My First Burlesque Experience!

I am no stranger to the stage. I started dancing when I was in grade 4, and I soon started doing musical theatre with my dance studio, and then with my school and local theatre companies. In all my years of dancing and performing, burlesque was something I had never tried, until last night.

Most recently, I did Cabaret with the Carleton Musical Theatre Society. I met a bunch of amazing people during that show, and our wonderful Emcee, Sam, asked me and my friend Michelle if we would be interested in performing one of our numbers at a burlesque show. The number is called Two Ladies and it was one of my favourite numbers I got to do in Cabaret. Working with Sam and Michelle is always such a pleasure so I said yes! Unfortunately, Michelle was entered in a singing competition that night (she killed it, naturally), but one of our other marvelous cast mates Bev was willing to fill in.

 

Receptionist by day, burlesque dancer by night?

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I knew of burlesque, and I have a friend who is an amateur burlesque dancer, but I hadn’t really been exposed to much of it. We walked into the venue with our corsets in hand and headed right for the changing room. It was this really small area where all the performers went to change, and you had to be real comfortable because there was no privacy. Luckily for us I didn’t think there was a big issue. We’ve all shared dressing rooms before in theatres, and the rest of the people didn’t seem to pay much attention to what was going on. Alternatively, everyone was just so comfortable with their own bodies to not get giggly or uncomfortable when other people were changing.

When we were ready to go, we went to finish watching the first set. I was honestly amazed by the diversity of the performers, how much confidence they had, and how incredible supportive the entire environment was. There were male and female performers of all ages and body types, and every single one of them put on an amazing performance. These performers were getting up on stage, most of them were taking their clothes off and there was no judgement from anybody in that room. In fact, one girl was making her solo burlesque debut, and after she came off, she was congratulated and embraced by her friends and other performers.

Our number was slightly different from the rest of the numbers, in that we weren’t taking our clothes off (although we were not wearing a ton of clothes to begin with) and it was a musical theatre song that we were singing along to. While we had a few hiccups with not being able to hear the music, everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy our number! We were congratulated by people as we walked back into the dressing room to change and go home. After all, we only performed around 11:30 and that is way past my bedtime.

 

Taking my makeup off at the end of the night. The makeup on my chest is not mine.

I was amazed by the amount of support and community in that room that night. It was incredible to be surrounded by such confident, kind people. While I’m not sure if it’s something I will ever do again (musical theatre is much more my style) I now have a different view of the community and I am definitely grateful for the experience.

Finding Good Friends

I have never considered myself to be the type of person that has a very large friend group. I generally get along with most people, but I have one or two very close friends. In the past few months, this has changed for me. I’m not sure if I have just never met people that I could be this close with, or if I’m just more committed to making friendships work (since they’re much harder as you grow up). Whatever the reason, I am grateful that it’s happened, because I could not imagine going through life without these people.

Whether it’s people I’ve known since kindergarten, for a couple of years, or just a few months, the people I am choosing to spend my time with, whether it’s through phone calls, text messages, hand written letters, or in person, are making me happy and challenging me to be a better friend and person.

I know I can text my friends at any point in the day and any one of them will listen to me complain about my usual problems, or celebrate with me when I have good news to share. I always feel bad for ranting about little problems or bragging about the good things that are happening in my life, but they challenge me to accept that it’s okay to be proud of yourself, or upset over things that probably don’t mean much in the long run.

I have friends that have similar interests to mine, or at least take interest in my passions because they know how important they are to me. It’s so refreshing to know that I can ramble on about my favourite TV shows or have a conversation about musical theatre without having to stop and answer questions. There is nothing like being surrounded by people who are as passionate as you, it’s an intoxicating feeling, and those conversations could go on for hours.

My friends support my dreams and hopes for the future. Throughout my life and to this day, people constantly tell me that my dream is unattainable, or that once I get my dream job I won’t really like it as much as I think. It’s so overwhelmingly wonderful to have friends who not only support my dreams, but push me to go for them, and would support me along every step of the way.

Thank you to all of the wonderful people in my life. I am constantly blown away by all of you, and I am smarter, more confident and happier for having you in my life. I only hope I can return the favour to each of you and be as good of a friend to you, as you are to me.

 

Canadian Election 2015

Today is October 19th and Election Day in Canada! This is the first federal election I am eligible to vote in and I am so excited. I have just come home from my polling station and I am so proud to have cast a ballot.

A very sick me at the polling station!

A very sick me at the polling station!

I am not a politically minded person. During conversations about politics I usually just listen to other people’s ideas without putting forth any of my own. But this election is something big for the country and so I wanted to be informed. I found photos and articles detailing the platforms of each party, I took an online quiz (a reliable one) to help me figure out which party best fit with my views and I tried to engage in as many political conversations as I could. It’s my first election, and I wanted my vote to accurately represent what I wanted for this country. I was so excited when I found that many people my age were also doing the same thing.

My generation generally gets a bad rap, but my Facebook and Twitter feeds were full of young people encouraging their friends and family to educate themselves and go out to vote. I didn’t see a single post of encouragement from any other generation. I saw a lot of hate for different parties and a lot of people trying to bully others into voting for the party they wanted.  It was my generation who were being supportive, trying to inform people and encouraging each other to vote. We are having conversations and debates online, sharing information and being respectful while doing it. I am proud of my generation.

I was shocked, and honestly a little appalled at the amount of people in my parent’s age bracket who were poorly informed or who did not care at all. I was surprised by all the cynicism people displayed, and the attitude of ‘all politicians are awful, no matter who I vote for will ruin the country’. While I am not naive enough to believe that all the politicians will keep every single promise they made through the (very long) campaigning period,  I believe that this mentality is what will hurt the country.  I was told by quite a few adults today that they were not voting or were going to spoil their ballot.  One person told me that he was going to vote for whichever candidate supported his favourite hockey team. Is that any way to decide who will govern our country? Some people I spoke to had never heard of strategic voting before, and I had to explain to them what it was, and why it could potentially be the deciding factor in the vote.

I am not expecting everyone to be a political genius. Lord knows I am not. But it is so easy to get information on each platform within seconds of an online search.

I am urging people to vote. Polls are open until 9:30 pm in Canada. While I do have my own political beliefs, and I am rooting for a certain party, as long as you are making an informed vote I respect you. Remember that you are allowed to disagree with the opinion, but you are not allowed to belittle a person based on their political beliefs. Every vote does matter, and if you do not vote, or you spoil your vote, I refuse to listen to you complain about politics until the next election. We have been complaining for years about the government, and this is our time to make a change (or not, depending on where you stand).

If I can make an educated vote, so can you.

It’s October!

So it occurred to me the other day while I was writing a post for one of my other blogs that I haven’t posted in this one since July!! It’s now the beginning of October and I feel awful for leaving this blog for so long. I figured that I would just write a little update about what I’ve been up to since then.

October. It’s one of my favourite months and only because Halloween is this month. Anyone on Tumblr knows that Halloween season basically starts after Easter, but it’s now acceptable for the rest of the world to start getting ready too. I also enjoy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, but I won’t be going home this year so my Thanksgiving will be spent with my school work. I’ll probably be thankful that midterm season is almost over at that point. My midterms go into November, but the bulk of them are around Thanksgiving.

I’ve been missing Scotland lately. Missing abroad really. I obviously still have friends living in Scotland, and I still have friends who are abroad and travelling. I miss everything about it. I miss waking up and seeing mountains everyday and being able to breath in the cool crisp air. I miss going on trips to Scottish villages, and the highlands or getting on a plane to another country. Seeing everyone’s photos and Snapchats is lovely, but it’s also hard to see everything I am missing. My saving grace from this is talking to my overseas friends. I may have mentioned this before, but I have been writing letters to one of my friends from Europe. It’s so painful waiting weeks to get a response, but it makes coming home every day to check the mail exciting. I am going to start exchanging letters with another friend of mine once she gets settled into her permanent flat. I also use Facebook to connect with a ton of people. I love the group chats we have, because it seems like I could still be living in my flat just twenty minutes away from everyone.

Since I am no longer able to travel between countries over the weekend, I’ve decided to get more involved with school. I am excited to say that I am a new member of Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity! The fraternity bit is slightly misleading – it’s a women’s fraternity (sorority). It’s been a wild ride so far, and I am so overwhelmed by how nice and welcoming everybody has been. It is still a recent development, but I am sure I will have much more to say before long!

I have plans for a couple of tattoos! Since Scotland I have been trying to figure out what I would like to get permanently inked into my skin, and I think I have made some decisions! My first tattoo is going to be something personal to me, I am thinking either a constellation (debating Ursa Minor or Orion currently) or the Celtic knot that is on my necklace. My second one is actually going to be one of a pair. Emma (who I write Young, Crazy and Gorgeous with) and I are planning on getting tattoos together. We haven’t worked out any details yet, but we will. I am excited. I have always kind of wanted a tattoo, but no idea what I wanted or where I wanted it placed. If I have any further developments I will be sure to post!

I think that is all that is going on in my life right now! If you wish, please let me know what’s going on in your life in the comments! I would love to hear what everybody is doing. 🙂

Rückkehrunruhe

It has been just over 2 months since I came back to Canada (2 months and 6 days to be exact, but who’s counting?). My life has mostly gone back to normal, I wake up most days, eat breakfast, go to work and come home. On my days off I run errands. However ‘normal’ my life has become, there are still many times during my daily routines that I am reminded of my time abroad.

I spoke to a woman at work today who asked me about my necklace. For those who are unaware, I wear the necklace that I bought in Scotland almost every day. I loved talking to her about my experience in Scotland, but it made me realize how quickly my time abroad is becoming a thing of the past.

This isn’t the first time this has crossed my mind either. I finally finished the chapstick that I bought while I was abroad and it was a weird thing to go pick up another one. It was literally something so simple and mindless, but it was one of the last things I had been using from Scotland and I was sad to see it go.

It’s easy to focus on how long it’s been since I went on my exchange and all the things that I miss. What’s not easy is seeing all the ways that my time in Scotland is still affecting my life. Without going into how it changed me as a person, I made a lot of friends while I was in Europe and I still talk to a fair amount of them. I message a few people daily, I’ve started talking to exchange students from Europe that are going to be starting at my school in the fall, and I’ve even started writing letters to one of my friends in Germany.

I often forget that when I’m messaging people on Facebook or Whatsapp how incredible it is that we are talking. I am very much aware of the time difference, not that anyone pays much attention to that – everyone just responds when they’re awake and it works out fine. But because Facebook is such a normal part of my life in Canada, I don’t always realize how special it is to be able to talk to people in different countries any time I want.

That’s one of the things I love about having an actual pen pal. We sit down and physically write each other letters. Yes they take a long time to be delivered, but it reminds me how amazing that connection is. I would never give up electronically messaging my friends – it makes life much easier, and it is such a convenient way to keep in touch. There’s just something about getting a letter in the mail knowing it came from somewhere far away that makes me realize that while I may not be abroad any more, it still impacts my life more than I often realize.

Rückkehrunruhe: the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness (Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows)

I’d Like to Say Thank You

It’s official, I have been in Canada for one month. 

While it’s been a good month, it has still been a little weird finding ways to adjust to life back here. I’ve been thinking a lot about the friends I made while I was travelling, especially the ones who had travelled or were travelling themselves. Those are friendships unlike anything I’ve encountered in Canada and I want to say thank you to those people. 

Thank you for understanding my picky eating

You know that people come from different backgrounds and youre okay with it. You understand more than most people back home that I don’t like everything and it’s okay for me to have a different taste in food. 

Thank you for becoming close over a few days 

Getting to a new country is hard but meeting you guys makes it seem a little more exciting. We can swap stories of our experiences and venture out to explore together. 

Thank you for not caring what I wear/look like 

After a long day of travelling or I haven’t found a laundry place, you don’t care if I’m wearing the same outfit as yesterday, you understand that laundry and fashion aren’t exactly my priorities when I travel.

