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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

The University Grad

Gotta love the cap and gown look, standing in front of my school colours and logo!

Gotta love the cap and gown look, standing in front of my school colours and logo!

Yesterday was the culmination of my five years at university: I was finally able to walk across the stage, only worrying about not tripping, and shake the President of UFV’s hand as my name was announced in the endless list of 2016 graduates.

That’s right, after five years of turmoil, sleepless nights, history and English papers, and multitudes of unfinished readings, I graduated university. It was a great moment – even if it only felt like a fleeting five seconds when I crossed the stage.

For some people, this seems a great accomplishment. For others, not so much. But here, let me put it into perspective…

Jumping from elementary to high school, and university immediately following, I have been attending institutionalized schooling for 18 consecutive years. That’s a lot of school! I did not take a year off between high school and university, and no gap years were taken during my degree. I have worked hard to get through university in one go – even if it took me a little longer than the average four years.

On top of all that schooling, I have been working one or two part time jobs since grade 8. Working these jobs, I was able to pay for half of my university schooling, including a semester in Ireland, and with the help of my parents, I am graduating with no debts from school. In today’s world, I feel like that is a huge accomplishment alone.

We were goofy smiles and selfies for our grad day - having survived 18 years of school! ;)

We were goofy smiles and selfies for our grad day – having survived 18 years of school! 😉

In grad attire with one of my best friends, Christy! We have known each other for about 17 years now, practically our entire lives!

In grad attire with one of my best friends, Christy! We have known each other for about 17 years now, practically our entire lives!

My university experience wasn’t like the ones you see in movies or on TV, or probably like many other students you know. I was the student who went to every class, except when extremely ill. I always handed in my assignments on time, I (usually) did my readings, and I wasn’t really involved in clubs or events on campus. My school was more the commuter school – or so I thought.

My semester abroad changed my perspective of who I could be and who I am. I decided that I wanted to meet more people, and become more involved – even if I only had a year left in my degree. So, that’s why I became more involved with study abroad and began writing articles for the school newspaper. It was great to have new experiences, meet other people who had similar interests like me. It was just too little too late! I wish I had found these out when I first started university, having a better opportunity to meet new people instead of striking of conversations with students in classes – students who you might not see again the entirety of your degree.

But to me, that’s not what’s important here. Despite not having the “ultimate university experience,” I still loved my time at university and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yesterday, I was really proud of myself when I got to walk across the stage in front of my family. I was excited to tell them and others that not only was I graduating, but I graduated with distinction (a GPA higher than 3.6) and outstanding achievement. I worked really hard to keep grades that I was proud of through my time at university, just like all my previous school years.

My grandparents came to see me graduate, and brought me beautiful pink roses!

My grandparents came to see me graduate, and brought me beautiful pink roses!

Of course, there are some people I love and miss who couldn’t be here to celebrate with me. My gramma was always proud of me when I brought report cards to her, excited to share my good grades, or to show her the grades I received on papers or midterms in university. I know she would be proud of me, like she always had. And as I went through graduation, I thought of my cousin who was supposed to start university at the same time as me, but never had the chance. And I thought of my great-aunt, who fostered my love of writing by being my pen pal for countless years. I know that they were all there in spirit, with me and watching as I crossed the stage, my inspiration.

Now, the question I find myself facing every time I tell someone I am now a graduate:

So what’s next?” “What are you going to do now?” or some other form of the same words.

The honest answer: I don’t know. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I am not sure what I want to do career-wise. I know what I enjoy, and I know what I’m good at – hopefully I can find something that balances or brings together the two.

I was talking to a friend the other day about having a plan for the future, and wanting something so badly. He was saying that he has a plan to follow to finish school, find the job he wants, and start his life as an adult. It got me thinking about my life and where I am. When I was younger, even through high school, I always knew what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher. Many people always told me that I’d be good at it, too. I did a lot to try to help that plan. Going through university, though, my mind started to consider this plan: was that really what I wanted to do? Almost every class I was in, there were so many students going into the teacher education programs – usually it was more than half the class. How was I ever going to compete with that many people, let alone find a job locally?

Plans have a way of changing – and we all know how change can be terrifying, debilitating. But sometimes, the change is for the better. Sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that perhaps the plan that you had made for yourself, isn’t the plan that will play out. Sometimes, God, or the universe, or fate, or whatever other greater forces, have a bigger and better plan for you than you could imagine, and that’s what you need to follow instead. And even though you don’t know what it is or where it could go, you have to give up control and see where it takes you.

The Railway Trail at Hayward Lake. Did this trail a few weeks ago with Brittany to get back outdoors!

The Railway Trail at Hayward Lake. Did this trail a few weeks ago with Brittany to get back outdoors!

The old parts of the railway along the trail.

The old parts of the railway along the trail.

Last weekend, Brit and I had an awesome evening in Vancouver - Belgian beer, amazing food, and ice cream! ;)

Last weekend, Brit and I had an awesome evening in Vancouver – Belgian beer, amazing food, and ice cream! 😉

About a month and a half ago, my dad helped me get a job through his company. The day after my last exam, I began work full time as a technical writer. It’s been an interesting change to the type of work I’m used to. I’ve enjoyed learning a new kind of writing and process, and using different computer programs. I’m just not used to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day…

Basically, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but I don’t think I necessarily need to decide right now. I just want to be happy – and if that means that I need to try out different jobs and careers, then that’s what I’ll do.

Finally, I made it!

Finally, I made it!

Anyways, CONGRATULATIONS to all other graduates of 2016 – whether you are graduating preschool, kindergarten, grade 7, high school, or university! Good luck, go for your dreams, and for fellow university grads, remember: you don’t need to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life in this moment. It’s alright to try different kinds of jobs, have multiple jobs, have non-paying jobs to eventually get to where you need to be – at least, that’s what I tell myself (awkward laughter).

And last update, as mentioned in previous posts, my blog posts might get fewer unless I have more adventures to tell you about in the next little bit. Hopefully some climbing and hiking and things, maybe a little travel like before.

For now,

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

Happy Easter & Update

Happy Easter everyone! 

You would think that not writing on here would be because I have been incredibly busy, and I would have lots to write about. In fact, I have been quite busy – but not with anything too interesting… I have mostly been consumed by work and school.

I want this blog to not just be about my life, but to be about adventures, travel, living life to the fullest. And at this moment, I don’t feel like any of those are my life.

So, for now, I may be away for a little bit. BUT – I am going to be back very soon with some adventures, I hope. I have some plans for some adventures and travels in the near future and I am excited to write about them.

For anyone still even looking at this page, thanks for sticking around and being patient with me. Life has its ups and downs, and after the amazing adventures I had last year, this year has been a little bit of a down so far. It has been an entire year since I was living in Ireland, having perhaps the best 6 months of my life. It’s been hard being home and not going on adventures like before – but I hope that will change very soon…

So for now: May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

P.S. – for anyone interested, I’m going to put a link to the articles I have written for the UFV Cascade under my Links tab! 

Honestly

“You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.” – Pinterest

Vancouver Pride at the Whitecaps Soccer (football) match! Not the best game, but we had a great time.

Vancouver Pride at the Whitecaps Soccer (football) match! Not the best game, but we had a great time.

I knew that it would be hard coming home after 7 months away. I always knew. But I wasn’t sure how it would be exactly, just as I hadn’t been sure what it would be like to go abroad.

After being a little too stressed through the first few weeks of school, I made a big decision. Instead of stressing myself out this semester by taking a full course load, I chose, instead, to drop a class. What does this mean? Well, I will now have to take one more semester… I won’t be graduating in December, but in June instead.

And this is okay.

For my own sanity, this was a good move. With my two jobs and the courses I’m already taking, I have been quite busy. But I love my classes and jobs. Coaching again is the best – my athletes are so motivated and I am incredibly excited for this upcoming season! The climbing gym is doing well, with exciting things coming up. And I just published my first official post as editor of the UFV Study Abroad Blog, a post about my adventure. (If you’d like to see the post, click here! I will also be writing stories for other students as well. Check my Facebook or Twitter or something for updates!)

With an extra semester, I will be able to take some more interesting classes hopefully, and sort out exactly what I would like to do after I graduate.

Fun days with friends are the best! Had a blast going through Europe pics with this chica!

Fun days with friends are the best! Had a blast going through Europe pics with this chica!

The other day, I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, in which Rory expertly described what it is like for a student graduating from university: ‘it’s like standing on a cliff, looking into an abyss of fog. You can’t see anything ahead of you and you have no idea where to go. This is the first time in your life that nothing is planned for you and you don’t know what is coming next.’

I know that I am not the only person that feels this way, which makes me feel a thousand times better. Not knowing is terrifying yet exhilarating. You just have to hope that something will come for you, that is just what you’ve been looking for.

Right now I have few goals: to graduate, to find a job that I don’t hate, and to go back to Europe in two years. Keep it simple.

As for all of this political debate happening and the refugee crisis, I am not going to voice my opinion.

