I travelled to the Honeymoon capital of the world… alone, and this is what happened.

Travelling alone is freeing. Truly.

I’ve often found that when I travel with people, I struggle to be able to do the things that I want to do. I cater to what the person I’m travelling with wants, and it always seems to happen that they won’t cater to what I want. As such, I find myself giving up on the things that I want and dealing with a sub-par trip when I know it could have been better.

This past week I tried something different. It’s something that I’ve read about, quite frequently, but never dared to do. I went solo-travelling.

Let me tell you, if you ever get the opportunity for solo travel, DO IT. DO IT and don’t ever second guess it.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

For me, Niagara Falls isn’t anywhere exotic. There were no beaches, no bikinis, no foreign folk speaking foreign languages (unless a Boston accent counts). But, the jaunt across Canada meant a great deal to me, being my first dive into solo travel.

I’ve always been fascinated by natural wonders. Mountains that reach the sky, forests that go on forever, beautiful pristine (untouched beaches) that stretch as far as they eye can see, these are the pieces to our world that make me feel obsolete in the very best way. I admire things that are the way they are, not because ‘man’ made them, but because nature made them that way.

Niagara Falls, formed naturally at the end of the last ice-age by the receding of glaciers, is located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. There are three falls, The Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The three combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America and has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres (160 ft).

The view from my hotel room on the 30th floor in the Tower Suites, Niagara Falls.
(The Horeshoe Falls are on the right, American Falls on the left of this photo)

The Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls.

When I was looking for a hotel in Niagara Falls, I knew that I wanted to stay on Fallsview Blvd. because I wanted to be as close to the falls as I could be. The Tower Hotel stood out to me online due to it’s odd shape compared to every other hotel on the strip. The Tower Hotel is a tall, skinny tower with rooms only on the 25th-30th floors.

The Hotel itself was quite basic. There was nothing overly fancy about it. The view from the hotel was exceptional, though. When you’re guaranteed a room on the 25th floor, or higher, there’s a fair chance you’re going to get an exceptional view. And, the view from The Tower Hotel did not disappoint .

*Point of note for booking hotels in Niagara Falls – on Thursday, Friday and Saturday hotel rooms cost (at least) $100 more per night than they do on Sunday – Wednesday. Purchasing a hotel room on ‘off-days’ (Sunday-Wednesday) will save you some big bucks when it comes to accommodations. And, if you can afford it, book a hotel on Fallsview Blvd. You won’t regret it.

The view from the Keg restaurant on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites, Niagara Falls.

The Food

One of the things I most wanted to do while I was there was eat at ‘The Keg’ in the Embassy Suites hotel. This Keg restaurant is pretty famous for it’s views, and for the fact that every table in that restaurant has been strategically set up to have a view of the falls. The restaurant sits on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel.

I called ahead and made a reservation for 7:30, asked if I could sit as close to the windows as possible and hoped for the best. And honestly, the view did not disappoint. Nor did the food. The Keg, known for it’s steak dinners, was very accommodating to my dietary needs, ensuring that my food was cooked separately as to have not touched any gluten, nor to have any dairy in it. I’m not a huge fan of red meat – only eating it once every blue moon – but this dinner was absolute perfection.

*Point of note for the Keg – While the restaurant is situated to have nice views from every table, if you call ahead and make a reservation you can get seated at the windows, where the seats point towards the falls. It’s a romantic setup, and there were a lot of people there on dates/anniversaries that night.

Walking along the falls edge on the Canadian side to view the light show.

The Light Show

The light show of Niagara Falls was something that I have been dying to see. After the sun sets, the illuminate different coloured lights onto the falls to create a light show, in representation of the charity they’re bringing attention to that evening.

I’ve seen incredible pictures of the light show online and always wanted to see it in person. So, I bundled myself up in warm clothes and wandered down to the falls at 10 pm to wander.

I ended up spending over two hours walking up and down the pathway alongside the falls. The Horseshoe Falls were illuminated in beautiful, rainbow arrangements, flashing on and off and the American Falls were illuminated in yellow. The lights themselves lit the pathway for walking, and, because it was so late at night, there were a lot less tourists on the path. (I guess people chose to just not venture out after dark)

Honestly, the night was so freeing. It was almost as though nothing else existed in the universe but me, there, in that space and time. Quite a few people stopped to talk to me along the way, many of them with Boston accents, but overall, the night was filled with the most peace that I have had in a long, long time. I just walked along the edge of the falls, listening to millions upon millions of gallons of water pouring over the edge, rushing down the river into the great lakes. Nature is incredible.