Thank you for not being offended when I don’t recognize you or remember your name

We all meet a ton of people and it happens to everyone. Some names get mixed up, and sometimes I straight out don’t recognize you outside the hostel. You never get offended, and chances are you’ve forgotten my name as well.

Thank you for understanding when I want to be cheap 

Being students and travellers it’s costing us an arm and a leg to be here. While paying for a nice dinner or an attraction would be nice, we can go without if it means saving some money. 

Thank you for understanding my situation

As lovely as it is to share experiences with people back home, I love sharing with you guys. You guys know exactly what it’s like to be in this situation and can appreciate a good travel story and have some of your own to share. We help each other learn about different cities and give advice on things to do and where to go. Without this advice I would not have had such an amazing trip. 
So thank you, and I hope we will meet again someday. 

Where I Stayed In Europe

I wasn’t planning to do a post like this, but since talking about my trip online a lot of people have been asking me about where I stayed so I thought I would do a masterpost of the reviews I gave each hostel! They were all reviewed on Hostelworld, which lets you leave a review and rate different aspects of the hostel which they convert into a percentage rating. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

Travel Joy Hostels Chelsea, London, England (71%)

The rooms were clean, although they were extremely hot at night and we couldn’t figure out how to open a window or turn on some AC. The bathrooms and showers could have been a little cleaner, but they were usable. The free breakfast was incredible!! The staff was all friendly, but you could tell who the regulars/favourites were. The open mic nights were amazing, and you couldn’t hear a thing in the rooms! The location wasn’t great, but I enjoyed my stay!

Kinlay House Dublin, Dublin, Ireland (71%)

I really enjoyed my stay here. The rooms were nice and clean, although the temperature was either freezing cold or way too hot. The rest of the hostel was generally freezing as well so I had to wear my jacket quite a lot. I had a hard time finding the bathroom, I ended up using a handicap one the whole time and I still don’t know if there was another. The location was perfect. Within walking distance to whatever you could want! Only one toaster slot was working (out of 5 toasters), not very good

City Backpacker – Hostel Biber, Zurich, Switzerland (57%)

I only stayed for one night and it was just okay. Going into the building I walked up many floors to find reception. The common room was really quiet all the time- people didn’t want to interact with others. My bed was nice, I liked how there was a sink in the room. The bathroom was decently clean, but the shower was out of order. It was within walking distance to the major train station. I only met 1 staff member, she seemed nice, just tired. For a short stay I would go again.

Hostel ELF, Prague, Czech Republic (83%)

The location is further away from the main center, but you can easily walk or jump on the bus to the city center! Incredibly cheap compared to other hostels in Prague, and the staff are amazing! One guy spent most of the night with us while we tried to figure out what to see and where to go. He even followed up with us the next day! It’s super clean, there’s one woman who is constantly cleaning the place. Their knock off Nutella during breakfast is better than the actual stuff! Loved it!

Hostella Female Only, Rome, Italy (89%)

This place was in a great location, very secure and close to everything. The breakfast wasn’t great, just some croissants (which weren’t good) and fruit. The staff were incredibly friendly! I loved the female only atmosphere!

Hostel Pisa, Pisa, Italy (60%)

The hostel is close to the train station and the airport which is nice. They have lunch and dinner buffets which are decent for only €7! There was no security, our room had a lock on the door but it didn’t work. Anyone could easily walk into the hostel and into any of the rooms. There was also a lot of hair in my sheets.

Mediterranean Youth Hostel, Barcelona, Spain (77%)

This hostel was really nice! The home cooked dinner was good, but very late! I wasn’t expecting the cleaning lady to be as thorough as she was, so it was nice but when she made my bed she moved all the stuff away and that was nerve wracking when I first realized my stuff wasn’t where I left it. All in all, not a bad place

Lisbon Destination Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal (97%)

I loved my stay at this hostel. I immediately felt at home and everyone was incredibly friendly. The entire place was nicer than my house, and the bathrooms were to die for. The breakfast was amazing and the wifi was great. I loved the bracelet and the fact that there are sister hostels we can go to within Lisbon. I still wear the bracelet every day to remind me of this place, and I cannot wait to come back!

