Homelife by Jessica Lee

I recently moved into a flat in Montreal with two guys in their early twenties. We set up a camera one night while prepping for dinner, setting the timer to take a photo every two seconds. The photos tell a simple story, but shows a glimpse of contemporary life of three twenty-somethings, documentary-style. The dynamics and personalities of the house can be universally understood without captions, from troublemaker Çuk, to Julien, whom you barely see in the frame because he's on his feet, busy making dinner.

Reykjavik, Iceland: Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights by Jessica Lee

My first day in Reykjavik, Iceland was full of big moments. I didn't waste any time and headed to the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport.

The tour companies in Iceland have got everything figured out. Many people have lengthy layovers from Iceland to other places in Europe so the tour companies have arranged for buses that go directly from the airport to the major attractions.

It was around 8 am when I landed in Iceland and the sun hadn't even risen yet. I got on the tour bus with a handful of other passengers and we drove in silence through the dark towards the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermic spa where all of the water is naturally replenished every 40 hours. It's full of minerals such as sulphur and silica, which are good for the skin (but terrible for hair).

It was about 10 am when we arrived and the sun was just beginning to rise turning the sky from almost black into a deep shade of blue.

After a somewhat long flight, the Blue Lagoon and its spa was exactly what I needed. The water was just the right scorching hot temperature, and staring into the sky and at the mountains was relaxing. It was a bittersweet moment when I realized that since I wouldn't likely be in Iceland again, it would be the only time I would get to enjoy the Blue Lagoon.

After spending a good couple of hours at the Lagoon, I got on the bus and headed into the city. Reykjavik surprised me a little when I realized how much it resembled a traditional European city. For some reason, I associated Iceland (since it was separate physically from Europe) with Arctic destinations in Canada such as Yellowknife or Nunavut. I didn't expect such a beautiful town, but rather just simple buildings.

I stayed at Hlemmur Square, which is on top of the main bus station. This is what the view from my hostel looked like:

Though it was a 10 bed dorm, only one other girl stayed during the first night. She was an extremely quiet and considerate roommate, so it was fantastic.

The next night, I had the entire room to myself. It was like I rented a studio apartment.

Like most Nordic countries, Iceland doesn't get a lot of daylight. I was woken up at 9 am when it was still dark by school children getting on the bus.

The sun sets around 3 pm, with the sky being completely dark by 4:30.

I walked around the city and took in the sites. It was really neat to compare even just slight differences from back home and Reykjavik. For example, the architecture in the below building would stick out back in Toronto, but seemed to fit in in Iceland.

I was extremely excited when I stumbled onto a restaurant that served traditional Icelandic food, but decided not to blow my budget on the first night.

Instead, I went out for a night time excursion to see the Northern Lights.

I have never seen the lights in-person before, despite living in Canada.

It was a wonderful moment, when the lights showed up. Everyone who was there let out a cheer, as we had been waiting for a few hours. It was also extremely cold. I have a newfound appreciation for outdoor photographers after waiting outside for the lights to show up.

In real life, the lights were nowhere as bright as the photos because the photos were long exposures, but it was still amazing to see a long strip of light in the sky I wasn't used to seeing. Seeing and photographing the lights is also one of the things on my checklist for this trip, so it was nice to be able to accomplish it on the first day.

I hope the rest of Europe brings experiences as exciting as the Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights!

George of the jungle/ things North Americans do for fun by Jessica Lee

After watching James Cameron's Avatar (2009), I had always wanted to live in a tree.

I didn't get to live in a tree this weekend, BUT I got to walk among the tops of them, which is similar. Being that it was the Canadian Thanksgiving, my family drove up north to the cottage for the long weekend. Along the way, we stopped at Tree Top Trekking near Barrie, Ontario.

Tree Top Trekking is a company that lets people conquer their fear of heights through rope courses and ziplines in the dense Canadian forest.

It was absolutely beautiful being between trees and seeing parts of the forest you wouldn't have seen if you were on the ground. I didn't bring my camera for the black course because it had started to rain and hail but it was gorgeous and reminded me of what I'd imagine Avatar to be like in real life- wood log steps and wooden stepping bridges high off of the ground.

The weather could have been improved, but not everything in life can be perfect.

I think rope courses are a North American thing (correct me if I'm wrong). If you've never seen one, I'll give you a short introduction.

High ropes courses are typically used to encourage "self-development" in an individual. Ie. They're believed to escalate your self-esteem and confidence once you complete one. They are quite popular with school groups and summer camps because many are not particularly physically challenging but they still boost morale.

The one at Tree Top Trekking required you to balance on a tight line with wires you could hold onto. Other courses included various hurdles you had to walk on or climb into/over.

It was easy stuff, but I liked being able to just focus on one thing and not think about anything in particular.

If you happen to go, there is a black course which is the most difficult course there. You have to ask for it specifically and you only get to go on it after completing the purple course.

After that, they will still discourage you somewhat because they want to weed out people who won't be able to complete the course. They will ask you to do five chin-ups on the spot. Only 10 % of people who go to Tree Top Trekking go on this course. If you think you will make it, I definitely encourage you to go because the sights are gorgeous and I wish I brought my camera there to capture it.

I went on the black course solo with the head guide because it was rainy and cold and no one else wanted to go. It was a unique experience because I got to get into his mind. I don't meet many small town boys who haven't been to the city. To me, he was a novelty.

His thinking was limited, but he was also young (20). When I talked about travel, I meant international places like Europe or South America, whereas he assumed the Canadian west coast.

He also asked me lots of questions, wanting to know more about the places I had been. Maybe he was planning to explore as well. Whenever I talked of an international experience, he related by telling me of people he knew who had travelled but I don't think he had travelled much himself.
He'd grown up in Northern Ontario and enjoyed Canadian things like snowboarding in the winter and the great outdoors in the summer.

As much as I like international travel, meeting people like him pulls me back and makes me want to live in a cabin up north and enjoy the gorgeous scenes and moments I sometimes take for granted. I think there are so many possibilities waiting for me in Northern Ontario; if only I'd give it a chance.