VANCOUVER, B.C.

Gab and I decided to drive up to Vancouver for Labor Day Weekend. We wanted to turn the long weekend into an adventure, so we rented a car, couch surfed and didn’t really make any plans. 

The first unexpected adventure was crossing the Canadian border. The clock read past midnight as we pulled up to the official sitting in the toll booth. He looked at us. We looked at him. He checked both of are passports, asked us about our trip and whose car it was. We explained it was a rental car and then he asked us to pull over. Yep, we got checked at the border. They interrogated us separately, took my phone and sent us inside as they let a dog sniff the back seat and under the hood. 

Clearly we were innocent looking smugglers, but fortunately they didn’t find anything. 

We arrived in Vancouver around 1am and figured out our GPS didn’t work in Canada. We had already disabled the data on our phones because of roaming charges, so we got lost rather quickly. We accidently drove through Hastings street, the worst street in Canada. Homeless folks lined the sidewalk, doping and shooting up while standing in line for the soup kitchens. We had no idea where we were and no idea to get to the rando’s house we were staying at (couch surfing, remember). 

Somehow we found our host’s apartment and in no time we passed out on the couch. The next morning we went for a run around 9am. And we didn’t get back until 5pm but with good reason. 

We ran on the water, got distracted by a fresh food market and met up with some Portland friends for a bike ride around Stanley Park. We rode our bikes up to Capilano bridge and were exhausted. It felt like a freaking hike. But we went with the flow—we were in our running clothes the entire day.

We finally got home and our host took us out to the ex-pat watering hole, The Cambie. It’s a hostel/restaurant where all the young travelers go. It’s the usual spot for our South African host. Later that night we met up with our second couch surfing host at a fist pumping club. 

The second host was British and his roommate was Australian. The bar we met them at had a multicolor stage that very much reminded me of Saturday Night Fever. Gab and I paired up with the internationals and proceeded to dance battle. Gab did the wheel barrel and I imitated Dirty Dancing moves. Clearly, I won (just ask our judges). 

On Sunday, we met up with our Portland friends again and headed to Whistler, one of the best ski resort towns in the world. The drive was as beautiful as Whistler. The water and mountains reminded me of Greece and Switzerland, which is a weird but amazing combination. We got to Whistler, took the ski lift and hung out at the top of the mountain. We caught one of the last rides on the Peak 2 Peak gondola. Essentially, it is a lift that extends from one mountain peak to the other, so there is no support. It is the longest unsuspended gondola ride in the world. We went on a hike, saw three bears (!) and ate a $15 all you can buffet, which included salmon, mussels and dessert. 

We were tempted to stay in Whistler for the night, for adventure’s sake, but we had no place to stay. I tried to persuade Gab that we could figure it out, but we decided it was best to go back. We stayed at our second couch surfer’s place in Vancouver for the night and left the next morning after breakfast. We got lost again since the GPS still didn’t work but we eventually made it home hours later. 

The adventure travel weekend was just what I needed. A little bit of chaos, a little bit of random, a little bit of what the fuck. I loved meeting people from all over the world and couch surfing. It’s the best way to travel when you’re traveling with one other person, Michelle recommended.

DID YOU KNOW

East Hastings street is the most concentrated drug and poverty area in North America with a high use of heroin and cocaine—and they do it in public. -MSNBC


MERCER ISLAND, SEATTLE

I went to Seattle for the second time for a friends birthday in July. Her family lives on Mercer Island, a little island right across from downtown, in a house right on the water. 

We arrived in Seattle and all I wanted was to be near the water. I immediately went to her dock and fell asleep. The sun relieved me from all thoughts about work and the sound of the waves pushed me further into a deep sleep. I awoke to the smell of food and the thought of going on the boat. 

Being on a boat reminded me of Florida and the warm Miami weather. We sang to music, danced on the boat and jumped in the water. I forgot the water in NW was much colder than the warm Floridian water… brr.

After basking in the sun, we went out to Capitol Hill Block Party. We went both nights, but the second night was ridiculously crowded. Major Lazer performed and the crowd got insane. I lost my crew and then found them at a bar. I told them I don’t want to be in a bar when there’s live music on the street, so I went in the crowd by myself. I jammed out to Major Lazer and made friends with the folks around me. I contemplated crowdsurfing but decided against it (sigh). It just felt so good to do what I was there for: listen to music, dance and not worry about a thing. 

This trip made me realize two things: 1. I need to live near water 2. Going out alone is actually revitalizing and empowering.

DID YOU KNOW

Lake Washington is too wide and too deep for suspension bridges so Seattle had to build floating bridges. Washington owns the four longest floating bridges in the world and the bridge that connects Mercer Island to Seattle, Lacey V Murrow Memorial Bridge, is the second longest in the world.

SURF 

Today I went surfing for the first time ever. 

I didn’t know what if it was high tide or low tide. I didn’t know what length board I needed. I didn’t know I’d need a wet suit, booties, gloves and a hoodie because of the 40 degree water. And I didn’t know how to stand on a board. 

But I rented a board anyway and trusted the only girl in the group who’d surfed before. I was just going with the flow, very surfer of me.

The six of us suited up but not without struggle. It was a group effort. The thick wet suits stuck to your skin so you have to keep pulling it up to make sure it fits snug. You don’t want any air between the suit and your skin because the water is just too cold.

Once we had our suits on we walked toward the water. Fog rose from the sand and hovered over the trees along the beach. The sun shined and warmed us up. We all felt like a super heroes, strutting our stuff in costumes carrying our surf boards. Seriously, it felt rad. 

Once I was in the water, I sat on my board trying not to fall off. I finally got my balance and recognized the feeling of a good wave. I went for the first big wave that came and I flew. I was on top of the wave and had gotten up to my knees. Then I stood up for a few seconds before the wave died. It didn’t matter. I got up on my first wave! 

The adrenaline kept me coming back for more. It was a trial and error, practice kind of thing. The water no longer felt cold. The waves came fast. And I kept going for it. At one point a friend and I went for the same wave and our boards collided. We survived.

It was ridiculously fun and surprisingly relaxing. I’m shocked I never went surfing before in Miami, especially with the warm water. I definitely want to surf again. I need to practice standing up, so stay tuned on my next surf trip. 

DID YOU KNOW

Short Sand Beach is in Oswald West State Park. The beach is engulfed in cliffs covered with old forest trees. It’s so beautiful that it was the location used in the final scene of Point Break (with Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves).