojitos, the rum buzzing in my head was just enough to ease my nerves without hampering my coordination. Standing right in the thick of the swelling crowd, the four-beat measures (characteristic salsa music) played by the live band reverberated through my chest, stirring the restlessness in my soul.

Fear is absolutely necessary for our survival but nowadays, as we don’t have to worry about sabre tooth tigers lurking around every corner, it has more time on it's hands. Understandably, that makes fear hyperactive and overeager but just because we understand it’s excess of energy, it doesn’t make it any less annoying that it yaps at every shadow and rustling leaf like a chihuahua with a Napoleon complex.

This hyperactivity makes it difficult to distinguish when our actions are motivated by legitimate concerns versus an involuntary, knee-jerk reaction. Even if we manage to determine that fear is being a dramatic worrywart, that doesn’t mean that the anxiety magically subsides. It’s not as easily convinced. It’s sweet in an overprotective, wake-you-up-at-6am-to-tell-you-to-check-the-peephole-before-opening-the-door kind of way (thanks, Mom) but fear isn’t going to back down just because you assure it that you have twenty-four hour security in your building.

Prior to my trip, I knew I would be appreciated in Cuba the way I know if I go into any country bar, I could literally be on fire and still be completely ignored by the male clientele. I knew this NOT because I am – as one, misguided, would-be suitor put it – “a spicy concoction” which I assume is a reference to my decidedly un-Asian derrière, but because Cubans worship ALL forms of beauty.

In general, purchasing a plane ticket to this Caribbean country is a worthwhile investment every woman should make if they’re in need of an ego boost because the Cuban appreciation of beauty is all-inclusive. With limited and controlled access to media, not only are locals blessedly unaware of even the LEAST famous Kardashian (Kourtney? Rob? Maybe censorship isn’t always such a bad thing…) but nor do they have a standardized ideal of what is considered beautiful. Full, tiny, dark, light, curvy, slim – listing all the womanly virtues that Cubans enjoy sounds like the beginnings of a Dr. Seuss book.

Sometimes when I’m completely unknowledgeable about a topic, I don’t even know what questions to ask because I don’t know what issues are even relevant. My only expectation of Cuba because my only expectation was that the weather would be nice and that there were a lot of generic resorts but after experiencing the country for myself, I am more aware of all the questions people should be asking before embarking on a trip to Cuba.

I’ve compiled a list of the questions that kept cropping up from people and attempted to answer them fully:

When a company tell me to “trust” them that their product is the best, I trust them about as much as the guy at a bar who has a face tattoo, telling me that he’s not a serial killer. So…not very much. I rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or online reviews because it’s either someone who’s taste and judgement I trust or real people who have no skin in the game.

I have now reached the level of traveller that packing for trips has become a breeze. My strategy is to imagine all the various situations I'll be in – salsa dancing, fancy restaurants, horseback riding, biking through tobacco fields (more like crashing through...) – and pack accordingly. Here's some inspiration to get you started packing your suitcase for adventures in Cuba:

Prior to researching Cuba for my upcoming trip, my feelings about the destination ranged on opposite ends of the spectrum. I loathe all-inclusive resort vacations where your experience is as culturally authentic as chicken balls from Golden Wok. However, I loved the colourful, crumbling buildings and sultry salsa clubs depicted in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (don’t judge me…too much) which is my only other point of reference for Cuba….even though it was filmed in Puerto Rico. Naturally.

After some digging beyond my preconceptions on the country, I realized that it has so much more to offer than one-size-fits-all vacation packages and overly chlorinated pools. Here are a couple of tips for how you can ensure that you have an authentic Cuban experience:

There’s a comfort in watching and rewatching a much loved movie till you know every twist and turn by heart. The predictability is as restorative as a gigantic glass of wine or donning the rattiest – and therefore softest – sweater that you’ve had since you were in braces. You know the one I’m talking about – it’s full of holes and makes you look homeless (or cheap) but you refuse to throw it away because it’s so damn cozy.

