Photos: Quebec City part 2 and Montmorency Falls by Jessica Lee

I will let you in on a little secret. This isn't my first time visiting Quebec City. It's actually my third time.

The first time I was here was on a school field trip in grade 8- 10 years ago. I remember little bits and pieces; but mostly, I enjoy looking back in fondness, walking the same spots I walked 10 years ago and seeing how much I've grown and changed.

My priorities as a 13-year-old and now as a 23-year-old are dramatically different. I didn't get to see most of Quebec City last time because I spent a disproportionate amount of my free time shopping in the stores. 

I still love looking at cool stuff, but these days, I've committed to minimalism (having as little stuff as possible to enjoy my day), and since I've been to so many touristy places, I don't get sucked into the traps anymore.

These days, I like to experience the vibe of a destination, enjoy the food and admire the architecture. Maybe meet a local while I'm at it. I'm all about slow travel. Sometimes, I will sit down at a beautiful view for hours, or spend my day at a cafe reading a book.

We went as slowly as we could through Quebec City, given that we didn't have a lot of time. We wandered the city, headed to the Plains of Abraham, La Citadelle, and the most photographed hotel in the world, Chateau Frontenac. We stopped for ice cream and a beavertail, which is a Canadian fried dough pastry that is absolutely delicious and one of my guilty pleasures. Later, we drove to Montmorency Falls and topped off our trip with a little shopping at Simons, a Quebec department store.

This is me trying to recreate an old photo from the top of the Plains of Abraham where Britain and France fought years ago and ended up creating Canada. Not that they had cameras in 1759, nor that many buildings in the background, or even concrete. But it's really cool to know that you're standing at a place with so much important history.

The view from the top of the hill is also easy on the eyes in an understated way.

Back in the Old City, I tried to capture scenes of the city. This is what Quebec City looks like on a summer's day in 2014. Leisurely, relaxed, but full of bustling tourist energy.

10 things you notice when you start working at a hostel by Jessica Lee

I started working and living at a hostel in Montreal last month as a hostess. It's a perfect place to meet lots of interesting people and enjoy life before diving into a career. In between cooking pancakes and partying with guests, here are a few things I picked up about the lifestyle in general:

10. There is always free stuff everywhere
Take for example my growing shampoo and body wash collection (now 5 bottles more than what I came with- I will never run out of shampoo here in Montreal!). Backpackers and travellers are constantly leaving things behind because they don't have room in their luggage, which is perfectly fine with me because now I don't have to buy shampoo (more money for poutine!).

9. It's not the most healthy lifestyle in the world
When you live at a hostel, part of the job is to party with the guests, which means going out many nights until late hours and drinking much more than you're used to at home. And because you're partying all the time, you don't get a lot of time to cook for yourself, so you end up eating whatever fast food you're able to grab along the way. On top of this, you're usually the first one to get up because you have to make the coffee/breakfast for the guests, which means you don't get a lot of sleep.

8. Quiet time is golden and you will come to crave it
It can get tiring being "on" all the time and because the hostel is your home, you can never have a quiet night "in" because there will usually be something you have to take care of, or because people will want to chat or party. There are times when I just want to sit down in the living room with a book without someone trying to strike up a conversation. That being said, hostels are great for bringing new people into your life because every day, a fresh batch of folks come in.

7. There is a wide variety of people out there 
I have never met a wider range of people than when I have been in hostels. Sure, usually the group is young and curious about the world, but you get to meet people from everywhere who have grown up with different world views and cultures. You get to hear about different perspectives and sometimes, a conversation with a stranger will change your life.

6. The best times to use wifi is 2 am, in the middle of the day when there is no one around, or at 5 am
As a digital professional, I use the Internet all the time to upload photos, check social media, talk to people or publish writing. After sharing wifi with so many people during peak hours, you really get to appreciate wifi at home when you're the only one using it.

5. Food goes missing all the time
There's no use getting upset. People are hungry and sometimes just pull things out of the fridge to eat. Just hide your food better next time.

4. People can be really gross
Honestly, where do all these odours come from?

3. The walls have eyes and ears (and at our hostel, cameras)
Lots of things happen around a hostel and sometimes you get to hear about them. When I first started, it was difficult getting used to the concept that I was never alone. It works the other way around too- when you live with a group of 50+ people in the same small quarters, you get to know much more than you want to about someone and news travels fast. It's difficult to maintain an air of mystery. Sometimes people purposely want you to know who they went home with because they make multiple hints (good for them), but I've come to appreciate discretion and subtlety.

2. You start to learn people really well
If you're a social scientist, people person, writer, or like to people watch, you will love being here. When you are surrounded by people all the time, you really get to start to know them. You get better at predicting what people will do and understanding motivations behind their behaviour. For example, when there are a pile of dirty dishes at the sink and a group of us, I can almost guess with perfect accuracy at who will do them first. 

1. People hook up A LOT
Hostels are pretty much the perfect place to be if you're looking for a series of short hook-ups or one-night-stands because people are always coming and leaving, and it's easy to meet people. If you're travelling alone and just want some company, you're also more likely to be open to advances. Basically, hostels are like a buffet for people looking to pick-up.

