Calgary is not for cowards by Jessica Lee

I met up with my friend Conrad in Calgary, Alberta, and proceeded to explore the city.

After a hearty breakfast at a local joint, our first stop was grabbing coffees from Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, which is a local chain in Calgary. I had been involved in the background with the Canadian Barista Championships since 2011 and had wanted to try a cappuccino made by the the 2012 National champion, Jeremy Ho, who works there.

Unfortunately, we didn't find out which location he was working at, but the cappuccino I had that day was still pretty good.

I also really enjoyed the interior design inside. 

Sometimes, people will say that the design of a restaurant doesn't matter because the food should be the focus, but I don't think it's true. I believe that atmosphere changes your whole experience of how you perceive your coffee. Many times, I will revisit a favourite coffee shop because I enjoyed my experience sitting inside, rather than because I really liked the coffee. There's a whole science behind the marketing of coffee, which some companies such as Starbucks has managed to figure out (enough for a whole other blog post!)

After our caffeine fix, we went to Calgary's Olympic Park. I had been wanting to go to the park for some time now, after first seeing the ski jump from the highway while driving by on my trip to Banff, then hearing about the park through colleagues.

Besides being the place to go to for adrenaline-pumping activities such as bobsledding, mountain biking, luge or ziplining, Calgary's Olympic Park is also the training ground for serious Canadian Olympic athletes. The bus driver who drove us to the activity spots is actually an Olympic coach in the winter time, but passes his time during the summer by driving tourists around.

We decided to go down the zipline, which is the fastest in North America (140 km/hr), and then do a bobsled ride.

The zipline is at the top of the ski jump, which really freaked me out not because I'm scared of heights- but because I'm afraid of the feeling of falling. I definitely am not the type that does well on roller coasters.

Conrad said he doesn't like the feeling of falling either, but he says doesn't think about his fear and just does whatever he needs to do, which is how he's able to do so many things. And so, I didn't think about my fear of falling and jumped. For the first time, falling felt fantastic.

I plan to adopt Conrad's theory of "doing" rather than over thinking everything. Maybe one day I will become fearless!

We then headed up to the bobsled track. I wasn't too worried about bobsledding after having just experienced the zipline.

Since there wasn't snow, which is usually how bobsledding is done, they had wheels on the bobsled. The speeds we went were the same as if there was ice, just a little bumpier. We had a driver go down the track with us, and he was responsible for all the turns and for making sure accidents didn't happen.

The G-force on the ride down was incredible (4G forces and 100/km/hr). It didn't feel like pain, but it wasn't entirely comfortable either. I was just glad when it was over. Afterwards, I chatted with the driver and he said he wasn't able to drive bobsleds every day because of all the G-force, which is bad for one's body. It's interesting what sacrifices people will make for a fun, adrenaline-inducing job; or even for a sport. It's definitely a big commitment.

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.