The QF94 Experience

Going into this “flying to Australia” thing, I had one thing on my mind, and one thing only: first class. After a long night looking at the Qantas (Aussie airline) features of economy, business, and first classes…I had my heart set on the full-bed experience.

In typical Emily fashion, nothing went as planned. When I got to Toronto, I got a boarding pass that put me in 88E from Los Angeles to Melbourne. That put me in the last row: middle seat. There was no way I could let that happen to me.

I had to make some changes… 88E was a little to far from my first class bed! I chose the airport employee based on my vibes and their general likeability. I went up to the middle-aged woman with a Leafs jersey. I was confident that she would cave and give me the 10,000$ plane ticket we all know I deserve. She didn’t say no, per se, because she actually had no power to do so—I had to wait until I got to LA to deal with Qantas myself.

The flight to LA was pleasant and I was even able to get on wifi (one point for American Airlines). Unfortunately it cost me 12$…but I figured it would be worth it to watch Leafs vs. Bruins in Game 7. After my credit information was fully locked in, I realized I couldn’t stream video (typical American Airlines). Facebook was totally worth the money though.

“For you few Canadians on this flight… unfortunately Toronto’s season is over.” The pilot said this over the intercom with no emotion. I got really sad, and then we started to descend into Los Angeles. Watching the sun set over the Hills made me get over it. My first leg of the journey was complete.

Upon my arrival to LA, I was excited to eat, and to get myself some first class seating on QF94 with direct service to Melbourne! Naturally, the international terminal had no food except pre-made American sandwiches. Not happening. I had a banana. The first class situation was about as successful as my dinner.

First class attempt 1: Girl said she would upgrade me to premium economy. For 3,000$. Got an aisle seat, though. Now in 88D.

First class attempt 2: Girl said I can have 2 seats at 88D or one seat at 52. I like sitting close to the front because I hate turbulence, but two seats was tempting. I made the wrong choice. To the front of economy I went.

First class attempt 3: A male at the desk. One last shot. Shut down. “If you want to pay 10,000$ you can sit in first class.”

*Text from mom assures me that my writing will be more realistic if I’m not in first class, because most travellers don’t have that luxury. So essentially, I sat in economy for the sake of my blog.

I have to note that a few people in my life (I will keep their names a mystery) told me that John Travolta is a commercial pilot for Qantas.  He is the spokesperson and does own a Qantas Boeing 707, but he is clearly not flying 16 hours for the love of being a pilot. I think his movie star life is more profitable.  This launched me to imagine having First Captain Travolta and all the passengers putting on a musical production of Grease, ending in a cast party in the business lounge. Not quite what ensued.

I got onto the plane and was not at all welcome at 52H at first. I sat next to a boy and his Nan, but for the sake of this article I will call her Gran (a la Angry Boys). The best part is that his name was actually Nathan. If you love Angry Boys like I do, you will love this.  Gran and Nathan seemed cool but they outright said they were hoping that they didn’t have someone sitting beside them. To the right of me were two babies: both crying. In front of me; a baby and a toddler: both crying. I went to talk to the flight attendant.

Me: Is the back of the plane a lot more turbulent that the front?

Her: Oh yes. And it’s going to be a bumpy ride, too. The front is much more stable.

Babies it was! I snuggled in with my new Aussie friends. Turns out the baby/toddler combo were Gran’s grandkids, too. Probably should have kept the rolling eyes and “what’s up with all the babies” comment to myself before I knew that. Luckily she didn’t take it too personally, we started chatting, and we were en route to Melbourne.

Dinner came. I took one bite of beef…started thinking of where the meat potentially came from, and pushed my plate aside. I shoved some Bugles in my mouth and passed out before my food was taken away.

I woke up feeling dizzy but was happy I slept a chunk of this marathon flight. I excitedly checked the time to see how much longer. 14 hours. So, between takeoff, food service and my nap, I’d been on the plane for less than 2 hours.

I don’t really know how the time passed. It was slow. I did a lot of walking up and down the aisles, chatting with flight attendants and hitting up the snack/drink bar. I mostly drank water because I made the idiot mistake of going to hot yoga before my flight. Not only was my body tight, but I was so dehydrated I couldn’t stop drinking. Which also meant I couldn’t stop peeing. No problem though, since I had an aisle seat and wasn’t disturbing anyone. Until…

About 6 hours in Nathan started vomiting. Luckily he had time to grab the barf bag. When he got back from the bathroom, Gran asked me if he could sit in my seat for a bit in case he had to run to the bathroom again. I didn’t want to (obviously), but the kid was sick; what can I say? He was also a super sweet kid so I had compassion for him.

