Washington, D.C.

After my dad and I visited New York, we went on to Washington, D.C.

Saturday, 2 September: We took a bus from New York and arrived in Washington at about 1PM. After setting our stuff down at our really nice AirBNB and eating at a nearby vegan restaurant, we visited the National Portrait Gallery. My favorite part was seeing modern figures in art other than photographs!

Sunday, 3 September: We started our day by walking the Mall, seeing the Capitol, Supreme Court, Washington Monument and White House. Then, we went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where my favorite exhibit was the Nature’s Best Photography and evolution exhibit!

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New York, New York

As a graduation gift, my parents gave unto me: a trip! My dad and I wanted to go somewhere in Central America, but with my passport M.I.A. while I got my visa, we had to settle for something in the United States (first world problems, I know). With that, I decided I would love to return to New York after my awesome trip there before my study abroad program in 2015 and visit Washington, D.C. for the first time, as well. My dad has taken both my brothers there as a high school graduation gift, so now I’ll finally get to see it for myself! But that comes later…

Tuesday, 29 August: After a long day of travel, we landed at 5PM local time. After the hour drive to our AirBNB apartment not ten miles away, we were in no mood to brave the rain and do something proper.

Wednesday, 30 August: Our first proper day started off bright and early at the High Line, a park built on old train tracks that extends twenty blocks south on Manhattan’s west side. We walked the entire length, which was about a mile and a half. Then, we did a quick walk through of Times Square. After that, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan side to the Brooklyn side. After freshening up, we went to see Kinky Boots near Times Square. It’s my favorite musical (I saw it when it came to my old job a few years ago as well as twice in London) and the cast was spectacular! Finally, we walked around Times Square once again to experience it at night. It was definitely a lot more crowded and all the screens lit it up like it was daytime.

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Montreal, Quebec

Even though it was kind of a stretch, I knew I just had to visit my best friend, Nina, if I was going to be in the area. We have been friends for about four and a half years and I have visited her once before as a graduation gift from my parents. It was an amazing week and I have looked forward to seeing here again every day since.

Tuesday, 25 August: After an overnight bus ride from Philadelphia, I arrived in Montreal early that morning. Nina and I went to the Old Port where we walked around, rented peddle boats and ate lunch at a familiar vegan restaurant in the area. After a much needed nap in the afternoon, I spent time with her family, including her new Australian Shepherd puppy, Rosco, who is quite the handful.

Wednesday, 26 August: We headed in the city with Nina’s friend, Tatiana, for an afternoon at the Biodome. After that, we headed to John Abbott College for a movie in the park (Mad Max: Fury Road), only to get rained out ten minutes from the end.

Thursday, 27 August: We were supposed to go to Six Flags, but by a wonderful stroke of luck, the park was closed that day. Instead, we met up with her friend, Amanda, for breakfast, a “maze,” a stroll downtown and a relaxing evening on the McGill University campus. The “maze” was not a physical maze, but rather a mental one; we were locked in an unassuming room which actually contained clues to solve a mystery. Although we didn’t solve our mystery, we worked well as a team and got pretty close for first-timers. It was nothing like anything I’ve done before and it was a lot of fun! To end our day, Nina and I got poutine (a famous Canadian dish of fries with gravy and cheese curds) for dinner. In my half a dozen times visiting Canada, it was my first time giving poutine a proper try. I had mine with vegan “gravy,” mushrooms, green peppers, onions, sour cream and olives. It was delicious!

Friday, 28 August: We revisited Olympic Park for a day at the Botanical Gardens. It was beautiful, I just wish I had more energy to explore. Later that day, there was a small fair in Laval near Nina’s house where we spent our last evening together. I had a relaxing and fun week with Nina and I already can’t wait to go back again.

I’ve learned a lot from this trip that I could probably use abroad, but my biggest lesson was not to set my expectations too high. I expected this trip to be perfect and for many reasons, it wasn’t, but I learned to roll with the punches and still had a great time.

I was dropped off at the train station in Montreal this morning and I’m now on a train to New York. I didn’t want to bring my smorgasbord of suitcases with me throughout my east coast trip and New York was the cheapest to fly out of to London. I can’t believe my international adventures start tomorrow. Nick is dropping me off at La Guardia early tomorrow, where I will stop in Chicago before landing in London (Heathrow) late tomorrow night.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The second stop on my east coast trip was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to meet another long-time friend, Pat. At first, I didn’t really consider Philadelphia as a priority stop, but Pat was always telling me how much he loved Philadelphia and I knew I had to see it for myself. I was originally supposed to arrive in Philadelphia Thursday evening, but Pat had to go to the emergency room the night before with some sort of stomach virus, so once I made sure he felt better after his treatments, I rescheduled a bus for the next morning.

Friday, 21 August: I got into Philadelphia in the early afternoon and Pat was still recovering, so we took it easy for my first few days there. We spent our first days in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where Pat lives and knows well. First, we went to Peace Valley to enjoy the view of the lake among the trees. After that, we headed to Doylestown for some exploring. We popped into a few bookstores, a record shop, where I bought a Rise Against vinyl, and a quaint ice cream shop.

Saturday, 22 August: We decided to take it easy again, which was a wise choice because we both slept eleven hours the prior night. We met up with a few of his cousins and friends and went to Nockamixon State Park, where we hiked to some climbing rocks.

Sunday, 23 August: Thankfully, after a few good nights of sleep, Pat was feeling better, so we hit the city. We walked all around the city, including City Hall, South Street (including Magic Gardens), Independence Hall, Penn’s Landing and the waterfront, Market Street, Love Park and Logan’s Circle. The coolest part of the day was seeing all these places from my favorite television show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, including a bar owned by one of the cast members and modeled after the bar on the show. I also got to try a vegetarian Philly cheesesteak and it was definitely the best meal I had during my time in Pennsylvania.

Monday, 24 August: We further explored the city by walking around Chinatown, Reading Terminal, Philadelphia Art Museum (including running up the stairs like Rocky), Boathouse Row and South Street again. All of this took a little longer than expected because we were both so exhausted, particularly from all  the walking the day before. Either way, I had a great time in the city of brotherly love; it was a nice break from the busy city.

I’m taking an overnight bus to Canada, where I will be reunited with my best friend in a little over twelve hours. I can’t wait!

New York, New York

I kicked off my east coast trip in the Big Apple with my long-time friend, Nick.

Saturday, 15 August: Aside from an unexpected mad dash to make my connecting flight, my travels went smoothly. My first impression of New York was how vast it was; I’ve never seen a city with so many buildings, including Toronto. Nick picked me up from La Guardia soon after I landed and we ate dinner before going back to his residence in Yonkers. I was nervous to meet Nick’s family because they were (understandably) uneasy about a perfect stranger living in their house and I didn’t want to say or do anything that might make them question my intentions. However, our evening went well and his family are lovely people.

Sunday, 16 August: We hit the road for Cooperstown (about a three and half hour drive) to see one of our favorite bands, Brand New. We made good time and got to the venue as the doors were opening. The venue was outdoors at a brewery on the side of a hill. Although it was humid, it was unlike any other outdoor concert I’ve been to before. It was an incredible show and the fireworks during the encore were a lovely surprise.

Monday, 17 August: We took the subway to Battery Park, where a ferry took us to Liberty Island. The Statue was magnificent. We had access to the pedestal, which had especially wonderful views of the skyline. Our tour also included access to Ellis Island, but we had to skip that portion to make our tour at the 9/11 Museum. Both the memorial and museum were beautiful but sad; I’ll admit I got a little steamy-eyed. After that, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge, which also had wonderful views of the city. Our four hours of sleep caught up with us and we decided to call it a day after that, omitting The High Line from our itinerary.

Tuesday, 18 August: In the morning, we headed towards Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey about an hour and a half away. It was similar to the Six Flags park in Los Angeles that I’ve been to several times, but it was fun to ride new roller coasters, including the tallest one in the world, Kingda Ka. My favorite ride was Nitro; although it didn’t loop, the tall drops were exhilarating.

Wednesday, 19 August: We headed out for the city once again for another busy day. We started out with a long walk though Central Park followed by seeing Les Misérables at the Imperial Theatre. It was spectacular. The theater was beautiful and the cast was extremely talented. It has been a dream of mine for quite some time to see a play on Broadway and the whole experience was so surreal. After a short walk around Rockefeller Plaza, we went to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The views were spectacular from all sides and levels. To wrap up our day, we took a short walk through Times Square before taking the subway back home.

Thursday, 20 August: For our final day, we saw things we didn’t get a chance to earlier in the week; The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The High Line. I was impressed with how vast The Met was. I got lost several times and had difficulty prioritizing exhibits. However, my favorite exhibits were the American and the European art. After that, we went to The High Line, a restored train track lined with vegetation a few floors above the busy streets. To end our day, we had dinner at the pizzeria Nick works at.

I was really impressed with New York and I’m glad I got to do everything I wanted to and then some. After an exhausting week, I’m ready to do it again in Philadelphia (after I sleep on the bus ride there, of course).

Maui, Hawai’i

Saturday, 11 July: We (my immediate family) woke up bright and early for our long day of flying. We flew from Tucson to Phoenix, then to Phoenix to Los Angeles, then finally, from Los Angeles to Maui. We were lucky enough to fly first class the whole way. It was especially nice for the five-hour flight to Maui, where I was able to watch some of my favorite shows and play some games. Once we got into Maui, we got groceries, checked into our hotel and later went to the beach and pool. Whether it was the jet lag, lousy amount I’ve sleep I had the two previous nights, or some combination of both, we went to bed early.

Sunday, 12 July: We had a relaxing day of hanging around the hotel and overcoming jetlag before going out for dinner.

Monday, 13 July: I went for a walk on the beach in the morning before we headed a few miles down the shore to Black Rock, a jumping point. I’ve probably been out of practice, but the swim there was tiring. My brothers and I jumped off the twenty foot rock into the ocean a few times before swimming back to shore for some snorkeling.

Tuesday, 14 July: We departed from Ka’anapali Beach on a boat to Honolua Bay for an afternoon of snorkeling. We snorkeled for about an hour and a half in the crystal clear waters, where the highlights were seeing a sea turtle and schools of upwards of a hundred fish. While we were eating lunch on the boat, we spotted a few Hawaiian spinner dolphins putting on a show in the mouth of the bay and a large sea turtle. On our way back, the dolphins drew nearer to the boat to ride our surf. Towards the end of our excursion, I met an Olympian and fellow passenger, silver medalist Megan Bozek from the U.S. women’s hockey team. I was starstruck, she was so sweet.

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London, Ontario

A little less than a week ago, I set off from my home in Tucson, Arizona to spend about six weeks outside of London, Ontario. Before and after my five-week W.W.O.O.F. volunteer program, I will be spending a few days with my boyfriend Colin and his family.

Thursday, 28 May: I usually fly into Detroit, Michigan and take a shuttle into London, but this time, I flew into Toronto and took the same shuttle service into London. I got into London at about 9:00 PM, where Colin and I had dinner before heading back to his house in Zurich, Ontario. After a long day of traveling, it’s an understatement to say I was ready for bed as soon as we got there.

Friday, 29 May: We visited Colin’s work in Exeter, where I met a few of his coworkers. For the rest of the day, we just chilled at home and watched Better Call Saul among a few other shows while enjoying some local pizza.

Saturday, 30 May: We met up with Colin’s friend, Max, at a bar in Exeter for the Western Conference finals (go, Blackhawks!).

Sunday, 31 May: Colin’s friend, Scott, picked us up and the three of us into London for a night of bowling and mini golf. Although I lost at both, it was a good time had by all.

Monday, 1 June: For the first time all week, it was (mostly) sunny, so we took advantage of the lovely weather and went down to the beach in Grand Bend and later took a walk in Exeter.

The next day, Colin dropped me off at the farm and I participated in a five-week volunteer opportunity, you can read about it here.

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Los Angeles, California

My best friend, Sydney, and I decided to take a short trip to southern California together. The two main purposes of this trip was to spend time with Sydney before I leave for my study abroad program (as I won’t be spending much time in Arizona this summer) and to spend quality time with my family before my brother’s graduation.

Wednesday, 13 May: My dad drove Sydney and I to the airport for our early flight and all our travels to Los Angeles went smoothly. My grandparents (my dad’s parents) were waiting to pick us up from the airport. They took us to lunch at a Hawaiian restaurant in Malibu, where the highlights were definitely the ocean view and the hula pie.

Thursday, 14 May: Sydney and I drove about an hour from my grandparents’s house in Camarillo to Six Flags Magic Mountain to ride the “big girl” roller coasters. We got there a bit after the park opened and were warmly greeted by overcast. In all seriousness, the overcast was a gift; the park was a ghost town and we got on all the rides we wanted to almost immediately. Correction: the overcast was a gift until it turned into rain, shutting down half the park. We weren’t sure if (or when) our favorite rides would be back up, so we left, mostly satisfied with our time there.

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