This post about the other jewel of a spot I stayed at in Marrakech, Riad Jardin Secret, is an ode to two movies that I’ve watched an embarrassing number of times over the years: The Secret Garden and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Surfing is one of those activities that is really idealized in popular culture (Blue Crush anyone?) as being sexy, adventurous, set in exotic locales like Costa Rica and the coast of Portugal, with local instructors with golden tans and more abs than Angelina Jolie has children. While those things are all true, what isn’t depicted is all the times you almost lose your bathing suit, get hit in the head with your board, and end up with enough sand up your butt to build a castle.

Even though I’ve had my fair share of sand in places sand ought not to be, by no means do I consider myself a good enough surfer to impart any kind of advice. However, technical skills aside, my experience has led me to pick up lessons from surfing that can easily be applied to life:

Whenever my family goes out for all-you-can-eat sushi, my mom hides red-faced behind a menu as the rest of us fatties shout out “Twenty orders of the salmon sashimi! Forty of the surf clam! Five orders of the spicy tuna maki!” She may demurely request “just a tea for me” from the waiter but as soon as our food arrives, she’s devouring all the dishes, exemplifying our family motto of “survival of the quickest,” forcing us to order more to accommodate for her embarrassment for our lack thereof.

While I don’t understand shame when in reference to my hunger, it has recently become a familiar feeling, rearing it’s ugly head when I travel and the more I explore content creation on my Instagram and blog. It wasn’t until my trip to Morocco that I realized how much embarrassment and ego limits me, similar to how it limits my mom from ordering her OWN sushi.

"I will give you a deal because I just want to make you smile. I’ll let you have this authentic, Moroccan [fill in the blank] for [approximately 5x what it’s actually worth]!”

……says literally every person selling anything in the souks of Marrakech.

Morocco is known for their expert artistry and craftsmanship which became evident the more I explored the labyrinth pathways of the souks, losing myself in shops full of treasures, from hanging lanterns to hand-painted tagine cookware, and chunky jewelry in silver and gold. However, the country is also known for their intense tradition of haggling. Instead of there being a fixed price like in stores at the mall, in the souks you’re expected to engage in a cutthroat negotiation to get the lowest price.

There are an endless number of reasons to visit Morocco – the fragrant, drool-worthy cuisine, the luxurious hammam spas, the artisan craftsmanship in the architecture, the treasure-filled souks. While I revelled in all of these delights, I had fixed my sights on this North African country specifically so that I could ride a camel in the desert and fall asleep under the Saharan stars.

However, when I made Marrakech our home base, I didn’t realize just how far this former imperial city was from the Sahara as I’ve never been very adept at gauging distances. Google Maps walking time estimations don’t help the matter as they do not compensate for the abbreviated, high-heeled stride of an individual with fairly stumpy legs.

They say that hindsight is 20/20 as in, it is only after you’ve eaten the entirety of an enormous, garlicky, onion-filled chicken shawarma that you realize that it was a horrible thing to do before salsa class. You learn from experiences and missteps, moving forward with more consideration for your dance partners (and anyone else you speak to, I suppose). But despite the futility of it, you can’t help but wonder “If only I had known back then what I know now…”

This is part of why I became involved in Ad Lounge’s annual training, mentoring and networking program, Next Gen Dinner Series.

Some people make a point to try foods they don’t like once a year to confirm whether their tastebuds have evolved or that they still don't like it. This is similar to how I occasionally attempt to diet. Whether it's a new year's resolution to be more healthy or in anticipation of a beach vacation, I determinedly pretend to enjoy sad, leafy lunches. Fake it till you make it, right?

“You will thank me later when you’re not doing an impression of the Michelin Man in a bikini,” I sternly inform my rumbling stomach.

In between celebrating my birthday yesterday with red velvet cupcakes and being beaten with eucalyptus leaves at a Russian bathhouse, I was reflecting on how far I’ve come since I took this self-portrait, the first in what became an annual tradition. Other than to serve as proof to my 80-year old self that I didn’t always resemble a member of The California Raisins (remember them?!), the point of taking my yearly version of a “selfie” was to remember exactly how I felt in that moment and remind myself of what I learned since then.

