TABLE FOR ONE. [TRAVELING SOLO.]

How is it the airport is the only public place it seems to be socially acceptable to drink at any moment of the day without being judged? These are the somewhat alcoholic thoughts that are currently going through my head at 10am on a Thursday morning while staring out a window, wondering why I thought travelling alone was a good idea. Bar tender, more wine please.

I’ve been here since 8am. I’ve walked through every store near me, tested a whole lot of unnecessary perfumes and makeup, bought some useless junk I probably wont need and I still have SO much free time. This is about the time the bars opened and the drinking began.

Traveling on your own can be extremely exhilarating and freeing. It can also be really boring and anxious when you’re trapped at the airport, alone, 3 hours before your flight with nothing fun to do or a person to talk to.

Post breakup my life has seemed very fight or flight. I tried my best to fight my way through the emotions; to deal with the stress of this new life – finding a new job, finding a new condo, being alone. It was a lot all at once and the weight I felt on my shoulders was becoming to much to bare in silence. I felt like I was becoming a burden to my friends with my Debby-downer mood and I hated it.

So in my attempt to snap out of this self induced funk and deal with my new life – I chose to stop fighting how I felt and what I was going through and start resorting to flight mode. It may not be the most mature way to deal, or most recommended by anyone trying to help you cope with reality. But I’m tired, I’m stressed, and I am so over feeling unsatisfied with myself. So, Goodbye Life, Goodbye Responsibilities, Goodbye city and restaurants and cars and air that reminded me way to much of my past life. This lady needs a breath of fresh air from a new city, a new country, a new version of my life.

PEACE OUT.

The only problem that I saw in this new run away from life philosophy of mine was: I’ve never traveled alone, and I was terrified to start. Independence was never my strong suit. I hated sitting alone at a table for meals, waiting alone in a crowd; I always went straight to my phone so I wouldn’t have to make direct eye contact with someone else.

With this serious lack of independence and zero desire to be alone with my own thoughts – the concept of travelling alone never even crossed my mind. It wasn’t a possibility, because what would I possibly do alone in another country where I don’t know anyone or anything?

This was the problem I needed to change with myself. It’s one thing to love who you are, and I can truly say I do love the woman I am becoming everyday. But, it’s a completely different story to be so comfortable with yourself that you are actually okay being alone. I’ve never been okay being alone and this made me cling to relationships that weren’t right for me. This needed to change. Now.

So I needed a fix and I needed it quick… My cousin recently moved to Miami and she was alone with her daughter for the weekend. I figured this to be the best first step to get me in the groove of things. I’d get through the flying alone thing first – and then I had her around so I wasn’t alone the entire trip, but in increments. This way I had the freedom to explore and do my own thing, but had someone to eat those awkward meals with.

Start small. Grow from there.

By my next trip – I’d be ready to do more on my own. Maybe even try eating dinner at a bar too. Talking crazy, but I’m ambitious like that. It’s all about being brave enough to take that first step. Knowing you were capable of it.

Travel Tips.

Stay Safe!

My first rule of traveling whether alone or with someone is make sure to stay safe. When in a city you don’t know, always research ahead of time. What are the best areas to visit and to avoid? Emergency contact numbers? Itineraries and time tables.

When you’re alone you don’t have that person there to look out for you, so you need to be smart enough to pay attention to your surroundings on your own.

Don’t wear anything flashy, and try to fit in.

Distractions are key.

It’s not easy being alone all day whether traveling or staying home. Especially your first time out when you don’t know anyone in the city. Until you are comfortable making friends, keep yourself distracted so you don’t feel lonely.

When you’re out for dinners, always have a book handy, or a tablet to keep you looped into the social world you already know.

Make your itinerary before hand so you have a plan to look forward to, and always have something coming new to try and do.

Sign up for some classes, do a tour, or rent a form of transportation and do it yourself.

Make Friends.

Making friends with strangers isn’t always easy. I know first hand how awkward it can be to just go up to a group of people and start talking. My best tip is to sign yourself up for classes and tours when travelling as you’ll always meet someone with the same interests as you there. You can then go with your new friends for dinners and drinks for the remainder of your time there.

When out for meals, try sitting at the bar. You’ll meet a lot more solo travelers there who are also looking for someone to talk to.

Explore.

The best part about travelling alone, is you get to see everything you want without anyone getting in the way. You no longer have to compromise or worry about keeping up with someones time or ideas. You do things at your own speed, and see whatever you truly want to without having to cater to someone else.

Make an itinerary, figure out everything you want to see before hand, buy entrance tickets or city passes. Do things the way you want and explore as much as you can.

The point of traveling alone is to find yourself. So do it while getting lost in a beautiful new city.

 

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THE DATING GAME

Trying to jump back into dating after a long term relationship is not an easy task to take on. Especially when it feels like you’re about to dive face first into a never ending black hole full of “what the fuck’s”… It’s scary to say the least, and you never know when you’ll finally stumble upon something good, or just more darkness.

Being in a relationship for nearly six years really threw off my game.  Never knowing the right thing to do or say with these complete strangers. Was I supposed to be my dorky, sarcastic self, or pretend to be all polite and shy? It’s as if we don’t have enough going on in our lives to stress us out that now we have to worry about this too.

Am I dressed right? Is this shirt too revealing? Do I have something in my teeth? Why isn’t he looking me in the eye!? My shirt is definitely too revealing. All questions that never seem to stop.

Jumping back into the game of it all was not easy. I call it a game because that is exactly what it is. Dating has become an utter joke. Between all these stupid apps that literally have the EXACT same people on them; the new texting etiquette of not replying for hours but never actually calling each other; and talking to like 10 people at once because nobody is exclusive anymore which just ends in ghosting (what the fuck is that by the way?) if done wrong. Ugh, it’s exhausting.

People stopped just going out and meeting strangers, exchanging numbers or emails and going from there. It is all done online now. If you’re not on an App and getting random dick pics, are you really in a relationship? Think about how sad that is. 

A week after moving back home, an old friend had found out I was newly single and asked me out for dinner. What could go wrong? I already knew him and didn’t have to resort to online Apps to meet him… He’s been into me for a while, and actually made the effort to stalk me enough to ask me out 4 days post breakup.  It was an easy way to get back into dating and I really needed the distraction.

Getting out of my disgusting over warn PJs felt great, and I was finally feeling something other than sadness. Looking good really does make you feel good. Having a man’s mouth drop when he sees you feels even better. Single life was starting to look good, and I was ready to enjoy myself.

The date went as well as it could have. He was watching sports on the TV behind me, and I accidentally finished a bottle of wine on my own and found absolutely EVERYTHING he said while looking past me to be hilarious. This is when the game had begun. It was no longer easy – I had to work for his attention, and a few weeks later found out I had competition in the game too.

When we finally drove up to my house he leaned in and kissed me. Big, wet, juicy, moan filled (from him not me) kiss. That was the exact second I knew I jumped back into the game way to soon. Not only was I wasted and thinking about my ex, comparing everything to my first kiss with him, I actually let out a laugh… In the poor mans mouth. Not one of my finest moments…

You can imagine, a week later he told me he was seeing someone else this whole time and wanted to see where things were going to go with her. I don’t blame him – I laughed at him and lost to the competition but I didn’t mind it at all. I was a player in a much bigger game and I really needed to learn the rules now.

Key advice to anyone going through a break up. Don’t rush into dating again until you are ready for it. The game is brutal – and though you can meet the perfect guy within an hour of your breakup, a lot of the time you will need to kiss a few toads first.
Take your time and enjoy working on yourself first – you WONT regret it.

It was after my brutal fail of a date that I realized I needed to step back a bit. I wasn’t ready for the game and really needed to focus on myself for once. Do what made me happy- on my own and with my girls. Boys were my last priority, at least for a bit.

It wasn’t until another drunken night a few months later at a family weddingwhere I found myself up against a glass wall in a parking-lot making out with an old friend (not thinking of my ex this time at all! #winning) that I knew I was ready to start kissing some toads again until I found my prince charming.

Hooking up with a total stranger (or in my case an old friend) will do one of two things. 1. Make you realize you’re ready to date again because A. you are no longer totally pinning over your ex, or B. having someone that all over you is beyond empowering and you miss it! Or 2. Make you realize you need to stop getting drunk and kissing people.

Today marks the six months of my newly single life. It’s true what they say – time heals all. Though I’m still not completely over my past; I do know that I need to move on – and I am slowly becoming ready to. I think that’s the key to playing this whole game… Being ready for it all and what it actually means. 

I’ve met some really interesting guys throughout all of this. Some dates fun, some so awful they make for the best breakfast stories with the girls. Dating is definitely an on-going game, but I’m enjoying the ride of it – no pun intended.

Mr. Right, where are you?

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MOVING OUT… AGAIN.

Since moving back home, I’ve been contemplating the idea of moving out all over again, except this time doing it solo.

After my last experience living with someone – I was hesitant with the thought. I’d be doing it on my own and the thought of failing again plagued me.

I can’t say the first time I had to move back home was completely my fault, but I still saw it as a failure. I couldn’t keep my relationship from falling apart for even a year since moving out, so who says I’ll be able to succeed my second time out the door?

Having to pack your bags and drive home to your parents house at midnight because you no longer feel at home in your home is awful. It’s even worse to have to do it because you over estimated what you were capable of and now owe your soul to the banks since your paychecks just aren’t cutting it.  This is especially scary when living in Toronto, and living expenses seem to cost a fortune based on salary.

However ignoring the very important factor that is affordability – everyone has a goal, and mine is to own my own space.

Though living at home with my amazing family is a blessing, in my new mission for independence and self realization, I know deep inside that I need to take this step.

My search for the perfect condo started a few months ago. I put together a budget, planned out all my expenses, based it all on my salary and found that I can definitely afford to live on my own. I may have to give up the luxuries of eating – but everything has its pros and cons right?… Second and third job here I come!

When moving out on your own there are certain steps you really should follow.

MORTGAGE PRE – APPROVAL 

The second you start thinking about moving out, the first thing you should be doing is going to a few different Bank Branches and finding out their mortgage rates. You’d be so surprised what you can learn about payments and how little of a monthly payment difference there is between what you may think you can afford, and what you really can afford. 

You can always do a quick pre-approval so you can see what you are budgeting against for when you start your condo hunting.

BUDGETING

Excel has created some AMAZING layout for when it comes to budgeting. They have already pre-set lists of what most people pay for so all you have to do is just fill in the blanks month to month. This is a great way to budget your expenses versus your monthly salary so you don’t get in over your head. 

Of course you can’t budget your monthly grocery costs or gas but at least you will get an idea of whether or not you’ll still be eating or not. 

PICKING YOUR IDEAL LOCATION

Location isn’t always a big deal for people – but having a radius of where you want to live will help your hunt a lot. 

My whole life I was dead set on living close to my family. That was until I lived in an area about 30 minutes from home that if you told me a few years ago I’d be living there I would have argued until I lost my voice… The same area I am now planning to move back to. 

I’d highly recommend checking out one or two places in locations other than your ideal spot just to see if you are willing to branch out or not. Doing this alone I very quickly narrowed down where I wanted to live to practically a set street. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH & MAKE A LIST – IDEAL LAYOUT, SQ. FT, FURNITURE COSTS, etc.

I love lists. I love making lists about lists I need to make. There is nothing better than lists.

Making a list about what you want in your future home is a great way to stay organized. You can even color coordinate if you want to be as extra as me. 

Jot down what form of layout you’d prefer, what furniture you’d like to have so you know if it will fit or not. Do you want dark floors or light floors? Balcony or no Balcony? High floor or low floor? Even if you over specify, knowing what you want will save you from looking at things you hate. 

I went and looked at 3 of the exact same condos hoping that I’d magically change my mind about liking it and of course I hated it more and more each time. No point wasting your time and your realtors if you already know what you want. Sure it may take longer, but if you’re spending that much money already you have to have it feel like home. 

FIND A REALTOR & VIEW SOME OPTIONS

Before I reached out to the agent I am currently using, I spent weeks sitting on realtor.ca and looking at all the options available in my price point. I then did the same thing out of my price point which I highly do not recommend doing. It was so important to me to continue doing my research at all times so I knew what was out there and what it was exactly that I wanted before I jumped into buying anything.

Your realtor will greatly thank you for this as you are making their job that much easier by being prepared. Know your budget and stick to it.

Once I signed a contract with my agent, we began looking at condos weekly. Viewing options can get annoying as everything starts to look the same and you start loosing hope. Its not a one week process like you originally hoped for and will take a lot more work.

On the bright side – once you do find something you like, you will instantly feel at home there.

START PUTTING IN OFFERS

Putting in offers is intimidating. You spend so much time hoping to find something that you love, so when you do, if you’re anything like me you start fearing that the second you sign those papers you lose out on finding something better.

Buyers remorse is real. 

Signing my first offer was an experience like no other. The night before I knew the papers were coming, I was tossing and turning anxious about the thought of leaving home again. I don’t think it matters how many times you move out – the unknown of it all never gets less scary. But the second I sent the offer in, I felt relieved. It was real and it was going to be my home. To bad an offer isn’t the last step and it can and very often does get rejected.

On the bright side – the hunt continues and there is always something better to be found. Everything happens for a reason right? 

Everyone around me keeps telling me I should spend my money on travelling, going out with friends, or shopping (I will one day live in my shoes at this point). But the practical, stubborn person I am sees every one of those options as not good enough.

I have this image in my head of me opening my very own door everyday after work and entering a beautifully decorated one bedroom (plus den if I’m lucky) condo, with grey and white furniture. Decorated with pops of pastel colours all over the place and beautiful fake flowers because the real ones just keep dying. Picture frames of my family and friends everywhere, and a little fishy who I will very originally name fishy swimming around in his tiny tank. I walk in and just feel at complete peace, pouring myself a very large glass of wine to drink away the thought that my fridge is empty and I really do need a second job… Its utter heaven.

People don’t seem to understand the dream especially since I keep pointing out just how broke moving out can make you. Its a huge commitment that you can’t just turn away from once you’re in. Why would I ever want put myself in a position where I’m living from paycheck to paycheck?

If you would have told me this a year ago I’d say its crazy too… But its the first dream I’ve had about a new future for myself since the breakup and it just feels so right to be on a path towards something again.

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THE ART OF SELF AWARENESS

My first steps as a solo woman were messy. After the pathetic pity parties (yes there were more than one), were over I decided to branch out and keep myself distracted.

I figured the best thing to do was to just meet someone new and enjoy another persons company because being alone sucked and I didn’t want to deal with my own sad emotions anymore.

Who would have thought that SO MUCH could change in 6 years? What happened to meeting people in person, and why are there so many dating apps available with all the same people on each?

In less than a week I learnt that chivalry was indeed dead and I was so over it.

Since I was now in the mind set that all current single men were disgusting I needed a new plan and It was starting to look like I was going to be my own company for a while.

Having to learn to be completely alone with myself is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. Just when I think I’m finally getting the hang of it, I fall back into feeling completely awkward sitting alone at the coffee shop avoiding eye contact with anyone around me and staring deep into my computer screen… Seems to be one of those on-going lessons at this point. 

I figured that I needed to start fresh and rediscover who I was from scratch. I’ve changed so much since I last actually thought about what makes me tick and I wanted to learn it all again. What foods I liked (not having to compromise on food is amazing by the way!), movie & show genres, hobbies, etc. It was a whole journey full of experiments and to do lists.

You know what I’ve learnt so far? I’m a freaking catch.

I’m funny, an incredibly horrible chef, a major foodie, and a pretty good salsa dancer with enough tequila in me.

I let go of the wall I built, always needing someone else around and I’m learning to just have fun. Anxiety can’t hold me back no more! Taking that first step at falling in love with myself wasn’t easy. It took some time to let myself even believe that I was worth loving. That I was interesting enough, or fun enough. But at the end the day, nobody will love you if you can’t love yourself first – so start working on it.

