Blood, Sweat & Tears

Over the past few years  I’ve poured my heart and soul into this blog, working on posts late at night, early in the morning, on lunch hours while I was still at my day job, blurry eyed and at times on the verge of giving up. There’s been blood, sweat and tears – but luckily not that much actual bloodshed, unless you count that time I cut my hand on a martini glass during a late night, vodka fuelled blogging session (a habit I’ve since given up) Skinny Dip has taught me about the transformative power of hard work, self-promotion and faith. It’s also taught me that I do my best work with a cup of coffee in hand.

However, today is a big day.

I’m really excited to announce that I am the new nationally syndicated Sex, Dating & Relationship columnist  for the Toronto Sun! My first column runs in today’s paper and you can read it here. The column will be syndicated across 140 different papers on a bi-weekly basis, so if you don’t live in Toronto you might just see me within the pages of your local newspaper talking about sex, dating and relationships.

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(A preview photo from the pin-up style photo shoot I did this Fall)

I started this blog in 2009 with a specific purpose in mind:  to write, tell stories and use it as a online writing portfolio, in hopes of launching a writing career. Although having a specific focus has definitely helped me during my journey, I had some pretty naive expectations about how long it would take me to reach some of my goals. Three years ago I wrote down a list of goals, one of them being “After my first year of blogging, have my own column in a National publication.” Oh, Simone. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was how much hard work blogging and writing is – it’s fun and inspiring, but work none the less. There are no instant success stories. No one is just going to “discover you.” However, if you work hard and stay focused good things can happen.

In between then and now, my blog has taken me to all kinds of interesting places professionally. I’ve launched a freelance writing career, spoken at a conference held at my alma mater, been on a reality TV show and walked the red carpet at a movie premiere. I’ve written for The Huffington Post, Elle Canada, Canadian Living, the Kit, the Toronto Star and Slice.ca where I am a regular contributing writer. I’ve interviewed high ranking bank executives (while at home in my pyjamas), rubbed elbows with Canadian fashion designers at Fashion week & met D-List movie stars on the red carpet. I’ve also been fortunate to be part of a blogging community that full of some of the smartest, funniest most inspiring people I’ve ever met.

Now that I’ve accomplished the goal I set out three years ago, it feels less like an end point and more like the start of new, exciting things.

If you’re looking to write or take your blog to the next level, here are a few things I have learned over the past few years –

1) Have a specific goal(s) and focus – In other words, what do you want? I knew I wanted to use my blog as a portfolio and eventually turn it into a business – something that’s definitely helped me stay focused. Whether it’s writing a book, scoring that dream job or sharing with the world a super awesome digital scrapbook of your life – figure out what you want out of your blog and go for it.

2) Connect! – Don’t be a stranger. Get to know other bloggers. Reach out to people in your desired industry who are already doing what you want to be doing and find out how they got there. Send that email to that blogger to seems super cool & popular – more likely than not, they’re super friendly & sweet & will be excited to hear from you.

(PS. I love, love, LOVE receiving emails from readers!)

3) Stop comparing your self to others and keep it classy – The internet can be a catty place, so always, always take the high road.  Write fearlessly, but always create work you’re proud of. Look to other bloggers not as competition, but as potential mentors. Do. Your. Own. Thing.

3) Don’t give up!  It can take a while to get where you want to go, but if you put yourself out there, your hard work will eventually pay off. Hang in there. To quote one of my favourite authors, James Baldwin:

“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck but, most of all, endurance”

I wanted to do something to celebrate my new column, so last weekend I decided to treat myself to a pretty dress that I’ll wear to the White Party at Bloggers in Sin City this May (which is happening in a month. Oh my!)

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I tried it on while I was out shopping with my Dad. As soon as I slipped it on I knew it was “the one.” My Dad, who’s recently become my sounding board for my dating troubles, was hesitant at first about the dress.

“It looks great Simone, but it’s a lot of money for one dress”

“I know Dad, but you’ve heard me describe the bachelor selection in this city. This is probably the only white dress I’ll be buying for a while”

“Well, you’re probably right.”