People are always complaining about the effects of aging – their metabolism slows down, they can't handle alcohol the way they used to, etc… But having reflected on the birthday that just passed, what I notice has less to do with my body and more to do with my mind.

You know the famous quote by Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world”? It was re appropriated by Austin Kleon, a New York based writer and artist, to motivate creatives with the phrase “Create what you want to see in the world” and inspired me to write this post. While I was researching Morocco and compiling experiences for my bucket list, visiting a hammam was a recurring list topper but none of the articles that I came across really provided the unvarnished, uncensored account of the experience that I was looking for. In the age of information overload where “googling” has become a verb, I was so frustrated that I decided to “write the blog post that [I] want to read.”

So, what is a hammam?
A public bathing establishment as well as a method of cleansing, in Arabic, hammam means “hot water bath” and is the Islamic version of the Roman steam baths/sauna or the Russian banya but with a focus on the water (versus steam). It’s a traditional purifying and beauty ritual that combines heat, fragranced steam, warm water, and a cold plunge pool.

Before I go on a trip, I receive well wishes from friends that go like this: “Have an awesome trip! Take lots of pictures. Please don’t get kidnapped! But seriously….” That may sound like it’s a joke but when it comes to me, it’s a legitimate concern. Not only am I a convenient kidnap-able size at 5 foot 4 inches but evidently I never got the memo about not speaking to strangers. Home or abroad, I’m the first one to wander off and make friends with a bartender in Frankfurt or dash off in a rickshaw pulled by a friendly, redheaded Scottish local.

Despite my seemingly carefree attitude towards strangers, I’m pretty vigilant and I’m usually travelling with friends. While it’s generally safer (and more fun!) to use the buddy system when you’re exploring foreign lands, sometimes they’re the ones putting you in compromising positions for their own personal gain as was my experience in Morocco.

It embarrasses me to admit that I blog; to own it out loud. It sounds so 90s but not in the so-retro-it’s-cool-now kind of way like choker necklaces and the Backstreet Boys (Vegas road trip anyone?). It seems like everybody and their half-deaf, kind of racist grandmother has a blog these days. It makes me feel so unoriginal (worse than death for a creative soul) but here I am a year later and I can no longer deny it. Hi, my name is Teri and I am a blogger.

This week marks my one year anniversary of blogging consistently, achieving in sticking with a weekly pursuit that I long suspected would bring me joy. How could it not be? Since I was old enough to spell, I kept the OG version of a blog – a diary – that I keep obsessively to this day to record all my inner, squishy feelings. Writing posts for the whole world to see is an entirely different beast and I’ve learned a lot of lessons that don’t only apply to blogging but to life in general.

It is one of my greatest ambitions in life to transform my city-situated apartment into a jungle. I’m well on my way to filling every sunny nook with a variety of hearty (see: hard to kill) plants – Zanzibar Gems, Sansevierias, Hanging Philodendrons, and countless succulents. No lie, it takes me almost an hour to water all of them and I get a little angsty when I have to leave them for longer than a week. I imagine that this is the way dog owners do about getting home to walk their pets which is why I maintain I can’t own a pet.

I didn’t expect that Marrakech – infamously known as the Red City – in north Africa, would enable my plant addiction but surprisingly, there were hidden pockets of oases all over the city for me to get overly excited over. I wanted to share my verdant discoveries with other self-professed “crazy plant ladies” who are considering Marrakech as their next destination to conquer.

When I was a kid, I used to have dreams that I could fly. Not in one powerful, instantaneous whoosh like Superman but more like an effortless floating upwards. I never remember all of the particulars of a dream once I’m shaken from sleep’s hold. It’s like they evaporate out of my consciousness with every waking breath I take. The residual wisp that lingers in my bones long after I awake is the the glorious feeling of wonder – the breathlessness, the surprise, the relief – I had in shedding those strings that kept me tethered to the earth.

