Jan 11, 2014

Posted by in Blog, British Columbia, Destinations, Nova Scotia, Ontario | 1 Comment

Looking back on 2013

Looking back on 2013, it’s safe to say this was a huge year for Thom and I. I  showed my grandmother exactly why I love New Zealand and never left (a plan that had been in the works for years), we left our jobs, left New Zealand, took on Canada and began being around each other pretty much 24/7 which was a whole new level in our relationship. We owned two 4 wheel drive vehicles in two different countries simultaneously and were debt-free the entire year. I got to see so many people who I hadn’t seen in YEARS and introduce them all to Thom. I took on new challenges and made a commitment to live Life Outside My Comfort Zone.


2013 was kicked off with friends on a secluded beach around the reef in the sunshine, swimming and cooking over open fire. In the morning we were greeted by a herd of wild horses roaming up the beach. It was peaceful, it was relaxing and having to wait for the tide to go out started the year with a lesson in patience and enjoying the moment.

My 77 year old grandmother arrived in New Zealand a few days later, and together we spent 2 weeks road-tripping across the country on various forms of transportation – from getting her on a sailboat, to taking a 7 hour bus ride, flying between cities and renting a car to tour the south island. Don’t let her age fool you, she kept me on my toes!

Together we climbed the Tasman Glacier hike, in the rain, battling rocks and hills; we flew over fiords, rivers and mountains to Milford Sound, she did the 3km hike around Wai-O-Tapu and after 60+ years of written correspondence, she finally met her penpal in person. After an epic two weeks of exploring, we returned to the Far North so that I could prepare for my kiddos to return to school. We did a few day trips around the north, the classic ’round the reef’ trip and up 90 Mile Beach to Cape Reinga in our 4wd, as well as down the Hokianga, doing the The Art Trail one sunny day with Thom’s mum.


Seeing my Gram off at the beginning of the month led to two back to back weekend trips to Auckland, as I I took on a few extra weekend development courses in photography and travel writing. When I’d signed up to them at the end of 2012 I had no plans of teaching full time, which was meant to leave me with all sorts of time to invest in my interests. Except, at the end of the school year, I got offered a one-term teaching contract, which taught me a few more lessons in achieving a work/life balance.

Doing the 4 hour drive twice within 3 days left me tired, but full of happy memories. Thom joined me the second weekend, and we drove down with his brother in Jo’s new hippie van. We checked out the West Coast beaches like Piha and another of Jo’s fave’s, which I’d not yet been to.


Looking back, March was epically uneventful. I’m fairly certain it was filled with the tonne of the paperwork that comes with teaching, preparing my classroom for someone else to take  easily over, and packing and repacking my bags for Canada.


Our final days in New Zealand quickly came and went. Our amazing friends threw us a fabulous surprise Canadian themed Bon Voyage party/BBQ in which they even picked up a hiker who turned out to be Canadian. We went to the local market to get rid of as much as possible as we purged our lives of the unnecessary crap we’d accumulated, and whatever we didn’t sell, was donated.

Our final Kiwi adventure for the year was climbing Rangitoto, a volcano on an island of the same name in the Auckland harbour the same day we boarded our flight to Vancouver!


The turning point in our new adventure and probably one of the most eventful months of the entire year. With our bank account stocked and not many concrete plans, we landed in Vancouver after a 14 hour flight. We were retrieved by mother’s childhood best friend, who  took us into her home, showed us around some beautiful areas of greater Vancouver (such as historic Fort Langley and White Rock at sunset).

Within 4 days of landing, I ran the Vancouver Half Marathon and explored a bit of the city briefly.  Then we bought a Ford Explorer (fitting, seeing as that was exactly what we’d be doing – exploring in it!). We test-tripped it over to Vancouver Island, where I got to see one of my high school friends/workmates and her newborn bubba, we fell in love with Tofino despite the  pouring rain, we saw humpback whales teaching their young to surface feed, a huge pod of orca patrolling the inlets of the Pacific and we hiked through the rainforest to a natural hot spring flowing into the sea.

