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The EXPRESSION on this doggo’s face when he realises what he has done!
Day 23: San Francisco
“I hold my heart by the hand, together we’ll wander, endlessly.”
I love you, Mum + Dad.
My Dad gave me the sea. The salt and sting of Henley Square, the freshness, the soothing, the unrelenting storms all flecked with sand, the heavy dullness of dawn in summer. My Dad gave me this. He gave me the very edge of the sea that I may travel. He has a nomadic daughter with strong wings, but with a heart that overflows, overwhelmingly so, for home.
My Mum gave me the earth. The place that is my home. All that is wok-smelling, incense-filled, real, small details, family life at its most poignant and rushingly beautiful. All the tiny moments matter to my Mum, magnified over in joy, ache, sadness, worry, anxiety, and happiness. The small moments are her world. The big picture is wondrous to her, but she cannot live there. Her spirit is most happy with an anchor point; her family.
My beautiful parents, who are so fragile and strong, I love you so much.
Here, on the other side of the world, I think of you, and I love you with all my heart.
I am so sorry that I couldn’t give you a grandchild, or grandchildren. I have cried so much over this and every day, my heart cries. I wanted to give you grandchildren more than I wanted to have children of my own, and I dearly, dearly want children. A family. A husband. An anchor point.
But it is not written in the stars for me.
And I cry, raw tears.
But I cannot live a life in apology.
So I travel. I take flight. Glorious, uninhibited flight.
Not because I am running away, but because I am embracing. I will LIVE my life, all of it, and show you the all that I see. I will show you Montreal and San Francisco, Toronto where your son + daughter-in-law are, and the beauty of Prince Edward Island. I will show you Vancouver and Washington, and the uncut gritty beauty of New York. I will show you everything that I see, and share with you my world.
Hear me please, I will LIVE my life.
I love you both so much.
Day 19: Exploring Brooklyn, NY.
It appears Brooklyn has a sense of humour!
Day 16: New York. The Butterfly Effect, where a smile begets another double its original size, and twice as heartfelt.
And THE magic moment of my day, amongst many, but THIS was the most poignant for me. It was such a reminder to me of how small a gesture can have such large repercussions of the best sort. That the tiny moments of kindness really do count.
p.s. Pictures today are courtesy of Olive et Gourmando’s Instagram + website. Look them up if you’re in Montreal!
The Email: 5th July 2018
Dear Olive et Gourmando,
I wanted to say a big THANK YOU for a wonderful + delicious breakfast yesterday morning, and especially to give thanks + appreciation to the wonderful front of house staff member who looked after yesterday morning’s shift, Wednesday 4th July.
It was ridiculously busy, and she was patient, professional and welcoming despite how much pressure she was under to get everyone seated and inside the cafe.
My apologies I did not get her name, but she was amazing.
I am travelling from Australia, Adelaide, and was recommended this place by friends who had recently travelled through Montreal. I am so glad I came and for me personally, it totally lived up to the recommendation and more, because of the care of your customers.
Keep up the fabulous work and food!
Cheers + thanks,
The Response: 11th July 2018
Thank you for writing us such a lovely email! I have to confess that I avoid the feedback inbox, but your message made my day.
It is so wonderful to receive kind and generous feedback such as yours. For the most part, when a client takes time to write, it is to share a complaint rather than give a compliment. Evie, our front of house that morning, was so touched. We’d have you back any day. Please come back and visit us!
While we welcome negative feedback and understand that it’s all part of the job, I won’t lie and say that for sure it’s way more fun to read an email such as yours. It just puts you in a good mood for the day and motivates you to work harder + better, rather than reading all about the negatives when you’re trying to do the right thing by everyone and not let your customers down.
We sill share this with the whole team!
Safe and happy continuing travels, and hope to see you back at O+G one day. We’ll save a table for you, no matter how busy it is! 😉
Co-owner of Olive et Gourmando, Montreal.
And THAT totally made MY day! 🙂
Day 15: Charlottetown to New York, via Montreal [my favourite airport, and the place I single-handedly spent more time than any other while visiting Montreal! See previous posts.]
I’m in New York! And in the languid and iconic ballad as performed by Alicia Keys:
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
And a jungle it is. I am exhausted today, but I absolutely need to share the place that I am staying!
I am staying the the Library Hotel in New York, a themed boutique hotel where there is free continental breakfast, free daily wine + cheese afternoons, unlimited tea, coffee, water, fruit + pastries, and free access to the New York City public library.
But the COOLEST thing?! The rooms are themed. Each floor corresponds to one of the hundreds in the Dewey System. And each room is actually furnished with books + pictures corresponding decimal identification that it would be in a real library.
I GOT LEVEL 7: THE ARTS!
And the absolute cherry on the cake; I’m in room 700.003; PERFORMING ARTS.
Day 13: Charlottetown to Cavendish, Prince Edward Island
IT’S ANNE OF GREEN GABLES TIME!
Steps taken: 22,489, mostly around the glorious Prince Edward Island National Park, which is on the doorstep of Green Gables. Did you hear that?! On the doorstep of Green Gables.
