Monday, February 25, 2013

I'm Still Here...

No, I haven't fallen off the edge of the planet!  But I have decided to close this blog.  It was started as a travel blog to document my year in Australia and I'd like to end it that way. 

Thanks to everyone who has loyally read my posts over the last year! 

Victoria xxx

Monday, February 4, 2013

Word Up

This blog was started as a travel blog to document my year abroad, but I've had so many people asking about it ending that I have decided I will continue with some updates here and there.

First up, this posts title.  Word Up.  My blog was called Word Under because I was in the southern hemisphere.  Now I'm back in the northern hemisphere therefore I'm up. 

I've been home for just over two weeks now.  I've been so busy!  So many people to see and catch up with and tons of things to organize and sort out for life back in Edmonton.  I did a giant purge of my closet and got rid of a ton of stuff I hadn't worn in years.  It felt good to do this but the good feeling was promptly followed by purgers remorse.  How much money had I spent over the years on that stuff that I never used?  Hope Goodwill will give it all to good homes.  Mom took me shopping yesterday so I have a few new things to fill the holes in my closet...

Weather-wise I've been OK.  This is the most asked question.  Yeah, it's been cold (temps between -20 to -30 Celsius last week), but I'm from Canada and this is nothing new or scary for me.  Yeah, I love warm weather and summer better, but after a year away I kind of missed the snow! (Never in my life did I think that would happen).  I even spent an afternoon outside with my parents at the Ice on Whyte Festival (winter festival here featuring ice carving competitions for you non-Edmontonians).  The only thing I've struggled with since being home is driving!  I spent the last year driving on the left side and having my signals, wipers and shift on the opposite side.  My first night I had to retrain my brain which side things were on and to remember to KEEP RIGHT!  I still get confused on left turns... 

Dancer ice sculpture at Ice on Whyte
My first week home was spent solely with Dewey, as she went back to NYC less then a week after I returned.  It had been over a year since I last saw her so I had to get my fill!  When she left I felt so sad and didn't know what to do!

I've caught up with most of my friends.  I met up with the Applauz and TM girls.  I went to TM for a LNC with Jill and was like a mini celeb!  It made me feel so good that I was missed and even better that so many of the ladies had been following my blog! 

Last weekend I headed out to Wainwright to see Cher and the kiddos.  My Godson Nathan was only a few months old when I left and I didn't think he'd remember me, but when he saw me he ran straight to me and gave me a hug!  Best moment of the trip.  I had a little belated birthday party for Taela (as I was flying in on her actual birthday) and Cher had a little welcome home party for me with her mom and Tammie.  Taela and Skyla were so happy to see me that they fought for my attention the whole trip and got in trouble for not sharing and playing nice with each other.  They had to make me "sorry" cards for being bad- so cute!  On my way home I got in a mini accident.  I caught some ice on the highway near Tofield, went for a few spins and ended up in the ditch.  I was fine and so was the car.  Some kind strangers pulled over and towed me out of the ditch- thank you so much!!! (I've also really noticed how kind and polite people are here- they say thank-you and sorry and you're welcome.  So great.)

Playing in the snow with my girlies
Mainstreet Wainwright

Heading home in the snow on Highway 14

Taela's sorry card- so cute!
Today I went to keep my sister in law company at the hospital.  Her water broke last night (two months early) so now she has to wait in hospital till contractions begin.  Poor thing is getting pretty bored and antsy.  All is good with baby and we hope she comes soon safely.

It feels so good to be back in Canada and have my friends and family only a short drive away, but I feel a bit of a let down being back in Edmonton.  Originally when we left our plan was to settle in Calgary so I had said my goodbyes and made peace with leaving Etown.  It is a little sad coming back and slipping into old routine as if I was never away at all.  I think this will go away when I get my life organized and in the long run it is so important to be near my support group.

 Joel is home tomorrow afternoon.  I picked up some Valentines decorations and made him a sign so he feels welcomed when he comes home.  Hope he likes the surprise!  As I'm back at work tomorrow his Mom will be picking him up at the airport.  I see him after work and treat him to his requested welcome home dinner- Panago pizza and McDonalds McFlurries!