If these three years have taught me anything, it’s that sometimes the best things in life take time to arrive.

What have you guys been up to? Tell me what’s good!

How to Survive Fashion Week Without Looking Like a Jack-Ass

If you’ve been following my twitter or Instagram feed, you might already know that I spent March 19th-24th attending Vancouver Fashion Week and blogging for The Kit.ca. Although I’m not a fashion blogger, I’m definitely a fashion enthusiast and I have been fortunate to attend both Toronto and Vancouver Fashion Week several years in a row. Although Toronto Fashion Week is bigger, flashier and a much more star studded, I really enjoy attending Fashion Week in Vancouver because the event is more intimate and accessible. Attending Vancouver Fashion Week means never having your view of the runway partially obscured by Ben Mulroney’s hair (which, in case you wondered doesn’t move, at all, and therefore, totally haunts my nightmares)

Since a couple of you have asked me about what it’s like to attend these kinds of events, I thought I’d take a break from regularly scheduled dating, relationship and sexy time talk, to share with you guys a few things I’ve learned from my Fashion Week experiences over the years.

(The top middle photo is of me & my lovely blogger buddy Alison from Styling My Life)

1. Play nice. See those PR girls frantically running around the venue trying to seat everyone? Be nice to them. If you need something or a detail gets messed up (i.e. there’s someone sitting in your reserved seat), be firm but always be polite. Kindness is remembered. When it’s between seating you (the lowly journalist) in the front row or the heavily botoxed “VIP” who is throwing a hissy fit as we speak, those nice PR girls will hook you up. True story.

2. Don’t feel like you have to wear head-to-toe designer. Although you’ll definitely see people wearing their share of labels, a designer wardrobe is not required for attendance. With that said, just because you own a few designer items doesn’t mean you have to wear them all at the same time – actually, it’s probably better you don’t…and yes, woman with the Gucci print shoes, bag & matching pants I’m looking at you. As it turns out, many of the well-dressed people I spotted at Vancouver Fashion Week were actually wearing pieces that they’d purchased at Zara, Top Shop or made themselves. It all comes down to how you style yourself. I brought a nice pair of shoes and a decent looking handbag, but the majority of the stuff I wore during the week was actually from Joe Fresh, Material Girl, GAP (!) or thrifted.

3. Accept the fact that your feet will probably be uncomfortable for most of the week. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t feel particularly professional in flats. Because Fashion Week is technically “work” I wear heels to all the shows and events. Between standing around waiting for the shows, running between venues and meeting up with friends for dinner/drinks, my feet take a beating. My suggestion? Pack a pair of flats in your bag for the trip to and from the venue. If you have a pair of foldable flats even better.

4. Here are a few other things that you should pack in your fashion week survival kit: Bandaids (your feet will need them), protein or energy bars (some of the shows overlap meal-times and it’s good to have something to discretely munch on so you don’t pass out), a smart phone with a camera (for Tweeting, Instagramming and taking snap-shots of the looks), business cards (Fashion Week is a great networking opportunity. I actually forgot my business cards this year and felt like a total dolt.)

5. Leave your UGGs and DOGS at home. I don’t think there is anything wrong with UGGs per se. I wear them around the house, for walking in the snow or for other wintery/outdoorsy activities – but they do not belong at a fashion show. Same goes for flip flops, house shoes or (god forbid) Crocs. It doesn’t matter that you’re in Vancouver where everyone is “so laid back” – invest in a simple pair of pumps or ballet flats if you’re going to be attending Fashion Week.

You know what else doesn’t belong at Fashion Week? Your Dog! Yes, Hugo here is probably the most adorable pup I have ever seen, but he’s also terrified! Fashion shows are loud, chaotic and the music often reaches nightclub-like volumes. Not only is it totally distracting to bring your pet to a fashion show, it also sucks for the animal. It felt so bad for some of the dogs because you could see their owners were trying to cover their ears & soothe them during the shows so they wouldn’t freak out 🙁 Leave your dogs at home!!