I know with some of these points, I sound bitter, but I've come to realize how fun and relaxed my job is compared to other hospitality jobs, or even corporate gigs. I appreciate the community of the hostel and the good people I work with. I know this moment in my life won't go on forever, so I'm going to enjoy all the people and fun times while they last. Would I recommend working at a hostel? This is my account of it and I think you should experience it for yourself if you're really curious. ;)

Letters from a small town: Boonah by Jessica Lee

I got dropped off in a strange little town in Queensland called Boonah today. The boys wanted to go climbing at the nearby mountains and I just wasn’t up for it.

Growing up in a big metropolitan city such as Toronto, it feels quite different being here. I don't want to be cliche and say that the pace of life is slower in a rural town than in a big city, but it is quite true. People here have time to chat.

It is a little weird to be a stranger in a small town all by yourself. It's obvious I don't live here. 

I stick out from the locals quite easily being that I’m Asian and everyone else is white. Everyone is friendly though, asking me where I’m from and wishing me well on my travels. I get a few long stares from teenagers- maybe they haven’t seen many Asians being that Boonah wouldn’t really be a town Asian tour companies stop at with their huge tour buses; I’m sure you know the kind of tour buses I’m talking about - the ones with the tour guides who hold little flags while talking and explaining sites with flocks of Japanese, Korean or Chinese tourists following behind with cameras.

The fact that not many tourists stop here is great news for me. The people haven't developed a dislike for tourists (some tourists can be quite rude and not fun to serve) and the town isn't commercialized and catered to tourists; thus giving me a more authentic small town experience, which I quite like.

Boonah is a typical small town. The fashions of the men are flannel shirts and jeans and the teenagers wear hoodies. The women wear jumpers with long skirts or jeans. You don’t see sharply dressed business people with their briefcases or stick-thin fashionistas working their heels here when you look out the window. This could be a small town in rural Ontario or anywhere in North America.

It’s a charming little place. The population is just over 2,000 and there is one main street. Right now I am sitting in a cute café writing this and people watching from the window at the same time. I feel a little like a 21st century Kerouac, minus the moleskine but with the addition of a laptop. I had a mocha but now am drinking chai tea.

The coffee shop/ bookstore I am in is called The Story Tree. It is quite artsy with crochet throws, little plants, rustic wooden chairs, cookbooks displayed on the counter and acoustic music softly playing in the back. There is a small play area in the back and a lounge area with a table for new mothers to chat while their kids play. Sometimes I wonder if that is the life I would be living had I been born in a small country town and secondly would I enjoy it because from a glance it doesn’t seem too bad.

Road trip from Cairns: day one by Jessica Lee

Dear readers, hello from Townsville! We flew from Sydney to Cairns yesterday morning and after a couple of hours of driving, we are now in Townsville, known for it's "air of racial tension", according to my Rough Guides Australia guidebook.

So far though, Townsville has been disappointing. Not enough racial tension! So frustrating! I will update you if anything happens.

We started our journey yesterday at 3:45 am when we woke up for our 6 am flight to Cairns. We hit the road immediately after that and drove to Port Douglas.

This is the caravan we rented. I will tell you more about it later. Here is a photo of the boys at the side of the road on the way to Port Douglas.

So far, a theme of this trip has been beaches. We are driving along the coast after all, so it does make sense that we'd be seeing a lot of beaches.

One of the things that really made my day after we landed was feeling the hot, humid weather. It was starting to get cold in Sydney and I was getting ready to move back to Toronto because around this time of year, Toronto would be warm again. But weather in tropical Queensland is really nice too. I'm just glad to be back in shorts and a t-shirt.

What a beauty right?

This is our caravan. It is an absolute mess already even though we've only been using it for not even two full days, but we've learned to embrace it. It's got a sun roof and it converts into a bed at night! It also has a fridge and a stove. I'm pretty happy with it. It's how I imagine living like a traveling circus performer would be- sort of cramped and gypsy-like.

It's definitely not glamourous though. I never thought I'd be one of those people washing their face, getting ready for the night at a gas station. It's okay though, it's all a part of the experience. (For fun, can YOU spot the rock climbing shoe in the below photo?)

Here is Port Douglas, it's a few hours north of Cairns. It reminds me of one of the various towns I visited in Hawaii. It's got beaches and lots of tacky touristy shops that sell swimsuits, postcards, flip flops (otherwise known as 'thongs' here), and the like.

After tanning at the beach and walking along the main strip, we didn't stay for long.

We spent last night driving, going straight past Cairns and arrived in Mission Beach. This strip pretty much looks the same as Port Douglas, but smaller. There is really not a lot to see in Cairns (more strip malls) so I didn't mind not staying.

It's even got a beach too!

It was quite nice actually. We had the whole beach to ourselves for breakfast since it was nice and early and a little bit foggy.

Here is Dan cooking eggs.

Mission Beach was a really nice place to enjoy breakfast. We didn't stay long though.

We headed towards Townsville straight after filling our stomachs.