Finally, for those of you who know me well, I’ve lost a few people now who were important to me. Four years ago, at the end of September, I lost my cousin. It was incredibly unexpected and she was too young. It was hard on all of our family, but especially my aunt. It still hurts, but we know that she is watching over us, and I know that she was with me on all my adventures in Europe, taking it all in with me. Losing her was really difficult, and I didn’t like to talk about it much. This year, both my Gramma and her sister, my great aunt, passed away. I was close with both of them and it was really hard again. Being home without my Gramma has been really hard – she would have wanted to see everything I brought home, heard all my stories. I am glad that I got to skype with her before she passed, while I was away.

But now I have three people watching over me, with my Papa who was already gone. And I know that they are all proud of me.

And now this post got a lot more serious than I had planned. Hopefully, though, you know me a little better now. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. But I’m moving forward.

Happy to be home with my pup! He's so big and hyper now, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy to be home with my pup! He’s so big and hyper now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My amazing family, who I love. Most of the time. (jkjk ;) )

My amazing family, who I love. Most of the time. (jkjk 😉 )

“Time won’t make you forget, it’ll make you grow and understand things…” – Pinterest

May the road rise up to meet ya

Cheers

JH

Home and Hikes

Reunited and it feels so good

Reunited and it feels so good <3

It’s funny. When you’re young, you don’t realize how quickly things in your life can change. Opinions, situations, events, even people are all subject to the ultimatum of change.

Coming home, I had thought I knew what to expect. After all my time away, I was definitely excited to be stationary again, see all of my friends and family who I had missed for six and a half months. I was interested in sharing my adventures and stories, and many people wanted to hear them. And so, after all my time away, I am safely at home.

I am so lucky to have experienced and seen so many amazing things. I lived in another country, on another continent. I travelled through 12 countries, multiple cities, and have seen many famous sites. I am even more grateful that I met and experienced all of these things with such amazing people.

I already wrote about everyone that I met in Ireland. I am thankful to now have these amazing people in my life, and hopefully we will stay in touch (sorry, it’s a fear of mine). But I know that I will see them again. And then there was my trip with my brother and Kirstin. Of course we had our ups and downs, but we had such a great time. We have so many hilarious stories and memories from the great places we traveled to and the wonderful people we met!

But to be honest, being home is quite different from what I expected.

Everyone has been very kind, asking me questions about my trips and experiences. It has been fun telling my stories and adventures. I think people don’t realize sometimes though, that it is hard to explain exactly how study abroad can change your life when you haven’t experienced it. Sometimes, it feels like people expect me to be the same person, other times they tell me how much they see that I’ve changed. It’s interesting to see different reactions.

And again, being honest, it is hard to come home to the exact same situation you left when you are no longer the same. How could I be the same person after these amazing experiences?

Since being home, I have tried to stay busy. Staying home gives you far too much time to think.

 

Limo selfie before the wedding!

Limo selfie before the wedding!

The happy couple in the limo, going to reception. Congratulations guys!

The happy couple in the limo, going to reception. Congratulations guys!

Selfie hiking in Cypress with this girl!

Selfie hiking in Cypress with this girl!

Yup, this is the view we got at St. Mark's Summit. So great, right!? Can you see the water?

Yup, this is the view we got at St. Mark’s Summit. So great, right!? Can you see the water?

Upon arriving home, my cousin was going to be married – and I was a bridesmaid in the wedding! It was a very nice wedding, and I had a lot of fun. Riding in a limo with my cousins and their friends, taking a million pictures in the ridiculous heat, dancing to great and terrible songs with friends and family, and just having a pretty fun night! It was nice to see two people I have known for so long, completely happy and ready to spend the rest of their lives together. Congrats Brent and Vee, I wish you tons of happiness in your new life and home!

Last week, I tried to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors of my home province! I met up with Brit for a day of hiking in Cypress Provincial Park. We had a great time hiking, catching up. Even though the view was completely covered by clouds and fog, it was a really fun hike! We got to catch a great view on the way down the mountain as well. We went into Vancouver to have dinner and walk along the inlet. It was such a great day!

 

It cleared a little on the way down and we got an amazing view of Howe Sound!

It cleared a little on the way down and we got an amazing view of Howe Sound!

We stopped for dinner and a 'pint' at the Craft Brew House in Vancity. So good!

We stopped for dinner and a ‘pint’ at the Craft Brew House in Vancity. So good!

The inlet of Vancity. So pretty at sunset!

The inlet of Vancity. So pretty at sunset!

With one day in between, I went hiking again! This time, I went hiking closer to my home, in Golden Ears Provincial Park. I went with my friend, Christy, who I have been friends with for basically my entire life. It was great to be able to spend so much time outdoors these past two weeks, as I had definitely missed my mountains in the time I was gone.

 

Hiking in Golden Ears. Beautiful sights.

Hiking in Golden Ears. Beautiful sights.

Selfie hiking in the pouring rain! Such a fun day with ma gurl!

Selfie hiking in the pouring rain! Such a fun day with ma gurl!

I believe this is Gold Creek, coming down from the mountains. Pretty views!

I believe this is Gold Creek, coming down from the mountains. Pretty views!

We had an amazing time catching up, and hiking through our beautiful rain forests and mountains. And the rain forest was in full swing that day, as it was absolutely pouring rain while we hiked. By the end of the day, we were completely soaked through! Of course, this meant a stop at probably one of our favourite food enterprises, the classic Canadian Tim Hortons! I was glad to go back to my Timmies hot chocolate – typically Canadian, right!?

Two other exciting things that have happened: I spent a day outdoor climbing with Christy in Squamish’s Smoke Bluffs, and I went to the Imagine Dragons concert. The climbing day was perfect, as my first outdoor day of the season. We got in some great climbs, new ones to both of us, and I scraped up my knuckles like a true climber. (The photos are Christy’s.) The concert was absolutely amazing! Definitely one of the top concerts that I have been to (which are few in numbers…). Christy, Zach and I had a great time, rocking out to the songs and yelling along at the top of our lungs. If you’re a fan of the band, definitely see them in concert!

 

Hiking to our climbing walls, we stopped for a photo with our fave - the Chief!

Hiking to our climbing walls, we stopped for a photo with our fave – the Chief!

Getting ready to rappell down a wall in Squamish's Smoke Bluffs.

Getting ready to rappell down a wall in Squamish’s Smoke Bluffs.

Rappelling in Squamish with the beautiful Chief in the background!

Rappelling in Squamish with the beautiful Chief in the background!

Last climb of the day on Easter Island! Loved this climb.

Last climb of the day on Easter Island! Loved this climb.

Work and plans have thankfully kept me busy, and the wonderful technology of today’s century has allowed me to keep in touch with my amazing friends who are now so far away. With one semester left to go in my degree, I know that I will stay quite busy for the upcoming months. After that, who knows! I am constantly asked what I plan to do with my degree and future, but I am still kind of unsure. I have a lot to think about and plan.

Over the next little while, I will stay put in my hometown, working and finishing my degree. Once I’m done, who knows where I’ll be! I definitely hope to have more amazing adventures and travels to be able to write about, hopefully sooner than later. For now, there’s no place like home!

 

Imagine Dragons in concert are absolutely amazing!

Imagine Dragons in concert are absolutely amazing!

The encore of the show, complete with confetti raining down. Amazing show!

The encore of the show, complete with confetti raining down. Amazing show!

“Actually, the best thing you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

From

JH

Epic EuroTrip: Old Friends and New

So, with one last flight for a little while, we left the beautiful land of Italy and headed to Budapest, Hungary! We were all super excited to begin our explorations of some of the countries that we didn’t know as much about. And as I mentioned in my last post, I was extremely excited to meet my friend Kitty!

We caught a bus and then a metro into the city from the airport, and I was overwhelmed with excitement when I got off the metro and spotted Kitty! It was great to see her again after a month. She came with us to check into our hostel, we all settled our stuff in, and then we set out to explore with our very own Hungarian guide.

First stop: a tradition of the youth of Budapest – to drink in the park at Daag Square! We grabbed some beers and champagne, and found a spot on the grass. It was crazy to be drinking in public, but it is legal there. It was kind of fun to have that experience, as the only other place I had done that was in Belgium. We walked through the city to the beautiful Danube River, or Duma in Hungarian. It was beautiful, and it was just turning to dusk, so the sun was low on the horizon and the sky looked amazing.

 
Hanging out at Daag Square, our first Hungarian experience!

Hanging out at Daag Square, our first Hungarian experience!

 
The stairs to enter our hostel were so cool! Loved walking the spiral steps.

The stairs to enter our hostel were so cool! Loved walking the spiral steps.

 
Budapest at sunset is brilliantly amazing. A must see. This was looking across the Danube at the palace.

Budapest at sunset is brilliantly amazing. A must see. This was looking across the Danube at the palace.

 

We walked across Chain Bridge – the English translation of a Hungarian name that I cannot spell or pronounce – and headed up a very large hill to the palace grounds above. From there, we had an amazing view of the Danube and the city of Budapest beyond. I was overwhelmed and fell in love with the city immediately. It quickly continued to climb the charts as one of my favourite cities that we visited!

Continuing along, Kitty led us to a beautiful church on the hill, and the famous Fisherman’s Tower that also overlooked the city. We went onto the walls connecting to the tower, and got to see the city come to life at night. It was stunning. Budapest lit up at night would rival Paris in my books, as the bridges along the Danube are lit up and look amazing!

After walking back down the hill, Kitty had to catch a train home – but not before she dropped us off at an amazing restaurant! We got to have a great, traditional Hungarian meal for our first night in Budapest. The food was delicious and we all got to try something different. I ate a bean soup, some salad and a pork dish before having a coffee.

 
Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

 
Fisherman's Tower and the spires of the cathedral.

Fisherman’s Tower and the spires of the cathedral.

 

The next day, June 20th, we took Kitty’s advice and checked out some places in Budapest that had to do with Hungarian history. I was quite interested, as I honestly did not know a lot about Budapest’s history. Our education started the previous night, with Kitty showing us around and explaining some of the history of the kings and important people. It continued when we visited the House of Terror. The museum explained Hungarian history in reference to the Communist influence. Terrible events happened within Budapest, specifically within the building of the museum. It was humbling to read through the various tragedies that had taken place, learning how greatly Hungary had been affected by the atrocities as well.

Our next step was to visit Heroes Square, where countless statues had been erected to commemorate various kings and leaders in Hungary. We honestly didn’t know who any of them were, and so we decided to have a little fun by posing like some of the statues. Later, Kitty told us who they were and why they were important to the Hungarian people. It was very interesting! We wandered a park, and even found a castle.

 
Heroes Square, Budapest. Love it. Every statue represented something.

Heroes Square, Budapest. Love it. Every statue represented something.

 
This castle in Budapest was actually pretty cool! We wandered around the grounds.

This castle in Budapest was actually pretty cool! We wandered around the grounds.

 
Our amazing dinner at the Ronyai's restaurant. Such an awesome night, with amazing food, entertainment and company!

Our amazing dinner at the Ronyai’s restaurant. Such an awesome night, with amazing food, entertainment and company!

 

We went back to our hostel to relax for a little bit before catching a train out to one of the islands of Budapest. In short, Kitty’s dad owns a restaurant, and we were invited to go there for dinner. It was amazing! We got to experience true Hungarian culture through traditional music, folk dancing, and a traditional 3-course meal. And we got to experience it all with Kitty and her boyfriend, Attila. It was a lot of fun, and we all had a great time. The food was amazing and the show was brilliant! Thank you to the Ronyais for the amazing experience – we are very grateful and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, learning more about your culture!

The following day, we decided to first explore a market that was very close to our hostel. We had been to markets in a few other cities, but this one was very different. It was indoors, two floors, and was massive. We couldn’t believe how much was inside this building, and we took our time looking through and buying a few souvenirs. The food was delicious as well, whether dessert or savory.

We walked along the Danube, as it was a beautiful day. The views across the river were stunning, and we were slightly jealous of the many people on boats. We decided to walk down to the Parliament buildings, and stumbled on the memorial for Jews along the river. On the edge of the river, there are various sculpted shoes which are a reminder and memorial to the Jews who were shot into the Danube during the Holocaust. It was humbling to see, specifically the little baby shoes. There is something unsettling about abandoned shoes sometimes, especially in this scenario.

 
 
Chain Bridge in Budapest. So pretty! (I love this picture)

Chain Bridge in Budapest. So pretty! (I love this picture)

View across the Danube to the beautiful buildings of the palace and towers.

View across the Danube to the beautiful buildings of the palace and towers.

 
Memorial to the Murdered Jews along the Danube. Very moving.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews along the Danube. Very moving.

 
 
The baby shoes were startling but moving as a part of the memorial.

The baby shoes were startling but moving as a part of the memorial.

We made it to the Parliament buildings and took pictures of them in the daylight. They were quite beautiful. We hopped on a random tram to take us into the city, and got off at a random stop. We found a street food which Kitty had stressed that we must try – called Kurtoskalacs. There are many accents that are supposed to be on that word, and I would never attempt to try to say it, but the food itself was delicious! Basically, it is a spiral breaded dessert covered in cinnamon or other things.

That night we were meeting up with Kitty and Attila one last time, to go out for another Hungarian dinner. Unfortunately, the place that we had wanted to go to was full, so we found another place called the Trofea Grill. It is a genius place – you pay the equivalent of 20 euros (except in the Hungarian currency of Forent) and you can eat and drink as much as you like! We got to have traditional Hungarian foods again, plus we could pick and choose other things as well. We had a lot of fun, all getting to talk and know each other better. It was a great night – and I was super sad to say goodbye to Kitty at the end. Thank you so much for everything! You were an amazing tour guide, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you and Attila. Again, thank you!

 
The Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

The Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

 
Selfies in Budapest!

Selfies in Budapest!

 
The dessert that we had to try in Budapest - Kurtoskalacs.

The dessert that we had to try in Budapest – Kurtoskalacs.

 
Dinner with Kitty and Attila in Budapest! Such a fun night.

Dinner with Kitty and Attila in Budapest! Such a fun night.

 

Our last day in Budapest turned a little odd. Zach really wasn’t feeling well, so he decided to stay in for the day. We had planned to go to an exit game, what we call an escape room at home. They are extremely popular in Hungary (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they originated there?). But, with him not feeling well, we didn’t want to chance it. Kirstin met some people in the hostel that she wanted to hang out with, while I wanted to explore a little on my own.

I went to Margaret Island, looking at the park and walking along the Danube from a different angle. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed the walk! I met up with Kirstin after, and we decided to walk around the city for a while. We went to the basilica and the Jewish synagogue. The basilica was beautiful both inside and out, but we didn’t want to pay to go inside the synagogue. It has been very interesting to me, travelling through Europe, that to enter some churches you must pay.

We went back to the hostel and made an odd dinner for ourselves. Somehow we were able to cook a breakfast-for-dinner with merely a pot and microwave. So, we had eggs, beans, and toast. And palinka – an alcohol made only in Hungary. It was definitely not a good combination, but it was our last night and we were not going to leave Hungary without trying it.

 
These bricks are in various cities, remembering people who died in the Holocaust. Found the first one in Budapest.

These bricks are in various cities, remembering people who died in the Holocaust. Found the first one in Budapest.

The next day, we rushed to the bus to get to Vienna, scared that we were about to miss it. It was extremely hard to find where we were meant to catch it. After finally finding the area, we were told that our bus had broken down before it got to us, and we wouldn’t be leaving until 3pm. So, left with an extra 4 hours in Budapest, we shed our heavy backpacks and headed back into the city.

We ended up wandering a mall for a while, and then going back to the market because we had enjoyed it so much. We bought some last minute souvenirs for ourselves and friends before catching our bus. The bus was honestly the nicest one I have ever been on in my life – there were tv screens in the seats which let you watch movies, and free tea and coffee were offered…! The time passed quickly with me finishing two movies. Honestly, that night we didn’t really do anything.

We got up the next morning ready to explore Vienna. We headed out and ended up at some church simply because we had seen a dome rising above the other buildings. We were pointed to the concert hall and Opera buildings. Vienna is a center in Europe for classical music, so it was very interesting seeing all the buildings and areas that incorporated it.

 
Cafe Central in Vienna.

Cafe Central in Vienna.

 
The crossings in Vienna were so cute! Saw this one & one with 2 women - making a statement! Loved it.

The crossings in Vienna were so cute! Saw this one & one with 2 women – making a statement! Loved it.

 

We got lost a few times in Vienna, even though we had maps. Streets were just difficult to find or were not on our map and it got frustrating at times – but never as bad as Venice! Cafes of Vienna are famous and a large part of the culture. Certain cafes even have history. We eventually found Café Central, reported to have been visited by Lenin and Trotsky. We couldn’t even get in the door because it was so crowded and packed with tourists.

Kirstin wanted to go to a museum, so we split up. Zach and I went exploring through the city, shopping and looking at various things. We also found Café Hawelka, a place my friend had recommended. It was rumoured to have been visited by Hitler himself. We didn’t actually venture inside, as we didn’t have time, but it was interesting to see. That night we all met up and had dinner close to our hostel, in the Nasch Markt. It wasn’t typical Viennese food, but it was delicious!

Our last day in Vienna, June 24th, was probably my favourite day. We met up with a friend of Zach’s, Johanna, and her roommate, Claudia. They both live just outside of Vienna and were nice enough to come into the city to show us around! The first place we went to was the Haus of Meeres – it was an aquarium! It was so cool, with it being 11 stories! I had never been in an aquarium like that before. We saw so many different kinds of fish, monkeys and birds, and had a great time. It was nice to do something that was just fun! And we got a great view of Vienna from the top of the building.

 
The view was amazing.

The view was amazing.

 
View of Vienna from the top of the Haus of Meeres. Stunning.

View of Vienna from the top of the Haus of Meeres. Stunning.

 
Selfie with a view of the entire city of Vienna, and the amazing girls who showed us around!

Selfie with a view of the entire city of Vienna, and the amazing girls who showed us around!

 

We stopped for lunch in Nasch Markt, and Zach and I got to try bratwurst. The girls said it wasn’t the best, but we enjoyed it, not really knowing different! We bought a few things in the market, and then hopped on the metro to head out of the city.

Just outside of the city is the amazing Schloss Shoenbrunn, a beautiful palace. We arrived and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the grounds and building. The inside was just as grand. We wandered around inside using an audio guide to tell us the history. It was a lot at once and honestly I don’t remember most of it. There were very rich and important people who lived there, and the rooms had names that told you exactly how they looked: the mirror room, the red room, etc.

 
View of Schoenbrunn from the opposing hillside of the grounds. And some cool people, too!

View of Schoenbrunn from the opposing hillside of the grounds. And some cool people, too!

 
Schoenbrunn Palace was beautiful and it was a lot of fun.

Schoenbrunn Palace was beautiful and it was a lot of fun.

 
Awesome picture of us at Schoenbrunn! (Thanks, Johanna! :))

Awesome picture of us at Schoenbrunn! (Thanks, Johanna! :))

 

Back in the heart of Vienna, we went shopping! My shoes had broken in the back, and I was in a lot of pain wearing them. So, long story short, I ended up buying a new pair of shoes. We spent some time trying to find a souvenir shop, and then couldn’t find somewhere to eat. We ended up finding a good place for traditional food, getting to try schnitzel and a drink called hugo. It was all delicious!

We said goodbye to Johanna and Claudia, and headed back to our hostel, as we had an early train the next morning. Thank you so much girls for coming to meet us and showing us around the city. We had such a great time and are very thankful for the experience!

My amazing friend who was our tour guide for the evening - love this girl and her amazing knowledge!

My amazing friend who was our tour guide for the evening – love this girl and her amazing knowledge!

Thank you to everyone who has met us on our travels! You made our experiences so much better.

Next stop: Prague! But this post is long now, so I’ll save some stories for later.

Bye for now

From

JH

Epic EuroTrip: Ciao Italy

After saying goodbye to a great friend and an amazing city, we moved on to our next adventure in another country: Italy!

Our first stop after a flight was the city of Pisa. We knew that there wasn’t a ton to do in Pisa, other than take tourist photos with the tower. Basically, it was just going to be a stopover for us to get to Cinque Terre the next day. However, Pisa turned out to be pretty fun – if only for an evening.

After we checked into our hostel, we headed out into the streets of Pisa. Wandering was pretty cool actually – we found street vendors with very unique items for sale, and we even ran into a street procession with a band and everything. It was a ton of fun! And of course, we got gelato for our first evening in Italy.

We headed straight for the Piazza dei Miercoli to see the church and the torre, or ‘leaning tower.’ Many people had told us not to take the ‘typical leaning poses,’ so we went for other poses instead… and making subtle fun of some other people taking the photos as well. We had a lot of laughs and fun. Then we went for pizza at a local restaurant after – and it was probably one of the best pizzas I have ever had before. It was massive and delicious.

 
The iconic tower of Pisa!

The iconic tower of Pisa!

 
Pisa Torre. So cool.

Pisa Torre. So cool.

 
 
Our first gelato in Italy, in Pisa!

Our first gelato in Italy, in Pisa!

 
Kirstin tried to push the tower onto us... it was quite terrifying...

Kirstin tried to push the tower onto us… it was quite terrifying…

The next morning, we hopped on a train to La Spezia, where we transferred to another train to get to the town we would stay in Cinque Terre, Corniglia. The weather looked gross, as we knew a storm was blowing in. We had actually seen rain and lightning on our train ride to La Spezia. But we crossed our fingers for better weather.

Which didn’t happen. We got to Corniglia and had to wait to check in. We went to a little restaurant for a great lunch and coffee (yes, I have taken to drinking espresso for some reason. This was the first of a few through Eastern Europe), and the woman told us to move inside because the sky looked so dark. Well, that’s what we got from the broken English and hand gestures as we all tried to communicate. But it was a good thing that we did move – as soon as we got inside, it started to absolutely pour buckets down. Needless to say, we took our time eating lunch.

That afternoon, it cleared up, so we decided that we would take the shorter hike along the hills to one of the other towns. So, we took a train one town over, to Manarola, and we hiked to Riomaggiore. Matt, a guy staying in the same room as Zach, had done the hikes earlier that day. But, being that he had just met us and we all got along well, he decided to come to do the hike with us! We all had a great time, even with the hike being almost an eighty degree angle for the whole hour and a half. And the towns and views were so amazing!!! Of course, we got some gelato again, because Italy. We went back to shower and hang out for a bit, before we all went out for dinner together in Corniglia. It was a great day and start to our time in Cinque Terre.

 
All of the buildings in Cinque Terre were beautiful colours!

All of the buildings in Cinque Terre were beautiful colours!

 
Hiking in Cinque Terre with Kirstin, Zach and Matt!

Hiking in Cinque Terre with Kirstin, Zach and Matt!

 
I loved the colourful houses of Manarola in Cinque Terre.

I loved the colourful houses of Manarola in Cinque Terre.

 
 
Beautiful views along our hike.

Beautiful views along our hike.

The next day was the serious hiking day! We were going to do the coastal hikes from our town, Corniglia, to Vernazza and then Monterosso. It was going to take basically the whole day, a good chunk of hours. And it was definitely hot out. Matt accompanied us on the first leg, to Vernazza, and then we went our separate ways. It was tough going at a few points – there are a lot of stairs, ups and downs, and the heat is impeccable – but the views were amazing and the towns were worth it alone. Vernazza was so pretty, with the harbor and the boats. I think I enjoyed Vernazza and Manarola the most. We hung out in Monterosso before heading back to Corniglia.

After taking the wrong train (we somehow ended up on an express that went straight to La Spezia), and showering, we met up with Matt to head out for a night of dinner. We met a few other girls staying in our room, and invited them along. Annie was from the US, while Megan was from Australia. They were really nice, and again, everyone got along great! We took the train to Monterosso, had a great dinner (after we finally found a place to eat), and then ate gelato by the beach. It was an amazing evening with some great people.

 
The beautiful town of Vernazza on our hike through Cinque Terre.

The beautiful town of Vernazza on our hike through Cinque Terre.

 
 
Hiking through the towns, on our way to Vernazza!

Hiking through the towns, on our way to Vernazza!

 
The beautiful town of Vernazza.

The beautiful town of Vernazza.

The beaches of Monterosso were really nice - loved the colourful umbrellas!

The beaches of Monterosso were really nice – loved the colourful umbrellas!

 

We had another panicky night when we found out that the next morning, there was going to be a rail strike in the area. No one could tell us if it would merely be a regional strike or a country-wide one. We wouldn’t find out until morning. So, we had to attempt to get out of Cinque Terre at least before the strike began at 9. Flash forward to a 5:30am morning, catching a train, and then paying a lot to be able to take 2 trains to Venice.

Once in Venice, we were utterly exhausted. We found our bus to the area we would be staying – a campground outside of the city where we were staying in a cabin. We got on the bus, got to the cabin, were slightly disappointed, ate pizza, and then just hung out in the cabin before crashing. It was an odd day. We didn’t even want to attempt to explore the city yet.

The next day, June 17, was our day to explore the entirety of Venice. And it was our only day. So, we planned to make the best of it! We planned to head out early – but ended up running late and almost missing our bus. This somehow turned into a regular thing for buses, which became sort of annoying…

None of us really knew any of the places that we were supposed to visit in Venice, and maps cost money, so we just set out exploring on foot and following signs. We made our way to Piazza San Marco, the one place Kirstin had knew of. It was cool, but there was scaffolding and tons of pigeons! It was also very crowded, which made it difficult to maneuver and slightly claustrophobic. BUT – it was pretty and super Italian. We wandered along and went to the Grand Canal, a place that we definitely had heard of. The water was gorgeous and there were boats everywhere!

 
 
The gondolas in Venice, along the canals.

The gondolas in Venice, along the canals.

Piazza San Marco in Venice. Super crowded, but quite beautiful.

Piazza San Marco in Venice. Super crowded, but quite beautiful.

 
Selfie in Piazza San Marco with the scaffolding...

Selfie in Piazza San Marco with the scaffolding…

 
 
The gondolas along the Grand Canal of Venice.

The gondolas along the Grand Canal of Venice.

We walked a lot, found some gelato, got into some arguments about what we wanted to do, and decided that it would be best to split up. Kirstin wanted to go and explore more of Venice. Zach and I really wanted to ride a boat. We didn’t want to pay the insane amount of money to ride a gondola, so we decided to catch a vaporetto, a ferry-type boat, to the other island of Murano.

Murano is the glass-blowing island, so there were multiple shops with beautiful glass-blown artwork. The island itself, or at least the area we ended up in, was quiet and quaint. It was a nice break from the crowded and busy streets of Venice. There was room to breathe and relax, with walking space. So we tried to spend a little extra time there. We stopped at a little café to grab a drink. I tried an Aperol Spritzer – basically sparkling water mixed with an alcohol called Aperol. We believe that you can only get it in Europe. It was pretty good! We caught the boat back to Venice, and ended up getting very lost trying to find Kirstin again. I definitely suggest getting a map on your phone or buying one if you can. Venice is quite confusing.

 
Riding the vaporetto to the island of Murano.

Riding the vaporetto to the island of Murano.

 
The beautiful and quaint island of Murano.

The beautiful and quaint island of Murano.

 
Standing on a pier in Murano.

Standing on a pier in Murano.

 

We got some dinner at a little restaurant along one of the main streets. The waiters were hilarious, offering pizza to random people walking by or asking them to pay someone’s bill. We had some good laughs with them. We wandered a little more to see the canal at night, and grabbed some dessert. I had a great chocolate mousse! We caught the bus back to our accommodations.

The next day would be a travel day to yet another city and country – Budapest, Hungary. I was very excited to see my friend, Kitty. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time. But that’s for the next post.

Bye for now

From

JH

P.S. – sorry I am a little behind on the blog posts. I actually just wrote and uploaded this post from Prague, basically a week after I had left Italy. However, I am trying to keep everyone updated through my other social media when I have wifi, with pictures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Epic EuroTrip: The Isles

With the end of one adventure, comes the beginning of another. My brother, Zach, and friend, Kirstin, arrived from Canada for us to set out on an epic adventure of travelling Europe as best we can. First stop: I want to show them a little bit of Ireland. So, after having shown them around Waterford for a day, we headed on a bus to Galway.

We wandered the city, exploring the various spots that I knew of but had not seen. We went inside of Galway Cathedral, marveling at its beauty and learning a little history. The cathedral was built on the grounds of the old jail, bought for a minimal amount even for that time. We also walked through the Spanish Arch and into the Galway Museum. If you don’t know already, I absolutely love museums! So I was excited to check this one out.

When these two arrived in Waterford, lost and tired!

When these two arrived in Waterford, lost and tired!

 
 
I went for one last walk to Kilbarry, showing Kirstin one of my favourite spots in Waterford.

I went for one last walk to Kilbarry, showing Kirstin one of my favourite spots in Waterford.

 
In Galway, at the River Corrib

In Galway, at the River Corrib

The Galway Cathedral across the River Corrib. Actually got to go inside this time!

The Galway Cathedral across the River Corrib. Actually got to go inside this time!

 

Walking through the museum was interesting – the beginnings of Ireland are highlighted, and there are artifacts from thousands of years ago found by archaeologists around Galway and in the River Corrib. It was really interesting to look at the artifacts and see if they had come from places I knew. One part talked about Dun Aengus, the fort that I had been to on Inis Mor of the Aran Islands. For me, though, the most interesting was the exhibit on Ireland and Galway’s part in World War I. I had not realized that they had played such a large part in it, from thousands of volunteers going to the front to their deaths, to a very brave leader who died in a gruesome battle. The exhibit was done extremely well, with stories of people on one side corresponding to an outline of events on the opposite side of the room. I really liked it. We couldn’t finish the museum though, as it closed. So we quickly took some shots out the third floor window of the River Corrib and the views beyond.

We wandered and found a small place to eat for an Irish dinner. The rest of the night was just walking around or relaxing at the hostel. I think we are all a little tired, which does not bode well for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, some nights we will hopefully sleep better than others.

On Zach’s birthday, we had booked a day at the Cliffs on a tour, even though the weather did not look too promising. We were hopeful that it might turn into a better day. The tour was different from the one I took last time – including the weather. It rained and the wind was insane! It was so foggy that we couldn’t even see the cliffs. But, despite the wind blowing us over, it did afford us a view of the cliffs for a short time.

 
 
Galway Girls - the beautiful River Corrib!

Galway Girls – the beautiful River Corrib!

Cool tomb in Co. Clare. Saw it both times I went to the cliffs.

Cool tomb in Co. Clare. Saw it both times I went to the cliffs.

 
The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous - & provided great entertainment!

The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous – & provided great entertainment!

 
At the Cliffs of Moher!

At the Cliffs of Moher!

 

May 28 – after a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived in Dublin. After Zach and I grabbed a quick burrito, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced ‘jail’). There was so much history, it was really interesting! We then learned to pour our own Guinness at the Storehouse, my second time through. It was super cool to get to pour my own though, especially having lived in Ireland and drinking it on tap. 😉 We hung out at the hostel before heading to The Porterhouse, a pub I knew from St. Patrick’s Day. We enjoyed some beers and live music before turning in for the night.

The next morning, we took a walking tour of Dublin to see some of the sights. It was a ton of history packed into a short session. I had already heard a lot of it over the months, but was still overwhelmed by the enormity of everything Ireland had gone through.

After the tour, we headed to the Museum of History and Archaeology- mostly because they had the bog bodies that I had been hearing about for months. Basically, Ireland is known for its bog lands, and years ago, archaeologists began to find things in these bogs from centuries ago. With the acidity of the bogs, many things are well preserved. We got ice cream, and then wandered around St. Stephen’s Green and Dublin. We had some problems finding transport out to the hotel we were switching to for the night.

 
Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin - so full of history!

Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin – so full of history!

 
"It's a lovely day for a Guinness!" Got to pull our own pints.

“It’s a lovely day for a Guinness!” Got to pull our own pints.

 
 
These are what the bog bodies look like (Ireland).

These are what the bog bodies look like (Ireland).

The next day, May 30, we left Ireland. It was super bittersweet for me, leaving a country that I had loved to call home for 5 months but embarking on an exciting adventure around Europe with awesome people. I took in the sights from the airplane window as we flew to Bristol. We were staying with Kirstin’s friend, Bailey. Bailey was really awesome, and we were very appreciative of her letting us stay in her tiny, British flat. It was a lot of people in a small flat, but it was so nice to be right in the city. We wandered the city that afternoon, cooked dinner together, and went out for the evening.

We ventured to take a train the following day to Cardiff. It was cool to add one more country to our list of many, and it was possible with only a day trip. Kirstin and Bailey went to the Doctor Who museum, the main reason that we had headed to Cardiff. Zach and I decided to tag along to the city, but we decided to explore instead. It was a great day!

Zach and I found Cardiff Castle and Bute Park, where we walked and sat, just chatting and enjoying our time catching up. We wandered the streets of Cardiff, down cute passageways called galleries. These galleries had really cute cafes and shops, and were all over. I absolutely loved them and took far too many pictures! We met up with the girls after, grabbed some dinner, and then headed back for a night in flat.

 
 
On the train to Cardiff with Bailey! This was Kirstin's first ever train - cool experience!

On the train to Cardiff with Bailey! This was Kirstin’s first ever train – cool experience!

Some random stonehenge in Bute Park, Cardiff.

Some random stonehenge in Bute Park, Cardiff.

 
I loved the little arcades down the streets of Cardiff, with cute stores and cafes lining them.

I loved the little arcades down the streets of Cardiff, with cute stores and cafes lining them.

 

Our last day in Bristol was specifically for exploring the city itself. Bailey had an exam, so we ventured to explore on our own. We went to St. Nicholas’ Market, where we wandered through the little stalls and we found Zac’s Café where we had a full English breakfast – it was delicious. We tried to find some street art, but ended up in an area that we didn’t feel entirely comfortable in, so we went back. Kirstin and I went into Bristol Cathedral – it was beautiful! We went to the Boston Tea Party café for some hot drinks on a cold day before meeting Bailey.

Bailey took us up a tower in Brandon Hill Park, and despite the wind being like that at the Cliffs of Moher, the views were spectacular. You could see all of Bristol, including Clifton Suspension Bridge. With the weather, we had decided not to walk all the way there. That evening, we went out for traditional fish ‘n chips, and tried to organize the next parts of our trip.

 
 
Climbed a tower in Bristol for some amazing views & crazy wind! We brought the Irish weather with us...

Climbed a tower in Bristol for some amazing views & crazy wind! We brought the Irish weather with us…

View from the top of the tower in Bristol.

View from the top of the tower in Bristol.

 

An early morning the next day had us on a bus to London. Our hostel was quite far from the main area of the city, but we made it work! We settled our stuff in and headed out, making our first stop at Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and then walking along the Thames. We took a ton of silly pictures with the lions and telephone boxes before seeing Big Ben and the London Eye.

I think the funniest part of the day was when we ended up at The Maple Leaf, a Canadian bar in Covent Garden, for dinner. It was great! We wandered Covent Market before heading back to the hostel for an earlier night.

June 3, the next day, was pretty grand. We ended up going through the British Museum after we eventually found it. I ended up seeing a lot of the same things, but museums never get old for me. I loved exploring the centuries of history stored within its walls.