6. Be aware that you’ll probably get hooked on a new, free soft drink beverage. Where there is a Fashion Week, there’s always someone promoting  a new, questionable “energy” beverage. I’m guessing that these companies equate Fashion Week with not eating or sleeping properly and therefore, assume everyone is looking for a caffeine boost – which, wouldn’t be entirely untrue. Let us not forget the time you spent a whole day drinking free Fuze Ice Tea at a charity pool party or the Vitamin Water Incident of 2010. The beverages are there, they’re free and you’ll probably try them. FYI, I think I’m still on a caffeine high from all the  Starbucks “Refreshers” I drank during Vancouver Fashion Week.

7. Don’t worry about taking photos. There’s no way you’re going to get high quality shots of the runway unless you’re a professional photographer, so don’t worry about it. You can get the professional photos sent to you by the PR reps after the event or find them online. However, do take a photos of some of your favourite looks and of the name of the show before it starts. You’re going to see so many looks throughout the week that it’s impossible to remember them all without a visual reminder.

8.  Remember, there’s no laughing, pointing or cat-calling in fashion. I’m thinking this might be a Vancouver thing because I never seen anyone do any of these things in Toronto however, I saw people do ALL OF THESE THINGS at VFW. Even if a model struts down the runway in something that looks like the lovechild of a potato sack and a beach ball, show some maturity & respect and keep your comments to yourself. Also whistling and cat-calling models while they’re trying to work is just skeezy. Ignoring my advice will likely make you look like a jack-ass.

9. Stay sober. It’s really, really tempting to drink during Fashion Week. There’s champagne to be purchased between shows and there’s ALWAYS an after-party somewhere. Fashion Week is hectic especially when you have other work to do (either at the office or freelance) and you’re trying to attend and write about as many shows as possible. Unless you love feeling like crap, it’s hard to party all night and keep up the pace. Instead of partying it up all week, on the last night of Vancouver Fashion Week I treated myself to a decadent seafood meal and a glass of Pinot Grigio with some of the lovely blogger ladies below.

10. Don’t be a stranger. Talk to people! If you play your cards right you might end up meeting some Real Housewives and making some new friends!

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(With Mary and Christina of The Real Housewives of Vancouver, who were super nice & friendly!)

( Blogger Buddies! L-R – Me,  Britta, Nina and Allison)

What do you guys think? Did I miss anything?!

How to Fall Back in Love With Yourself

One of the things I’m often asked as a sex and relationship blogger is “what advice would you give to single people?” I was actually asked this during the live relationship and sex chat I did for Sun Media a few weeks ago (which you can view here!) and I gave the answer I always give: take this time to work on yourself. Stop worrying about being single and instead work on building a happy life for yourself. Do this and you’ll attract the right kind of equally happy people into your life. Besides, relationships are great and all, but they do take up time. Use the time you have now to do all that “you stuff” that you’ve always wanted to do: like starting that daunting project or business, taking that dance class and getting your emotional baggage sorted out so that you can enjoy your life as is. In other words, take this time to fall in love with yourself before you fall in love with someone else.

It’s been approximately 1 year and 4 months since the big break-up, and almost a year exactly since I let go of a rebound situation that wasn’t working out. Recent dating adventures aside, I’ve spent most of the past year alone, working on myself. When I look at how I felt a year ago versus how I feel now, it’s mind boggling how much has changed. I have the feeling when I look back at this era of my life, I’ll remember 2012-2013 as the year I fell back in love with being me.

Everyone is different, however here are a few things that helped me feel happier over the past year. If you’re also working through a transitional period they might help you too.