Vintage Hostel Gare du Nord, Paris, France (83%)

I enjoyed my stay here. The breakfast is quite light (croissants and toast), but it wasn’t bad. The rooms had a bathroom attached which was nice, but the ceiling of our bathroom leaked every time someone above us took a shower. The location was good, close to a main train/metro station and the Sacre Coeur. There is a burger place close by called Captain B which was incredible. The wifi went out our last day, but they did work really hard to get it fixed.

How I Spent My Money During My Semester Abroad

Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but it comes at a price. Of course the final cost depends on how your tuition is being paid, what type of traveller you are and how much shopping you want to do. I did a lot of research for this trip, there was no shortage of websites telling me how I could save/make money, but I had a hard time finding exactly how much I should expect to spend during my time overseas. I tracked my spending throughout the entire trip, and I thought it would be useful to post it the breakdown of my spending for anyone who is interested in going abroad and curious about how much it cost me!

Exchange rates did fluctuate while I was there, so it was hard to get a completely accurate cost, especially with so many different currencies, but I will list the costs in GBP and CAD!

Living Costs

£1,704.39 ($3,408.78)

  • This category includes the cost for my residence and all the hostels I stayed in. The cost for my campus residence was by far the most expensive part of the trip, but it was worth it. I paid £1,279.03 to live across the street from the school and I had the room from January to the beginning of June if I needed. Staying is hostels is a fantastic way to save money and meet people. I paid a total of £425.36 hostels I stayed in!

Tours/Sightseeing

£366.37 ($732.74)

  • A lot of this came from tours I did with a Glasgow based company. I’ve talked about Gary and his tours on this blog multiple times, but his tours really are amazing, and really affordable! A lot of sightseeing (museums especially) are free in Europe if you have a European student card. Another big chunk came from castles and tour buses. Castles will often charge because there is a lot of upkeep required, and it’s not something I mind paying for if it means myself and other people can continue to visit these historical sites. If you followed my vlogs, you’ll know that I went on a few of those red open top tour bus tours. Honestly, I hated these at first, honestly you stand out so much as a tourist, but I grew to love them.

Shopping

£481 ($962)

  • That looks like a very large number, but I did buy a lot of souvenirs and clothes. I know clothes are such a typical thing for girls to buy in Europe, but I needed them. I didn’t think I would be there for the ‘real’ summer weather so I didn’t bring any summer clothes and as it turns out, I needed them. Of course I also did a little bit of clothes shopping for fun, but Europe has some amazing shops.

Groceries

£243.80 ($487.60)

  • I was surprised how cheap this was. I spend way more than this for the same time period in Canada. But this was about 4 months’ worth of groceries! I did my groceries once a week, and I always did them at Tesco because they had the best deals and were the closest full grocery store to me.

Entertainment/Personal

£179.87 ($357.74)

  • This category is everything from my phone plan, to theatres, to doing laundry. I was impressed how much fun I had, and how little it cost. I didn’t go to any bars or clubs while I was there (I figured that if it was something I could do in Canada, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it abroad), so that helped keep the costs down.

Eating Out

£434.28 ($868.56)

  • This was a little more expensive that I was expecting. While I was travelling I ate out for every meal (except free breakfast at most hostels). I never stayed in a place longer than 3 nights before heading off to the next city, so buying food to cook at the hostel was really impractical – especially because I couldn’t take any leftover food with me. I didn’t mind eating out, it was nice to experience the traditional food from each place and try new things almost every day.

Transport

£1,649.68 ($3,299.36)

  • This number hurts to look at. Keep in mind this number includes my flight back to Canada. I didn’t include my flight to Europe because I had booked that in advance, but it cost roughly $1,600. A lot of my flights were found through Skyscanner. They were pretty cheap, considering. I took trains to travel through Italy, which were slightly more expensive, but well worth it. I didn’t always have perfect plans for my trips, so I occasionally had to take a more expensive flight because I waited too long to book it, or I couldn’t fly out at a time that was cheaper.

