after 4 years of dreaming, i'm finally doing it... quitting my stable corporate job, and hitting the road on a solo climbing trip. from the countdown to the big move out west... here we go!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

one hell of a year

I just have to post today... it's been exactly one year since I drove away from Toronto in tears, not really sure why I had to go, but just knowing this was a trip I had to take. December 13, 2005: I threw away my life and started over.

The roadtrip was one thing, but the time since then that I've been living in Vancouver on my own has been something else. (I've started a new blog that I think about posting to quite a bit that's linked on the right navigation bar.)

Nevermind learning about myself, I have a new career in a new field. I work full-time and go to school part-time. Last week I just decided that I'm going to stay in school part-time and work on getting my degree. Why not? Learning never stops.

A number of people have told me that they respect what I've done - a five month solo roadtrip followed by a move to a new city! That's pretty tough, isn't it! Well yeah, yeah it is. Sometimes I just smile to myself. A solo roadtrip. Of course it was hard. Silly girl, good for you.

Friday, June 30, 2006

here i am

i'm sitting in my apartment, just looking around. every so often i just sit and consider how much my life has changed in the last 6 months. Yes, in only six short months, you can change your entire being!

I've started a job that, when I describe it to people, sounds like a dream job. It's less money than I was making in Toronto, but I just had a few months of living in my car and stressing about the price of bread, eating mayonaise that had been in the cooler for 2 months, and sneaking into continental breakfasts at hotels. I'm working in an office again - something that I swore that I'd never do again - but it's different. I can wear what I want to work, and there's a good mix of familiar work and a brand new career path. It's a small company who provides a lot of perks for the employees in exchange for hard work. The office is in loft space with floor to ceiling windows. I look up from my monitor and see the mountains along the coast. I think I like it there.

I was honestly concerned that when I finished the trip and began my re-entry to civilization, that I would snap back into the person I was before the trip. All the life lessons and truths would be lost and erased. So far it isnt' so, and it's taken a lot of work. I still love meeting new people, and I still like to see what I can learn about myself as I learn about them. When I was unemployed I stood and chatted with an eccentric gentleman for about 20 minutes on the street. When speaking with a complete stranger, you can say whatever you'd like. I'm always careful to be nice, but it's a great opportunity to throw anything into the conversation. See how they react. See how their first impression of me was, and how I can mold that impression based on what I say. I learned a lot about people on the trip, and it's fun to see if my first impressions of them were accurate.

It's still pretty hard at times, of course. Sometimes the entire situation is very overwelming, and sometimes I mistake being overtired for being sad. All I need is a little time just to myself with nothing to do. On the trip I perfected the art of sitting around, and it's something I need in my life.

It's great to be a cycle commuter again. Vancouver is very bike-friendly, and I love the exercise. I spent so much time in the car on my trip though, I'm looking forward to going climbing this weekend. Climbing and I have had a love-hate relationship since the roadtrip - the complete opposite of what I and most others were expecting. I've had to pull back from it a bit, and I was really hoping I would find some other sports. Well, there's alot to do out here and with any new sport I'll be, well, a newbie. So instead of turning into a beach bum who goes to the gym, I'm going climbing everyday this weekend. When absolutely everything else in my life is brand new, at least climbing is familiar.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

cold feet

Well, I'm going into work today. I can't help but reflect on the past year or so of events. In September I decided to quit my job and take a roadtrip around the states. I worked to get things arranged in my life so I could get away. My last day at work was in early December - almost 7 months ago now and now I'm going back.

I just hope that my experiences with the corporate world were negative only because of the company I was working for. Hopefully this company is a little bit more progressive.

I wanted to come to BC and live a low key life as a server, have a simple existence and climb as often as I could. On my trip I experienced what it's like to be poor. I learned not to judge people by appearance - based on how people reacted to me when they thought I was just a dirtbag climber contributing nothing to society compared to how they treated me when they found out that I left a corporate stable job. I've realized that being paid to use your brain to make a living is not all that bad. I'm extreme by nature, in case no one's noticed by now.

So. Now I'm going into work to accept my offer. Life is going to be terribly busy quite soon and I've enjoyed my time off. Part of me can't believe that I'm returning to the work force, and the other part is quite excited to use my brain - and get paid for it! This company is sponsoring my education and I have some brand new skills to learn.

I'm scared. I can't believe I'm going back into the work world. It's been two months since I crossed the border back into Canada. Here we go, a brand new adventure. I just have to follow my gut instinct to navigate the currents of life. My gut instinct told me to return to the career world, so here I go...

Friday, June 16, 2006

job on the horizon

Well, that was a good six months away from full-time employment, but I'm afraid that it's time to go back.

I think i scored meself a job today. I've been thinking about it for the past couple days, getting psyched up about it - it was a third job interview with two VPs of the company. The company is small, but they're rather particular.

"Why haven't you called my references?" I asked. Trying not to sound cocky, and being quite sincere. "I call them to tell them about other job interviews and they say they haven't heard from this company yet." "If you have any doubts in your mind, which i hope you don't, just talk to them.
I've negotiated a raise in three months, based on a review process that i want outlined in the offer letter. And, they're paying for me to be certified in the trade.

So, I guess that's that. I'll adjust to reality when i sign something.

I guess this girl on the road is switching to girl in the city.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

hear me roar

The road taught me an important lesson. Life cannot be controlled. I used to be a bit of a control freak, needing things to be a certain way, believing that controlling the little things in life would somehow make me happy.

On the trip, I searched for basic truths, about life and about myself. I found that life is about following the currents, and being happy with the little things.

On the trip I talked about needing kindness from strangers. Well, I’m still alone, and although I have some friends to hang out with and a not-bad social life for someone who’s been here about a month. Today is going to be a day where I go without talking to anyone all day. I have learned to enjoy this, to just be invisible. Some days i feel desperate to have someone to talk to. i email like mad and sign onto all of my messenger accounts. I turn up the ringer on the phone, check all of my email accounts, and catch up on the internet forums. Being on my own is something that I should be used to, so i have to curb the people-dependent behaviour. Going a full day without talking is a great behavioural science experiment for me to conduct on myself. It sure beats television.

I had to get used to being looked at as “the weird girl” just because it’s “weird” for a girl to be on her own. Cities are great places for single or gay people. Today I’m out wearing what I want, with very big hair. It’s a bit of a social experiment. I truly believe in not judging people by their appearance and I count on the same in return. The way someone chooses to dress tells us a lot about them and we can interpret the image they choose to project – but it’s a fickle science...

They’re classic Canadian rednecks. In their broken English (English being the only language they’ve ever spoken) they talk loudly about doing time in jail. The store is cramped, small, and has that strange “used stuff smell” about it. But it’s a great place to get some ugly used dishes, so I like to drop in before my shift at the pub. On Saturday, I walked in and fell in love. There’s a green velvet chair just inside the door. Inside the door means it’s a new arrival. It doesn’t even have a price yet. I walked around a bit and looked at dishes, searching for spice jars, specifically. This place has everything you could ever imagine, broken up into specific departments as indicated by the spelling error laden signs displayed everywhere. “Rackchets” is my favourite.

I ask for help from the elderly woman who runs the store and is obviously the hardened family matriarch. She’s the one that tosses the other family members around with verbal abuse from her solid stance at about 4’11.

I’m late for work but I don’t care because I hope to be quitting that job soon. I really just drive up there since I have to check my mail in squamish, maybe climb a bit and oogle the mountain biker and climber boys who frequent the restaurant. Oh, and I need the money. On my way out the door I have to pass the Gorgeous Green Chair (GGC) and I stop in my tracks. Okay, I’ll just sit in it. I sit down and am enveloped in comfort. It rocks, it swivels, it is so mine. I ask the elderly matriarch the price and find it pleasingly affordable. I arrange to pick it up the next day and head to work.

It’s a full moon, which is something I learned to celebrate while on my trip. I’ve turned semi-superstitious; if I notice a small pattern in my life, I’ll call it good luck and try to repeat it. It provides me with a way to follow life, and provides me with a small sense of routine. I camped out at the chief on my own that night to celebrate the full moon, and to dodge the impending but much needed doom of obtaining full-time employment. When I’m pitching my tent, I reflect on the first time I pitched it - 4am in West Virginia. That was about four years ago, I cracked one night, drove into work early the next morning, bought the tent at MEC on lunch break, and hit the road straight into Friday Afternoon Toronto Long Weekend Traffic. I was fatigued from being awake for so long. This was my first road trip with betsy who was only 14 at the time and hadn't been checked out before the trip. it was so late and this was my first time experiencing solo-roadtrip delirium as i ripped the tags off the tent and figured out how to pitch it. I then found myself wide awake as my brain filed through and replayed scenes from every horror movie i had ever watched. there's a good reason why i don't watch horror movies anymore. In contrast, my Sunday night at the chief was so comfortable and it felt good to be out camping by myself again. I make a mental note as I fall asleep to the roar of Shannon Falls: camping by myself is something I'm going to need for the rest of my life.

