Travel and meeting people: An experimentation of lifestyle by Jessica Lee

One of the most significant lessons I've learned from travel and meeting new folks around the world is that you can live your life in a variety of ways outside of the typical 9-5 and still be alright.

In my travels, I have met army men, cowboys, desert dwellers, middle-aged professional nomads who just never settled down, people who quit their "adult jobs", successful entrepreneurs, adventure-seekers and of course, lots of free spirits.

Back in Toronto, when I had a 9-5, it was always in and out of the office seeing the same faces over and over. Add to the fact that companies are a self-selected environment, in that everyone has to fit a certain mould to get the job in the first place and you're left with fairly similar white-collar professionals.

One of the biggest mistakes North American culture ingrains their children is that right after high school, you need to pick a professional vocation, go to university to study for it, then get a job, find a husband/wife, settle down, buy a house, have 1.6 kids, work until you are 65, then retire in Florida. In preparation for this life plan, I realize I spent many of my high school years building my resume to appeal to other people rather than spend more time on activities that appeal to me. Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun during my teen years and I learned a lot from the various extracurriculars and jobs I took up, but sometimes I wish I was less busy.

My parents were immigrants from China/Hong Kong who came to Canada with little money, so I suppose all they wanted for me is a secure future; which is why I was encouraged to go down the typical university after high school route.

I don't want to get all philosophical on you, but for the sake of this post, let's assume that the purpose of life is to be happy (very generic) or if you want to lean towards the philanthropic side, its to make a difference in this world a la Mother Teresa. Happiness could mean different things to different people, some people want stuff. Others just want to enjoy their families and friends. The list could go on and on. Similarly, "making a difference" is also very broad. You could dedicate your life to saving the environment, or fighting for social issues. Or even just leaving each person you meet a little better off.

In North America, in terms of lifestyle, we tend to place high value on career and career development. Conventionally when you get older and as your career progresses, you want to accept larger responsibilities at work and also a salary raise. If you start out as a mailroom clerk, you want to work your way up to CEO.

In the last couple of years however, I've met people who have a completely different perspective on life, people who have ditched the career focus and concentrated on just their passions, viewing work as a side hobby. It is fantastic to get a perspective from people who have made vastly different life choices from typical North Americans. The conversations I have with them give me ideas and blueprints for how I can maximize my youth and time while living a meaningful life.

I met a 39 year old Brit who works as a landscaper for about half the year and spends the rest of the year travelling on a backpacker's budget. I met an older gentleman who said he quit his "adult office job" and was now working as a porter at a hotel in Hawaii so he could dedicate his life to surfing. I met a single older woman in her 40s who had spent her life teaching English around the world and was living in Turkey at the moment.

The above people make a modest living and they just have themselves to support, but their unconventional lifestyles seems suited for them. I'm not sure I could do what they do as I know I need a bit of structure in my life and eventually, I would want to settle down. I think the challenge for me is to fit in all the adventure and travel into my life before eventually having to pick a city/town, then to figure out where I want to settle down and what my future life looks like.

I always pictured myself waking up at a beach house and surfing at 6 am before getting started with my work day (editing photos) - which would happen at a coffee shop or on the beach. At around noon, I would drive to a crag and work on a project climb. Evenings would be spent having friends over for dinner, watching a movie or planning my next trip. On weekends, I would take my sailboat out. Right now, my ideal life sounds like it would be based in Spain. Or Thailand. Maybe even Hawaii or Australia.

I'm not quite certain where I will be living in the next few years or what I will be doing, but here are a few things I know about myself at the moment:

1. I don't want to spend my life in a corporate office (or if I do, it has to be meaningful and creative work)
2. I want to continue meeting interesting people
3. I need to have an interesting job with flexible hours that can support my steadily increasing standards of living
4. I need to have adventure in my life, whether that means living in a new place every few years, weekend outdoor excursions or starting an exciting new project.

What the French people do on Sunday afternoons by Jessica Lee

"Hey, let's follow those hippies!"


And so began our jaunt into Plateau de Mont-Royale.

We started our lazy Sunday by rolling out of bed at half-past noon, then grabbing a brunch at Laurier, a place known for its chicken meals.

Afterwards we strolled towards the Plateau and saw a bunch of hippies, whom we decided to follow.

They led us to these people:

There was a full-on medieval sword fight happening in the middle of Mont-Royale, which I thought was kind of random, but really cool at the same time.

Apparently this is what the French people of Canada do on Sunday mornings.

There was also a crowd of spectators watching the action.