The Honeymoon Capital of the World

It’s worth noting that Niagara Falls’ claim to fame is that it is ‘The Honeymoon Capital of the World’. There are couples EVERYWHERE. Which, is adorable and sweet. If you’re painfully single, though, I could see it being a bit of a nuisance to you. It’s definitely not a place for the faint of heart.

I crossed paths with many a people who were wondering where my better half was, asking my why I was alone or why I didn’t have a man with me. While I know they were just being friendly and talkative, it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for next time. Maybe I’ll bring a man back with me next time. HAHA!

The Niagara Skywheel by night.

The Niagara Skywheel

The Niagara Skywheel is the largest ferris wheel in Canada that, at the top, reaches 175 feet in the air – providing truly breathtaking views of the Horseshoe and American Falls for the very reasonable price of $14 (adult ticket).

Having a love of ferris wheels, I actually wound up on the skywheel twice. Once, during the day, and a second time after the sun had set to see the light show from the top. To add to the list of romantic settings there are in Niagara Falls, the view from the top of the Skywheel is unmatched. Had I had someone to take with me, I am sure it would have been the perfect spot for that ‘romantic movie moment kiss’ if you know what I mean.

The Skywheel is located at the edge of what is kind of a theme park in Niagara Falls. To be honest, I didn’t really venture into the theme park. Things like bumper cars weren’t really going to provide me the peace I was searching for with my trip. But the Skywheel, that is a must-see stop.

Other touristy activities (that I didn’t take part in):

  • Helicopter tours of the Falls (I would have loved to do this, but it’s quite expensive)
  • Riverboat cruise of the Falls
  • Winery Tours (the southern portion of Ontario is known for being wine country, and there are a lot of Winery’s you can tour)
  • Skylon Tower (a rotating restaurant and observatory)
  • Marine Land

General Tips:

  • Parking at hotels is EXPENSIVE. Just two blocks up from the Falls you can find parking lots that charge $10 for 24 hours. If you choose to park your car with the hotel, it’s going to cost you anywhere from $40-$120 per day/night.
  • Take warm clothes with you, for night. The mist of the falls can make it feel a lot cooler out than the temperature actually is.
  • Niagara Falls has a 13% tourist tax that exists solely within it’s boundaries. Be prepared to pay more in tax while visiting.
  • There are tourist markups the price of virtually EVERYTHING. Something as simple as your coffee at Starbucks can be $2-4 more when purchasing it at Niagara Falls. Those extra expenses add up quickly, so be prepared.
  • If you book a ‘city-view’ hotel room, there’s still a good chance that you can see the falls from your hotel room, anyway. The reasoning for this is because many of the hotels are built diagonally facing the falls, as to be seen from three sides – instead of just one. So, if you’re looking at room prices and you’re worried about the price of a ‘Fallsview’ room, a city view room might provide you just what you need.
  • Though there are towns on both sides of the river, I noticed that the Canadian side was filled mostly with Americans. I think this is largely due to the fact that the view from the falls is sooooo much better on the Canadian side of the border. While there are attractions on the American side, I’m a little biased in saying that you’ll enjoy yourself more on the Canadian side of the border.
  • Make friends! There are so many wonderful people in town. I crossed paths with so many American tourists who were so excited to talk to me when I told them I was Canadian. One, from Ohio, even gave me his email address. He says that he’s travelling to Vancouver this summer and wants me to provide him some tips to make his trip amazing. I mean, sure, why not? There are nice people everywhere, but making friends on vacation can just make it seem so much more memorable.

Overall

The trip was incredible. It was everything that I had hoped it would be and so much more. I went in search of some peace of mind, calm and adventure and I found it. All of it. I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of thinking.

I have so many plans for my life that have become so clouded and convoluted the past few months with everything that has gone on. Being able to travel on my own and really stop to think about what my goals are and where I am going with my life was an invaluable experience to me.

ALSO – I survived! Not only that but I thrived. I looked after myself just fine, didn’t get into any trouble, have any issues or struggle at all. I was seriously doubting my abilities to do so prior to leaving, so the fact that everything went so smoothly for me was a huge relief.

I’m ready to go on my next adventure. And honestly, I’m somewhat already planning it.