It’s back to the mini flea market, to adopt the GGC. I have a few theories on how to fit it in my car. Hey, sometimes you just have to believe. A lady in the store offers to help and at first I decline, pick up the chair and walk out the door. Oh my god it’s heavy. Jane runs out to help. She’s a somewhat trashy looking woman in her late 40’s with lots of ear piercings, big 80's glasses and about six necklaces that sit on her proudly displayed bosom. We carry the chair out to the car and I inform/warn her of my determination to fit it in my small car.

For Christ’s sake, I lived in that thing, it can fit a chair. We try the first theory. Front door, passenger side, seat down. It almost makes it, but the frame of the chair base is just about 1.5” too big to get in the door. Darn. I’m laughing at the situation and thanking jane for her help, while we share quips about the humourous side of being women struggling to get a big chair in a small car. She tells me how muscular she used to be, and I tell her I used to be pretty muscular too, and we share a laugh about how we used to feel manly with all that muscle tone, and we’re adjusting to feeling feminine. So anyway, we've established that we’re stubborn and strong and we can do this. The trunk is the next option for the GGC to come home, but it’s full. I keep chatting with jane as I empty the trunk of a lot of roadtrip leftovers of climbing and camping gear. I push loose socks, shoes, and empty starbucks coffee cups around while unloading backpacks. This used to be my closet, and now all my stuff is on the road, including the soup I bogartted home last night from the restaurant.

The trunk/closet turns out to be pro-choice and the GGC won’t fit. Okay, I can give up, I’ll just take a store credit and get some dishes or something. Jane and I stand on the side of the road, taking in the scene. Bouldering pad, back pack, duffle bag, and a whole lotta crap surround the GGC on the road. It’s a shame I can’t take it home. Jane and I look at each other with the same idea – why not try the back seat? I run to put the front seats up as far as they’ll go, and we laugh at how with great drama I release the driver’s seat, only to have it click up just one damned notch. Yeah, I’m short and if the seat was any further back, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the pedals. We manhandle the base off the chair, there are tools involved now so we’ve had to do a bit of grunting. We get the base off and squeeze the chair into the backseat. There is a lot of rejoicing when the chair finally eases in and I’m jumping up and down. The chair is mine. What’s mine fits in the car, and the GGC is IN the car. Fuck yeah.

I calmed down enough to offer Jane a coffee to say thank you and she politely declines. “The smile on your face when we got that thing in the car was enough for me.” She says.

She asks if I have someone in the city to help me get the chair back in the car and I say that no, I don’t really know that many people. She looks concerned so I reassure her that I could always ask my landlord to help. She’s amazed that I’m on my own in the big, scary city and I tell her about my roadtrip – about traveling around the states on my own in this little car. Doesn't it look a little bit lived-in? She looks a little distressed and scolds me about all the bad people you have to watch out for. I politely correct her and tell her that there are plenty of good people out there too, and this is something I learned on my trip – just to believe in and look for the good in people. I’m not a crazy hippy, I tell her. I mean, look. You’re a complete stranger and you just helped me get my GGC home. You didn't have to do this, but this is something that helps me to believe in people, so thank you. It isn't just about getting the GGC in the car, here. Her expression softens and she smiles. It’s like her face cracks when she smiles – the stress in her life has set some very stern lines on it.

Well, it was great to meet you and thanks again. I tell her. She extends her hand out to shake mine. Good to meet you too. I drove away high on life, with the base of a big, velvet green chair in my rearview mirror, at kissing distance from the steering wheel with the seat up all the way. This was one of my favourite things, and my sure-fire way to be happy: a quick burst of human interaction where I observe myself as a third party and I’m glad that I triggered a bit of happiness in someone’s life in return. Life is good. Now it’s time to climb.

Monday, May 22, 2006


I've been back in Canada for a month now - life is busy as I try to get settled down and gainfully employed in BC. I've compiled some statistics from the trip....