Here are the Top Five Actions I took while learning to have more fun and getting to know who I was.

GO OUT & EXPLORE

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I was never much of a city girl. Going out and partying wasn’t my scene, and commuting the half hour drive downtown just didn’t feel worth it. I never learnt to use our very pathetic Toronto Subway Line and driving wasn’t always an option so me and downtown never really got to have that great love affair everyone deserves to go through at least once.

Living in the suburbs there wen’t to many places to go, and this turned me into a total home body. Don’t get me wrong – staying home is great, but it wasn’t what I needed right now. Going out more and more not only gave me the opportunity to meet new people, try new foods and activities, it also helped me with my fears and anxieties of being there in general.

In my mission to start fresh – my minor anxiety was the first thing that just had to go. I no longer had time or effort to deal with it, and I was determined to change my life for the better. For many people, moving anxiety to the back of their minds is an incredibly hard task to accomplish and it is something that must be worked on every singly day.

With this in mind, I forced myself to go out a little more each week, try out new places I’ve never been, and force myself to remember that I was safe and okay until I was no longer scared of it.

Now, go out, explore the city, be a tourist in your own home and let yourself have fun without any questions or concerns. Try that hole in the wall restaurant, get lost and explore new areas. You’ll never learn what you like and don’t like if you don’t at least try.

LEAVING TOWN

121516_best_road_trip_ideas_slide_0_fs.max-784x410As bad as it may sound – there is no better temporary cure for a broken heart than running as far away from the problem as possible. Leaving town at every chance I got saved me from myself. It was my way of literally running away from my own thoughts.

From road trips to the cottage, to road trips all the way to New York City – I took every opportunity I could get to leave, and it worked. Windows down, music blasting, screaming the lyrics to Bitch by Meredith Brooks on constant repeat.

Running away from your problems isn’t always the answer. But I did whatever I could to protect my own mental health and I highly recommend others do the same.

On these short and long trips I was able to just let lose. Pull over whenever I wanted to explore my surroundings, sing until my voice gave out, and just let my thoughts run wild. It was the only time I wasn’t thinking about the past but focusing on the future and what I was going to do when I arrived at my destination.

Open your windows, stick your arm out and let the wind blow through your fingers… That’s what I imagine flying would feel like – complete freedom.

I learnt that it’s in those moments when your mind is completely free that you see things so much more clearly. Maybe the breakup was a smart move after all. That new super last minute, walked into the shop and sat down without thinking tattoo actually looks great! Hooking up with a stranger – well 50/50 on that one still…

Leave town – take a mental holiday and just focus on what makes you smile again.

SHAKE YOUR BOOTY

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Dancing and music were always my safe haven. It is how I let myself go, stopped thinking, and just completely focused on the beat I was hearing in the moment. No matter the song – angry, sad, happy, or completely crazy – there was always a way to express my emotions by flailing my arms and jumping around.

Being shy, most of my sick dance moves were saved for dancing around the house in my underwear – until recent.

If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be going to clubs, or dancing on the beach with people watching all around I’d probably laugh in your face. But here I am – making changes and shaking my ass barefoot to the sunset.

Change isn’t always a bad thing. Stepping out of your shell can be terrifying, but also life altering. If you aren’t willing to risk your pride, you won’t ever have the chance to learn what makes you smile. Plus the memories at the end of the day are totally worth it – especially if you make a complete fool of yourself.

YOGA & MEDITATION 

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Unfortunately I am not someone who enjoys working out. I hate it. I’ve tried to stick to it – I get gym passes yearly, and cancel them just the same. I’ve done Pole Dancing and Pilates which are both incredible and highly recommend – but even with those I would take a break and never go back.

I always talked about taking up Yoga and with just the same motivation that plagued my life, I never did. I guess it was the lazy ass in me that didn’t wanted to try something new, but I’ve forced myself to change (typing this while perfecting my swan pose) and I love it.

For a few months kept searching for ways to clear my mind that didn’t involve going out every single night or pretending to be sick so I could take off work and drive as far away from home as I could… Then someone suggested Yoga and since I’ve been trying to get myself to start for so long I figured now was the perfect opportunity.