Niagara Falls, thank you. Thank you for your beauty, your hospitality, and the peace of mind that you gave in just a few short days. I felt a great sense of calm being there, which meant a lot to me. It was just what I needed at this point in time and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I highly, highly recommend solo travel to anyone who has been thinking about it or wanting to go somewhere. Going on your own allows you to do things on your terms and choose your own itinerary. You don’t get wrapped up in the likes of what your travel companion wants, so the trip becomes solely about your desires and inspirations. It’s an empowering feeling, and one that I will seek more of in the future.

Life after cancer.

Tonight, I am once again reminded why my mother has the biggest heart of anyone that I know.

Tomorrow is her (fingers crossed) last chemotherapy treatment. She’s been talking about it for weeks. And, though it’s been a pretty freaking miserable process for her the past few months, we were very lucky that her cancer was caught early, and that (fingers crossed) she’ll go into complete remission and we’ll never have to deal with cancer again.

Anyways, I digress.

After spending a few hours at Starbucks tonight, with a friend of mine, I returned home to find that my mother had gone to bed even earlier than usual. An hour earlier than normal. When I asked my dad if she was alright (being worried that she’d gone to bed so early) he said that she was tired from all of the baking she’d done.

What?

Oh yeah. My mom, with the help of my dad, baked lemon pie tarts for the staff of the cancer clinic. She plans to give them to all of the staff tomorrow when she goes in for her last treatment.

Atop the container filled with lemon tarts, she’d taped a note. The envelope says ‘Thank You’. Me, being the nosey daughter that I am, had to open it to read the note.

Here’s how it reads.

Thank You.

Thank you to each and every one of you [she names the staff members, doctors and nurses who’ve helped her the past few months] for helping me, for taking me on my worst day, at my lowest moment and making me feel better. Thank you for wiping away my tears, talking away my fears and for treating me as good, if not better, then you would treat your own family members.

It’s because of the incredible kindness of each of you hat I am here, that I have the opportunity for full recovery, that I get to be one of the lucky ones.

Thank you. It’s because of you that I’ve got a second chance. You’ve given me my life back, and I can’t stop thinking about all of the Christmas and Birthday celebrations that I’ll get to be a part of with my children and grandchildren now, thanks to you. Every moment, every celebration, it will matter that much more than it ever did before.

I am eternally grateful for all that you’ve done for me. And, I really hope that you take this a good way when I say that I hope I never have to visit here ever again.

Sincerely,

[Mom’s name]

I most definitely had an ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’ moment when I read it. I resealed the envelope and taped it back to the container as to not let her know that anyone touched it.

Tomorrow is her final chemotherapy treatment (if all goes according to plan). I’m feeling grateful, and thankful that she now gets to start thinking about life after cancer. I know not everyone gets that lucky. And, from the note I read, it sounds like she’s already begun planning her life after cancer… which in itself makes me extremely happy.

Thoughts from 30,000 feet.

Can men and women be just friends? In 2019 it still seems as though the world really can’t grasp the concept of a man and a woman being friends without wanting more from one another. Platonic love does exist. Some friends are just there for you, to be there for you… regardless of what their gender is those desires to look after your friend are still the same.

Still, begrudgingly, the inquiries about ‘what really goes on’ between two people of the opposite sex as though a man and a woman can’t be in the same room alone with one another without tearing off their clothing.

I guess I should rephrase my question. Why can’t men and women be friends?

Repeat after me: You can do this.

If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.

Rachel Wolchin

Solo travel: where to start.

‘Why don’t you take someone with you?’ I was asked.

Truthfully, I just want to feel empowered with myself. Like I don’t have to rely on the likes of someone else to feel happy, or safe, or secure. I just want to know that I am enough to keep myself company, to keep myself occupied and to make myself smile.

Solo travel is an intimidating thought.

Honest truth: I don’t believe in myself. At least, not right now. It sucks to admit that, but it’s true. I rely on other people for validation and that scares me.

One of the reasons why I am going to do this trip alone is that I want to face the challenges it presents on my own. I want to see if I am capable of looking after myself. Because if I am being fully honest with myself today, I’m scared. I’m scared that I can’t do it. That’s why I am going to do it though. I need to do this in order to know whether or not I am capable.

I want to believe in myself again. Will I get that belief out of one solo-trip? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s a start. And everyone has got to start somewhere.

Wish me luck!

Tips for coping with anxiety from a Psychiatrist

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that is responsible for executive functions such as planning for the future, judgment, decision-making skills, attention span, and inhibition. It’s responsible your ‘normal’ mood.