Approximate amount of money spent: 3,000 CAD (not bad for 4.5 months)

Dates of trip: December 13, 2005 – April 20, 2006
Total Days: 128
Nights staying with friends: 9
Nights in a hotel: 3
Nights in a tent: 102
Nights sleeping in the car: 13
Driving overnight: 1
Days with a dog: 22
Longest amount of time spent in one destination: 4 weeks (Hueco Tanks, Texas)

Name: Betsy
Make/Model: 1988 chevrolet cavalier
Color: blue
Maximum occupancy reached: four people, three crashpads and a back pack
Kilometers driven: approx 19,000

CAA rescues: two, one when the starter died, and one when some helpful strangers helped me swap the alternator out in front of an Auto Zone, only to find that the old alternator was fine. AAA came and put my car back together for me.

States visited: 19
States climbed in: 8
States driven through with no overnight stops: 6
Shortest amount of time spent in one state: new york, 1.5 hours
Annoying thing I've heard a lot: “you’re from Canada? I’ve been there.” (it's a big country, you know)

Best driving CD: Beck - Sea Change
Longest driving push with a passenger: 23 hours, Tennessee to El Paso
Longest driving push alone: 19 hours, Utah to Washington

Approximate amount of peanut butter ingested: 5 jars
Cans of tuna ingested: feels close to infinity, probably between 50-100
Favourite recipe created, and then promptly overdosed on: tuna coleslaw pasta salad
Grocery item carried from Toronto, through the entire trip and on to BC: sesame seed oil
Lessons learned:
“how would this taste with tuna?” is a question better left unanswered
Macaroni and cheese by any other name is still just macaroni and cheese
Worst meal eaten: rice, cilantro, Portobello mushrooms, ruined with about a half cup of mayonnaise

Number of climbing locations visited: 11
Crags visited total: 15
Crags trad: 3
Crags bouldering: 8
Crags sport: 4

Hardest send (bouldering): V6
Hardest flash (bouldering): V4
Hardest send (sport): 11b/c

Climbing "celebrities" met: 7
Climbing celebrities that remember my name: 0
Bizarre meeting: Met a guy in hueco who went to the same high school that I did.

Strangest slang terms:
“Ressy” pronounced “rezzy” – short for a reservation for the Hueco Tanks north mountain climbing area.
“Rig” so cal slang for just about anything. You can rig the rig in the rig while riggin’ it. Confused? Me too.

Score boiled eggs from a continental breakfast - save them for sandwiches later, take the coffee for now.
Get a few paper towels from the gas station everytime you put gas in the car so you don't have to buy any.
Dirtbag record: Went 6 days without spending money on anything but gas for the car
Attempted to cook potatoes via heat in the trunk on a sunny day (saves on fuel)
Times viewing family guy movie: 6 (it's the only movie on my laptop)

Pairs of pants brought: 10
Pairs of pants acquired:2 pants, 1 pr shorts
Total amount of pants: 13
Note to self: 13 pairs of pants? A bit excessive.

Did you know that as you’ve been watching my trip, I’ve been watching you? I’ve kept track of the hits on my site with a counter, and after leaving hueco, I would check in to see who was visiting. The final stretch of my trip, I would pull up to a hotel to obtain a wireless internet connection, and check to see who had visited recently. This gave me some company.

total entries: 60
entries that never made it out of draft mode: 6
Total visits: ~2,500 (during the trip)
Most interesting hits from a web search: Toronto homeless”, “girl on road stripping”, and my personal favourite: quebec swingers pictures”
Furthest away regular visitors: Italy, Singapore, Australia

just a note: I've enjoyed writing for a web audience. Sometimes it may have seemed quite personal. I talked about a lot of things, but there are topics I have intentionally excluded. There's no clandestine reason, this just isn't my diary or journal. This is a collection of stories, experiences on the road, and observations on life on a solo roadtrip. I hope you enjoyed it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

familiar yet foreign

the big move out west climaxes tomorrow when the moving company shows up to transport my things to Vancouver. i saw my family tonight for the first time in six months, and a few of them asked me why i was moving so far away - why to BC? the truth is, i can't really answer that right now, except to say that i've always wanted to move out there, so i am.

being in toronto has been intensely comfortable. I know what neighbourhoods are where, and the bike-friendly route around toronto. it's so nice to see old friends, and stay in my old apartment. i was reading back in my journal today, where i made a comment that i always feel fucked up when i leave a location. i guess that the roadtrip was preparation for the actual move... making toronto just another place to leave.

i have two different places to stay out west, and three different part time jobs lined up between squamish and vancouver. i have an interview for a full time job next week, and need to find an apartment by June 1. this is more than a crossroads of life, it's a freakin' cloverleaf interchange.