My Review of the LL Bean Quickload Travel Pack for Her Packing List

HPL2As I’ve written before, I absolutely love my backpack. It’s comfortable and sturdy, it folds open like a suitcase, the straps stow away, and it’s carry-on sized. I did a lot of research before buying the bag I was going to use while backpacking through Europe (you can see the funny/crazy/thorough spreadsheet I made here) and this is the bag that came out on top. It’s now been to almost 10 countries with me and has been a great little travel companion!

Last week I wrote a more in-depth review of my bag over at Her Packing List, so if you’re interested in more details you can check it out here! If you’re interested in buying the LL Bean Quickload Travel pack, you can find it here.

HPL3It’s one of my 24 before 24 goals to write articles for 7 websites besides my own. This is the first, and I’m proud of it.

Also, I should mention: I’m not associated with LL Bean in any way (I wish!), and this is not a sponsored post. I just love this bag and want to share the information with the world.

22 Favourite Moments


Looking back on the year is one of my favourite things to do. I’m turning 23 today, and as always I feel totally blessed and happy to be so fortunate in my life. I have so much love, such good friends, a kind and caring family, and I have been lucky enough to experience so many wonderful opportunities. It’s so easy to get bogged down in everyday problems or stress about the future, but even as I write this, I realize how lovely my life truly is in the grand scheme of things. I also realize that this list makes it sound like all I had this year were amazing moments, but I don’t want to glamorize my life – that’s definitely not true. I’ve had my fair share of hard, painful, challenging, lost and lonely moments this year too. But when I look back in twenty years, these extraordinary and extraordinarily ordinary moments are the ones I want to remember. So here’s to my 22 favourite memories from the past year, in no particular order. 


Swimming in the sea looking back on the cliffs of Positano with friends from Montreal who were serendipitiously in town on the same day I was. I remember marvelling in the beauty of my surroundings and at the incredibly beautiful synchronicity of the world. 

The road trip I took when I moved home from Montreal to Toronto with one of my best friends. I’d been up almost the whole night before, staring out at the blurry neon lights of the city from her apartment, and I was nervy. I drove us home and I was a bundle of emotions and kind of jumpy but we listened to a lot of top 40 and had singalongs and stopped to eat onion rings outside of a highway rest stop in the late afternoon light, and it was perfect.


Being on a boat with another best friend in a little cove in the Adriatic sea. We sunbathed and went for long swims and ate crackers and chips and drank cool beer and listened to Drake and the songs of a guy I’d dated and the White Panda, all off of my iPod without speakers and we giggled a lot. We felt like Beyoncé, except on a very small boat and with less good snacks. Also on that gorgeous trip: the time we followed the sound of a ringing bell and found a donkey

Finally nailing the balance of a headstand after so many failed attempts (and crashes and bangs). 


The first time I found the beach here in Busan. It was this mix of relief and joy and it made me feel calm and alive and refreshed. All I could think about was how blessed I felt to be spending a year only a fifteen minute walk from this kind of paradise.  

The afternoon I spent with Laura in Toronto, eating delicious vegan food from Hogtown and recording the podcast in the sunshine at Christie Pits Park, playing with the leaves, and people-watching. 


Seeing my family, including my little Grandma, in the crowd at my convocation ceremony. 


The drive with one of my best friends all along the coastal highway that we took to Whistler. We ate strawberries and sweet potato chips, listened to Lana Del Ray and Beyoncé (of course), and I must have exclaimed about a hundred times about how beautiful our surroundings were. Really, my whole trip to Vancouver makes the list. 

A long, long, impromptu, funny, refreshing girl talk session with my lovely friends from high school on the bed in my childhood room.


The outdoor barbecue my Dad threw for my going-away-to-Europe party in his backyard. My grandparents drove down for it and we grilled and ate mangoes and laughed and it was so wonderful to have all my loved ones around.

Ringing in the New Year by making a mountain of homemade sushi with my family and then going to a hot yoga intention-setting workshop. I was in downward dog when it became 2014! 