For a regular person, the Amygdala (fight or flight) portion of the brain is switched on when one comes in contact with danger, or potential danger. The Amygdala takes over the frontal lobe to ensure you make/take steps to protect yourself. For example, when you’re walking a trail and you can see a bear in the path ahead of you – that is when the Amygdala comes into play.

For an anxious person, it can almost seem as though there is no clear line between what is perceived as safe and what is perceived as dangerous. Instead of their being a clear switch to turn on the Amygdala, it seems to consistently stay on. Almost like a light with a dimmer switch. The light can be bright, or it can be dim, but it always stays on, and that anxious feeling always stays there, in your mind.

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety before, you know that static can really take over your brain and make it hard to do or focus on anything. Everything seems to stress you out more, and everyone seems to agitate you with even the most simple of gestures. Once you’re in that state of mind, it’s hard to escape it.

I’ve recently started seeing a psychiatrist to see if it will help me cope with the massive amounts of anxiety that I’ve had in 2019. And, quite honestly, if it’s something that you can afford, I highly recommend it. But, I realize that it’s not a feasible option for everyone. It’s expensive. And, if you’re not in Canada, it gets even more expensive! The Psychiatrist that I’ve been seeing has given me a few points of suggestion to help me cope when I become anxious, and I wanted to share them. They might seem quite obvious, but sometimes it helps to see everything written down in one place to take things more seriously.

  1. Exercise daily. Just 30 minutes of exercise that elevates your heart rate is the equivalent of a mild dose of prozac to the body. Something as simple as going for a walk each night can greatly boost the serotonin production in your body.
  2. Think of a memory, one happy memory, and keep that memory at the top of your mind, always. When you think of happy memories, it produces serotonin in your body that can help boost your mood. If you keep one happy memory at top of mind, always, you can use that memory when you’re feeling triggered. Forcing that happy memory on your brain when you’re feeling anxious/stressed can help trick your brain. It’s not going to take away the things in your life causing you stress, but it will help you cope with the stress better.
  3. When you get anxious, write down your happy memory, much like a journal entry. Whether it be in your phone, on your computer, in a journal, on a napkin at a restaurant… just write it down. The brain is such an analytical object, seeing the written words, wherever it might be written, will help your brain to think of the happy memory when you become triggered. While it may not happen right away, after a while of writing down your happy memory time and time again, your brain will automatically associate the happy memory with your triggers in order to help you through the struggle.
  4. Sleep. Sleep is so integral to keep the brain functioning properly. If you’re feeling anxious, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to ensure you’re getting adequate sleep and sleeping during the normal period for which one should be sleeping. (IE. Don’t sleep from 10 am – 6 pm) Giving your brain the proper rest it needs is much like taking an off-day at the gym. Much like your arm muscles needing to recover during leg-day, your brain uses sleep as a period of recovery. Without it, your stress will remain high.
  5. Consider an anti-inflammation diet. Inflammation wreaks havoc on the body and if you’re in a state of mind that is wreaking havoc on your soul, having an inflamed body is only going to make your state of anxiousness seem worse. With as many alternatives to Dairy and Gluten as there are these days, it’s easier than ever to avoid foods that could potentially be wreaking havoc on your body.
  6. Always keep music near by. As the universal language of the human condition, music can help distract you from yourself when needed most. Even sad songs. The simple act of putting those headphones in your ears and focusing on the lyrics or the beat, rather than what is plaguing your mind can help to provide one a greater sense of peace and help to boost serotonin when it’s needed most.
  7. Keep some sort of small ‘knick knack’ with you at all times. Make sure it’s something simple, something that can fit in your pocket, or in your purse, or wherever it needs to go so that it’s with you. When you’re feeling triggered, take out the knick knack and study it. Tell yourself it’s colour, it’s shape, it’s dimension, it’s size. Be as descriptive as you can in your mind about what this knick knack is and what purpose it serves. While you might just look like you’re fidgeting to everyone else in the world, what you’re really doing is sending a message to your brain that these triggers and anxious thoughts do not control you. Putting your attention elsewhere in moments of anxiousness is much like avoiding your boyfriend when he’s being a jerk. You are strong, fierce and independent and no boyfriend nor negative thought is going to weigh you down.
  8. Consider keeping a journal. Use this journal to write out all the nasty, or mean or negative thoughts in your brain. Sometimes, just having these thoughts escape your brain, even if no one ever reads them, provides catharsis for the mind. And that’s the ultimate goal. So test the journal method and see if it helps at all.

There’s no quick fix to combating anxiety. It’s going to take weeks, months or even years to train your brain that the irrational fears aren’t as bad as you think they are and that the real fears can be faced, and conquered, if you’re willing to work at it. Everyone faces hardship, and that likely won’t ever go away. But, if you can stare that hardship down and put yourself back to a good place in life, you can lock those anxious feelings in a tiny little box in the back of your brain and tell them to stay there and shut up. (Bad analogy, I know)

I’ve committed myself to trying these tips, to making a conscious effort to retrain my brain and defeating the static. Fight or flight is not a bad portion of my brain… but it also need not be on 24/7.

If you are out there and you’re struggling, I see you. I hear you. I understand you. You are not alone in this. Anxiety, depression, whatever plethora of mental illness/struggle you might be dealing with, I am with you.

My psychologist said that, in her professional opinion, through her patients she often finds that the people who struggle most are those of higher intelligence. And this is because they see the world and the people around them in a way that the majority of the population cannot understand. Being hyper alert and aware, it’s a sign of high intelligence, and also, most often a symptom for highly anxious people.

So… glass half full? If you’re reading this and you are struggling – kudos to you for being smarter than everyone else.

Welcome to the world, baby girl.

The day: May 2, 2019

The time: 10:52 pm.

The location: Esberg, Denmark.

To the beautiful, brown haired, blue eyed baby girl who turned my brother from dude to dad, I love you already. I know he is going to spend his whole life chasing, protecting and admiring all that you are. And I know you’re going to be powerful beyond measure. He will raise you to always speak you mind, follow you heart and to live without fear.

Today is day one of a beautiful life. Your strong, fierce, monumentally intelligent mother will provide you everything you need to become whatever and whoever you want to be.

If I can give you one thing in this life, baby girl, I will remind you:

You will put the win in win some… lose some
You will put the star in starting over and over.

And no matter how many landmines erupt in a minute
be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.
And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive.

But I want you to know that this world is made out of sugar.
It can crumble so easily.
But don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

Baby girl, I’ll tell you, remember your mama is a worrier
and your papa is a warrior. And you’re the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.

It’s a brand new day and a brave new world and they are both beautiful. Welcome to the world, baby girl.

All my love, Auntie Vee.

When life hands you lemons…


Something happened this week that I was not expecting.

See, I’ve been afraid to tell anyone of my upcoming trip because I feared judgement for booking a plane ticket when I don’t have a steady stream of income. If there’s one thing I’m certain of in my life, it’s that the people around me can be extremely judgmental. And, though I know it comes from a place of love, it still comes… at times being really hard to deal with.

Moral of the story is that I didn’t want to be made to feel badly for doing something for myself.

I kept waiting for the right moment in which to break the news and continued to find excuses as to why it was never the right moment. As my date of departure draws closer, I knew the news needed to come out soon otherwise people would notice when I disappeared for multiple days.

Then, out of the blue, I was invited to an event this weekend. Knowing right then and there my time was up, I faced the music and admitted that I was headed on a trip. What I did not expect was the gracious and kind responses I received in acknowledgement of my trip.

They were kind. So kind. Telling me things like ‘Good for you! You deserve this’ and ‘I’m so happy that you’re doing something for yourself’. One of them even offered me money to help pay for the trip. To be honest, I was quite shaken by these responses. Happy, but shocked. I guess it goes to show though, as much as you think you might know someone, people can always surprise you.

That’s a huge weight off my back leading up to my trip. As much as I want to believe that the only opinion that matters is my own, the opinion of those that I love still plays a large role in my life. And I can now leave on Saturday knowing that the people in my life are supportive of my decision, my mom will be looked after, and the wanderlust in my soul can be fulfilled, at least for a few days.

When life hands you lemons, buy a plane ticket. Go somewhere that’ll make you happy, that’ll make you smile and that’ll set your soul on fire. You deserve it, damn it. Take advantage of the here and now and just go.

Smooth transition into a new topic:

On the recommendation from followers on this blog, I purchased some Apple Cider Vinegar last week in hopes that it would help with my adult acne. Though I’ve only been taking it for one week now, I have to say that I have noticed a difference in my skin. My acne has always been the large painful, red, blotchy sores around my lips/lower cheeks and chin area. Over the past week these spots have transitioned into much smaller, less swollen spots on my face. It’s not gone, no. The spots will be there for a long time, I am sure. But it’s nice to see some improvement in my skin. It makes me feel better about my appearance, even just in the small changes happening.

So, thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for leaving a comment, thank you for being kind and thoughtful and helpful.