Okay, so I figure it’s about time I sat down and write about this properly, now that I’ve got my current book out of the way. For those of you unaware, I recently made two trips: the first to Toronto, Ontario, and the second to Montréal, Quebec. This will be a long, sort of winding around post, so if you aren’t interested or in a hurry I suggest you pass this on with the knowledge that it was an excellent experience for myself.
The idea of this journey starts years earlier. I was supposed to get my passport for 2006, for a tour around Europe with my grandmother. Being my usual unfocused self, I did not go. A friend was graduating, their entire family moving away shortly after. I do not regret this decision, because I’d rather take my time and choose what I enjoy about my journey than be dragged around on leash. Ultimately, 2006 passed without me buying a passport, but the understanding of how to get one was now planted in my head.
Growing up, I travelled a lot with family. I’m used to seeing sights, enjoying different aspects of different regions. I wanted to learn multiple languages and see other countries. As an adult, I have what I consider to be a decent enough grasp on French and a marginal grasp of Japanese. I randomly take my spare time to reinforce my knowledge, and still enjoy it.
M has been a travelling buddy since we met, really. Our journeys were a lot smaller then, downtown or to another city as opposed to what eventually became cross-state joyrides and airplane hops, most often to see some random band that was playing. She’d expressed an interest in me going to Canada before, but I could never afford to in the amount of time I had to scrounge up money. But what it did do is make me apply for my passport.
I have a friend in Canada, in Montréal, who goes by Larry, that I’ve known for seven years now. Last year he asked if I couldn’t come visit for their jazz festival, but he only gave me three days advance warning, and it was laughable. I’m poor. I need to plot out going months in advance. But it put the idea in my head, and I started saving. This January, I set about planning different methods of being able to go. It’d be easier on me to travel with another person. Eventually, on a late night, I hunted my father down on 6th St. in Mamou. I was depressed. I had the money for tickets and food/entertainment, but not hotel fees and I had nowhere I could stay. I visited with my father, and thinking nothing of it, I asked him, “Do you want to go to Montréal?”
He said yes.
I expected to be crestfallen later, when he would not remember his hasty agreement or withdraw it, but by that morning he was asking me to look up flights and hotels and all sorts of things. What’s more, he paid. I was in shock. I’ve had several good gestures given to me throughout my life, but I never expected this. It wasn’t something that was necessary in any way. Why would he be so generous? I expected to give him the money I saved up, but he didn’t want it. So now it was just a matter of time of waiting until June to finally visit Montréal.
Shortly after, I saw that M was wanting to go to Toronto to see The Gazette play, and a thought sparked. All this Canada business had started with M. It seemed wrong not to go to Canada with M when I had the money, and I did, after all. I still had the money that Dad had saved me. So I offered to go, and set it up. I viewed it as a stress test for Montréal.
I visited Foo in Dallas, TX. I visit her every few months, so I figured I’d get my visit with her out the way after the trip to Toronto. I would fly out of Dallas’ airport, since it was cheaper than flying from home. This would prove to be frightening in several ways. It’d been several years since I’d gone through an airport on my own (hell, I’d never bought a ticket on my own, either), and I’m not known for handling stress well. But I made it through the flights, made it through customs, and found M, and we navigated our way to Natalia, a really nice girl playing hostess to us. Our rental was near hers.
I think my favorite thing about Toronto was walking back at night to the apartment. I used to love walking out at night, but I feel it’s impossible to do alone and where I live now there are no sidewalks or even road shoulders to walk on–not to mention the fact that it doesn’t feel safe. But it was nice and cold, and we were bundled up, and we would discuss the day’s events. It was amazing. One of the best aspects of a trip with M is that she is fully capable of giving me a verbal smack to the back of the head to keep my behavior in check or to quickly calm me down, and that I’m aware of, she only had to resort to it once when we were having trouble getting home and I was starting to panic.
Getting home was easier, knowing how to navigate customs. I did my Dallas visit, came home, and took care of business. I had a month of very, very slow time passing before Montréal. This time, I wouldn’t be alone, which turns out is more stressful! Keeping track of another person and guiding them through everything is a very strange sensation. Leaving the airport was a task, but arriving at the apartment was amazing. It was small, but spacious, perfectly set up to give Dad and I privacy, even in the living area. I got to actually use my French proactively, which is something I fail to do at home, and that was a fun puzzle game every time I got into a conversation.
Dad was amazing during the trip. There were days where I really wanted to go places but couldn’t bring myself to go alone; I don’t know if he understood that was the issue, but on each of those days he offered to go out with me to the places I wanted to see. And Larry? Larry could be a professional host, if he didn’t have a habit of being late. He actually wrote out a schedule so that I would know what days he was going to see me and which days he’d be busy, so I could plan my own goings-on around those days. This was an extremely helpful tool for my trip. And when it was a day with him, it was fun, curious, and relaxing. Plus, he worked in total surprises that were great, unique fun.
A year ago, I would not have been able to have these trips. I have lost nearly 100 pounds since last April, and plan on continuing the weight loss until I’m no longer obese, which for my body size is another 70 pounds or so. I used to have constant severe pain in my feet. I had pain in Montréal at first due to not-good walking shoes, which I fixed by buying a new pair while I was there, and I haven’t felt pain since. I’m still learning things, and will continue to do so. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to redo my budget so that I will be able to take an adventure once or twice a year, be it to see Larry again, go on a random trip with M again, or even visit the ever-spirited Kelly in Denver! I think these trips will allow for me to develop a stabler mental health level, with beautiful sights and scenery and friends and things to look forward to so that the world doesn’t turn to grey.
Here’s to keeping the world vivid, even if it’s just visiting a pet store and socializing with the animals.