Luckily, we were pretty flexible with our plans, because when we returned to the mainland, we needed to put new tires on the truck before heading north to Whistler (stopping in Capilano for an afternoon on the way up) and then continuing east.

We visited my uncle in Kelowna, where we invested in a GPS and went on a jerky hunt… we camped with my cousin in Revelstoke for a night, Thom saw snow for the very first time and we were surprised to find Lake Louise still covered in ice. The Icefield Parkeway blew us away as we hiked up the Athabasca Glacier in our jandals en route to Jasper. Lots of hiking and exploring was done in Jasper, as well as viewing wildlife.  We found some hot pools to chill out in, in the middle of nowhere before moving on to Calgary where I caught up with heaps of my cousins and Thom tried to devour a pig. Not a whole pig, but a beast of a burger aptly named “the Pig”. Unfortunately, it was too much for him to consume in the allotted 40 minutes, but it was a laugh trying.

I surprised my former flattie from NZ, by conspiring with her mom and showing up in her classroom after school one day and got revenge for my mom on her cousin by tying her laundry in knots – an inside joke between the two of them that had been going on for years. We day-tripped out to Drumheller in the rain and explorer the Royal Tyrell museum and the Reptile museum, where they display heaps of reptile which have been confiscated or abandoned as household pets.

We whizzed through the prairie provinces and the never-ending forests of Northern Ontario. Mere days before it started, I decided to attend the Travel Bloggers Exchange conference in Toronto the first weekend in June and we had to do some serious driving to get there.


The month started with a bang, with pre-TBEX tours of Toronto, parties galore and bloggers I’d interacted with online, in person. Thom was a legend in getting me to TBEX  and because of this, I let him buy a bike.

Once all that excitement was over, we found ourselves in Toronto with lots of time to kill between weekend engagements of wedding showers, bachelorette parties and weddings, so we would take off and explore different areas of Southern Ontario during the week. That was perfect, as school was still in, and and tourist season still hadn’t officially kicked off, so we avoided masses of people and crowds.

We put our Parks Canada Pass to use visiting both Fathom Five Marine Reserve and Bruce Peninsula National Park in Tobermory. I’m glad we waited the extra day for the rain to disappear, because the hike out the Grotto along the Bruce Trail was absolutely fantastic. We drove down the Huron Coast, stopping along at little beach towns along Lake Huron, we spent the night camping at Ipperwash in a secluded overflow beach parking, partied like students in London – Melissa’s boyfriend is still proud of the fact that he was able to give me the worst hangover I had in 2013.

After one of my best friend’s bridal shower in Leamington, we stole her for a few days of relaxing at her cottage on Pelee Island. We only took bikes and backpacks across on the ferry, and made fantastic memories involving our toughest decision on a Monday being what beer to drink, and whether it was easier to take cans or bottles on a bike.

We ended the epic month back where I spent 4 years of my life making lifelong friends – oh, and studying, right I did do that too – in the Niagara Region. Thom and I went down early, and hit up Niagara Falls (in the rain), Fort Erie (also in the rain) and caught up with a bunch of friends I hadn’t seen since leaving Brock, before attending my dear friends wedding at winery.


Canada Day, the day after Mattie & Caitlyn’s wedding, Thom I took off north to celebrate Canada at Blue Mountain. We hiked a ski hill to watch fireworks 50 meters from where they were being set off on the top of the hill with 4 other adventurous climbers. We chased waterfalls around Collingwood and its backroads and toured the Creemore brewery before beginning our very first housesitting endeavour in the Toronto suburb of Scarberia Scarborough.

It was nice to have a home-base to call our own, to be able to cook and sleep in a real bed and not feel like we were inconveniencing anyone.  We spent a day at Canada’s Wonderland, embracing our inner child as we lined up for roller coaster after roller coaster. We were happy we got a full day of loop-de-loops before being completely rained out.