Nathan puked for 8 hours. I sat in the middle seat, crammed and having to disturb a half sleeping/ puking child every time I wanted to walk around for EIGHT FULL HOURS. Did I mention that the babies were crying? Just assume that’s a constant.

All of the sudden I got nauseous. It was a combo (I think) of my Ativan hangover and the mystery meat. I ran to the bathroom to throw up and instantly, I was four years old.  I got super emotional and all I wanted was for my mom to rub my back.  I was hysterically crying in the bathroom. I felt sick, but I also wanted my aisle seat back. Not to mention I had 8 hours left on the plane. It was too much. I watched Safe Haven (which set me off again), and then I remembered I had a plane letter from my family. Needless to say, I cried a LOT on this plane.

*This horrible flight is karma from a situation last year. I was flying to Paris, and I was in the aisle seat beside a couple with a baby. They asked if I would take the window seat, so the mom could get up with the baby. I said I couldn’t because I’d be too anxious in the window. (This IS true. I am a nervous flyer, and I like to get up a lot.) I felt really bad. Meanwhile, my friend Patricia was a few rows up. I went and asked the man beside her if he wanted to switch. He said as long as I had an aisle seat to switch, he’d do it. I looked back 5 minutes later, and there he was, in the window seat beside a crying baby. In that moment, I set aside my guilt and acknowledged that something unpleasant was coming for me another day.

With three hours left in the flight, light was starting to stream in, and we were approaching Australia. I was thrilled to see land underneath us after a day and a half of knowing there was only Pacific Ocean for 10,000 km around me.

Landing in Melbourne was breathtaking. First, I saw mountains. Then, I saw crystal blue water. I could point out palm trees; they looked like little dots along the coast.  The CBD (downtown) was literally glistening; the sun was blaring and it looked like I was landing in heaven.

My final thoughts upon arrival:

I am in the Southern Hemisphere. I travelled 17,000 km, and I am here, on the ground. That is just the most surreal thing ever. I was picked up by a wonderful friend (whose name I cannot reveal over the internet as he/she called in sick today), re-united with my old mate Damien, and was introduced to a monsoon style rainstorm. I think I got over my fear of flying today, too.

My neighbourhood and apartment couldn’t be better. The 20’s style architecture is beautiful! My bedroom is a sunroom—one side looks over the city, the other into a courtyard with palm trees. I have a desk, a closet, and a bed. I’ve got two cool Aussie roomies to keep me company. I love it here.

It’s going to take a lot to get me back on that length of a flight home…so looks like I’ll be staying a while.

Living Abroad Pt. 2

I COME FROM A LAND DOWN UNDER! (Got this picture from

(Got this picture from

My wordpress has been a little lonely the past few months. Probably because I have been completely uninspired and there was nothing happening in my life that deserved even the slightest mention on the Internet. After applying to 100,000,000,000 jobs in Canada, I’ve given up. Not entirely, just temporarily. And here’s why…

A few weeks ago, I got the worst flu I’d had in years. I’m eternally grateful for this flu.  As I don’t work very often, I was able to go home to Sharbot Lake to lay in the sunroom and think of nothing but my pending life. As I was trying to sleep, my mom had Oprah’s Life Class on in the living room. Stevie Nicks was giving the class. I pulled my lethargic self up and decided to watch it. Instant inspiration.

The talented future Fleetwood Mac front woman was living in a shitty apartment in Los Angeles, supporting herself and her boyfriend with tips, staying up all night writing music.  No, I’m not moving to LA to pursue a singing career…but this story (and so many others) of people who just refused to do anything except their dream job got me thinking.

I spent the next three days in the throws of an anxiety attack trying to come up with a plan for myself. Enter: flow chart. I started making some notes about myself. Travel was the most prevalent theme on the sheet of paper. Performance was a close second. I watched a few travel shows to get some inspiration (and criticize the hosts) and I came to a pretty solid conclusion: being a travel journalist, with my own show, would be my ultimate dream job. I know this sounds ridiculous, as 95% per cent of people would love this job.

A glimpse into my future as a travel journalist: Emily Dickinson, live from the Arctic.

A glimpse into my future as a travel journalist: Emily Dickinson, live from the Arctic.

But… like someone who will not sleep until they get a record deal, it CAN happen.  It will! But bartending in Ottawa isn’t getting me there.

My lease is up on April 30, so I had to make a quick decision.  Europe? Asia? America? Nothing felt right, right now.  I timidly went to talk to my mom about an idea that had been floating in my mind forever—a year down under in Australia. She was surprisingly positive, considering it’s in another hemisphere….and my plans were underway!