 Also I now have instragram!  For those of you who want to follow me check me out:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Back to the Great White North

I have been home for four days now.  My body is still out of sync with time zones so I can't fall asleep till after two am (even though I'm so tired) and I usually sleep till noon or later.  It feels good and weird to be home at the same time, it's hard to explain.  Good because everything still feels comfortable and normal, weird because it doesn't feel like I was ever gone.   Not as much has changed as I thought (I was worried I'd come back and things would be so different I'd get reverse culture shock).  Even the cold hasn't scared me off!

My main priority this week has been hanging out with Dewey.  She is going back to NYC on Friday so I need to make up for our year apart in one week!  We've been mostly busy purging old clothes etc (as that is our favorite hobby).  In the past few days I've also caught up with some cousins, the Applauz staff, my Grandpa, and gave much needed haircuts to Dewey and my Dad.  Hopefully some shopping with my Mom is soon to come!

 I've even got a start on organizing my life as I now have a job!  As of February 5 (or 7, not 100% sure yet) I will be back to work at Applauz.  I will be working part time for now, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  So for anyone interested (which better be anyone in the Edmonton area!) call and book an appointment with me!  I will be doing some promos and will post more info soon.  Also going to be taking over the website so stay tuned.


Welcome Home!

My trip home started in Sydney on January 19.  I had all my stuff all packed up neatly and ready to go (and underweight might I add!) the night before.  Joel is staying two and a half more weeks so he drove me to the airport.  I didn't even bother saying goodbye to Brutis because I will never, ever miss that piece of junk! 

 Got myself all checked in and ditched the two big suitcases and just had to carry the small one and my loaded back pack around the airport and through security.  By the time I got to my gate there wasn't too long to wait.  But wait, this was an Air Canada flight, so it was delayed- twice.  They really took their time "cleaning and painting".  I have no idea what or why they were painting, but they are special.

Finally aboard the plane I had a nice aisle set on a new 777.  How did I know it was an Air Canada flight?  When I asked the flight attendant to help me find an overhead bin for my bag she refused to help!  Good to know some things never change...

I was served a disgusting dinner of chicken (? it was grey and tasted barf-tastic), mushy veggies and rice.  Good thing I brought my own snacks.  I decided to adjust my clock to AB time so I could sleep and start to adjust to the time change.  There were NO good movies to watch till kill the first few hours, but luckily I had downloaded some Teen Mom (guilty pleasure... I know, I know).  At 10:30 pm AB time (which would only be 4:30 Sydney) I popped a sleeping pill and awaited a long, deep sleep, just like I did on the way out.  Deep sleep I got, but only for an hour and a half.  Popped pill two.  More sleep, but only for an hour.  I thought three pills would be a bit excessive so I turned on my ipod and drifted in and out of a half sleep till 3:30 am.  After that I gave up and watched Modern Family till breakfast was served (thank God this was edible as I was starving by this point.)  Finally at 7:45 we arrived in Vancouver.

Usually I get the grumpy, nosy customs guy who always want to know what I spent to the penny and why (as I'm usually over).  I was all geared up with a list of my spending (under the limit!) and a cheery smile for how happy I was to be in this great country.  But Van now has a self serve custom kiosk so I didn't talk to anyone!  Oh well.  Then off to pick up giant suitcases and lug them off to the next check point.

I grabbed a quick snack then headed for my gate.  Just as I was turning my laptop on some person comes up to me with a sign and says "I'm here for one Spicy Chicken!".  It was Dewey!!!  (Spicy Chicken is my nickname from her.  Long story.)  I was so shocked and confused I didn't quite understand what was happening!  She had flown out to Vancouver earlier in the week to take some dance classes and had planned to come back home on my flight (in the seat next to me) as a surprise.  Well it definitely worked!  She couldn't tell anyone she was going or post on facebook etc so I wouldn't find out.  Best surprise ever, even if it did take me a few minutes to realize what an awesome surprise it was (and a couple other passengers got about ten minutes of gripping entertainment).


Our Van to E-town flight was also delayed.  Oh well, I had company so no big deal.