Being single is the perfect time to invest in yourself. And by “invest in yourself” I don’t mean “your closet.” Although there’s definitely a time and a place for a post break-up wardrobe spruce up, what I’m really talking about is investing some time and possibly some money in the not-quite-as-shiny-but-good-for-you stuff that really matters. Learning to spend on the right things for me meant prioritizing self care and my health (like forking out the money for chiropractic & dental appointments). However, the best investment I’ve made over the past year has been the time and money I spent on counselling. At the end of 2011 I was still really struggling with anxiety and was holding on to a lot of negative thoughts, guilt, sadness and just felt “stuck” – emotionally and career wise. Talking to someone about these feelings was one of the best things I have ever done. I’m still a work in progress, but therapy has helped me break the negative cycle of emotional hoarding that dominated my life for so long. I now feel lighter, happier and like I am better equipped to deal with challenges. Unfortunately, I feel like there’s still a stigma associated with seeing a therapist, which makes me sad because it’s helped me so much.

Taking care of all the emotional “stuff” freed up a lot of space for me to think about other things like my goals. One of my other favourite investments was participating in the Stratejoy  Holiday Council. The course helped me let go of negative stuff  from the past year and plan for an amazing 2013. The work I did with Stratejoy  helped me break down my goals for the year into manageable parts. I’m working on one or two main projects per month and I’m actually getting sh*t done. It feels amazing. If you’re looking to fall back in love with your life, I highly recommend checking out some of Molly’s courses. She’s awesome & kind of magical!

(With that said, I don’t think I would have got as much out of the Holiday Council if I hadn’t worked through all the emotional stuff  first via the counselling I did earlier in the year)

Therapy for the emotional stuff & Life Coaching for the practical stuff – this is the formula that worked for me, however it might not work for you. One of my best friends found peace of mind after going to a retreat in the Amazon jungle where she received healing from a shaman. The lesson here: do whatever works for you. Unlike other purchases I’ve made in the past, the time & money I’ve invested in my own personal growth has been worth every single penny. You can’t put a price on focus and peace of mind.

Feeling lost? Re-connect with something that you love. As I’ve mentioned before, music has always been a big part of my life. However, following the big breakup it actually hurt to listen to most of my music. When I was dealing with the aftermath of the breakup, I just didn’t want to feel a lot of the things my favourite songs made me feel. However, a few months ago I came to the conclusion that my iPod needed a serious overhaul. In December I bought Jessie Ware’s album “Devotion” (the first actual album I’ve purchased in years) and promptly fell in love with her music.

Since then I’ve been reading Soulbounce like a fiend & getting into new artists like Rudimental, Rhye, Lianne La Havas and Kendra Morris ….and it’s be AWESOME.

Learning something new makes you feel good about yourself. Looking to fall in back in love with your life? Push through the fear and learn that thing you’ve always wanted to know how to do. That thing for me was to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator – something I finally tackled two weeks ago. For my first project I made a vision board for 2013 – one of my Stratejoy Holiday Council assignments. I chose images that represented how I want my 2013 to look and feel. I’m really happy with the results!

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It may not seem like much to other people, but learning how to use Adobe Illustrator has been on my to-do list forever. I’m a huge procrastinator and I can’t say whether I would have crossed it off my list had I not invested my time and resources into getting help with my goal planning. Since creating that vision board I’ve moved on to more complicated design projects like re-doing my CV and the marketing materials for Skinny Dip (which I can’t wait to show you guys – they’re pretty!)

I want 2013 to be a year full of healthy living, travel, mindfulness, creativity and sparkle – all things that will allow me to fall deeper in love with my life. So I decided my theme for the year would be “Shine.” One of my favourite quotes from my vision board is “do more of what makes you awesome” which to me is exactly what my theme is about: stripping away all of the BS & doing things that allow you to be the best version of yourself. Having a yearly theme has really helped me make better, more clearcut decisions. Lately, whenever I’m faced with a decision I’ll ask myself: “Will doing ______ help further my theme for the year?” If my gut tells me “no”, I walk away or make a different choice.

Lastly, one of the most important things I’ve learned over the past year is this: if you want to change your life you actually have to do the work. For example, being active and getting regular, sweaty exercise is part of who I am. Coming to this realization was easy, however putting it into action and doing the work – forcing myself to go to the gym, changing my eating habits etc – was the hard part. You can make all the vision boards you want but if you don’t actually do the work, nothing will happen.