Reasons for choosing Australia:

-Easy working holiday visa, so I can make money to fund my weekend getaways to film

-Support group of friends

-Not somewhere I could (realistically) afford to travel when I have a house and kids, so gotta do it now

-I speak the language (kind of)

-It’s COOL.

Me and my mate (and future room mate!) Damien! Re-united two years post-Denmark!

Me and my mate (and future room mate!) Damien! Re-united two years post-Denmark!

Denmark reunion was fun on Skype, but will be more fun in person!

Denmark reunion was fun on Skype, but will be more fun in person!

Reasons for doubting myself:


-Time change that is practically impossible to work with

-16 hours on one flight

– Snakes

The main reason I’m stressed out is the snakes. If I see one, I might just die on the spot. Canadian non-poisionous snakes are bad enough. But these ones can kill me. I won’t be doing any Outback tours, I can guarantee that.

SO, it’s official (because my flight was on sale and therefore non-refundable). I’m moving to Melbourne, Australia on May 13, 2013. Get ready, Aussies… there’s a Canadian coming to take over your world! I’ll start preparing myself for saying “No, I’m not American. No, our accents aren’t the same. No, it’s a really different country.”

I CAN’T WAIT. Actually, I can. I’m scared shitless. Stay tuned…

Not all who downward are lost…

My take on the practice of yoga in the Nation’s capital…

By: Emily Dickinson

Ichih Wang has a resume, but she has never printed it out.

“I sat in the library checking the Internet for office jobs, and then my Nokia started buzzing,” she says. “It was people asking me if I could teach.”

That was nine years ago, when she was barely halfway done her yoga teacher training at age 34.  She got called into the office at Rama Lotus Yoga Centre, where she was completing her course. She assumed she was “in trouble.”

Not quite. They asked her to start teaching.

“I’m not qualified,” she replied.

“But, you’re qualified,” they told her.

Since then, she has never had to apply for a job.  All her business has come to her.

I met Ichih unofficially just over a year ago. I went to Santosha Westboro with a friend for the first time for a 90-minute hot (40 degrees Celsius) yoga class that I hoped would help clear my mind.  Running in slightly late, I was forced to the very front of the class, something I avoided like the plague at that time.

“Are you a worrier, or a warrior?” asked the small Asian woman, over and over, as she stood in front of me watching every muscle in my body vibrate.  She must have sensed my insecurity.  Her light, curly hair was pulled back, and her tiny, toned body fluttered around the room, pointing out when people were doing poses wrong. She zeroed in on me a few times.

As I sunk deeper into my warrior two pose, I was worried that my thighs might fall off, but I wanted to prove I was a warrior. How could I possibly care what a woman I’ve just met thinks about my yoga pose? I had never felt so engaged in the mental aspect of yoga before. I didn’t think once about my life beyond the mat for 90 whole minutes. At times, I thought I would leave the room and conquer the world. How, why, I don’t quite know.

I started going to see Ichih every once in a while, when I needed a killer workout but more importantly, to get some mental clarity.

Although I had done lots of yoga before I stepped into Ichih’s class that November evening, I had never felt the mental benefits until that day. It started me thinking about what I might be doing wrong.

I first tried yoga in September 2009 when I signed up for a class at Carleton University. It was slow, somewhat painful, and terribly boring. I went to that one class (I might have left early… no yoga etiquette there) and branded myself a yoga-hater. I got my 65 dollars back.

A year later, under pressure from my know-me-better-than-I-know-myself mother, I got an unlimited month-long pass to Moksha Yoga in Little Italy. At that fairly new and trendy studio, my obsession was born.

I hate laying in savasana (the resting pose at the beginning and end of every class) because I easily get bored and my mind wanders back to my anxious thoughts, but I love how physically challenging the classes are. It’s been two years, and I have been going back for the hot power flow classes, which leave my arms feeling like they’re going to fall off from the multiple vinyasa flows (an eight-part sequence that essentially feels like a really hard push-up.)

I have found a Zen-like yoga state on only a few occasions. Why am I usually not able to shut off my brain? Is it my inability to clear my mind, or the average teacher’s inability to teach yoga values? It seems like more of a workout class than anything.  A friend of mine put it perfectly: Yoga has gone Starbucks. It’s trendy, expensive, and the thing for cool twenty-somethings and soccer moms to do. Somewhere on its journey from India, did yoga get lost?

