Italy, take 2: Florence 

Florence oh Florence..

Upon walking out of the train station I install felt a different vibe than Milan. More welcoming, cultural and touristic and in my opinion better all around.

I started walking toward my hostel because my shoulders were killing from lugging my backpack around when I heard “Alexa?! Alexa?!” And I didn’t think anything of it because I mean, what were the chances that someone who knew was name was here.
Little did I realize my american au pair friend Katie was standing right in front of me.
I was literally in SHOCK. It goes to show how small the world really is.
I walked around with her for a while until I realized that I was extremely tired, hungry and had wandered an extra hour away from my hostel, so decided to say a quick goodbye and get on my way.

The Hostel I stayed at was Plus Florence which was conveniently located pretty close to everything actually on the same street as the train station!
I was skeptical because the reviews were extremely mixed but it was the cheapest and most central of all of the hostels I checked at a steep 20 euros a night without breakfast included. Check in was fast, and was told my room number and to choose any bed which was a bit different than what I’m used to , typically being assigned one. One I made it to my room I grabbed the bottom bunk which happened to be a double.. I haven’t slept in my own double bed since last April… It was like a dream come true or so I thought. I ended up being roommates with a group of Americans who were there simply to party. To each their own but I just wanted sleep to be honest. When I hit the sheets for bed, they were on their way out. Fast forward to 5 am they all came back.. Let’s just say I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, but that’s what you get when staying in an 8 person mixed dorm.

Oh and did I mention, there was a pool, sauna and thermal bath!

They next morning I ended up leaving around 9am to set out for the day to try and see as much as I could before the rain came down.

First stop was Piazzale Michelangelo which as you can see below gave an amazing view of the city!

Then the bridge Ponte Vecchio which is the oldest bridge in Florence and is the only bridge that during WWII the germans didn`t destroy.

The next day my knee was killing me so I took a bit extra time to find the motivation to get up and going. I ended up staying at the hostel way past check out time. I mean 1 euro coffee and free wifi, why not.

Once my stomach got past the point of hungry I figured it was time to make a trip to the mercado centrale for some pastries and more coffee of course.

I don’t think I made it 5 minutes without being drawn into the market goodies that I walked pat everytime I went into the central square. I came across a black hat I wanted and started talking to the vendor and managed to get the price down to 18 euros so I made a little purchase. He asked where I was from and I said Canada , not thinking he would proceed further to what province.. But come to find out he knew every single province and had to show off his skills by naming them all in order across his imaginary map. To say I was impressed in an understatement, which made the fact that I bought my hat from him that much more satisfying.

After a long rainy end to Florence I hopped on the train to my next stop Venice!

It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.

Every day on my way in and out of Paris I pass the many homeless people along the streets and I simply pass them by like the many others do. I bypass them all, as if they don’t exist not because they are any less important, but because I hate the realization that there are people out there living in such hard situations. The sad truth is that they’re are people in need and even if I want to pretend there isn’t, nothing will change unless I make the choice to do something about it.

I’ll admit, there’s been plenty of times when I could have given someone change and I didn’t, and I have no excuses as to why I chose not to.

Today I did something that I haven’t done in a long time; too long to be exact. I chose to make a change.

I woke up this morning without a plan for the day which is an uncommon feeling  for me as I`m a constant planner. I did my daily Facebook check and found a notification for an event that I has been invited to a month or so before, but had completely forgot about. I`m not one to make rash decisions, in fact it usually takes me a day or two to make a final choice but this was different. Within 30 minutes of waking I was on my way to the local grocery store to pick up supplies to make as many sandwiches as I could.

I got some pretty strange stares from the family because to them, the best help you can give is money. Money can do a heck of a lot don`t get me wrong but it almost seems like the easy way out.  Anyone can give a few bucks away but not everyone is willing to give time.

Not even a year ago I would have done things the easy way and donated and not thought twice about it. This is where its truly evident how much this year abroad has changed me as a person.

I showed up to the meeting place which ended up being a Swedish church in the north of Paris. I had no idea what to expect , only that I was giving my  Sunday to helping as much as I possibly could.

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I ended up chatting with a few other giilrls while creating sandwiches with baguettes and cheese. Then I heard an Americana accent so I turned around and said my go to phrase “you’re Canadian or american am I right?”