Getting back into shape has been great however, I’ve realized there’s something else I also need to do: I need to dance. I spent from ages 5-21 dancing Ballet and I miss it terribly. I’ve wanted to get back into taking classes for a couple of years now but I keep putting it off, making excuses like, “I’ll do it once I’m in perfect physical shape again” or “I’ll sign up for classes when I’m making more money” As a freelancer my income fluctuates a lot, however I always seem to find the extra cash for things like shoes and wine….why not a dance class?! Even though business has been slow since January I’ve decided I’m going to finally sign up for that dance class. If not now, then when?!

One of the cool things I’ve learned so far is that once you start actually making things happen, it becomes like a domino effect – you do one thing, then another until you realize that maybe all of your goals aren’t as scary as you once thought they were. It’s a good feeling.

Re-connect. Learn. Shine. Activate. Do more of what makes you awesome.

Fall back in love with yourself.

What’s your theme for 2013? 

Things That Are True at 32

At 32 you do things that your 20-year old self  would have scoffed at. You spend time creating inspiration boards, setting goals, taking life coaching classes and getting excited about the book club you joined. You do these things because they make you happy. When a 25-year old Hipster calls you lame, you just laugh because they haven’t figured out that being your authentic self is way more important than being someone’s definition of “cool”

After a very brief flirtation with the couch potato lifestyle, you wake up one night – on the sofa with your hand inside a bag of rice crackers – and realize that something has to change. You’ve been athletic your whole life. As a kid you swam, ran track and danced ballet 4 times a week. Your body and mind runs best when it’s getting intense, sweaty exercise and not just of the amorous variety. When you cut out the gluten, lower your carb intake & start hitting the gym again, you feel awesome. Pushing your body and being active isn’t just something you need to do, it’s part of who you are.

You’ve always been petite and your body didn’t change much throughout your twenties. However, when you try on the size 0 cocktail dress you wore to your 28th birthday and you can no longer zip it up, you frantically run into the other room and ask your Mom:

“Is it possible that my rib cage expanded over the past year?”

Yes, yes it is.

Your body changes at 32. Your rib cage expands and your hips widen. Your bust increases, you go up 2 bra sizes and your boobs become a force to be reckoned with. You go from 105lbs to 120lbs in just over a year. Although it’s a bit weird adjusting to these new curves, for the first time in your life you no longer feel like you’re going to float away, you feel grounded. When you see one of your best friends in Toronto she says, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant? I’m not trying to be mean, it’s just that your boobs are huge and you’re positively glowing.”  You just laugh and smile.

You start understand what Audrey Hepburn meant when she said “happy girls are the prettiest.”

At 32, Divorced is the new Single. Half of your friends who got married in their twenties are now split from their original spouses and are exploring relationships with new partners who are a much better match. Some of your friends start to get married for the second time – which, you’ll admit feels a bit weird & deja-vu-ish, but also kind of awesome because you’ve never seen them this happy before.

When it comes to sex, you and your friends start to see the effect exposure to porn has had on the male population. For example:  Gents, if you want to have anal sex with a woman, do not spit on her ass-crack while having sex with her doggy-style and just hope she takes the hint. It’s likely she won’t want to have any kind of sex with you after that move. To be safe, just don’t spit on women… ever. Unless she asks you to do it. If she’s in her 30’s, she likely knows what she wants in bed and whoa, hormones be crazy at this age. Just roll with it. Unless it’s anal sex – you should always talk about that first.

At 32, if a man has a full head of hair, it’s an asset. Furthermore, you never thought you’d reach the point in your dating career where you become attracted to men with grey hair. Around 31-32 you start to appreciate a little salt and pepper action. It’s to the point where you don’t even notice the grey hair and you just think “that man is fucking hot.”

You realize the importance of pheromones – those invisible love chemicals that lead to sexual attraction. A man who smells good for no apparent reason makes you weak in the knees. It’s this very powerful sensation that leads you to have a steamy two night fling with a guy that you meet while you’re on vacation.

The chemistry is great and you just want more, more, more. However, when he drops you off in the morning, and you kiss goodbye, making vague plans to see each other again (that you both know probably won’t work out because of geography), you suddenly feel this aching sense of loss in your gut. This leads to the realization that maybe you’re not as thick skinned as you once thought. That maybe casual sex isn’t for you. That although you’d like to deny it, your heart lives in your vagina.

27 years of friendship, and your best-friend is still the person who always makes you feel better.

“I did something last night that I’m afraid to tell you about”

“Oh god, did you have an orgy?!”

“What?! No! Although I’m kind of impressed that you actually think I’m the kind of person who would do that.”

“Well, I dunno. You never know”

“I just slept with someone I barely knew and now I feel weird about it.”

She laughs and says, “Oh, Simone. That’s OK! Did you have fun?”

“Yes, very much so! But now I have all these weird feelings that I don’t know what to do with”

“It’s Ok, it’s just a shock to your system. You went from living with your mom, not dating, to being in another city and…..”

“Full out sex, drugs and rock-and-roll?”

“Pretty much.”

The ache in your gut eventually goes away, however it leads to another important realization:

You love sex but you also need to feel safe and protected. You want someone who will rip your clothes off, throw you down on the bed, say and do dirty things to you, but who will also hold you afterwards because they think you’re lovely & special. Someone who smells good, holds doors open, and loves it when you read stories you’ve written outloud because they love it when you do all of the different voices.

After a year of being happily single, of not wanting to be attached to anyone, you come to the conclusion don’t want to date and/or sleep with a bunch of different people, you just want to just spend time and sleep with one special person. Oh wait, there’s a name for this kind of person! It’s called a boyfriend. 

Does this mean…. you want to be in a relationship?! I think it does.

And at 32 1/2, you decide this isn’t such a bad thing.

Never Drink Absinthe in the Shower & Other Things I’ve Learned from Travel

This post originally appeared on my friend Caryn’s blog a few months ago. Other than my story about getting hit on by teenagers, I haven’t really shared much about my former life as a travel agent. Since I really liked how this post turned out and I’m hoping to make travel a key part of 2013, I thought I would re-post it incase you missed it the first time.

Travel has always been high on my list of priorities. When I graduated university in 2004 with a degree in Anthropology all I wanted to do was travel the world and experience all of the places I had only read about in textbooks. However, after 4 years of working multiple jobs and taking out student loans to put myself through school, I was completely broke with hefty loan payments looming in the very near future. What’s a broke girl with globetrotting dreams to do? I needed to find a job that would pay me to travel, so when it came time to look for my first “real job” I turned to the travel industry. After a very brief stint as a flight attendant for a Canadian airline, I realized working in the sky was not for me and I gladly accepted a desk job with a international company that specialized in educational travel.

For 3 years I had the best and worst job in the world.

I worked in a department that sold and produced international educational tours for high school students. If your high school ever did one of those “Go to Europe for 10 days and see 5 countries!” class trips, there’s a good chance that my former company was responsible. My job specifically was to sell these tours to teachers and then work with them throughout the booking process from recruiting students, booking the tour and following up with any “issues” once they got back (I’ll explain about that last part in a second)

The big upside to my job was that I got to work with some of the best people ever (many of whom are still good friends) and once a year I got to go on a free trip. In the three years I worked there I travelled to Germany, Paris, The South of France, Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Naples and spent 17 days in Greece taking in Athens and the Islands.

The downside? Most of this travel involved actually travelling with high school students. Yes, high school students – as in actual teenagers. From my experience, when you mix students and travel, crazy shit inevitably happens. The other 50 weeks of the year when I wasn’t traipsing around Europe, I was at my desk for 10 to 12 hours a day trying to “fix the crazy.” From exploding luggage, sinking cruise ships, bizarro teachers and stolen snowmobiles, to bus accidents and students giving birth on tour, you haven’t experienced “crazy” until you’ve worked in student travel. Anything that could go wrong, usually does at some point and you have to fix it. Yes you. The recent graduate who’s making 27k a year.

