Vancouver, BC

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I really and truly fell in love with Vancouver during my weeklong trip there. I went because I'd never been and because I wanted to visit my friends and because I was sick of winter in the greater Toronto area and because I wanted to see beautiful things. I went because I could afford to and because I wanted to. It was an awesome choice.

I couldn't get over how gorgeous the scenery was surrounding Vancouver. I kept feeling like I was on an exotic vacation getaway and then remembering that this was just home for the people of Vancouver. Having never lived in a city surrounded by so much beautiful nature, that was an incredible realization. I loved waking up and seeing all that water and all that sky out the window. I loved walking around downtown and getting glimpses of mountains from between two apartment buildings. I loved that you could turn off a main road onto a path and suddenly be surrounded on all sides by enormous towering trees covered with moss and silence.

Plus, can we talk about the fact that I didn't have to wear a winter jacket in February? That in itself should be mentioned. Sure, it wasn't always warm – though there were a few days when I sat outside in the sunshine without being uncomfortable – but it wasn't really cold either. And while it did rain a few days I was there, I still saw plenty of sunshine and blue skies.

I felt very comfortable in Vancouver. I was lucky enough to experience many different situations while I was there (including a swanky dinner event, a cool launch party, and a night at a lodge in Whistler) but universally felt right at home because the atmosphere was always welcoming and low-maintenance. I remember going out for a late dinner at what I thought was a casual pizza place with a friend of mine. When I realized it was a pretty fancy bistro-type place, I was a bit embarrassed by my jeans and quarter-zip athletic sweater…that is until I spotted about three other locals there in similar outfits! I felt like I connected well with the vibe of Vancouver.

It's a gorgeous, vibrant city, and one that I am really looking forward to spending more time in.

Rome, Italy

I thought Rome was absolutely incredible. I was constantly in awe of how well-preserved and how ever-present the history is in the city. You can be waiting to cross a busy street with an office building on your left and some not even remotely famous but still super fascinating ruins on your right. When I told my mom I was going to the Colosseum, she asked if I had to make a long journey to get there. Nope, it's two stops on the metro from where I was staying. It's totally incredible.
 
My time in Rome was a bit of a whirlwind. I walked for hours on end every day just trying to soak it all up and was understandably tired every night. It's just such a big, impressive, interesting city. It was one of those places I loved instantly and I didn't feel like it was overrated. At one point I remember thinking “how can anyone not like Rome?!”. I was lucky to be there as tourist season was winding down (though it was still packed with tourists) and when the weather wasn't quite so hot (though it was still very hot some days). I can't imagine what it's like in the middle of summer, and I'm glad I was there when I was.
 
I loved how history and modernity were just smushed up against each other everywhere you looked – it makes for such a surreal, fascinating city. It's touristy, but there's a reason it's touristy: the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, St. Peter's cathedral and the Sistine Chapel are all larger-than-life and beautiful, and it is completely understandable why so many people come so far to see them. It was a really special experience.
 
Favourites:
  • Enoteca Provincia Romana: this place is on the fancy side, but they sell a selection of fresly-made sandwiches to go for $5. I went two afternoons and got a yummy, cheap sandwich which I ate while sitting next to some beautiful ruins.
  • Il gelato di San Crispino: this shop (now a small chain of shops) was apparently mentioned in Eat, Pray, Love, but I had it recommended to me by a fellow traveller. Really delicious and authentic gelato in amazing flavours.
  • Il Vittoriano: this beautiful building totally took my breath away when I first saw it. It's huge! It's free to climb up all the gorgeous steps and go inside, and the views are really great. You could also choose to take an expensive elevator ride to the top of the building (my budget elected not to) where I've heard the views are even better.
  • The Roman Forum!! I was more excited to see the Colosseum when I got to Rome, but I actually found it a bit underwhelming. The Roman Forum on the other hand I hadn't really heard much about before I came to Rome, but is now one of my favourite things I've seen on this trip. It's beautiful, and you can really get a feel for how things might have looked back in the (Roman) day. I wish I'd had more time there. Another tip: visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum on different days, there's too much to see. Also, a great time to go is around 5PM, when the crowds have thinned out and the sun is less glaring.

 

What to Pack to Backpack Through Europe >> Life In Limbo

What to Pack to Backpack Through Europe

The Trip: I’m backpacking through Europe for 3 months, spanning the summer and early fall. I’m travelling with a carry-on bag only, and you can read more about why I came to that decision (and find a link to the bag if you’re interested) here. My travels are mainly focused on the more balmy mediterranean countries, but I’ll still be there as it starts to get chilly, so I’ve packed enough layers to see me through different temperatures.