Check out the new Ugg earmuffs I brought back.  Fresh from the sheep lol.
Good to see some real mountains again!

When we landed in Edmonton the rest of the family was waiting.  Dad had signs made but was too embarrassed to hold them up till the last minute!  Oh well.  My first order of business- Tim Horton's donut and hot chocolate!  Can't get anymore Canadian then that.  It was snowing on the way in so I got to walk outside in a fresh snowfall.  I never thought I would ever in my life say this, but I was happy to see some snow!

 When we got in we had a second Christmas.  I had brought back Aussie goodies for everyone and had a few goodies to unwrap (such as a Coach purse!) and a sticking full of Sephora goodies.  Score!

In the evening Jill threw me a Champagne Shower at her new house.  As soon as she saw me at the door she got super excited and ran over screaming and picked me up in a hug.  It took ten minute for her to calm down lol!  I was super excited to see her too.  Heads up Edmonton, double trouble is back!

Anyway, awesome get-together with some of the other TM gals .  Jill had all kinds of goodies, balloon decorations, initialed champagne glasses, and Canada pins for me.  We were all encouraged to wear pink and gold, champagne colors.  Everyone brought a bottle of champagne and we drank it all!

 We had some dance offs (including an epic Gangnam style around the kitchen) and some of the girls left early.  Even though I had like no sleep I was ready to keep going!  So Jill, KK and I headed to Hudson's South for more dancing.  The bouncer asked if it was my birthday and I told him no it was my getting out of jail party.  He looked at me like yeah right so I told him it kind of was as I had just escaped the convict island.  Then he got it right away.  We kicked it old school for a few more hours then headed home.  Tired as I was I still did not fall asleep till four am.

I love these two so much!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Goodbye Sydney!

Friday began with some record heat- 46 degrees and high humidity!  I love the heat and warm weather, but this was unbearable.  I didn't even want to leave the house so I spent the day finishing my packing and watching online TV downstairs in front of the AC.  It was a long and boring day but there was no way I was going outside.

Tonight's plans were to get a nice photo with the Opera House and have a Farewell Dinner with Christina and Josh.  Just as Joel got home from work at five there was a storm and it started pouring rain.  Luckily it had stopped when we left but it didn't change the temperature at all.  We made it to Circular Quay no problem and got our pictures.  Thanks to the random photog stranger for actually doing a good job with these!

The original place we were going for dinner had no AC!  We spent half an hour walking around the Rocks finding somewhere cool that didn't have ridiculous prices.  Finally found a little tucked away place just off George St. and had an awesome dinner.  We sat and chatted with Christina and Josh forever- a little sad as I don't know when we'll see them next!  They are taking a super yacht course in March and are hoping to get placement on a North American yacht somewhere.  I hope so too!  Christina's family all live in Northern California so at least when they go for a visit we can easily fly to them.

After our dinner it had finally cooled down a bit.  Joel had something very romantic planned- putting a Love Lock up on the Harbour Bridge.  (Read more about that here).   Aw!  So we walked across the bridge (my feet were killing me- six inch stilettos is not such a great idea for bridge walking) and found the perfect spot across the water overlooking the Opera House.  Now even though we are leaving, a special piece of us will always stay behind in Sydney.

This was the best ending for my time in Sydney.  The first time I visited Sydney my first stop was Circular Quay and it's amazing views at night, so it was fitting that this was also my last view and memory of the city.

Our train ride home was very delayed.  We are five stops home from Circular Quay, which is usually a fifteen minute journey.  Today the trains were all delayed because of the extreme weather.  It took over an hour to get home.  The trains were moving at a snail's pace and sometimes stopping in the middle of a tunnel (which really gave me anxiety).  We'd have to sit at each station for ten plus minutes waiting for previous trains to move ahead and clear the tracks.  Many angry passengers. 

 I love Sydney and it will always have a special place in my heart.  I had no regrets or sadness leaving because I got to experience every aspect of the city, really get to know it and made it my own.   I will probably never return, but when I think of it it will always be of happy memories.