988474_10206255761856188_8985002146296347539_n Sure enough he was from Portland Oregon! We did our introductions and I found out he was on vacation for two weeks visiting the city, enjoying the couch surfing activities and apparently helping out the locals. I was shocked to say the least, that here was someone on vacation in Paris at that, and donating their free time to wander the streets of Paris for hours giving away as much as we could.

I almost felt guilty questioning why this man was spending his time doing what we all should do. Why is it that being a good citizen has become something so uncommon? I’m not going to lie, I feel amazing after once again stepping outside of my comfort zone but it’s almost pathetic that it’s taken me this long of being in Paris to volunteer my time. 10989125_10206254892794462_5182212868713125330_n (1)

This whole experience today was life changing, to be honest. It opened my eyes to a global crisis that I bypass every single day. It’s impossible to help everyone in need, but even just by donating a couple hours of your week, you can make a small change in someones life.

A quick trip to Bruges & the acceptance of living in the moment

I’m a futuristic person and am always thinking about what next. I can tell you more about what I plan on doing in the summer than in the next five minutes. Lately, my thoughts are constantly drawn to the two words: Five months. The amount of time I have left on this beautiful continent.

There’s so many places I want to see; so many things I want to do, and unfortunately only so much time to do so.

As per usual I’ve brought upon myself unneeded stress over contemplating what I want to do with my remaining time, trying to plan out the best possible path. With that being said I won’t get there if I don’t accept that no matter how much I plan or how much money I save, the future is unpredictable to a certain degree. Planning and organizing is great, I mean it’s gotten me quite far in life so far, but I feel like it’s time to let loose a little, and just live. I don’t want to look back on these next 5 months and regret that I didn’t take opportunities and enjoy my life here.

How many times have you heard your parents say “It seems like it was just yesterday that you were a baby”. 

I never understood why it was such a reoccurring statement until I grew up which what seemed like, in a blink of an eye. Life is short, theres no doubt about it, which is why I need to live for now; not yesterday, not tomorrow but where I am today.

I’m slowly starting to learn and feel comfortable with living in the moment, but I must admit it’s taken longer than I thought. When most people may find things such as TV, sports or video games to fill their free time … I think; often over think.

Last Thursday I saw an event for a trip to Bruges for the low price of 80 euros. At first I bypassed it and kept scrolling down my page. I knew that that 80 euros I could save and use for my summer trip I’ve been planning which seemed quite logical. Then I thought to myself, why wouldn’t I take an opportunity that’s put in front of me? I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and would have sat home and complained of boredom. Secondly I knew I had the funds to do so and the desire.

I proceeded to message Courtney to see if she’d be up for the trip, which honestly I already knew the answer to. 20 minutes later Courtney and I were booked for a weekend trip to Bruges alongside a group of other youth in Paris.

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After our bus trip to Amsterdam we had said that we would never take a bus again but when opportunities present themselves, you take them. The bus was small and cramped but for the price we couldn’t go wrong.

We stopped in Lille for a few hours which didn’t seem to have much to see or really do, but it gave us a chance to stretch our feet. Oh, and to warm up… the heat on the bus seemed to be nonexistent.

The next stop was Ghent which was gorgeous! I can only imagine what it would be like in summer with the canals and cobblestone streets. We met a Irish lad on the bus who ended up spending the rest of the trip with us. I’m not sure if it’s just the Irish people that I have met or not, but they have all been beyond friendly. I can see why my aunt fell in love with one.

We ended our trip in the quant city of Bruges. I had read that it was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and truth be told it didn’t disappoint. Yes, it was ridiculously cold, but the architecture was gorgeous!

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As far as trying to live in the moment, this life change has been by far what I needed. The past no longer is a worry and I’ve finally accepted that what’s in the past, is just that, in the past and can’t be changed. Slowly I’m seeing that by living in the moment, I’m living life to the fullest. My view on the future is simply an illusion as life hardly ever goes as planned. Of course I have dreams and goals that I wish to attain but I won’t get there unless I live for now and allow life to create it’s own path.