My parents had arrived in London that day, so while we waited to hear from them, we wandered through the city. After getting a phone call from them, we went to Hyde Park to kill a little time. Except we couldn’t exactly find it. We ended up in a really ‘posh’ part of London, and accidentally found Churchill’s old house! We walked through Hyde Park and saw Kensington Palace from afar, before walking a long ways to see Buckingham Palace.

 
London was calling - & we answered!

London was calling – & we answered!

 
 
Canadian pub in London! (yes, we ate here)

Canadian pub in London! (yes, we ate here)

Beautiful walk in Hyde Park of London

Beautiful walk in Hyde Park of London

 
No, we didn't climb onto the lions. But I love this picture.

No, we didn’t climb onto the lions. But I love this picture.

 

We had walked almost to Trafalgar Square, a long trek, before we heard from my parents. Without wifi everywhere, it is very hard when you don’t have international phone plans. We ended up meeting them near their hotel at the other end of London, and going out for a nice dinner. It was really great to see them for the first time in 5 months.

We had to check out of our hostel the next morning, so we completely packed up and brought our giant bags with us into London. We stored them for the day at the train station before heading out to meet my parents for a day around London. We sort of went separate ways for part of the day: Kirstin and I would explore while Zach went on the London Eye with mom and dad.

Kirstin and I headed across London via tube to Tower Hill. We wandered around and crossed Tower Bridge to the other side of the Thames, where we had a great view for some lunch. We walked along to the Globe Theatre, where we both decided to recite our best attempts at Shakespeare monologues. It was quite fun. We did a lot more walking when we headed down to the London Eye and made our way towards the Imperial War Museum, the meeting point with my family.

This museum was somewhere that I really wanted to go. It was actually on my bucket list to see it – and I wasn’t able to last time I was in London. I had enough time to wander through two exhibits: the First World War and the Holocaust. The exhibitions were absolutely brilliant! They had so many primary texts, quotes, footage and so much more. It was amazing. I was in museum-heaven.

We hopped on a double-decker bus into the city, and had dinner at Nando’s. I had wanted to try it, as they were everywhere in London. We then went to see the Thames and views lit up at night. It was beautiful and I seriously love London.

 
 
One of my loves: Big Ben

One of my loves: Big Ben

The London Eye. No caption needed.

The London Eye. No caption needed.

 
After 5 months, it was nice to reunite the family - although on another continent, halfway from home!

After 5 months, it was nice to reunite the family – although on another continent, halfway from home!

 

The next part of the trip got a little bumpy when we took our bus to Paris. It was an overnight bus and involved us taking a ferry – meaning we were woken up to provide our passports and board the ferry itself. Needless to say, we did not get a lot of sleep, and Paris started off very interesting.

But I’ll save that for another post.

With wifi being difficult sometimes, it’s hard to say how often I’ll be able to update my blog posts. However, I am posting short summaries with pictures on Instagram each day. Those are being shared on Twitter and Facebook as well.

Signing off for now,

From

JH

Irish Goodbyes

Goodbyes are always hard. But a place is only as good as the people in it.

Well, my time in Waterford has come to an end. I won’t be living in Ireland anymore, within walking distance of all my friends and everything else. No more Irish wind or crazy Irish weather. (Except for when it follows me to other cities and countries.)

These months have flown by, but I think that’s a good thing. Talking to some friends, we agreed that we were busy and (almost) always having a great time. I had so many amazing experiences and I now have memories to last me a lifetime. Not only have I lived halfway across the world from my home, but I have travelled a country as best I could and have even ventured into Europe for my first time.

I have seen castles, cliffs, ancient forts, big and small cities, towns, national parks, amazing coastlines, and famous views and areas. I experienced Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, and the sea of green which consumes it in madness. I’ve tried typical Irish food and have now come to love beer. I spent my birthday away from home for the first time, surrounded by new friends. I travelled to cities in Ireland with people I had known for merely a few weeks.

 
Waiting for the parade in Dublin the girls.

Waiting for the parade in Dublin with the girls.

 
ERASMUS students!

ERASMUS students!
Photo cred: Brownes Photography.

 
Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

I experienced the actual European continent for the first time with great friends. I couldn’t have asked for better trip mates or a better trip. We have so many great laughs and memories from that trip, even with the ups and downs of travelling. But, in my opinion, we really grew closer from that adventure and the experiences. I hope to stay in contact and see all of you again very soon.

Of course, my roommate and friend from home definitely helped make things smoother and easier. I can’t imagine how either of us would have survived without the other. There’s always that worry when you are going to be living or travelling with someone you don’t know very well – but we clicked right from the beginning. And I’m so grateful for all of our laughs and talks and walks and trips and 1am too-tired-to-think-so-it-just-becomes-laughing nights. I’m excited for more trips and memories.

Already, I happily look back through my journal and pictures to see the many memories and friends I have made. I am the luckiest person to have met these wonderful people, and to have had such amazing experiences. I cannot even begin to describe in words the positive effects this has had on my life. I learned to live on my own, and deal with whatever comes. It was definitely a learning and growing experience not having any kind of safety net nearby. I was able to discover who I truly am and who I want to be. It was a necessary step towards figuring out what I truly want from life – happiness.

On the bus to Kilkenny - JulieHuff.com

On the bus to Kilkenny, with Brit, Sarah, Hubert, Carlos, and Bert (and Bruna and Evelyn behind)

 
Selfie on the London Eye!

Selfie on the London Eye!

 
Selfie at the Giant's Causeway cliffs.

Selfie at the Giant’s Causeway cliffs.

 

I know it might sound odd to some people, but these past 5 months were truly some of the happiest and most memorable of my life. I was able to gain so much from the experience. I was surrounded by different people and cultures who truly affected me, and people who inspired me to examine myself and my life. I had some serious conversations with some people, sharing life stories in a non-judgmental atmosphere, while the majority of time was just experiencing life, new things, and having fun.

So many people asked me “Why Ireland?” and I never had an easy answer. I think after this experience, I can easily say the cheesiest thing that comes to mind: Ireland actually picked me. Ireland and its quirky ways seemed to be exactly what I needed in my life. I didn’t feel stressed at school, I was going out and doing new things constantly – it was a contrast from my life at home. And I loved it. I really hope I don’t lose any of the things Ireland gave me, but I guess it’s an excuse to visit Ireland frequently to maintain them.

To all my fellow international/ERASMUS students from Waterford, it was a pleasure getting to know you and living this adventure with you! I am thankful for the laughs, the parties, the crazy adventures, and the amazing friendships which have formed from this experience. I wish all of you luck in your futures, and cannot wait to see you again – weather it’s in Canada or your home countries, or maybe even Ireland again!

I went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.

I went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.

 
 
The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

 
Inch Beach - far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

Inch Beach – far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

 
I got to fulfill my bucket list - walking through a random field in Ireland. I'm pretty sure it wasn't trespassing.

I got to fulfill my bucket list – walking through a random field in Ireland. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t trespassing.

I honestly don’t think there is anything else I can say, but a certain quote comes to mind that completely sums up my mindset at the close of this adventure:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

P.S. – sorry for the very late posts – wifi while travelling Europe can be a tricky situation sometimes.

The Last of Irish Travels

Okay, so I’ve been pretty busy again. Let me mention some noteworthy things that happened a little bit ago, and then I’ll move on to my trips the past week.

– First, I started climbing at a new, local gym a couple months ago, and got to know the people working there. It was small and a fun atmosphere. On May 11, they were having a fundraiser for Nepal. The goal was to climb 8848 meters, the height of Everest – except with everyone donating and contributing laps on the wall. So, I made my donation and for my day of climbing, I did 50 laps to help Nepal (I climbed 350m total). All proceeds went to the Himalayan Stove Project, and the fundraiser was a great success! (The gym is Activate Waterford.)

 
Selfie at Activate Waterford for the Everest Challenge for Nepal!

Selfie at Activate Waterford for the Everest Challenge for Nepal!

 
 
Watched the sunset at Kilbarry before my last exam. Great night!

Watched the sunset at Kilbarry before my last exam. Great night!

– Technically, I was still finishing up school. I had my last exam on Wednesday the 13th. It felt great to get it over with, as that was the final I was most stressed about. It feels weird, however, that my semester is officially over.

– That afternoon, to celebrate, Brit and I went to city centre for some fun, before we met some of the others to do a mini pub crawl. We went to some of our favourite pubs, and tried a few new ones. It was great craic! Later we met up with ‘everyone’ as a sort of goodbye party. There have been a lot of goodbyes the past week, and they have been really hard for everyone. Who knew that you could grow so close in just a few months!?

Alright, now you’re caught up.