Australia- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

When we first came to Australia we really didn't know much about the country aside from the stories we'd heard from our friends and families experiences.  We planned on making good money (everyone said how high the wages are) and seeing the whole country.  Wages can be better, but you've got to be able to find a job first!  We didn't do any research on our first city, the Gold Coast, just knew it was summer and a great beach all year long.  I wish I would have looked into the city a little more because there was not much of a job market for me and besides the beach, golf, and party lifestyle there's not alot going on up there.  Moving to Sydney was a savior for me, much more my style and so much to see and experience.  We were hesitant to move here in the first place because everyone kept saying how expensive it is to live there.  Well it is expensive, but so is the rest of the country.  Sydney and the other bigger cities are where the jobs are.  Both of us found good paying jobs within a week and had other offers.  Living here gave me totally different perspective of Australia.  We lived in Oz for almost a year.  If I could have changed things I would have spent the whole time living and working in Sydney, then traveling the rest of the country when I could.  Moneywise we would have been alot better off this way.

Now that our year is over I thought I'd summarize the highs and lows of the trip, what I'd recommend future travelers to visit or to skip, as well as an honest opinion of life in Oz.

My Favorite Oz Experiences:

  If you can only see one city in Oz this is it!  I fell in love with this city and could go on and on about it for hours.  The beautiful harbor, the bridge and Opera House, the old, historic buildings mixed with the new skyscrapers, the fabulous beaches, the culture, entertainment and fabulous restaurants, this city has it all.

The Barossa Valley
Even though I was here in winter it is still such a beautiful place.  There are over eighty-five wineries to explore and they are all have free tastings!  And Jacob's Creek is here- best wine ever!!!  I could have just as easily visited the Hunter Valley near Sydney or the Yarra near Melbourne, but I wanted to come here as none of my friends had been.  The Barossa is near Adelaide, which is a smaller city, but I really enjoyed.

 Koala Cuddling
 You can't come to Oz and not do this!  They are so cute.  Make sure you visit a wildlife sanctuary so you can see all the native animals of Oz.

Great Ocean Road
Amazing strip of road just outside of Melbourne.  It's just one of those places that really makes you say "wow".  It's easy to get here from Melbourne, so if you are spending time there make sure you rent a car and take a day to do the drive.

Most Australians hate this city, but I thought it was very pretty.  I like to make a point of visiting a country's capital city and the Parliament here is very different looking.  It's filled with museums that are all free and is laid out similarly to Washington DC.  From Sydney you can drive easily to Canberra and spend a day or two here, that's all you need.

Jervis Bay 
Two hours south of Sydney, this is the best beach in Australia!  Yes, it met up to my high standards.  White sand and turquoise waters.  It's a beautiful drive down through green hills and lush valleys.  There are many scenic lookout points and wineries around, so this would be a nice weekend getaway from Sydney.

New Zealand
I know this is not part of Oz but I enjoyed it alot more then many places here!  We spent a weekend in Queenstown and I fell in love.  It was such a beautiful place landscape-wise and there was so much to do.  If you are in Australia it is easy to hop on a plane and spend some time here.  Alternatively, book your return flight home from here and enjoy a pampered flight with Air New Zealand.

My Least Favorite Oz Experiences:

  There are lots of nature and outdoor adventure things to see and do here.  If you know me at all that is the last thing I want to do, so this is why the state does not rank well for me (I am city girl through and through!).  The beaches are nice, but in my opinion not as good as my beloved Caribbean beaches.  Even going up to the world famous Whitsunday beaches didn't impress me as much as everyone said they would.  Brisbane, their biggest city, is pretty disappointing.  I never made it up north to Cairns, which everyone seems to love, but I thought if the Whitsundays weren't a highlight this probably wouldn't rank too high for me either.  If you like outdoor activities like sailing, snorkeling and bush walking and want to see the Great Barrier Reef, this is the place for you.  I have a very biased opinion on Queensland as I didn't enjoy living here at all and became very negative about everything.  Maybe if I'd just come as a traveler I would feel differently.

Everyone I talked to said to visit Nimbin.  Although it's  beautiful drive out, this place was a big disappointment.  There is nothing to do here and it's dirty.  Buy your special cookies elsewhere.