I feel quite like Sal Paradise in Kerouac's book. You know how he was rushing to get to Denver because that's where his friends and a job was? Well for us, we are driving towards Brisbane, passing all these towns quickly because supposedly Brisbane and Whit Sundays is where all the action is.

This is what Townsville looks like:

It was a grey day, so Townsville possibly looks better on sunnier days. The above photo is off a street near the water called 'The Strand'.

See the below photo. I can definitely see Townsville looking quite nice in sunnier conditions.

Besides the beach though, there wasn't much to do. It was a lot of industrial buildings and small stores selling... you guessed it: post cards, t-shirts, flip flops and swimwear.

To their credit, there were some nice cafes and lovely restaurants. We ate at the C Bar, which happened to be by the sea. How witty right?

It has been my favourite meal so far on this journey.

Tomorrow, we're going to climb a mountain (see background of the photo).

Jessica Lee's Day Off (in Melbourne) by Jessica Lee

Today felt like living in Ferris Bueller's life.

I was out and about in Melbourne with Tom and Lachlan (who are locals) and everything just happened to go accordingly.

We didn't do anything as extreme as joining a parade or catching a fly ball at a baseball game, and we didn't have to skip school but we had fun. Or at least I did. If you haven't seen the John Hughes movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, you should go see it. It's one of my favourites.

I arrived in Melbourne yesterday afternoon and walked around Bourke street, which is one of the bigger shopping streets. Eventually I got tired and settled down for lunch at a ramen place.

One thing about Melbourne is that it's the food capital of Australia, so I was extremely excited to come here- the food scene here is comparable to Toronto, though I still think Toronto is a bit better.

Tom and Lachlan came to pick me up from the city at around dinner time and we had breakfast because I had been disappointed by my pancake experience in Sydney so far. Both boys are really keen to prove to me Melbourne is a better city.

We went to The Pancake Parlour in Chadstone and the pancakes were amazing.

They don't look that great in this photo, but I was extremely pleased.

The bacon here is still not as good as back home in Toronto though. Most of the bacon I've tried here is over-salted and not as tender.

I should probably mention how I met Tom and Lachlan.

They are actually up-and-coming filmmakers. They were out celebrating a recent win at the Australian Oscars in a bar and I just walked up to them and introduced myself.

Just kidding.

I met them through my housemate when they were visiting Sydney for a film festival they were a part of.

They were nice enough to let me crash at their house.

The spare room I was given and am living in now is actually much nicer than my living arrangements back in Sydney. There is a heater in my room and I am sleeping on a double bed as opposed to a single bed back at Sydney. And here I was thinking I would be sleeping on their floor...

I packed a lot of sweaters for this trip because I thought the floor would be cold.

We woke up today at a good time and drove back to Chadstone (which is a huge mall) for breakfast, or "brekkie" as they call it here.

This is Tom's car by the way. It's got "character".

Tom had sushi (you have to hear an Australian say "sushi" by the way, it sounds amazing), Lachlan had nothing, and I had a mocha and a steak and pepper pie.

Meat pies are a big thing here apparently, which is great!

I thoroughly enjoyed breakfast.

Afterwards, we (or I) did a bit of shopping around the mall.

It was a pretty successful shopping trip.

This is the food court:

They wanted to know whether the mall here was bigger than the Westfield in Sydney.

I said I didn't know. As the day went on, I noticed this was a theme.

Tom pointed out the tallest building in Melbourne (I wasn't impressed- come on, I'm from the city with the C.N. Tower), and I was made aware of the fact that Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia, as well as some other facts that were supposed to be impressive- that I don't remember anymore because I guess they weren't as impressive as they were supposed to be... sorry fellas!

To get into the city, we took the tram, which was interesting. You buy your own ticket in the middle of the tram.

Here is the machine where you pay for tickets.

We got off near Yarra River, which I would compare to Harbourfront in Toronto.

One of the lovely things about Melbourne is that it has lots of pretty buildings. This is the exhibition building.

Here is a bit of a photo gallery of different sites I saw:

This was the Crown hotel, which is a really fancy hotel we sort of snuck into.

Eventually, we got hungry so we sat down for lunch. I had a delicious rice ball with cheese inside and Bolognese sauce on top. So far I haven't had a bad meal in Melbourne. It's been great.

I was taken to Flinders street next where we did a bit of shopping.

By the way, I wanted to point out that Melbourne has bike rentals everywhere too, just like the Bixi program in Toronto.

This here is the train station.

And this is Federation Square.

Can you spot us on the big screen TV?

Look at this great architecture!

After that, we wandered into the ACMI building, which is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

They held the Tim Burton exhibition here, so I would compare this building to the TIFF lightbox in Toronto, except this building is a little more impressive than what we have in Toronto.

This was one of my favourite parts. We found a free exhibit in ACMI which was about the history of the film industry and how sound and images affect the film. There was a whole section on the history of video games as well. I got to play a bunch of early edition video games that I've now forgotten the name of.

We also did a timeslice, which you can see here. It's pretty funny.

We walked back to the car after that and went home.