In order to try to see where it’s gone, it’s important to understand where it comes from.  Yoga dates back roughly 5,000 years to the Indus Valley Civilization, located in what is now present-day Pakistan and Northwestern India. My imagination leads me to the top of a mountain, where a small, bald man sits in absolute stillness, his hands placed on his knees.  He lets out “om”—a chant—and the soothing sound radiates over the villages below him. The activity he is doing uses positions, refered to as asanas, to heal the mind and the body. It is called yoga, and it is the combination of four pillars—jnana, bhakti, karma, and raja—that are practiced as one to combine exploration of knowledge, love and devotion, service to others, and meditation.

By the middle of the 20th century, Hatha yoga was on it’s way to North America. Theos Bernard, an American, traveled to India to learn about the practice that originates from the 15th century. Many yogis train in this kind of yoga today. Not surprisingly, when it arrived in New York, it was marketed more for the body than the mind, to get people interested. By the 1970s, studios were becoming more available around North America.

In 1994, Rama Lotus Yoga Centre was the first studio in Ottawa to open that offered only yoga. Before that, yoga had appeared in church basements or at fitness centers, but didn’t have a strong following. Since Rama Lotus opened their doors, the city of Ottawa has grown into a yoga metropolis. There are now more than 90 different places to do yoga—in all shapes and sizes—in the city and the surrounding suburbs. I am now part of a massive community that thrives in Luon (stretchy, sweat-wicking fabric famously used by the clothing brand Lululemon.)

Walking through Centretown at any given hour, it’s shocking how many stretchy-pant wearing girls there are, their hair in messy knots on top of their head and a yoga mat slung over their shoulder. Imagine over 2,000 bodies spread across the front lawn of Parliament Hill.  The 30-degree weather makes this studio cool compared to a hot studio, but the blaring midday sun changes everything. The rainbow of tank tops, tights, and mats was a shocking contrast to the buildings behind them. Every single one of them is on their hands and knees, with their right leg up. Three-legged dog. What a sweaty sight to be seen. This city loves to do yoga.

Behind the scenes of this yoga community there are many yogis. Right in the middle, teaching the class, is Ichih Wang. I must refer to her as Ichih because she is a household name in the Ottawa yoga community.

If you walk in the doors of the Lululemon Athletica in Westboro, you can see her picture on the walls. In return for her contribution to the yoga community, the yoga-clothing brand outfits her.

“She is always in the store, and volunteers her time to us, way more than what is expected of her,” says Katelyn Fenik, the assistant store manager in Westboro.

This means teaching free yoga classes on Sunday mornings, being behind the scenes in organizing Parliament Hill Yoga (which is a free yoga class on Parliament Hill) and helping out around the store.

She teaches public, private, and corporate yoga classes, seven days a week.  Ten times a week, anyone can drop into one of her classes at either Rama Lotus in Centretown, Santosha in Westboro, or Pure in Westboro.

She has a large following in Ottawa; the classes of hers that I have attended have been packed with anywhere from 20 to 60 people. But it’s not easy to write on paper what makes Ichih such a great yoga teacher. I needed to hear it from someone else so I could maybe understand it myself.

Manon Newberry is a teacher from Hull who is a familiar face in the Ottawa yoga community. She’s been practicing all kinds of yoga for about a decade. She is the face behind The Bliss Project, a blog she started to talk about how awesome life can be if you try new things.  The blog is centered around her yogaventures.

Her and I bonded over the difficulties of writing about yoga.  We came to the conclusion that it’s nearly impossible to translate what someone says in a yoga class to make it come off inspirational on a piece of paper.

“It can sound phony and typical, but when Ichih says it you know she truly believes it,” she says. “When she says it, you feel she really means it.”

Newberry is a friend of Ichih’s, and attends her yin class religiously at Pure Yoga in Westboro, where she is a member.  Yin is a style of yoga that combines Indian Hatha yoga with Chinese Taoist traditions—making it a slower practice where poses are held for a longer period than most forms of yoga. Newberry appreciates how Ichih runs the class because she explains why you’re doing each post, how to approach it properly, and imparts her “yoga wisdom” through stories and quotes.

Newberry describes her Wednesday evening yin class as a “big yoga hug.” She says that Ichih is the best at teaching this particular kind of yoga, one that is not popular in this power flow yoga world we are currently living in.

“I get out of class and feel amazing,” she says. “It’s not just yin, it’s her yin class.”
Although she now exclusively practices at Pure Yoga, one of the three places Ichih teaches, she used to spend a lot of time at Upward Dog, a place that has been fascinating me for a while. It is the only studio in the Byward Market, and it doesn’t have hot rooms. I assume it’d be bad for business. I must be wrong—they have a full schedule of 22 different varieties of yoga classes.

A decade ago, when Roxanne Joly first opened Upward Dog, there were only three studios in Ottawa. She’s seen the massive shift towards workout-yoga.

Joly is tiny, blonde, and calm. Although she no longer owns the studio, she is still a teacher there. She’s not wearing Lululemon (the unofficial yoga uniform of Ottawa) and has a boho look in baggy pants and a cream-coloured knit turtleneck.

She told me she sees that despite this community that keeps on growing, yoga in Ottawa is often lost.

“Yoga is about stillness, meditation, and breathing. But that gets lost. It’s become all about body beauty,” she says. We talk about the amount of pushups and situps that somehow find their way into classes under the sneaky names yoga bicycle and low pushup, to high pushup.

“When you read the yoga text, nowhere in there is there pushups or sit ups,” she tells me.

When I feel anxious, I go to a power flow; something intense and active to get my mind cleared, but I almost never feel calm. I spend most of the class thinking about how I need it to be over so I can go back to “real life.” All the talk of being present on my mat goes right past me.

Joly tells me that I’m firing myself up in a way that isn’t calming at all. Someone who needs to calm down needs to be doing something more, well, calm.

“But those kinds of intense workout classes keep people coming back,” she says. “When you’re still, things come up that you don’t want to think about.”

Upward Dog offers power flow classes; they just aren’t hot.  The rooms don’t go above 28 degrees Celsius; because she says the standard hot room just isn’t necessary. She also makes sure that her classes are focused on the mind. She thinks a lot of teachers aren’t trained properly, and many newer teachers would rather teach a “workout” yoga class because frankly, it’s easier.

She finds a way to do both.

“We give them what they want, with a little of what they need without them knowing it,” she says.

People like Joly and Ichih have a way of instilling a sense of serenity in their classes, whether I can explain it or not. They have different approaches—Roxanne focuses on stillness, where Ichih takes the “kick your ass” (as one friend put it) method.

So here I am, laying in Savasana at the end of Ichih’s hot flow class at Rama Lotus, where I now have a pass.

My heart is still beating and I my mat is covered in sweat. The room is scorching hot, and I can feel the heavy breathing of the yogis around me, as we calm down from an hour and a half of asanas, vinyasas, while working through the negatives aspects of our days.

“I’m not there to kick your ass,” she says to me, days later, over green tea and dessert.

“I’m there to shake up your life. To shake you out of your complacency and your comfort. Get you out of your habit. We are all creatures of habit.”

I am starting to understand that yoga is all about finding what’s right for you. For me, Ichih is able to calm my brain and make me feel that sense of stillness that I have been chasing since I started doing yoga a couple of years ago.

“Yoga works the mind, the body, the spirit, and who you’re being in life,” she says.

So wherever yoga might be, maybe it’s not gone for someone else. For me, it can be found through people like Ichih.



There are some perks to being out of school, lost and with little direction. One of them is tagging along on your parents’ winter vacation. I decided to treat myself and go to New Orleans for the week, despite not being able to afford it. When it comes to travel, you know my motto: yolo.

I learned a lot about American history, was shocked to see the state of some neighbourhoods eight years post-Katrina, and was even more shocked to see how wild Bourbon St. really is. I heard a gun shot, too. All in a day in Nola.

Some beautiful real estate in the Garden District, where many famous/ rich people live, including Sandra Bullock and the Manning family.

Some beautiful real estate in the Garden District, where many famous/ rich people live, including Sandra Bullock and the Manning family.


Graves (for the most part) can’t be underground because the water table is too high. It makes for some super creepy looking graveyards. I was reminded of Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.


A home in the “Upper Ninth” where there is still tons of damage from Katrina. The spray paint was used during rescue to keep track of how many people/ pets were found in homes.


This is an image of an American flag I never thought I’d see.




Some pride on Bourbon St.


Taking a sunny morning stroll. Don’t let this fool you into thinking it was warm– it was probably 7 degrees this day!


The decoration on homes in the French Quarter is so beautiful! People are really getting amped for Mardi Gras.


Green, gold, and purple.


A home in the French Quarter.


WHO DAT?! This saying is everywhere… goes back to a high school in the area.


Some interesting art that we came across. The art in this city is unbelievable. I was so sick of art galleries by day three.


This sort of thing is everywhere.


Us SNL people would find tiny hats extremely entertaining…


World class music everywhere, even on the street corner.


Pulling up to the hotel in style.


Steve at breakfast on our final day.


Here’s a few shots I took over the holidays of my cousins with my new 50 mm lens. Me and my photography-loving parents have been experimenting with various techniques. Let’s just say the Canon vs. Nikon fight is on.

Ruby in front of the Christmas tree. So happy with how the lights turned out.

Ruby in front of the Christmas tree. So happy with how the lights turned out.

Nintendo DSi ... it's the thing to do apparently.

Nintendo DSi … it’s the thing to do apparently.


The flying Ruby.

The flying Ruby.



Love this natural smile!

Love this natural smile!

The end is near…

My crazy 4.5 years at Carleton U is coming to an end. For those of you who have graduated university, I’m sure you understand how much uncertainty/stress is involved when the word “future” is brought up. I was at school from 9-3:30 today. In that time, I was asked four times what I plan on doing when I’m done school (which is next Thursday, I might add.) So for those of you who I’ve told I’m moving to Australia, teaching in Korea, going to work in an embassy in Copenhagen, bartending til I’m 30, or trying to get a journalism job in Ottawa– I DON’T KNOW. I honestly don’t know what continent my life will be on in the next three months. I hope I’ll figure it out soon!

Here are some pictures that I took (and a few took of me) that I thought were notable after sifting through memories of the era of my life that I am about to leave behind.

Damo chilling in a Converse store, in Florence (I think.)


My good friend Åsa came to Ottawa from Sweden to visit me for New Years. All events lead to me dancing.


A teenager in Aalborg, Denmark, doing some awesome tricks on his bike.


Feeling rather overwhelmed while we waited for our rip-off tour bus in Rome. It was a good laugh after, but at the time, 30 euros was a lot of money!


Spanish Steps.


Going into the Blue Grotto off the Amalfi Coast.


Did you think Ireland looked like this? I didn’t.


The land of green.


A random (adorable) Dane working at Tivoli in Copenhagen.


Diana and Saman- two fashion designers from Stockholm that I profiled and followed for a week.


Me in Costa Rica. My first time out of North America!


Brussels, Belgium. The home of the EU.


Biking along the ocean outside of Copenhagen.


Eating Dansk Pølse. 🙂


Lukas Graham in concert at Christiania in Copenhagen.


At a club under an overpass in Stockholm.


At a lookout in Stockholm.


Love this sky. Stockholm, Sweden.


The excitement of Denmark scoring a goal. I never understood European “football” until I experienced the Euro Cup.


Aarhus, Denmark. My former home.

Fall cottage weekend

Driving south back to Ottawa, what an amazing view. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Sitting on the dock enjoying some afternoon wine with my oldest and best friend. Photo: Hadrian Mystery-Surname

Afternoon luncheon on a silent lake. Life doesn’t get much better. Photo: Emily Dickinson

One man wolf pack. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Boardwalk in the forest. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Wood pile. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Exploring the property. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Just being “normal” on the road. Photo: Lauren Ott

Birch tree amidst the maple leaves. I love the contrast. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Movie star in the forest. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Trees. Photo: Emily Dickinson

Morning exploration. We found this boardwalk that went through the property and went over a little stream and waterfall. So peaceful! Photo: Emily Dickinson

All photos were taken on Gull Lake, in Mulgrave-et-Derry, Quebec.

New year, new beginnings…

Watching my younger sisters and cousin head off to university this year was no easy feat for me.  As our parents cried because they’d miss them, I was sad for another reason: I started university FOUR years ago.


I didn’t want to come back to Ottawa (after my much-needed August vacation) because I 1) felt like a loser for being a fifth-year, 2) didn’t want to face the inevitable j-school stress that was upon me and 3) wanted to be starting fresh like my younger siblings.

But, other than my first year, September 2012 has been the most filled with surprises and, as the blog post suggests, new beginnings.

With a new addition to the house, new neighbours, and a new DSLR, the past two weeks have been filled with lots of fun.

I made the (financially irresponsible) decision to buy a new Canon T2i when the opportunity to take a photography class basically fell into my lap. (It should be noted that I got up at 8 am in a thunderstorm and had a garage sale, selling clothes and making $90 profit!)

I have always been interested in photography but never had the skills (or tools) to take good ones. So, I bussed out to Costco to get a great deal on the camera, a lens, a tripod, and Photoshop.  I decided that the class was an opportunity for me to really learn about photography and potentially make a great portfolio. That also meant that I would have to invest, and after much consideration I decided to do it.

I love my new camera and I am starting to develop a relationship with it. It’s a great outlet for stress and I love that I can go and being doing “journalism” without having to talk to people. It’s so enjoyable that I would do it if I didn’t have a class to hand it into, but it’s even better that I have a purpose! My dad told me yesterday: You are now dating your Canon! Go spend some time with it!

I’ve been shooting a lot and want to share a few pictures that I like. I have been playing around with settings and I don’t actually know anything about photography so, if you do, cut me some slack.  If you want to give me any suggestions on how to make them better/ if you have some tricks, please let me know!!

A few kayaks on the Ottawa River. I was snapping for a photo assignment. Didn’t think it was good enough to submit but I like it anyways!

The lighting is all wrong, but I still think this is a great picture of Christian.

I made this Swedish birthday cake for Sheilagh’s 23rd. It didn’t rise (old baking powder) but I’m starting to love baking!

Presenting the cake to the birthday girl…

Breakfast and coffee with good friends.

Beautiful flowers at the Farmers Market. The market is now at Brewer Park, which is close to my house. I went three times yesterday! It’s the best way to spend a Sunday.

A cute little boy checking out some flowers. Love this shot.



Harry Potter applies to everything in life.

This summer I have unexpectedly done a huge amount of soul-searching. In March, I was determined to make $15,000 waitressing and go into the school year feeling financially stable (somewhat) and exhausted from serving endless numbers of tables. However, when I got the call that I would be headed to Brussels, my work ethic flew away like dust in the wind and my focus was entirely different.  I was now determined to have a great time in Europe for at least a month.

Since I had not gone completely insane (and I knew my finances were still hurting from my two previous Eurotrips), I decided to do it on a budget. I started off in great hands because transportation and my expenses for the first leg of my tour were covered by the Delegation of the EU to Canada. *I cannot express enough gratitude towards them! So what to do when you didn’t expect to be in Europe and you don’t want to spend tons of money? Well, visit friends of course. Most of my European connections lie in Scandinavia so I spent three weeks (and even expended my trip a bit while over there) in Denmark and Sweden.

I felt like I had gone home. So much so, that I wasn’t able to write anything about it due to the emotional turmoil that came along with thinking about the fact that I am not Danish, as much as I try to pretend I am via wearing converse and all black.

But now that summer is almost over I am feeling quite reflective on what this trip back to Denmark had really done for me.  When I got back to Canada I was of course sad, and it was not easy going back to serving when I had just had a fun, carefree European experience. It was the reality check of all reality checks. At the same time, a friend and coworker of mine announced that she would be moving to Arctic Bay in the middle of August.

Yes, Nunavut. Yes, that’s further from Ottawa than Venezuela. Except North.

Her mentality was that she needed to make money serving, but at the same time, she needed to take advantage of every chance to have fun with her friends, too. She dragged me in with a simple phrase: YOLO.

Yes, I am aware that saying You Only Live Once a la Drake is a little annoying, and quite frankly, I don’t even believe it! But the idea of living like you only have one life is an easy way to enjoy your time here on earth without worrying too much about the future.

So I went from determined to serve tables 7 days a week and beef up my bank account to… make sure I was always having a good time.

But something was holding me back. I read the book “The Defining Decade” by Dr. Meg Jay while in Europe. I read a chapter a day when I was alone to try and really get the full meaning of the book. It’s all about how the 20s are the most important decade, and we need to seize the opportunities that are presented to us to move forward with our careers, love lives, and health before it’s too late. So, I felt a bit of stress coming from what I learned from that book. It even sparked a few of us at work going “What would Meg do?” when faced with the temptation to eat white bread, have a triple vodka soda, etc.

So, the combo of WWMD and YOLO was the source of many internal panic attacks when deciding if I should just go out, take the day off work and do something fun, work on resumes etc. But something really great came out of this combo of two different mantras. I was able to do two really important things that I usually have a hard time doing because anxiety doesn’t allow it.

  1. I had an amazing time with friends and family and while I was not working I really didn’t think about how much money I “could be” making, something that I have struggled with in the past.
  2. I decided to jump start my CAREER, regardless of the pay cut.

So, at the beginning of August I decided to quit serving (hopefully) forever for a few reasons.  The main reason was that I was mentally exhausted and needed to YOLO  a bit before school. The other reason is that while serving I have no energy to do anything to get my career going as a journalist. I keep thinking “well I’m still in school so it’s okay if I don’t have a job in my field.” But no—extending my degree does not mean I can extend the time I do a job that doesn’t advance my life.

Phew. Since I’ve been jobless, I have made a few steps career-wise (which are all under wraps!) and I’ve also spent quite a few days watching daytime talk shows and snuggling with my puppy. So it’s a bit of both—I’m doing nothing yet I feel more productive and like I am moving forward than I have in years.

On the ground in Brussels

Capturing some nighttime beauty in Brussels, Belgium.

It has been about two months since I have returned from my trip to Brussels, Belgium, so I think it’s about time I do some blogging.

Ironically, we all brought laptops because we thought it would be a great opportunity for us to blog along the way, but the week European Union study tour was so busy we barely had time to check our Facebook. I spent the week with two other young journalists, Kaitlyn and Patricia, thanks to a competition that the three of us won through the Delegation of the European Union in Canada.

Firstly, I need to express huge thanks to the Delegation for all they did in organizing and sending us on this super educational experience.  In addition, the College of Europe in Brugges, Belgium, did tons of work planning all of our meetings and making sure we had the most beneficial time in Belgium. *Special thanks to Aymeric Astre and Shane Heneghan for dealing with our Canadian-girl shenanigans and providing us with lots of guidance and FUN!*

The week consisted of us touring all bodies of the EU and meeting journalists, press officers, and politicians from all walks of the EU. Our eyes were opened to the depth of the institution. For anyone who has tried (and failed) to understand how the EU works, I understand the struggle. But after this trip, I was so happy to finally understand how this confusing body works. Many people would argue that the institution doesn’t work at all—many feel that there is too much discussion and not enough action. However, considering that there are 27 countries (and it’s growing) and 22 official languages, I think it is very impressive that the body manages to exist at all. It is a real example of how peace and working together is so important to Europe. The EU serves as an example to the rest of the world. And considering there are so many different people with differing needs and wants, the conflict makes for some great news stories!

Something that really stuck with me on this trip was the important of languages. Sadly, the only language that I can work in (at this stage of my life) is English. I can read and understand French but although I have a knack for a Quebecois accent, my skills just don’t cut it for journalism. As most North Americans know, Europeans tend to speak more  at least three languages. At the EU level, this is true. The least amount was two, and the most was eight.

Luckily for me, the EU has taken a big English-speaking turn since the introduction of the Scandinavian countries. (One more reason for me to love Scandinavia.) Before that, it was primarily French. I think to have nothing holding you back as a journalist in Brussels you would need to speak English, French, and Spanish. I found when I was reporting in Strasbourg in 2011, I was sticking to interviewing Brits, Danes, and Swedes, because I knew they’d be comfortable speaking in English.  This did really push me to want to learn a third language. Luckily for me, I have lived the past 4 months with a Costa Rican and can now understand Spanish soap-operas. So I think I’m on the right path.

Here’s a little journal entry that I wrote while in Brussels to give anyone interested in the program a taste of what it’s like.

Brussels is like Strasbourg on crack. Even construction sights are blocked off in blue and yellow. I brought my blue and yellow Lululemon headband accidentally, and it’s perfect. I don’t know what you saw when you went on your morning run today; but I saw the European Commission, a park the size of 10 football fields that looked like Washington, D.C., a lake, a man-made red tree, and countless embassies. It’s so political here!

As our supervisor introduced himself on Monday morning, he told us that we were professionals. For a journalism student who has been second to “real” journalists for four years, this was an amazing moment for me. And now, as I sit in my own hotel room with massive windows looking over the European Union quarter of Brussels, I couldn’t be happier.

Basically, I have made more contacts than I can ever have hoped. Today I went to a press conference with President Barroso (of the European Commission), and met an editor at Thompson Reuters just to name a few of my activities.

I haven’t seen a ton of Brussels- we are staying in the European quarter where everything screams EU and all the bars are filled with interns and staff. It’s a cool environment. We checked out the Grand Place (tourist central) of Brussels last night and it was decked out with chocolate and waffle shops, as you’d expect. I had dark Belgian chocolate and strawberries on my waffle. Delish!

We’re just starting to get comfortable (aka understand what is going on) and we only have two days left! I am so sad, although I will need a vacation after this week. It’s 10:30 pm (I just got home!) and we left at 8:25 this morning!

Oh, and the food has been incredible.

It was a busy and exciting trip. I felt like a real journalist and it really pushed me to get moving on my career. At the same time, I was a bit sad knowing that European Union news doesn’t have a huge place in the media at home. However, the whole point of this trip was to strike interest and get young journalists like myself thinking about the EU and how it can be related and incorporated into news here in Canada. With the huge trade agreement (CETA) in the final stages, there will be lots of negotiating and exciting things to talk about.

In the mean time, take a look at some photos of Brussels and I will continue working on a European passport.

EU Careers – I’ll take one.

Meeting with a press officer who recently visited Canada! He showed us all around the Parliament. We loved him.


Doing a bit of sight-seeing at Grand Place.

Walking around, going for dinner, taking photos, etc.


Finally getting a little social time on our last night! Having a great time with Aymeric, our organizer/guide. He did so much work for us!