On May 15th, Brittany and I set out on a mini-trip to check out another area of Ireland we wanted to see. So, we left the Republic and headed to Northern Ireland to spend 2 days in Belfast. It still amazes me that we can take 2 buses, travelling for 4 hours, and cross an entire country, into another. As we all know, 4 hours would not even get you out of British Columbia…

We took a tour with a black taxi cab. It’s a historical and political tour of the city, and although it is a whirlwind of information, it is fascinating! The history is so tumultuous, from the conflicts and divisions, to the acts of violence which were common until merely 7 years ago. You can still feel the instability in some parts of the city. We went around the city seeing murals, memorials, Catholic & Protestant neighbourhoods, and the peace wall. It was truly interesting, and made me curious to know more about Irish history.

 
On the bus to Belfast!

On the bus to Belfast!

 
 
Quote in the hostel in Belfast. Loved it - even if there were spelling errors.

Quote in the hostel in Belfast. Loved it – even if there were spelling errors.

Queen's University in Belfast.

Queen’s University in Belfast.

 

Our driver dropped us off at a great place for dinner, and after eating, we wandered the city a little. We found Queen’s University, which we agreed looked like something from Harry Potter, and we quickly walked through the Botanic gardens before they closed.

The next day was the one we most looked forward to – a tour to Giant’s Causeway! Not only did we get to see the natural phenomenon, we also went to Bushmills Distillery for a pit stop, and saw Dunluce Castle from afar. The winds that day were insane, but we were pretty lucky weather-wise. Giant’s Causeway was not what we had expected, but amazing nonetheless. It is seriously busy with tours and tourists, but we had fun walking around and taking pictures, even hiking a trail to get a view from the cliffs above.

 
Dunluce Castle from a distance, on the Antrim Coast. It was crazy windy!

Dunluce Castle from a distance, on the Antrim Coast. It was crazy windy!

 
 
Post-wind selfie back on the bus. Love this girl - we can make crazy faces together and laugh!

Post-wind selfie back on the bus. Love this girl – we can make crazy faces together and laugh!

 
I am on top of the world at Giant's Causeway! (So many tourists though...)

I am on top of the world at Giant’s Causeway! (So many tourists though…)

Before the tour ended, we stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, where you can cross to a tiny island that used to be used for fishing. Apparently, the fishermen didn’t have to pay taxes on what they caught there – but they had to lug the fish out of the water and across the bridge. To finish off our trip, we went to the infamous Crown Bar for a pint. Belfast was super interesting and I’m glad that we had the opportunity to see it, even for a couple days.

 
 
Giant's Causeway - a beautiful natural phenomenon! The rocks are so cool.

Giant’s Causeway – a beautiful natural phenomenon! The rocks are so cool.

Selfie at the Giant's Causeway cliffs.

Selfie at the Giant’s Causeway cliffs.

 
The Antrim Coast - view from the cliffs at Giant's Causeway.

The Antrim Coast – view from the cliffs at Giant’s Causeway.

 
 
The famous Crown Bar in Belfast. It was so cool! Enjoyed a pint there our last night.

The famous Crown Bar in Belfast. It was so cool! Enjoyed a pint there our last night.

Coming back to Waterford, there were more goodbyes and parties. Again, it was really hard to say goodbye to people we had grown close to over the past few months.

Lastly, was the trip I just came back from – Brittany and I went to Killarney for a few days. It was more bus rides, and 4 hours (again) to get there, but it brought us to the southwest of Ireland, a part we had yet to see. The bus ride into the city was beautiful, and the town of Killarney itself was cute – like a mix between Waterford and the town of Kilkenny. We took a short walk through Killarney National Park, as it began to pour rain on us, and looked around town before heading to the hostel to make dinner. We ended up sharing a room with 2 girls from Alberta – a whole room of Canadians, eh?

On Tuesday, we got up for what we had been looking forward to – a tour. We found out we would be touring the Dingle Peninsula that day, the Ring of Kerry the next. Weather-wise, we had wanted it the other way around, but it actually worked quite well! It didn’t rain on us either day and we were afforded spectacular views (of course).

 
 
Inch Beach - a beautiful place on an amazing day.

Inch Beach – a beautiful place on an amazing day.

Inch Beach - far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

Inch Beach – far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

 
Beautiful Dingle Peninsula

Beautiful Dingle Peninsula

 
Probably the smallest church in Ireland. In the Dingle Peninsula.

Probably the smallest church in Ireland. In the Dingle Peninsula.

 

The Dingle Peninsula Tour took us to so many amazing places. First stop: Inch Beach. The sun was shining and the views were spectacular as you looked down the far-stretching beach. The tide was out, so you could walk pretty far too. It was a great first stop. We made multiple other stops along the way at viewpoints overlooking beautiful beaches, the ocean, castle ruins, hillsides, the Blasket Islands, and we walked to the smallest church in Ireland. It was so adorably small!

Part way through the day, we stopped at the town of Dingle. It was a place I had really wanted to go, and I was ecstatic to have some time to spend there! We wandered through shops and along the harbor, taking pictures. We got ice cream from Murphy’s, an amazing place! I had Irish coffee ice cream (yes, it had Jameson whiskey in it), and chocolate. We continued our walk and took pictures with the statue of the famous dolphin – Fungie!

 
I was so excited to finally visit Dingle!

I was so excited to finally visit Dingle!

 
The Dingle Harbour was so cute!

The Dingle Harbour was so cute!

 
 
Yummy ice cream made in Dingle - Irish Coffee & chocolate.

Yummy ice cream made in Dingle – Irish Coffee & chocolate.

 
Fungie the dolphin statue! Famous in Dingle.

Fungie the dolphin statue! Famous in Dingle.

Back in Killarney, we went for a walk to Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, as the sun was still shining and it was a gorgeous day out. To finish off the night, we had a quick pint at a little pub, where I got to try a beer brewed locally in Dingle. I’m loving trying new beers now, trying to find new ones I like, and trying local ones whenever I can. Thanks to the guys for making me try new beers all the time – now I find them on my own!

 
Killarney National Park - we went walking because it was a beautiful day.

Killarney National Park – we went walking because it was a beautiful day.

 
Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. It was pretty cool!

Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. It was pretty cool!

 

Wednesday led us to our tour of the Ring of Kerry. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to see on this tour other than the landscapes of Ireland from a bus. I actually had no idea what the Ring of Kerry was. Anyways, the tour started off slow and was sort of a letdown in the beginning after we had just experienced the stunning Dingle Peninsula. The first stop was just a viewpoint of the peninsula from the opposite side of the valley, and the second stop was a tourist trap – pay to watch a mini show. We opted out and had lunch instead. Only to find that the next stop was at a single place for lunch. We walked a little to get a better view of castle ruins far down in the valley – apparently a filming site for a movie I love, Leap Year!

 
Views of the Ring of Kerry

Views of the Ring of Kerry

 
A beach at the Ring of Kerry.

A beach at the Ring of Kerry.

 
The beautiful hillsides.

The beautiful hillsides.

 

Then it only got better. The sights became even prettier as we ventured further into the valley and weaved through the mountains. We made multiple stops at viewpoints, including Ladies’ View, where the Queen (I don’t remember which one) saw the mountains and lakes of Killarney. It was beautiful.

After the tour, we decided to wander Killarney National Park since it had become such an amazing day. We ended up finding an open field and taking tons of pictures of the amazing views: fields, mountains, lakes, and just nature. And deer. Weirdly, I became obsessed with the fact that there was technically no proper fence up, and there was a massive herd of deer in the center of the area we were walking. And I became fascinated watching them as they attempted to ‘escape’ their enclosure – literally just stepping over the fallen fence. But one deer left and multiple others followed. And I got to fulfill a wish of mine for Ireland: walking through a wide open field. It probably wasn’t illegally trespassing, as I’m pretty sure it was somehow part of the park…

 
Lady's View in the Ring of Kerry!

Lady’s View in the Ring of Kerry!

 
Slightly obsessed afterwards, we found a Murphy's in Killarney, too.

Slightly obsessed afterwards, we found a Murphy’s in Killarney, too.

 
I got to fulfill my bucket list - walking through a random field in Ireland. I'm pretty sure it wasn't trespassing.

I got to fulfill my bucket list – walking through a random field in Ireland. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t trespassing.

 

To end off a great day, we had dinner at a restaurant called Failte, the Irish word for ‘welcome.’ It was great! But the best was yet to come – we walked around the corner to The Shire, a Lord of the Rings themed pub. Yes, it was amazing! We walked into Mordor, and I ordered a tankard of Gandalf’s Ale. We met some Americans, listened to live music, and had a great night!

I’m so glad that we got to have these last trips to explore the other areas of Ireland. It’s such a beautiful country, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to travel around it in my time here. I cannot wait to come back to explore some more.

 
We found the Shire in Killarney - cool Lord of the Rings themed pub!

We found the Shire in Killarney – cool Lord of the Rings themed pub!

 
 
Loved this sign in the Shire!

Loved this sign in the Shire!

This weekend, I get to see some familiar faces – my brother, and friend Kirstin are coming to Ireland so we can begin our epic European adventure. The 3 of us, one month, 11 countries, 17 cities, friends along the way, and multiple stories. It’s going to be legen- wait for it -dary. Legendary. 😉

Now, I had to say some more goodbyes the other day, and many more are coming. I am going to save these for one post – when I leave Ireland. So get ready guys, it’ll be a sad one.