Long Roadtrips
Short trips here and there are fine, but if you do anything over three hours prepare for a nightmare.  Because of the heat driving here seems worse then back home.  Also speed limits aren't as high as in North America and tend to change alot in hopes you won't slow down and the police can ticket you.  Lots of times exciting road side attractions are few and far between.  Oz is a big country and people don't realize that.  Flights around the country are pretty reasonable (with Jet Star and Tiger) so save the stress and fly.

Large Roadside Attractions
You've got nothing on Alberta, Oz!

Budget Accomodation
We tried to cut down on costs in a few places and it was not worth it.  One night in a hostel is tolerable, but I need my own space and a clean shower that doesn't have someone else's hair on the walls.  We spent an awful first week in Sydney in a sharehouse and it was a nightmare.  I am too much of a princess.

Mixed Thoughts: 

I spent a few days here and am not sure what to think.  I didn't hate it, but didn't fall in love with it as much as Sydney.  It's one of those cities you get to love the more time you spend here.  It is definitely a place you should visit because there are some nice sights and there is alot to do, but I think a few days are sufficient.  The beach will disappoint you.

Byron Bay
This seems to be everyone's favorite place.  It is beautiful, but it just didn't amaze me as much as I thought.  Maybe because I only spent a day here and wasn't feeling that good?  The view from the lighthouse was spectacular, the beaches good but not my favorite.  If you're going to be up that way, for sure visit. 

Things I Wanted To See:

More of New Zealand
  Such a beautiful and amazing country and I don't know that I'll ever make it back.  Very different to Oz.  We had planned to spend our last ten days here originally, but things changed with all our visa complications and we didn't end up having the money.  I regret not spending more time here, but am glad I at least had a quick trip to Queenstown.  I'll never return to Oz, but NZ I would for sure.  I love the Kiwis!

Hobart, Tasmania
Convict island!  I really wanted to spend a weekend here in the summer, but again due to visa complications and money it didn't happen.  I had so many clients tell me what an interesting place it is.  Oh well.
Ayers Rock and The Outback 
 It doesn't get any more Aussie then this! The only reason we didn't end up going is because it is so expensive- return airfare for one is over a thousand dollars!

I really only wanted to see Darwin because of the history.  It was bombed by the Japanese in WWII and it would have been interesting to see how they've memorialized that.   The fact we didn't make it up doesn't make me feel sad or regretful though.

Perth and Margaret River
Dewey spent six months here on exchange, so that was what made me want to visit.  The beaches here are supposed to be very nice too.  Again, not sad I didn't make it out.

If you are planning a trip to Oz, bring lots of money!!!  This place is expensive and rips you off in any way.  Don't worry too much about the spiders.  I never saw anything more then a Daddy Longlegs in the house and only saw two bigger ones outside.  Might be different if you go up north, but don't let people scare you with spider tales.  Same with snakes.  I imagine if you are out in the bush you'll see some, but I never did.  Be prepared for cockroaches though.  Those buggers come out when the weather gets hot and you'll find them inside and out.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Tomorrow is my last day in Sydney and I'm feeling bittersweet.  I'm so excited to go home (I'm already envisioning the moment I walk off the plane and am greeted by my family) but also a little scared for what's next to come.  We're going home to no house, no cars, no jobs, and will have only a small amount of money to get us started.  But we will have tons of love and support from our family and friends.  It will be weird at first because so much will have changed in a year.  All the little things that slowly change day by day are going to seem like major changes to us.  Construction that started when we left will be finished, favorite restaurants and hang outs will be closed, babies will have grown to toddlers, people will have changed.  It won't be the exact same as when we left.  But in my heart I know that going home is right.  I love Sydney, but staying here would never feel like home.  I would always know that someday there would be a return date.  I know Edmonton isn't as exotic as Sydney and it will be tough living through those bitter Alberta winters.  But in the end there's no place like home.  Traveling and being away for a year has really made me appreciate all the good things about home, things I never would have stood back to notice before.   I'm so lucky I got to experience what I did.  There were alot of things I hated, but also some amazing moments.  Those are the things I'll hold onto and look back at and think how amazing I did that.