I was fascinated by the French people, so I just walked around taking photos. I loved the relaxed vibe and how everyone was so happy.


There were a couple of slack lines set up, and lots of people just sitting on the hill having picnics.

This is quite different from what happens on Sundays in Toronto. You would never see such a huge crowd of people in the park in Toronto.

There was music coming from near the statue, so we decided to head over to that direction.

As we walked closer, we saw that there was a market set up around the area.

The way things were laid down on the ground reminded me of traveling to Asian countries where people would peddle their goods on the street and then grab everything in a hurry if cops came around.

But I think its legal to do this in Montreal, because everyone seemed quite relaxed.

This was my favourite part.

A group of people had gathered and were playing bongo drums and dancing.

It was quite organic. I wish I knew the story behind this. No one was busking or making money, but apparently there is a gathering like this every Sunday.

I think everyone is here just for the good energy and vibes. I joined in for the dance because everyone who was dancing looked like they were having more fun than the people watching, and its true, you have more fun dancing than watching from the sidelines.

This is my friend Mark and I. I decided that since we are in Montreal, I am going to call him Marc (with a C) because it seems more French.

I liked how the park had a festival atmosphere even though this was ongoing and happened every Sunday.

This was a couple I spotted whom I just had to get a photo of:

We hiked to the top of Mont-Royale and got a fantastic view of the whole city.

Here is another one:

There was a square at the top, which was gorgeous. I suspect it would be lovely to have a jazz or swing dance here on a summer night with a live band playing. If you look beyond the square, there is the view of the whole city.

There were lots of couples which I thought was cute. I imagine the square to be a great place to propose to someone. I'm not sure if people already do that (like how everyone proposes on the C.N. Tower in Toronto), but if it isn't already a thing, it should be.

After a while we started hiking down and found a pretty neat art project.

It was a book that someone had sewn around trees.

Marc called it a "photographer's trap" because around four photographers stopped to take photos of it during the short while we were there.

Right before dinner, we headed to Juliette et Chocolat for something sweet.

I loved the elaborate menu, so I took a few photos so you can look at it too.

I like how there is a variety of everything. It makes me want to learn more about chocolate.

I ordered the salted caramel chocolate drink. I felt like I was going to get chocolate poisoning- it was that thick and chocolate-y. Absolutely delicious though.

We both had crepes, though there were plenty of other things on the menu I wanted to try like the brownies or the tiramisu or even the fondue. Maybe another day?

Wine and a wedding at Riviere du Chene, Quebec by Jessica Lee

I spent my weekend at Riviere du Chene, a winery just outside of Montreal for my second cousin's wedding.

I absolutely loved the whole feel of the wedding. It was romantic and like out of a fairytale. It was probably the most beautiful wedding I've ever been to.

There was a lovely vine field which looked amazing with the sunset as a backdrop.

For some reason I never thought of Quebec as a wine region. I clearly don't know enough about my own country.

Here is a photo of the happy couple right after everything was made official:

I think it was the little details that made the wedding really shine.

After the ceremony, guests were treated to carriage rides through the fields, which was wonderful and magical; albeit a little bumpy.

Here is a photo from inside the carriage:

And what it looks like on the outside:

What really impressed me however was the elaborate dessert table and the food, which was actually really good. From my experience, wedding food usually isn't the greatest, but eating here was like ordering dishes out of a Michelin restaurant. Everything was done perfectly to the smallest detail.

We had sorbet right after the appetizer but before the main course, which I found quite exciting because I usually eat sorbet for dessert. I found out later it was served after the appetizer to clear the palate for the main course. 

I had the veal grenadines layered saffron apples and red beet straws. Other choices were duck aiguillettes with flavoured salt, strawberries and rhubarb in balsamic vinegar or pangasius napoleon with leek marmalade and roasted red peppers, velvety spinach soup with nutmeg. Real fancy, not typical of usual banquet hall catering.

 Some photos of the dessert table: Everything tasted delicious though my favourites were the cupcakes and the macaroons. I wanted to eat all the macaroons but I left some for the other guests because I didn't want to pig out too much. Besides, the people sitting next to the dessert table had already seen me walk to and from the dessert table three times already. The best flavours were buttercream and pistachio.

Like I said before, everything was perfectly assembled down to the smallest detail. Check out the ribbon on the plate of these cake pops. The contrasting pink and blue designs are perfect as well.

This is what I wore:

 And a photo of the newlyweds with my mom and I:

Congrats again, Anita and Lincoln!