Reasons I love being an au pair; take three

There’s definitely days when i just want to get up and leave, like any job. Last week, it seemed like every struggling day would drag onto the next day and so on. Fortunately yesterday——>

out came the sun, and dried up all the rain

and the itsy bitsy au pair found the end of the pain

I’m lame I know, but honestly it was like I woke up in a new world this morning. The sun was shining, the mother was smiling, the kid wasn’t crying… it seemed almost too good to be true. OH! and it was Wednesday, and if you don’t already know, in France the kids either have half days or no school, which makes it by far the most dreaded day by au pairs everywhere.

I’m going to give credit to the big sun in the sky for making this day a heck of a lot better. It’s crazy what a little vitamin D can do for people.

As many of you know something else that makes me happier than the birds is cooking so I whipped up this yummy breakfast pizza before starting my day.

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Upon picking P up from school yesterday I was instantly shocked by how talkative she was. Once again, BLESS YOU SUNSHINE.

This girl is smart let me tell you. She can whip out facts about literally anything, that will blow your mind. Today I was told that women will live longer than men because apparently they are healthier. This somehow leaded to her correcting my pronunciation of words that I consistently have trouble with. I was becoming frustrated, as always, because at 21 years old I have trouble communicating with a 6 year old. Unlike how she normally reacts when I’m wrong by saying “I don’t understand” or completely ignoring me, she corrected my sentence. I must admit it felt a little odd but I enjoyed her being my little teacher.

There was something that she said that really stuck with me at the end of our conversation; a life lesson in fact. “You know you don’t have to be perfect at something the first time, and it’s okay to admit that you are having trouble. You just have to keep trying and you’ll succeed”. Following this I got a hug but it didn’t feel like any forced hug that I had received in the past weeks. It was a genuine sisterly hug which I graciously returned back with a bisous of course.

Oh and might I point out how obsessed I am with this families toilet paper. It truly is the little things in life that bring us joy.
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We often take for granted the things that most deserve our gratitude

We as humans complain, its natural.

Au pairs, myself included complain a lot. Once again natural, especially in our circumstances. It could be the smallest thing but yet we still have to let the world know that it’s bothering us. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather bringing me down but lately I’ve noticed a higher level of negativity towards not only my job but life in general. When I sit down and actually lay out exactly what I do have in my life, not only physically but emotionally as well, i’m beyond blessed.

I’ve decided to create a list of the things I take for granted to really show how fortunate I am to be in the situation I am in currently.

1. I have a safe roof over my head which I actually look forward to coming home to.

2. There is always more than enough food to eat and a variety at that.

3. A job that may not be what I want to be doing for the rest of my life but for now this is what I have chosen.

4. A beyond kind and caring host family. I may be 21 but it’s still nice to come home to a family that considers you their daughter and treats you as one of their own.

5. I get paid always on time or in advance which is something that the majority of my fellow Au pairs are having issues with.

6. I wake up in the morning and I’m alive and breathing.

7. Technology. t’s crazy how much I rely on it for the majority of the things I do throughout the day. I can call my family in Canada in the matter of a minute, or message my friends with a few swipes of my finger.

8. I have an abundance of clothes to wear and to keep myself warm. If you’re friends with me you’ll constantly hear me complain that I have too many clothes and I’m not going to be able to take them all back with me to Canada or I will have to take another suitcase. I’ve decided that the clothes that I don’t absolutely need I will donate before I leave instead of creating more stress than I need.

9. I’m not cheap, I’m just frugal. I’m fortunate that this was something that I acquired from my grandmother Cress, who can make a dollar last longer than anyone I know.

10. I have a voice. If you know me well enough I’m not the type that let’s things pass me by and always speak up when I am not happy with something. I know for a fact that my other grandmother Chute gave me this attribute and couldn’t be prouder.

Hearing the stories of my friends and their current situations within their families really makes me appreciate what I have. I’ll admit, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t want to pack my bags and head home but what I’ve learned in the past is that running away from a problem never solves anything. I’m fortunate enough to have a close enough bond with my family here where we can openly discuss issues that come about no matter what problems arise. I’ve come to the conclusion that living a life of perfect happiness may be acquirable but unrealistic, for me anyways.

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I’m in France, essentially living the dream and how many people can say they’ve done that?

