gap year

Winding down post-trip by Jessica Lee

Sometimes I am in disbelief that I was in the desert. But there are photos to prove it, and so I smile and try to put myself back in that place again.

I'm currently going through all of my photos and trying to figure out how to tell this story in a compelling and personal way.

Here are the places I went to on this trip (in chronological order):

1. Reykjavik, Iceland
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
3. Lund, Sweden
4. Malmo, Sweden
5. Berlin, Germany
6. Paris, France
7. Brussels, Belgium
8. Lille, France
9. Barcelona, Spain
10. Malaga, Spain
11. Tangier, Morocco
12. Chefchaouen, Morocco
13. Fes, Morocco
14. Sahara Desert, Morocco
15. Ouarzazate, Morocco
16. Marrakech, Morocco
17. Essaouria, Morocco
18. Casablanca, Morocco
19. Rome, Italy
20. Florence, Italy
21. Pisa, Italy
22. Milan, Italy
23. Munich, Germany
24. Luxembourg, Luxembourg
25. Paris, France (again)
26. Amsterdam, Netherlands
27. Zurich, Switzerland
28. Paris, France (again)
29. London, England
30. Dublin, Ireland
31. New York, United States

16 countries and 29 different cities/towns. While there were some cities I enjoyed more than others, I cannot deny that the other cities weren't good learning experiences.

Some cities can be brought back by a certain song. I'll be out with friends or in the car, when a song plays and all of a sudden, I'm reminded of a city I was in and all the kind people I met there.

I didn't exchange contact information with everyone I would have liked to and it breaks my heart, but I hope that we meet again some day. The world is a lot smaller than it seemed to me a couple of months ago.

I remember before I booked the plane tickets and gave leave of notice at my full-time job that I had doubts about this trip. I worried about the repercussions it would have on my professional career and my finances. But the thing is, looking back, I don't regret anything at all. I got to see so many things people would have killed to see. I got to experience new food, new smells and new perspectives on life and work. 

I'm still the same person I was before I left the trip. I still have the same drive to accomplish my personal and professional goals, and I still like to complain about Canadian winters. I still enjoy maple syrup, and I still try to eat as healthy as I can. But on the other hand, I have experienced so many new things. I know so much more than I would have had I decided to stay in Toronto these past few months. For example, I now know that Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities in Europe, that German people are friendlier than they initially seem, and that I love Barcelona even though there's not much to do in that city. I know I want to move to Paris at some point in my life, but I also know I wouldn't want to live there for too long.

I discovered some things about myself as well. I realized I'm more shy than I care to admit. In new cities where I knew no one at all, I usually waited for other people to talk to me first. This sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. Sometimes you meet an interesting person to learn from and to share with, but sometimes, you get bad company (which thankfully ends in a day or two). In Toronto, where I live, I don't have to meet new people because I have friends already (why make effort when it's not needed?), but being on the road, you quickly learn these things about yourself.

There are some other odd things I learned from this trip as well. For example, in undeveloped places like most of Morocco, if you ask women for directions, they usually can't help you. For a while, because I felt unsafe asking men for help, I only asked women. But I found that they really didn't know anything (in general). It was frustrating, but it also made me realize how fortunate I was to grow up in a country that encourages equal access education.

I'm still going over everything in my head and trying to process it all. I want to write all the stories down in one go while they're fresh in my mind- but I've also discovered how enjoyable it is to slowly savour each and every experience, to take it day by day, and to prolong recounting tales of my trip- just so I can live through it again.

Photos: Tangier, Morocco by Jessica Lee

I spent the morning wandering around Tangier, Morocco, with my new friend from the hostel.

Here are a few photographs:

Below is the terrace of the hostel, which was a stunning view. We were in the old part of town, which gave the hostel some character.

As we walked along, there was some construction. I really like this photo because you can sense the man in the tan shirt is deciding what he's going to do about me, the photographer, taking a photo of him.

Street life in Tangier

The bird this man was carrying around was still alive while the photo was taken

We stopped off at the market at this point and got strawberries to eat while sitting at the fountain in the square. We were still hungry afterwards, so here we are going to vendors. As you can see, the vendors are all really aggressive in fighting for the client (us). In this manner, my friend, Joo, was able to bargain with the vendor and ask for a lower price for the food than indicated on the menu (which was genius, I didn't know you could do that).

As we were waiting for our meal, we saw the delivery of bread from this truck.

This is what we had. It was delicious, for 20 dirhams each! That's around $3.

After our meal, we decided to wander a bit more before splitting ways. Him going to Asilah, and me going to Chefchaouen.

More photos:

23 and Europe by Jessica Lee

On my 23rd birthday, I got on a plane to Europe and landed in Reykjavik, Iceland, 5 hours later.

I plan to start off 23 with a mini retirement/ learning sabbatical /inspirational intermission. Length of time? Around 2-3 months.

My mission for this trip is:

1. To see parts of the world I haven't seen before
2. Experience several different cultures/ways of living
3. Figure out my favourite cities/ find inspiration for how I want to plan my future lifestyle
4. Fill my photography portfolio with more travel photography
5. Further educate myself on different parts of the world (in depth and with personal connections)
6. Relax a bit
7. See my friends and create wonderful memories

I think it's important to have these little gaps in between a professional career to step out of a routine, stretch comfort zones and disrupt life (in a good way). New experiences (and meeting new people, sometimes) always bring more insight and learning but they don't always happen by themselves, which is why sometimes you have to create opportunities for things to happen organically...

We shall see what comes about in the next couple of months. I'll keep writing if you keep reading. Deal?