“Travelling tends to magnify all human emotions.” – Peter Hoeg

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

P.S. – Sorry for the lack of pictures of Belfast… I actually lost all of the pictures from that trip from my camera. And my videos. I’m super bummed about it. But at least I had pictures from my phone and the memories!

Hellos & Goodbyes

Well, honestly not a lot has happened since I last wrote here. I will highlight a few things but try to keep this one short.

Over the past week and a bit, my friend Kirstin and I have been doing a lot of planning for our trip which will be happening very soon. If I haven’t mentioned it, or you don’t know, Kirstin and my brother will be coming to Ireland at the end of May. I will then show them some of my favourite places before we set out to travel Europe for a whole month!

It’s quite daunting, but I couldn’t be more excited. We are going to see so many amazing places and have wonderful experiences together. I know that it will be great. Taking it in steps of planning definitely makes it much easier as well. So far, we have all our places planned, and plane tickets bought to travel between quite a few countries. Then we will take trains and buses for the rest.

On Sunday May 3rd, quite a bit happened. It was my friend, Carlos’ birthday. So, the day before, I had helped a few of my friends to bake a cake for him. For his birthday, he cooked a lot of Spanish food and invited a large group of us over to his apartment. We ate and hung out for a while, and it was a lot of fun! The food he made was delicious, and the cake was a huge success.

 
 
Hubert, Brittany, Carlos and I at Carlos' birthday. So glad to have met these guys!

Hubert, Brittany, Carlos and I at Carlos’ birthday. So glad to have met these guys!

 
Looking at Waterford Crystal! (Photo cred: Alexis)

Looking at Waterford Crystal! (Photo cred: Alexis)

We're so cool...

We’re so cool…

 

I ended up being late to the party however, as my friend, Alexis, was coming to Waterford! After a little mix up, I found Alexis at the bus station. We walked back to my apartment catching up on everything that had gone on in the months we hadn’t seen each other. It was really nice to see a familiar face from home.

Alexis and I went to Carlos’ for a bit, before she headed back to my apartment to sleep, as jet lag sucks. I went back to the party after making sure she was settled, and hung out with everyone. Then, a few of us helped Carlos clean the apartment afterwards. It was a lot of fun!

The next morning, May 4th (or Star Wars Day), Alexis and I got up and walked to city center for an Irish breakfast along the Quay. It was delicious. We wandered down the Quay and ended up going into Reginald’s Tower. I had already been through it, but decided to go through again with Alexis. It has so much history throughout it! We walked part way to WIT before giving up – it was a long walk and she didn’t really need to see my campus.

 
Selfies in Tramore to send home to Canada!

Selfies in Tramore to send home to Canada!

 
A&J conquer Ireland. #CanadaTakesIreland (or at least Tramore...)

A&J conquer Ireland. #CanadaTakesIreland (or at least Tramore…)

 
It was quite nice in Tramore that day!

It was quite nice in Tramore that day!

 
Visiting Tramore with Alexis!

Visiting Tramore with Alexis!

 

So, we went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Tramore. Some of my friends were going to be there, so after we walked along the beach and took lots of pictures, we met up with Nathan. We ate lunch while some friends finished surfing. Yes, surfing! It was fun to watch them. (You can see pics and read about it on Brittany’s blog if you’d like.)

We came back to the apartment, and while Alexis slept and Brit studied, I did the dishes and made dinner. Later, Alexis and I met up with Anna, Eva, Nathan and Sarah to go to Katty Barry’s pub for a pint and some live Irish music. It was a lot of fun! It was my last chance to hang out with Eva before she left for Germany, so I really liked going out with them.

 
Group pic in front of Katy Barry's (except Alexis), with the Germans & Americans.

Group pic in front of Katy Barry’s (except Alexis), with the Germans & Americans.

 
Selfie in front of the pub. Germans, Americans and Canadians unite.

Selfie in front of the pub. Germans, Americans and Canadians unite.

 

On Tuesday, Alexis and I ended up starting later than planned and missed the first bus to Dublin. Instead, we got a hot drink and bite to eat in city centre, before relaxing in the giant book store. Then we caught the bus and were on our way to Dublin!

We found our hostel, which had been recommended by my friend, and checked in. It was a cool hostel, and just across the river from Temple Bar and the main attractions. We decided to look for food, and ended up at a Mexican restaurant for a burrito called Pablo Picante – on Cinco de Mayo! It wasn’t even planned, but it was a really good burrito and we ate in Temple Bar.

 
On the bus, on our way to Dublin!

On the bus, on our way to Dublin!

 
 
The hostel in Dublin had really interesting sayings and lyrics on the walls.

The hostel in Dublin had really interesting sayings and lyrics on the walls.

This time, we found the actual part of Dublin Castle that looks like a castle!

This time, we found the actual part of Dublin Castle that looks like a castle!

 
St. Patrick's Cathedral looked beautiful from the park with all of the flowers blooming!

St. Patrick’s Cathedral looked beautiful from the park with all of the flowers blooming!

 

We walked to Dublin Castle and saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its park, before heading to the Guinness Storehouse. It was really cool! We got to learn how they make Guinness, and I got to drink a pint of Guinness while overlooking the entire city of Dublin. It was a great experience! I will probably learn to pour a pint when I go back at the end of the month.

After wandering back through the city, we tried to decide where we would go next. We finally decided to just go straight for dinner at a pub which Carlos had recommended. So, we got dinner and spent the evening at O’Neill’s. The food was delicious – I had an Irish beef and Guinness stew and it was so good! Then we grabbed some beers and relaxed watching the football (soccer) game before the live Irish band and dancers came on to perform. They were really good and it was interesting to see! (I have no photos of this because my phone had died…)

 
Walking through Temple Bar, you find the most Irish things.

Walking through Temple Bar, you find the most Irish things.

 
The Guinness Storehouse was a little hard to find, but really interesting!

The Guinness Storehouse was a little hard to find, but really interesting!

 
 
My Guinness at the Storehouse. So good, so Irish.

My Guinness at the Storehouse. So good, so Irish.

Drinking a Guinness, overlooking all of Dublin city.

Drinking a Guinness, overlooking all of Dublin city.

 

After a packed couple of days, we were both pretty tired. However, Alexis had to get up the next morning to catch a bus to her ferry for the UK. I got up to say goodbye before we parted ways. I ended up hanging out in Dublin for part of the day, shopping and wandering, before catching a bus back home. Needless to say, I was pretty tired and slept pretty well after I Skyped my family.

On Friday, I had my first exam here in Ireland. It was a very odd experience for me. Usually, anything within the academic world stresses me out a lot. But, here, with everything being so relaxed, I was not super worried at all. I studied the few days before, and felt pretty prepared. It was interesting that being an international student, I had no idea what I was doing – but the Irish didn’t seem to know much more than me either. They seemed just as lost. Luckily, the few Irish lads I know, knew exactly what to do.

Walking back from my exam, it rained ridiculously hard. By the time I reached home, I was absolutely sopping wet. My jeans were completely soaked through, and my socks were squishing in my boots. I quickly changed before walking with Bruna to meet Brittany and Evelyn at a small restaurant close by. We went to a little diner (Rockin’ Joe’s) for lunch where we ordered a ton of food! I was so full, but it was delicious and totally worth it – a burger, fries and onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake! It was fun to hang out with the girls before Evelyn was leaving to go back home.

That night, a group of us got together to hang out, play some games, and say goodbye to Evelyn. It was great fun, but really sad as it became all too real that our time here is ending. There were tears and lots of hugs. After some people left, I ended up chatting with a couple friends until really late into the night. We talked about everything: gossip, politics, our lives, reasons we studied abroad, cultural differences. It was so great! A few of us stayed up almost all night just talking about everything. It was so great to have a conversation and really connect with people who I have known for only a few months. We have so much in common, and found out that we really understood each other.

Apple Oatie and tea at Blackfriars was delicious.

Apple Oatie and tea at Blackfriars was delicious.

On Saturday, after getting up quite late, Brittany and I met up with Anna, Nathan, and Sarah to go to city centre. We went to Blackfriars, a coffee shop, after wandering around Penny’s, the clothing store (kinda like Forever 21). It was great to relax, drink some tea and coffee, and just chat!

Later, we all decided to pitch in and split Chinese food for dinner. Again, we had a great time just hanging out together. I feel like we all get along really well, and I sincerely hope that we can stay close and in touch over the next while – until we meet again for a reunion. 😉

 

Honestly, although not a lot happened this week, I feel like I learned a lot about myself and just life in general. Goodbyes are hard – but for me, not saying goodbye to these wonderful people is even harder. And if you lads are reading this, get ready for a post that will make us all tear up coming in the future.

I am thankful for nights that turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, and dreams that turned into reality.” – Pinterest quote.

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH