I feel weird going back and talking about something a month old now, especially since, as some of you know, I am going through a difficult time right now with my landlord. I will do a post about that soon, as I believe there are some important lessons to be learned and shared, but the whole purpose of this blog is to document my experience this year – all of it. And I think it will be nice to look back on what was a fun and exciting time.
My last few weeks in London were an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve always been an emotional person but that increased ten-fold those last few weeks. I’ve traveled in the past, leaving home for longer than this, but I don’t recall getting so upset and worked up about saying goodbye. And it’s only for one year! I must be getting even more sentimental in my old age.
I remember waking up for my last day of work though. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and it was the first day I woke up truly excited. I knew that the last few goodbyes with my closest family and friends would be difficult but that once I got to Ottawa I would be excited to explore – and that’s exactly what happened. Before we get to that though, I should tell you about the day I left London and drove to Ottawa.
My Uncle, bless his heart, came over the morning I left to help pack the cargo van I had rented – which I needed a step-ladder to get into and spent $100 on gas to not even fill the tank! He packed that van like a pro though and we fit everything in I wanted plus a few things we didn’t think would fit. Making the trip with me was my mom, her partner Edwin and my aforementioned BFF. The drive up was pretty uneventful but when we arrived at around 8:00 pm that night after nearly 8 hours on the road, we walked into a construction zone.
When I looked at the place at the end of June it was stripped down to the studs. Part of the appeal was that everything would be brand new. The landlord walked me through the rooms and detailed his plans – seemed like he knew what he was talking about, seemed like a decent, hard-working guy. I just had a gut feeling and it was the first place I got really excited about after seeing a wide range of crappy places. I thought he might have to complete some finishing touches but I never thought he would not be done, never mind not even close. I guess he had emailed me and one of my roommates who was going to arrive around the same time to ask us when we planned to arrive in hopes he could ask us to delay our journey. I did not get that email until after I was here but either way, I had a truck rented – this is not something that is flexible on the single biggest moving day of the year!
We ended up staying in a hotel that night. And let me tell you something about trying to find a hotel room on a Saturday night of Labour Day weekend in a university town. Near impossible…I don’t recommend it! We were seriously thinking we were going to have to sleep in the car but lucked out after about an hour of searching and found the last room of a place out by the airport. It turned out to be quite a nice place along the river and very reasonably priced.
After a good night’s rest we headed back to unload the truck. Much to my embarrassment Edwin flagged these poor kids off the street to help carry boxes as he couldn’t stand seeing Joanna and I doing all the work and was worried about getting back on the road in good time. I have to say though, they had all my stuff carried down into the basement in half an hour and saved us much time and effort! Then the inevitable hour came when I had to say goodbye. The tears were already steaming down my face as my entourage prepared to leave. I was practically sobbing as I hugged my mom and didn’t want to let go! But I eventually did and bravely tried to smile as I waved and watched them drive away. In that moment, I felt really alone.
Once out of view, I tried to pull myself together and went back into the house – which was still a construction zone. I decided to go out exploring since there wasn’t much I could do there. I knew I was in between two main roads so just started walking. The first one I chose seemed very residential so I cut across to the other and hit the jackpot. Within a ten to fifteen minute walk I found many amenities including a Tim Horton’s, which I would frequent during that first week for internet access, a Canadian Tire, Shoppers Drug Mart (which are seemingly on every other street corner here) and a grocery store. Ten to fifteen minutes the other way I found a shopping mall with another grocery store, Dollar Store, my bank and a LCBO. In addition there is a Target, which was not open then, but is now. Further up, since I was enjoying my walk so much, I found the Rideau River with bike paths and lots of cute shops, pubs and restaurants. Walking around allowed me to get a feel for how long it would take me walk certain places, including bus stops, and scope out where the nearest ones are.
So here is the first of my tips TIPS, for those who are preparing to go away for school, especially for the first time: there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than to go for a walk around your ‘hood. My sister and I had looked up the area on Google Maps, but it just wasn’t the same. And if you will be depending on public transport, TIP #2a – bring comfy shoes! This seems intuitive but you don’t realize the extent to which you will be walking, especially if you are used to driving. Even some of my comfy shoes gave me blisters and it was a challenge to find something I could wear and walk in comfortably. My normal bus stop is a good five-minute walk away, which doesn’t seem like much until you’re attempting it with a blister. So it’s not just about bringing comfy shoes, but 2b – having a few different styles that don’t rub in the same spots so that if you do get blisters you have other options for those long days on campus.
Although the buses are not 100% reliable and I’ve discovered that timetables are loose guides, not bibles, I am enjoying not having to fight rush hour traffic – which is insane here. Even when I wake up at 7:00 am, the traffic reports are all the same with some routes and bridges already heavy/backed up. In addition, those who know how much I love mornings (insert sarcasm here) and know what a hard time I have getting out of bed and into my car in order to get to work on time will be very excited to know that having to go by the bus schedules is making me ridiculously punctual! I also like that I do so much walking (at least now during the nice weather). I don’t have time to formally work out by my “workout” routine now consists of walking, carrying a very heavy backpack, walking up and down a ton of stairs on campus, some weekend explorations on foot or bike and building core strength when having to stand on the bus. Seriously – try standing in a squashed bus with a huge backpack on your pack, hanging on for dear life while a bus flies around a corner!Great oblique workout.
Perhaps just as important, going out for a walk that first day took my mind off of missing my friends and family – the sense of adventure took over. I went to bed that night tired, but happy, and excited about the adventure about to unfold.