Eating a little picnic complete with baguette, cheese, tomatoes and a bottled peach cocktail on the banks of the Grand Canal in Venice. Actually, my whole time in Venice was beautiful, simple, and lovely. Other great memories: eating spaghetti while listening to one of the classical quartets play to a very small crowd one drizzly, rainy night was another wonderful moment. Finding the gorgeous bookstore that sits right on the water and is stacked to the ceiling. Drinking an aperol spritz on a stoop and watching the rain. 

Getting to learn how to make gelato at the Gelato University in Bologna was so much fun (and super tasty). I loved Bologna so much, all the time I spent there was a dream. 


The whole time I spent in Cinque Terre was also a dream. I watched sunsets, ate great food, hiked gorgeous trails and soaked up so much beauty. 

Watching the most incredible sunset from the balcony of a monastery in Florence, eating “crema” flavored gelato.  I bought the homemade gelato from a monk, after I’d listened to them singing and praying in the crypt of a beautiful church. 


Meeting my Grandma in Wales for a week. That time we spent together and with family was so very special. 

Pintxos-bar-hopping with new friends in San Sebastian. One of the more delicious nights of my trip. 


The first time I watched Iya Traore’s soccer freestyle show from the grass beside the steps of Sacré Coeur cathedral in Paris. I had been feeling lonely and sad (it was my first day of travelling solo) but seeing his show made me feel so inspired and alive and connected. Also in Paris: watching the finish line of the Tour de FranceLearning how to dance West-Coast swing with new friends on the quais de la Seine. Eating a picnic on the grounds of a very old castle. Meeting up with my high school exchange student after 7 years. 

Toad man. I will always be grateful for the few months I lived at home after Europe (yes, mom, really!). Even though those months were challenging and painful sometimes, they also held so many beautiful, hilarious, everyday moments I shared with my family. 


The evening I spent at les estivales de Montpellier – their Friday night summer street festival. Fresh flowers, good food, live music, beautiful sunset. 

The day I spent with my mom before I flew to Europe. We went hiking on the beautiful trails of Mount Nemo and then we went walking along the shore and down to the pier. We were both so nervous, but it was such a beautiful day. We had a similarly nervy day the day before I left for Korea – all we did was go to Shoppers Drug Mart for things I didn’t really need and then made fresh spring rolls at our kitchen table. 


My lovely going awaygook party with the Korean flag cupcakes and the beautiful fruit platters that my beautiful sister cut for me, with lots of loved ones wishing me well. 

Honorable mentions:

  • All the times I went for gelato. There were so many gelatos this year, and all of them incredibly delicious. Examples: 1, 2, 3
  • All the times I watched the sunset. There were so many sunsets this year, and all of them stunningly gorgeous. Examples: 1, 2, 3

Truly, the longer I spent thinking about this year, the more special moments I could think of. It was really hard to keep this list to only 22 things (you can see by the way I grouped several moments together to count as only one!), and for that I am incredibly grateful. Imagine that, I had too many wonderful moments this year to fit onto only one list! I love that. I love life. Here’s to 23! 

 You can see my 21 favourite moments from last year here

Munich, Germany

You’d never guess from these photos, but for the majority of my time in Munich, the weather was miserable. And after a solid two and a half months of absolutely perfect weather (I can count on three fingers the number of times it rained or wasn’t a sunny blue skies day) it was a bit of a rude awakening to find myself in a much colder, much rainier climate. I didn’t have many cold-weather clothes with me, and my little canvas shoes got soaked through in no time at all. I also felt myself getting sick, so I did a lot of sleeping, and one of my two days in Munich was spent indoors at my hostel (the first and only time I did this on my *entire* trip!) with a quick trip to the train station for food and to ask about train reservations.

But it wasn’t all bad, by any means! The train ride from Venice to Munich alone was reason enough to visit Munich – I was lucky enough to see some of the most beautiful landscapes and scenery I’ve ever seen. It’s all lush and green, with enormous mountains towering on both sides of little villages (and even littler trains) and mist everywhere. It’s inexplicable, but it’s gorgeous. I spent the majority of the ride nursing a tea in the dining car, gazing out at the countryside. It was lovely.

In Munich itself, my experience varied. My first day, I marched out into the city, only to be met with rain seemingly every time I stepped outside (which, obviously, subsided as soon as I ran for cover – at one point it was actually laughable, the consistency with which this phenomenon happened). There was thankfully a stretch of sunny skies weather in the afternoon and I got to explore the English Gardens, Munich’s largest and most beautiful park. It’s a great park: people everywhere jogging, eating, climbing up to the gazebo on the hill, and even surfing!

After being in Italy for almost a month, I was craving something other than Italian food (Italy doesn’t have much good food of cultures besides its own!) – specifically, Asian. My first night, I was too tired to venture very far in the pouring rain, so I went across the street from my hostel to a very German place: think pretzels, schnitzel, waitresses in dirndls, big family-style tables and lots and lots of beer. It was extremely busy, so I got the single vegetarian dish on the otherwise totally-carnivorous menu – mushroom gravy with a dumpling. I took it back to my hostel bed and it turned out to be a lovely, hearty meal. The other nights, I ventured out to Asian restaurants and was psyched to be eating fried rice, spring rolls and curry. Amazing.

When I initially planned to stop in Munich, it was because I’d had it recommended as a nice city en route from Italy to Amsterdam. At the time, since I’d be stopping there in September, it didn’t even occur to me that Octoberfest might have been on. Turns out, it wasn’t – it started two days after I left. It was a shame! But I was excited to keep moving and keep my rendez-vous with my cousins in London and relatives in Wales. It was cool to see them setting up the fairgrounds (right near my hostel) for the festival, but after meeting some of the people who came to Munich for Octoberfest (including one guy who threw up all over himself and his bed next to me in the dorm room) I decided it was probably for the best I didn’t go this time around – I’ll just have to come back with a few friends another time. :)


  • Jasmin Asia Cuisine: delicious food, amazing service, peaceful restaurant.
  • MiMi Asia Restaurant: a quiet neighbourhood place, full of locals, where I had a really amazing curry
  • English Gardens: this park is so wonderful to explore! Don’t miss the surfers near the entrance to the park.

Venice, Italy


Venice is a really special place. I had heard mixed reviews from other travellers before I arrived, but I totally fell in love with the city. I was there towards the tail end of tourist season (mid-September), but I can’t imagine what the place is like in peak season, since it still seemed fairly busy to me. But it’s easy to escape the tourists a little bit and get lost in Venice – in fact, I tried to get lost intentionally because I heard that’s how you get to discover some of the real character of the place. The fact is that Venice is a pretty touristy place, especially in terms of restaurants, but it also has lots of beautiful churches and cute shops and tons of gorgeous canals and crumbly buildings, you just have to get off the beaten path a bit to find them.

I was only in Venice for two days, but I really enjoyed my time there. I spent it wandering the streets, taking the vaporetto (water bus) up and down the Grand Canal, touring the beautiful St. Mark’s Cathedral, listening to the music of the string quartets playing at the cafés in the square, eating a picnic dinner on the banks of the canal, enjoying delicious gelato, and taking pictures of all the beautiful buildings, boats and waterways. It was lovely.


  • Vaporetto no.1: this water bus line is slow, but it takes you all the way down the beautiful Grand Canal and the ride costs about a sixth of the price of a gondola ride so it’s a great alternative on a budget :)
  • Acqua Alta: this is the most beautiful, charming, magical bookstore I’ve ever visited. Books are everywhere – stacked to the ceiling, filling entire boats, forming steps up to look out over the canal. The store is right on the water, and it’s amazing.
  • Drink an Aperol Spritz: it seems to be the drink of choice in Venice! It’s bright orange and super tasty.