That’s how I feel when I travel – the same awe and disbelief in the magic that the world has to offer except that I’m not asleep.

From the minute I crossed the threshold of Le Riad Yasmine from the hectic, bustling streets of Marrakech, I was enveloped in an atmosphere of perfect calm. All the noise of the city that was threatening to overwhelm me were left on the other side of the unassuming door as I was ushered into the leafy canopied courtyard to wait for the customary glass of mint tea, a sign of Moroccan hospitality.

The riad – a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard – was so zen-like and serene that it seemed as if I was the only one there in that moment. I couldn’t believe that after a year and a half of planning (and a LOT of Instagram stalking), I was finally seeing the lush jungle of foliage that surrounded an emerald green tiled pool with my own eyes instead of on my phone. It was even more beautiful than I had hoped!

As much as I planned, strategized, organized, scheduled, researched, and TripAdvisor-ed (that’s a verb now, right?) before my travels, nothing could prepare me for just how magical Morocco is.

While my preparations painted a brilliant picture of a vibrant and bustling country, rich with history and culture, experiencing things – in this case, a country – firsthand revealed many unexpected revelations that I was thrilled to discover….in most cases.

January 1st is just another day. It’s just a random date that someone decided was the beginning of a calendar year and how we would mark the passage of time. But who can deny how good it feels to have a clean slate?!

We get to look forward to the renewed possibility of becoming a “better” version of ourselves. Perhaps a more svelte version of ourselves…

But we don’t just love new beginnings because of how fresh it feels. It’s also because we feel lighter, and it’s not because our new year’s resolution is #MORESALADS. It’s the most opportune time to purge ourselves of the mistakes of the past year and only take with us the lessons we learned from them.

2016 was a hard year both personally and on a universal scale. So rough that I have sequestered myself away under lock and key, counting down the last couple of days in this cursed year. But instead of sitting here, bemoaning all the ways the past was a mess, I will reminisce about all of my most treasured travel moments that I was #blessed (<—ironic usage) enough to experience in 2016.

“This flight has been cancelled due to mechanical issues.” 

Both infuriatingly vague and panic-inducing. I suppose it’s preferable to going down in a fiery plane crash but no anxious, novice solo traveller – excited to embark on an adventure – wants to hear an announcement like that.

My gut sank into the floor at Toronto Pearson as I realized that if I missed this flight to New York, it would set off a domino effect, making me miss my connecting flight to Costa Rica and therefore missing the bus I had booked upon arrival to Monteverde and the cloud forest excursion I had planned for that day. 

Growing up, I never believed that I had to choose between my passion and a paycheque. I doggedly pursued my hobbies in the hopes that one day I would attain the millennial dream and the “holy grail of a creative career,” as Jamie Varon put it, and “do what I love” for a living.

But no matter what you get paid to do – travel the world, watch Netflix all day, taste test ice cream(!!) – the moment you monetize an activity that you love, it taints the purity of the experience. It carries an added pressure that didn’t exist before and it becomes easy to lose sight of why you loved doing it to begin with.

Struggle can feel like failure and can manifest in many forms like heartbreak, being fired from your job, moving back home, being unable to lose that holiday weight, not getting that raise or promotion…No matter what struggle and failure looks like to you, it feels the same across the board. It sucks.

I’m a big believer in not pushing something, especially when it comes to travel. We may want things to happen a certain way (usually immediately) but we may not be ready for it. I had wanted to go to Thailand for 2 years before an opportunity presented itself. The same happened with Peru, a place I wanted to visit for years. It just so happened that 3 weeks before we were going to go on vacation, a flight deal to Lima popped up. My upcoming trip to Morocco in December was no different.

In Contagious by Jonah Berger, he explains the various reasons why certain things catch on; what compels people to share things. There are a variety of psychological reasons why we share such as social currencyif I tell you about a cool and trendy restaurant, that makes me seem cool and trendy. Other reasons range from defining ourselves to others to nourishing relationships and feeling more involved in the world.