The power of friendship & a trip to Versailles

I’m going to be honest and admit that these past couple of months abroad have been tough. The cold temperatures make it hard to find the motivation to even just step outside, let alone do anything. When you’re an Au pair your “free” time consists of during the day when your child is in school and then at night when the parents arrive home from work. Let’s just say there hasn’t been a night during the week I have left since before Christmas. I swear it must be the cold that makes me just want to relax every night with a hot tea and a good book.

Flashback to September and I was finding any excuse possible to leave the house. Having a schedule where your free time is limited to a block of hours a day has been extremely tough to find time to see my friends. We’re all in different french classes, love in towns on the complete opposite side of Paris and end up babysitting on different nights. Of course with technology in today’s age we’re constantly communicating but it’s still not the same as physically being together and spending time together.

This past Sunday all of  my three best friends here in Paris finally found a day where we all were free. It only took a month but better late than never! We all were coming from different directions so we decided on meeting at the entrance but I got lucky and found Katie on my walk from the train to the castle of Versailles!

Katie and I started our tour around the castle with our free audio guides might I add. Thank goodness for them because I learned A LOT, and I mean a lot. When it comes to learning about history typically the information goes over my head but this was short, sweet and fairly interesting.

Courtney and Julie met us in the hall of mirrors until deciding that we all really just wanted food; priorities. 

The day started off beautiful only to turn to rain at the exact time we were heading out to the gardens. Just our luck, but it didn’t stop us from attempting to see as much as we could.

We ended the tour with a trip the gift shop for the essential postcards! I’ve sent one home from each new city that I have gone to so far so i’ll be able to see what I’ve seen and done when I get home. Versailles is new city number 3 of the year I’d like to point out, which means another goal crossed off the list for this year! I’m also 1/3 through my first french novel which is another thing I want to accomplish before the year is up!

Without struggle there is no progress.

Not only is it the phrase that gave me strength to be the woman I am today but it will be on me until the day I die.IMG_1017

We often reflect on the hard times in the past and see them as negative, which is the obvious response when we experience things we’re not particularly happy or fond of. What about if those experiences shaped who we are today and are the reason for the current lifestyle we live. I know that would change my thoughts on my past completely.
Would I be living this life in Paris today if I hadn’t of gone through what I have in the past few years of my life? Probably not, actually no there’s no probably about it.

I’m here in this city because of those times but now I no longer see them as being bad or unfortunate for happening. At the time yes, when things wouldn’t go as planned and life seemed to change directions every single day, I felt a sense of failure almost. Failure in the sense that I didn’t know what was next; unprepared even.

I’m 21.

I’m not perfect.

I’ll never be perfect,

but i’m me.

I need to continue to remind myself this each and everyday. Being a perfectionist I always feared doing the wrong, but what truly defines the wrong when you are the only one who can decide where your life goes. I definitely am not eager to come across failures in my life but I do believe that with every negative comes an ever larger positive. Of course as anything it all takes time. Did I wake up the next morning after deciding that I needed a fresh start and know exactly what I wanted to do? Nope, but sooner than I thought life worked it’s way out and lead me here.

As my mother tried to instill into me when I was young girl, and still to this day reminds me of, “life is not perfect”. Of course I took the hard way and didn’t listen but I learnt from it and I truly believe that much stronger from the struggles I’ve faced. As much as we want our plans in life to pan out the way we foresee them, sometimes obstacles may open more opportunities that wouldn’t have had.

Should I stay or should i go now?

I think that I think too much.. No, I know that I thin too much. I’ve always had a difficult time making decisions especially with ones that are life impacting. I stress as many do, but gosh does it ever feel overwhelming at times. I wonder if i’ve made the best choice with coming here, or if maybe I had of stayed what the outcome would have been. Would I have a successful career or maybe a new car? Would I still be living at home or maybe my own apartment?

I dwell and I know I shouldn’t because it solves nothing, absolutely nothing. I made my choice and this is what I need to stick with. No matter what I may have been able to do in the past 5 months without travelling abroad I’m more than pleased with what I have done but more what I have learnt about myself.

When will i know when I’ve discovered all there is for me here abroad? and then Where do I go from here?

I swear if you were able to be in my brain to see how often it’s contemplating or questioning decisions you would be tired, no exhausted. I’m a worrywart what can I say, I have a little piece of my grandmother Cress in me which i’m more proud of than anything.