Great Resources: My list of what to pack when backpacking through Europe is inspired by a lot of wonderful lists I found online. OneBag is the mother of all packing lists, with great recommendations and detailed explanations for each item – definitely start there. While I didn’t pack everything he has on his list, Rick Steves knows what he’s talking about when it comes to packing for Europe. I really liked Peanut Butter Fingers’ post for inspiration about what clothes to pack – she’s more my age than some of the other blogs, so it’s a bit more of an accessible post. Her Packing List has a huge resource page for a plethora of different packing lists for all over the world in all seasons. Finally, Never Ending Voyage has a great packing list for carry-on travel.

The List:

Clothes

Clothes 1

  1. Three cardigans (two long-sleeved, one 3/4-sleeves)
  2. Two plain t-shirts (one navy blue, one black)
  3. Three shirts (all short sleeves)
  4. Five tank tops + 1 sleep shirt (not pictured)
  5. Bras, underwear, socks, black tights
  6. One long sleeved striped shirt (not pictured)

*Two Eagle Creek packing cubes

Clothes 2

  1. Two skirts
  2. Black leggings
  3. Five dresses (one not pictured)
  4. Two pairs of pants (one pair of jeans, one pair of khakis) and a belt

Clothes 3

  1. Knee-length running shorts
  2. Long-sleeved running top
  3. Bikini top
  4. One-piece swimsuit
  5. Two bikini bottoms

Clothes 4

  1. Jacket: light weight and water-resistant
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Purse with shoulder strap

DSC_0112

  1. Toms
  2. New Balance Minimus running shoes
  3. Crocs flats: these are completely washable and quick-drying, so I’m planning to use them as shower shoes, water shoes, or flats

*The reason some things aren’t pictured is because I added them at the last minute, post photoshoot!

Toiletries

DSC_0118

Top Row: Headband, bandaids, Advil, earplugs, hair elastics, floss, razor blade, matches, soap flakes

Second Row: L.L. Bean Toiletries Case, headlamp, whistle, USB drive, eye mask, Light My Fire spork, comb, toothbrush, Diva Cup, padlock

Third Row: Dr. Bronner’s Lavender All-Purpose Soap, 2 bottles Clear Care contact solution, sunscreen, Polysporin, toothpaste, Tide-to-Go pen, conditioner, Lafe’s deodorant, contact lens case, Q-tips, razor.

*Not pictured, because I forgot: concealer, blush, and mascara

Technology

Technology - Packing

  1. Chargers for my camera, iPad and phone
  2. Earphones
  3. MicroSD to iPad connector (to upload photos)
  4. European adaptor
  5. Camera remote
  6. ONA Roma Bag: a camera bag insert that fits into my purse and protects my camera
  7. iPad Mini (a graduation gift from my Dad)
  8. Unlocked iPhone 4
  9. Not pictured (because I was using it!): Nikon D90 + 35mm f.18 lens

Miscellaneous

Extras - Packing

  1. Waterproof bag: for carrying phone, keys, wallet while swimming if I’m at the beach on the solo part of my trip
  2. Sea to Summit Silk sleep sack: lightweight travel sheets (doubles as a blanket on trains)
  3. Travel towel
  4. Passport
  5. Travel wallet and change purse
  6. Moneybelt
  7. Pens, washi tape (for anchoring memorabilia into my notebook), and a notebook.
  8. A small beach towel (not pictured)

Details

I am going to be wearing one pair of shoes and packing the third. I’m also going to be wearing my jacket when travelling between cities (or at least carrying it) but if it’s too hot, it fits, folded into the front pocket of the bag. My shirts + running clothes all roll up nicely and fit into my large packing cube. All my other clothes get rolled up and packed in the bottom of the suitcase along with my travel towel and sleep sack. In my purse I’ll carry my camera and other electronics, unless their are flight restrictions in which case I’ll pack everything inside the bag.

DSC_0142It closes like a charm! For most airlines, you’re permitted a carry-on plus a purse or camera bag. I’ve heard that some European budget airlines (Ryanair/Easyjet) are strict about allowing only one piece of luggage. In the event of that happening, I will still have enough space in my bag to pack my purse inside. The water bottle is a Vapur bottle I can also stow away if I have to.

DSC_0149

And there you have it: my home for the next three months! I love how compact it is, and how everything has its proper place inside.

For this trip, I’ve omitted a few things that most long-term travel blogs recommend: a rubber doorstop (I’m staying in multi-person dorms, so it wouldn’t make sense), a travel clothesline, a well-stocked first aid kit, etc.

What are your travel necessities? What have you packed and then later decided was unnecessary? Have you travelled with only carry-on luggage before? Any tips about how to make my trip go more smoothly?

Let me know in the comments below!