Peru is generally associated with the lush mountainous peaks of Machu Picchu, the cobblestoned streets of Cusco, the gastronomic delights of Lima, and the leafy heights of the humid rainforest. You probably don’t expect a country that is home to those climates to also host an expansive, dry desert but that’s what I was most excited to experience!

After a week and a half of 6am wake-up calls, never sleeping in the same hostel for more than 2 nights in a row, and a particularly heinous bout of altitude sickness endured during a 7-hour tour of the Sacred Valley, Janelle and I were ready to chase the damp of Cusco from our bones. Somehow we had even managed to get caught in a hailstorm in the cobbled stone city at the beginning of the Peruvian summer!

When I was a kid, fashion to me was wearing my favourite Spice Girl T-Shirt and spandex shorts, a sartorial crime that my mother humoured. Paired with my stereotypical Asian bowl haircut (thanks again for that, MOM), the result was quite hideous and displeasing to the eye, even the untrained one.

Luckily, I burned all photographic evidence and my sense of style began to improve after I started studying design in university. The more I learned about myself and how to “see”, the more refined my eye and tastes became. Without even thinking about it, I apply my design sensibilities to everything from how I decorate my room to how I dress myself, not just in terms of aesthetics but functionally as well.

“‘Let your passion spark your profession’. I mean that both figuratively and literally.”

That was how I opened my presentation to OCAD University, rationalizing my solution for a branded poster campaign that they had commissioned.

OCAD University is Canada’s biggest art and design institution and my alma mater. I know firsthand that they encourage boundary pushing attitudes and help develop problem solving mindsets in students, producing some of the creative industry’s best talent. While I may have reason to be biased, I truly believed this (and still believe it) when I was applying to post-secondary degree programs.

When my roommate told me she had planned a trip to Ireland, I insisted that she absolutely had to have her first Guinness there. The first time I ever had one was in a little town in Cork. It was full and flavourful, reminiscent of their brown bread. When I returned home, deeply mired in vacation blues, I ordered the beer at a local bar but instead of being poured very slowly (because of how dense it is) from the tap, it arrived in a tall can and tasted so weak and watery in comparison.

Ever since share-and-tell sessions in kindergarten, I’ve been a big believer in transparency; of being open with who I am and what I do in the hopes of passing on potentially helpful information to others. Peeking behind the curtain allows us to learn and understanding how things work can motivate us towards action.

This line of thinking has led me to today’s post, sharing my process and what I’ve learned thus far about climbing my personal Everest: this website.

There are some places in Toronto that makes you feel like you stepped into an episode of Jersey Shore in the sense that the clientele resemble really muscular and over-sized oompa loompas. Instead of enormous lollipops, they clutch really girly cocktails that they hope are offset by their bulging masculinity (I mean their arms, you pervert).

A friend and I made plans to meet for drinks and by the looks of the crowd, we had the misfortune of choosing the Toronto equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Being the alcoholics that we are, we ordered a huge mason jar of blanco sangria but little did we know, it’d be the last drink we’d pay for all night.

Are you one of those people who have a to-do list that’s a mile long? You really want to start a blog, train for a marathon, start a tumblr photoshopping elf ears on stock photos*…whatever… but when push comes to shove, you never seem to be able to get started?

*I know someone who does this and it’s the best thing I ever heard of

I am a woman of the world. Or at least I look it.

For some reason I am extremely confusing-looking to people or “ethnically ambiguous.” People seem to be very tortured by the mystery of it all and subsequently berate me with the poorly-phrased “What are you?” question, whether by some random man on the subway, a friendly uber driver, or a curious acquaintance.

You're probably sick to death of hearing me wax poetic about my time at Playa Manglares but it was the cherry that topped off the indulgent sundae that was my trip to Cartagena. Every memory on Isla Baru was on the list of my best moments in Colombia, along with all the eating in the Centro Historico District and flopping around in El Totumo Mud Volcano.