Total: £5,059.65 ($10,119.30)

This number was pretty on par with what I was expecting to pay. I tried to plan how much I would spend in advance, and based on other blogs and websites, this is pretty average for a semester in Europe.

If you have any questions about how I budgeted, tracked my spending or want more details about where my money went, please let me know in the comments, I am more than happy to help!

What I’ve Learned About Myself From Travelling

Fair warning, this blog may get a little cheesy because it is more on the personal side. I did a fair amount of research before coming abroad, and it seemed everywhere people were telling me that I was going to find myself, or Pinterest articles telling me that studying abroad would change my life forever. I didn’t think that was true, or maybe it was true for some people, but I didn’t think I was the type to ‘find myself’. But it happened, and I didn’t even realize. I learned a lot about culture and history while I was travelling, but I also learned a lot about myself. I feel like deep down, I knew all these things already, I just was never given the opportunity to show my talents because a situation never came up or someone didn’t think I could so someone else did instead.

I am a different person when I travel than I am back home. I love the person I am when I travel, I feel like I am really ‘me’. As strange as it sounds, the scariest thing I will encounter on the entire study abroad experience is going home. However irrational it may sound to some, I worry that when I get back to Ottawa I will lose some of that. In any case, this is something I don’t have to worry about for another couple days. It will just be another challenge for me to overcome I suppose.

I like to plan, in fact I think most of the fun of travelling lies in the planning. I’ve never been a ‘go with the flow’ type person, but I sure became one when I was travelling. It was probably one of the least stressful two weeks of my life. Once I accepted that not everything was going to go exactly according to plan (cue me walking to the airport because there’s no public transport or mixing up my flight times) the trip became a lot more fun. I didn’t get upset if I didn’t get to see one of the attractions, I would go to another one. I didn’t get frustrated if the line was way too long, I found a way to entertain myself and avoid the stress of everything not going according to my plan.

I hate getting lost, I hated it before I came abroad and I still hate it. Much like my obsession with planning, I will often refuse to go somewhere unless I have a clear idea of where it is, or I am going with someone who does. Now going on this trip did not make me realize that being lost isn’t really a huge deal, it’s just an adventure. I still don’t enjoy it and I would take photos of maps and directions before leaving, but it didn’t bother me as much as it used it. I was able to laugh it off most of this time when I realized I was lost and then quickly find my way back to where I should be. So not a complete turnaround, but I think it was a step towards finding a balance of control and spontaneity.

I was able to pick up a language faster than I ever thought possible. I feel like I should point out, that I was nowhere close to being fluent in a language, but I was able to speak enough to get by. I feel like it’s become a running joke in my life that I have a strong French background, have taken French classes for 7 years and can still not speak the language very well. Basically all of my friends know it, and honestly it’s kind of a sour spot for me. I would love to be able to speak French, but I always thought that maybe languages weren’t for me. I guess once I was away from all the judgement and people knowing I couldn’t speak a language it became easier. I was able to pick up a few words in almost every city I was in, but when I was in Paris I barely spoke English outside my hostel. Granted all I needed to do was order food, ask for directions and make general small talk at museums and public transport, but I thought it was a huge accomplishment for me, and I am quite proud of myself.

This next one is a bit of a weird one. I’ve always been the type of person who loves to be alone, but also hates doing things alone. There have been way more occasions than I would like to admit that I have cancelled plans because I was the only one who was going to go. One of my biggest fears about going abroad is that I would have a hard time going out and doing things by myself. It wasn’t easy, but travelling solo doesn’t really give you much of a choice. Once I was outside and doing things I was excited about, it became really easy for me to want to go out, and by the end I was trying to find ways to go out without having other people come with me.

This was kind of a longer post, so thank you to anyone who read to the end! Like many of my posts, there are 100 more things I could add to this list, but I feel like these sum it up quite nicely. I really did learn a lot while I was travelling, and my goal is to take as much as I can of what I have learned and integrate it into my daily life back in Ottawa.