Here’s 10 life lessons I’ve learned from travelling and working in the industry:

1. Roll with the punches. This is true in both life and travel as both are totally unpredictable. You can prepare all you want but there’s always going to be something unexpected that happens. If you’re travelling, stay calm and work it out. Don’t let the fact that things aren’t absolutely “perfect” ruin your trip.

2. Your hotel room doesn’t matter. Ok, so I hope none of you ever have to have the following conversation with your travel agent: “So, that hotel you booked us into in Rome has blood stains on the wall” (true story) but at the end of the day, as long as your hotel room is clean and safe the rest doesn’t matter. It’s always amazing to stay at a super luxe hotel, however in my opinion, if you’re “doing travel right” you won’t be spending much time in your room anyways.

3. Not everything is going to be like home and that’s a good thing: I remember sitting in a restaurant in Nice with a group of students and chaperones from South Carolina, eating a plate of roasted chicken and fries that the waiter had just served us. As one of chaperones bit into her chicken she screamed out in horror: “This ain’t Southern Fried Chicken!” No, no it’s not – BECAUSE YOU’RE IN FRANCE. Although sometimes regional differences can be unsettling (this chicken did taste pretty weird, dude) try to embrace them. If we wanted things to always be the same we’d never leave home.

Hanging out in Delphi, Greece 2006.

4. Drinking Absinthe in the shower is a very bad idea: This sounds like it should be yet another story about me making a drunken fool out of myself, but for once it’s not! Two of the students I travelled with purchased a bottle of Absinthe in Rome and decided to spend the evening drinking it in their hotel room. In an Absinthe fuelled haze they thought it was a good idea to turn on the shower, promptly forgetting about it for the rest of the night. In the morning they woke up to a flooded hotel room. The lesson here: don’t consume strange alcohol or substances in foreign places, or at least not while you’re bathing.

5. Some people have a very bad sense of geography: Don’t assume that just because someone is booking a trip with you that they have any clue about where they are going…even if they’re a teacher. For example, “Monocco” isn’t a real country, nor is “Budapest” a country (and no, there’s currently not a war happening there). You can’t take a “quick ferry” from Costa Rica to Puerto Rico and driving from London to Athens isn’t “an easy day trip.” I know these things because I am Canadian, don’t live in an Igloo and have access to these things called maps.

6. My knack for attracting weirdos is an international phenomenon: While walking through a square in Florence I was stopped by a man who claimed to be a modelling agent. He asked me if I wanted to go out that night and “party with some of his girls” I’m pretty sure by “modelling agent” he meant “pimp” and by “party” he meant “recruit me into the white slave trade”. Lesson here: trust your gut. If something seems “off” – run in the other direction.

Posing in front of the Acropolis in Athens

7. If you’re going to engage in questionable behaviour, always lock the door: This goes out to the group of students who thought it was a good idea to make a homemade porno during their class trip to Italy, only to have their teacher walk in on them while filming. If you’re going to do something creepy like that, at least have the curtesy to lock the door. Your teacher now has that traumatic image burned into her brain forever, as do I.

8. Every travel experience changes you: No matter where you go, there’s always value in travel. I can’t think of a single trip I’ve taken – even if it’s just a weekend getaway – that hasn’t given me a new perspective of some kind.

9. Be nice to your travel agent: It’s bad karma to constantly complain and yell at her until she cries. If you don’t she might enact her silent revenge by specifying that the airline serve you “baby food” when it comes time to order your airplane meal. (That guy never complained again.)

Sitting on the black sand beach in Santorini – one of my favourite places in the whole world.

10. I’m stronger and more capable than I ever thought: I’ve consoled a crying father who hadn’t been able to get in touch with his son when the London subway bombings took place. I’ve also dealt with a tour that had to be evacuated from a sinking cruise ship and re-booked a group of 30 students who were stranded in Miami from the darkness of my living room at 3:30 AM. While I was doing these things, I kept saying “I’m clearly not equipped to deal with any of this” but the truth is I am and that’s something to be proud of.

What have you learned from travelling?

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