When you think of vacation, what generally comes to mind are white sandy beaches and lounging next to crashing waves in a hammock, most definitely with some kind of alcoholic concoction in a coconut, topped off with a colourful umbrella (and a lot of high quality rum).

So many places to visit and not enough vacation time! What a first world problem to have though #ChampagneProblems. Nevertheless, when the world is your oyster, the possibilities for exploration are endless. There are so many nooks and crannies; corners of the universe, tucked away just waiting for you to discover.

As an enthusiastic eater and designer, nothing satisfies me more than when the 2 worlds overlap, whether in a beautifully branded restaurant or on liquor labels at the LCBO. Today’s post is a Joie de T of sorts. It is food and design themed collection of things that combine the 2 that I’m really loving right now!

I have a bad habit of pretending that I am on vacation for at least a month longer than I actually am. I put myself in social purgatory; hiding out from the world, giving ambiguous responses to the pile of “Are you home yet?” text messages. My friends know me well enough not to take it personally. Without fail, every time I return from a trip, no matter the length, I suffer from an intense, suffocating bout of post-vacation blues.

The first morning I woke up at Playa Manglares, it was with the sunrise. Not voluntarily as I'm neither crazy nor masochistic but because the sun was in my eyes. After running around nonstop in Colombia for a week and a half, devouring everything in sight and salsa dancing until the wee hours, I was overdue for a bit of a lie-in. I know, poor me.

I  provide endless entertainment for my co-workers who will see me wandering around on lunch break and creep up in an attempt to scare me. They will follow me very closely and silently, waiting to see how long it takes for me to notice them there (It usually takes about a block). When I finally DO notice, they can count themselves fortunate if I don’t punch them in the throat in fright and I’m lucky if I don’t have a coronary. I get startled frequently and easily whether it’s due to poor hearing, not being very observant, or because I get touched a lot by strangers. Probably a combination of all.

You can’t really say something like “I get touched a lot by strangers” without elaborating so let me provide an example:

The last leg of my Peru trip was spent in Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of a desert just outside of Ica. During the late afternoon, we took a buggy that looked like it was straight out of Jurassic Park, on a roller coaster ride among the sloping sand dunes that we would later be boarding down. That night, after purchasing a couple bottles of cheap wine, a group of us clambered barefoot up the steep incline of sand. Already a majestic sight during the day, the desert looked unreal bathed in moonlight. All you could see in every direction were mounds of sand that met a night sky, filled to the brim with stars and a low-hanging moon.

It’s moments like those, when I am in the presence of great and awe-inspiring forces, that I am keenly aware of how insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things; as inconsequential as a speck of dust…and I LOVE IT.

I feel like volcanos are my Pokémon. In Costa Rica, I hiked a volcano then waded in the naturally heated hot springs. I boarded down a volcano made of compressed ash in Nicaragua on little more than a thin, metal toboggan. I seem to “catch ‘em all” when it comes to volcano-centric experiences, but never before had I been given a mud massage IN a volcano.

Generally, when you think of volcanos, what’s called to mind are things like majestic peaks, spewing fire, virginal sacrifices…not so much getting mud massaged by a Colombian man. Am I the only weirdo/pervert who immediately thought that sounded like fun?! In fact, the moment I saw fellow wanderer, Room + Wild, post a photo her chest-deep in mud, it was scored on my heart as a bucket list item that I needed to experience. In fact, it was the main attraction that inspired my most recent adventure to Cartagena, Colombia.

A foodie is generally not a composed person because their enthusiasm for food is so great that they lose their mind at the sight of a plate of cacio e pepe. They bowl over small children and shove the elderly out their way to get to a Nutella-filled beignet. A foodie is someone who, even if they were lactose-intolerant, you’d never suspect because they eat cheese with abandon and just pay for it later (thankfully, when you’re not there). Cheese is worth it.

ETC is the overflow of thoughts in the mind of Teri Yeung. It’s a place full of stories of travel adventures, imparted lessons learned from life’s achievements and failures, behind-the-scenes of projects and experiments, and anything else that inspires excitement and joy.

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