One memorable meal or food item: I finally got my Cows ice cream, an absolute Canadian staple, and somewhat of a feature in Prince Edward Island. The names are all cute, corny, and cow-related; gems such as “Cookie MOOnster”, “Wowie Cowie”, “Cowconut”, and “Caramel MOOcacchino”. I chose the very aptly named “Cownadian Maple”, which was a maple syrup, maple butter swirl, and maple cookie concoction that was as overly sweet as it was UTTERLY AWESOME. Even the chocolate-dipped cone was fat and rich with over-done chocolate, slightly too thick to bite through daintily, and completely, wonderfully, honest in its welcome. You cannot get ice cream like this in a big city. This is real country love.
One special photograph: Green Gables, in all it’s glory, the place where a feisty little red-headed girl taught so many other girls to love wholeheartedly, imagine possibilities with wild abandon, unrelenting resilience in times of struggle, and to be bold and stand your own ground, and to never apologise for your background because YOU own the story from here onwards. Anne Shirley, you were an inspiration who crept into our hearts before we even knew how to analyse just how extraordinary, and totally “Brené-Brown-perfectly-imperfect” but damn exceptional that you are.
One decent coffee: Receiver Coffee is totally getting my vote! Australian standard coffee in small-town Charlotte. Five stars.
One amazing moment: Seeing Anne’s room. To read the books and to be inspired is one thing, to stand in the hallway and look into a room that has captured the imagination of so many through the words of Lucy M. Montgomery was so very special. And the fact that she is not even a real girl, but made so UTTERLY REAL in the hearts of people all around the world; that makes it even more special.
One unplanned detour/adventure: A chance meeting with Jay + Sujing from Korea who are planning to move to Australia following their teaching degrees. A day of connection + wonderful conversation followed. I am sad, surprised and joyful at how I don’t connect so easily and freely when I am safe at home, and to see how easily and joyfully new connections can be made when travelling. Let me open my heart up, that I may remember this way of connecting, with child-like joy and wonder, when I am at my most busy at home.
20 minutes reading: Anne of Green Gables, on the bus to Cavendish.
30 minutes composing: I’ve finally rolled up my sleeves and hit a commission that I’m editing! What I’m most happy about is not what’s on the page just yet, but the feeling of working, reworking, and getting deeply into a piece, with steadiness and methodical focus. I always have that flip of the stomach where I wonder if I can immerse myself so deeply, or if my mind is too flighty during a trip. Can I do this? What if nothing works? And then I start. And that wonderful reliability and weight falls on my shoulders, and I find I am at peace because I have finally started the process.
Day 10: Montreal
And I continue to digress from my little journalling formula, but I was inspired to write this post today.
The Gratitude In Travel
We are so lucky in life, the travellers. To be able to travel purely to reconnect, discover, or learn is such a privilege, the thought of which has overwhelmed me in unexpected moments over the last few days. We get on a plane, somehow we fly thousands of miles and we appear on the other side of the world because we have the means, the technology, and the inclination. Me, as a first generation Chinese-Vietnamese Australian living in “country Adelaide”; I have access to the whole world. I am allowed to see all of this. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I feel like a tiny star in a constellation, moving around in this extraordinary expanse of universe.
What is it about us humans that makes us long to discover? Where does this need to find out, to follow, to figure out, and to be free come from? It’s so much easier to be safe and small. But left to our own devices, we rarely choose it. We keep wanting more. And once we find out “more”, we keep longing for a “new type of more”.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my health, because to travel you need to be healthy. To be able to be tired and sore at the end of the day, smelly and sweaty with blisters and aching body is a sign that you have embraced all that a city or place has to offer. That your body and health have afforded you the strength and mobility to see all that you wanted is a blessing. That you had a chance to choose where you went during a day, and how much time you wanted to spend there. And for no other reason other than to experience it. No escape, no pain, no hunger, no war. This gives me pangs of both overwhelming gratitude and compassion for those who do not have what I am allowed to have.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my work, which gives me a daily mirror and moral compass to be the best person that I am able. When you’re a teacher of teenagers, you have a mirror held up to you EVERY DAY. Good or bad, it’s all right in your face. You will KNOW if you’re working with integrity, because teenagers live for the smell of it, even if they don’t know how to “do integrity” fluently themselves yet. Teenagers don’t take shit, and they have crap detectors that are the world’s most finely tuned, non-electronic sensory devices. And then, to be able to take this moral compass out into the world and test it out for real, with people of other nationalities, countries, ideas, cultures + experience and figure out a different city? Truly amazing, soul-changing, shaking, affirming, and life-giving. The learning and shaping of yourself and your values doesn’t get better than that. How rich you become when you have the means to travel.
My work also allows me the monetary means to travel. I have enough money to pay for food, the flights, insurance, postcards, shopping, souvenirs, presents, experiences, entry fees, and emergencies. I have access to a world outside my own, that my own life may be stretched and enriched by what I experience. In other words, I have money to spare beyond the essentials that I can travel for the sake of travelling.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the love of my friends and family, who hold me like a strong secure net in my adventures. Without their trust, love and support, I would not be able to venture out so joyfully and freely. Without my Dad’s encouragement as a teenager, and quite against the usual Asian-stereotypes + thinking, I would not have begun to test my wings. Now, my wings and sense of adventure are strong and supple. And I cry tears of gratitude for the worry that both my parents must have endured in my earlier years of travel, when I made some stupid-arse choices for lack of experience and money, and that they still let me take flight.
I cry for joy at my freedom.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the chance to learn. Travel, as they say, changes you. And it does. How it changes you depends on what inside you needs changing, and what is vulnerable and malleable to the world at that point in time.
So, here, many thousands of kilometres away from home I say…
T H A N K Y O U.