While staying in the city, I ventured downtown becoming a subway star (in my own mind – quite the accomplishment for a girl who was terrified of Toronto when I first got there!) and had the opportunity to catch up with so many people I went to high school and university with 5+ years ago, which was awesome.

Completing our housesit, we got back on the road, heading east, stopping in Kingston for a night, where we devoured amazing burgers and tried a beer-float after geeking out at a few museums/using our Parks Canada Pass to check out Sir John A MacDonald’s former abode.  We visited for a few days in Ottawa, seeing the Royal Canadian Mint and the Canadian War Museum. I visited family friends who I babysat for 10+ years ago – it was crazy to see the girls all grown up. I also got my first parking ticket in the Nations’ Capital!


With a long weekend in store for the first  weekend of the month, I sneakily conspired with my little sister, who was preparing to study out west in Calgary. Together we told my parents we had plans and that we’d both be home at the end of the long weekend and instead, surprised my parents by showing up early together. There was a multitude of  much needed family time, hanging out at our favourite place – our family cottage and we took Thom on the trails with Jeep Club. I helped Jenna purge and pack, condensing her 6 suitcases into 3 and then saw her off on her flight with Dad. I began to look for a job, although not teaching, I wanted to do something related to my education/experience. That search was frustrating and fruitless.


Small towns once again proved you’ll get further with who you know than what you know. Thom and I took on work at a local farm market, working on the farm picking apples and doing odd jobs at the market. With the harvest season in full swing, weekends were wild with tourists and locals doing their shopping/classic fall activities. Knowing that we needed to save money for our travel plans back across Canada in the new year, we were spending approximately 10-12 hours a day on the farm, with very few days off.


The harvest rush was still on, and we weren’t getting or taking time off. We managed to fit in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family at the cottage, which was important to me. One bonus of working on the farm, was that we often saved second fruits and vegetablse that were perfectly fine except for a few blemishes or bruises. We did a lot of apple cooking! After Thanksgiving and working something crazy like 20 days in a row, we insisted that we take 3 days off because we both wanted to see Cape Breton in its splendor of fall colours. In all my years of being Nova Scotian and living there, I’d never made it up to the infamous island, and that needed to change. The Celtic Colours were definitely on par with the hype


Finishing up on the farm, we found ourselves in Yarmouth. Thom had secured a spot as a Bander on a lobster fishing boat, and I returned to bartending, the job I had in 2008 before leaving for NZ. It wasn’t much, just helping out with Christmas parties on Friday and Saturday nights, but the tips made it worth it. With all my free time during the week, I helped mom purge and reorganise her craft room, the living room, the spare (my) bedroom and the basement. Dumping Day, the kickoff to the lobster season, scheduled to be the last Monday in November, was deferred by 5 days due to bad weather.


Once the lobster season kicked off, Thom was working even longer hours than on the farm! He’d get a call the night before based on the weather, and would be up at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night to go out on the boat – usually waking up at 3.30am and leaving the house around 4, but sometimes earlier and sometimes later. He’d be gone usually until about 7 or 8pm. He was putting in solid 16+ hour days. A few times, he brought home a few tasty crustaceans, which we cooked up into Bisque and Lobster Pot Pie. We’d had normal boiled lobster a few times already, and decided to try something different.

I’d tried to volunteer at the local school in town, but was told that because I was already a qualified teacher, it was against the union’s policy to have me in the classroom. Who’da thought? So redirected my efforts and desired to volunteer, and got involved with the local Women’s Refuge in town. There, I spent a couple days organising donated gifts for past and present clients into gift bags, and then spent some time with a couple of the kids, building  a gingerbread train (much  less structurally sound than a gingerbread house, but equally as fun to decorate).


  1. What an incredible year. So super neat that your grandma came all the way out to see NZ. Random question, how were the photography courses? Did you benefit much from them? I am OK at photography but kinda lack the motivation/enthusiasm etc.

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