I found an event to do Yoga in the Park close to home and after a very wine filled evening with friends the night before, I decided we had to do Yoga outside in 40 degree weather. Though it was hot, and I was hungover, I never felt better. In that hour outside stretching, I was so focused on staying centred and listening to the sound of birds that I forgot about everything else going on in my head. Giggling with my also hungover best friend because we kept falling out of our poses really helped too.

Learning to clear your thoughts and just be present is tough. It is a practice and it takes a lot of work – but it is worth it. And until I perfect it – I’m okay giggling through my stretches. Yoga is the perfect way to stretch the stress out of my life and just enjoy the moment.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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For as long as I can remember I have adored taking pictures. Being on my phone, or a digital camera, it was how I saved every good moment I was having.

I would also always take it one step further and go print every digital copy of a picture I had so I could store the real versions in one of the hundred albums I currently have sitting on my self.

Last year my incredible sister blessed me with the most beautiful Rolleiflex Twin Lens Camera I have ever seen. She was the start to my film camera collection, growing a hobby I didn’t even know I’d love so much. I am now never seen without a camera near by clicking away at it all. I am no longer willing to lose sight of my life and will always focus on the good around me.

Next step – learning to develop the film on my own!

Finding what makes you happy is a process. You have to be willing to try new things and open yourself up to new possibilities which can be really scary for a lot of people. But take it from me – it is worth it. You can learn so much about yourself and what makes you  happy if you just stop and listen.

 

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CHAPTER ONE

My story isn’t what I’d like to call unique in any way…

It was my first year of university when I fell in love with a guy I thought I’d be marrying one day. No matter what we went through, he was my lobster.

Fast forward 5 years – we are moving into our first place! I’m over the moon excited at the thought of going to sleep next to my best friend, and waking up to his face everyday. We found an adorable One Bedroom Condo with a bright orange couch that you could probably spot from Mars – it’s a dream come true.

Now, picture this, because it sounds like this story can only have a happy ending right?

We’re 10 months in to living together, and I am standing there ugly crying over a duffel bag full of clothes questioning why I wasn’t good enough to love.

It took only one day to have my life completely turned over. Years’ worth of dreams and plans tossed down the drain. 

Like I said… It’s not unique, and unfortunately a pretty common ending to stories like mine. First loves don’t always last and I’m learning that it’s OK.

Having everything you planned, and imagined for yourself ripped away really makes you look at things differently. You become lost. You start grasping at straws just trying to make sense of what your next step needs to be.

I never went through the stages of grief. I was never in denial, or angry with what happened. I never really accepted it either. I was just there- living, breathing, and so utterly confused.

I spent days walking in a complete daze. Replaying almost 6 years’ worth of conversations to see where I went wrong. Mentally abusing myself with every action I should have done differently, blaming myself for not being good enough. It was not a healthy coping mechanism, telling myself it was my fault I wasn’t loved… But it did help me realize that I needed to make some changes in my life.

It took a while to snap out of it, falling in and out of sad spells. But I’ve gotten there and though relapses are a downside of first loves – I’m finally seeing that there is light at the end of this tunnel. If there is one thing I learnt these past 5 months it’s that nobody should ever be given so much power as to make you feel so little.

My friends and family were a huge part of what got me through my move back home. But to be honest, I like to think that a lot of it was thanks to myself. If being dumped gave me one really good thing, it was learning to love myself more than someone else for the first time in my life.

So here I am. Learning to give myself the love and attention I need, finding what makes me happy, and taking action for the better.

These past few months I’ve forced myself to completely change my outlook on life. Going from a shy closed off girl who never really went out, to forcing myself to have fun, try things I’ve never done before, and to take up hobbies I only ever just talked about.

So maybe my story does have a happy ending after all.

Today I turned Twenty-Five (HELLO Quarter Life Crises! Be kind to me)

Today, I am taking my first big steps at getting my fresh start in a very hectic life.

Not every new beginning needs to be scary. I may be starting from scratch, but that just means I get to do it right way better this time.

Welcome to the story of my new life. 

 

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