There’s part of me that wants to run home but what will that do? Life will essentially fall back into place as it was before which is not as comforting as you might think , but yet frightening. This me that I’ve found here is someone that I don’t want to lose. I’m adventurous, carefree, less ridged, heck I finally have patience for children again. I can’t pin point why I wasn’t able to find myself in Nova Scotia but it took me a trip across the ocean into a new life in order to break out of my shell. The fact that I am still not 100 percent confident that I have pursued and found what I came here for leads me to believe that my time here is far from over.

Who’s to say if this new found me is here to stay or maybe it’s just the beginning to finding even more about myself and transitioning into someone I enjoy even more. The unknown thought is scary, frightening and leaves me uneasy but this is life. Life is not perfect, nor planned.

There are days when all I want is to go home and leave this life I’m living here. Then there are times when I want this life forever, which I do realize is impossible and unrealistic.

Something I have discovered is that dreams don’t have to be realistic but goals do.

My goal when moving abroad was simply to experience a different way of life before settling into my own. So far after five months I’ve acquired much more than that, leading me to believe that there is more to come with time. What will another season in Europe bring me?

Give me six months and I’ll let you know

You decide your own destiny

People are going to talk, no matter what you do in life so please, don’t allow comments to dictate your life. What I’ve learned is that it’s your life, not theirs. Truth be told it took my 20 years to figure this out, but I`m finally at a point where I`m confident in myself enough to trust my choices in life.

In the past I always had a figure that I followed for everything I did in life but this time was different. I needed a fresh start, a new beginning and an adventure of a lifetime.

A common response I heard from people when they heard of my decision to be an Au Pair was “You’re just going to throw away your education?” I’m not quite sure how to exactly throw away my education considering my diploma isn’t going anywhere nor is everything that I learned throughout my years in school. There’s nothing saying that I can’t go back into that career field later on in life but for now, this is what I want.

Before I moved abroad I had many people that made comments on my ability to follow through with this. Fast forward to today, those same people have approached me a second time, but instead with a more encouraging outlook as they’ve been able to see how positive this experience has been for me. For 21 years I was always given a choice but a guided one with support in how to get there. Making the decision to change my life completely like I did was all made by me. Did I know what I was doing? Nope, but that’s why I’m here to learn more about myself and what I actually do want to pursue in the future. Maybe I`ll end up wanting to be a nurse or an entrepreneur when i`m done here or maybe I still won`t have a clear idea by the end of this journey. Finally I am able to accept that it`s okay not to know exactly how my life is going to plan out tomorrow, the next day or even the next year.

You’re only young once so use the opportunity before you have reasons not to.

Growing up is never easy

Something that I’ve recently realized, and has been tough to actually want to come to terms with, is the fact that I’m growing up whether I like it or not.

When we’re younger all we want is to be older, have more independence and be essentially free from rules. So here I am, now a considerably amount older with more freedom than I want sometimes, and all I want is to reverse back time; when life consisted of unlimited ice cream and doing cartwheels on the soccer field.

I’ve been away from home for the past 4 years now but this time is different. I can’t just drive an hour on the weekend to spend time at home or be involved in the annual activities like I used to. I’m used to being able to do anything and be anywhere but that’s impossible in my current situation. I missed out on the annual girls trip which I have gone on with my grandparents, aunts, mother and cousins for years. Of course it’s upsetting not the be able to do everything but that’s life as I’ve come to realize. There will always be things we want to be doing and places we want to be no matter where or what we do.

When I was home I dreamed about being abroad travelling and here I am abroad and dreaming about home. That’s what life seems to be all about; having to make sacrifices simply because we can’t do everything we desire. Imagine having everything in life go perfectly as planned to your utmost satisfaction. Do you think you’d be happy?

More than likely, not.

Growing up I was very fortunate to have the guidance and love that my parents gave me which helped shape me into the person I am today. At home I had a very satisfying life to be honest. I had a car, a roof over my head, a well paying job and was always surrounded by family but that didn’t mean I was happy; or at least the happiest I could be. That’s simply because my time had come to find my place in this world outside of the comfort of my surroundings. Over the past five months I’ve been able to see a whole new person emerge from this body and I’m not about to let her leave.

My happiness is determined by my own choices.

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