Becoming a beer pong pro, learning to love hockey, & Mexican maggots

Hey gang, here’s week two of my BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel round-up. If you’re unfamiliar with what they’re doing, they give you a prompt each day, and you interpret it to your liking. It’s supposed to be daily throughout the month of November, but I’m doing weekly round-ups instead. I’m a rebel.

Prompt #5: KINDNESS
One of the greatest joys of travel can be the random acts of kindness you’ll receive from total strangers. Have you ever found kindness from strangers in unexpected places?

Nothing stands out in my mind in particular, but I remember being shocked by the kindness and friendliness of New Yorkers. The whole city emits one of those “I’m so happy to be here” vibes, and the only jerks I encountered were the assholes on the Brooklyn Bridge bike lane. When Cailin developed an allergic reaction to something, and her leg broke out in welts, we boarded the subway to make our way back to the hotel and a lady overheard our conversation. She was super concerned and sympathetic, and encouraged Cailin to go get it checked out. Nothing big, but for some reason she crosses my mind from time to time.

Wandering into the bike lane will get you shot.

Prompt #6: FEAR
Just as travel can be fun and exciting, it can also have its challenging, or even downright scary, moments. Being in a new place pushes us out of our comfort zone and makes us face our fears. Tell about a time you had to face your fear when traveling, and what was the result.

I face my fears every time I get on a goddamned plane, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Each time I’m sure the flight will be my last, and I end up on solid ground with wobbly legs and sweat dripping from my forehead. Beer helps.

But I assume this isn’t the story people want to hear, so this past summer I tackled my fear of heights and went rock climbing twice in British Columbia. Actually, I’m not even sure if I’m afraid of heights—it’s not the dizzying effect that gets to me, it’s the lack of control if I fall. The result was “pride.” I doubt I’ll make a career out of rock climbing, but damn, at least I did it.

Prompt #7: CELEBRATE
Joining in a local festival, holiday or special event is a great way to learn more about a local culture. Share the story of a celebration that meant something to you on your travels.

When the Vancouver Canucks won the fourth (?) game in the Stanley Cup playoffs this year, the ensuing celebration was my favourite moment on my entire cross Canada trip. It was the kind of Canadian pride I don’t see often in Newfoundland, with the city core being packed with people celebrating, strangers high-fiving in the street, revellers funnelling straight whiskey through horns, and total, 100% happiness and elation. I think I understood hockey at that point.

Travel and learning go hand in hand. Travel teaches us not only about the world and the people in it, but also more about ourselves and our own ideas and values. What has travel taught you this year?

Travel has taught me to pay attention to the details, to push my limits, to appreciate the beauty in people and the world. Consequently, travel has been an agonizing experience, like a drug where I simply cannot be happy unless I’m planning my next trip. I’ve also learned to love Newfoundland on a different level.

I also learned beer pong, which is a pretty essential skill, I think.

Prompt #9: One Day
Travel helps us better appreciate the present moment instead of always looking to the next thing. Describe one perfect day you had while traveling this year. Where were you? What were you doing? And what made it perfect?

Holy crap, here’s another example from Vancouver.

This just happened after I found out I wouldn’t be going to Vancouver Island and I had dished out over $300 to postpone my flight, all for nothing. Then my friend Dawne swooped in and invited me to stay with her in Burnaby, where she took care of me like my mother and gave me a little insider’s perspective to the area. There was this one day where we walked around the Stanley Park Seawall, I dipped my toes in the Pacific for the first time, saw the city from a different angle, watched a beluga and dolphin show at the aquarium, ate the world’s best sushi for $9 and then went to an ice-cream shop with over 200 flavours.

That evening, Dawne took me to Cloud 9, a revolving restaurant on top of a skyscraper, and we watched the sun set over the city and the ocean. I was so happy that things had gone wrong, otherwise I would never have had those moments.

Prompt #10: EARTH
At what point in your travels have you felt most in tune with the Earth? Share a story of how you interacted with the local environment or nature.

I’ve lived in Newfoundland my whole life, but this summer’s trip to Gros Morne for the Writers Festival might have changed my life. I am a rural girl at heart, and nothing inspires me like mountains, oceans, beaches, and natural life. Things that were put here beyond our control.

I remember sitting on the Zodiac in Trout River Pond, watching the clouds casting mottled shadows over the Tablelands, and thinking, I’d never be lonely in a place like this. I remember being on the Water Taxi enroute to Norris Point with my head tipped back to take in the stars with the smell of salt water all around me and thinking this doesn’t happen in the city. I’ll come back here to live someday.

Prompt #11: FEAST
For some of us, food isn’t just a part of our travels, it’s the reason why we travel. Whether you travel the globe to try new foods and use food to form a deeper connection with the culture or just eat to live, food plays a big part in the travel experience. Share a food-related story from your travels or describe your best meal.

My most memorable meal experience was not a good one.

My girlfriends and I were staying at a 5-star resort in Mexico. We decided to dress up for one of our final meals together, then hit up the discotheque for a night of fun. We were well into the booze and food at our restaurant when my friend Kerri put down her fork and said very calmly, “There’s a maggot in my food.”

I suddenly felt hammered, like I couldn’t control my head from whirling. We sat there in stunned silence for a couple of minutes before my other friends investigated, arguing whether or not it was indeed a maggot or simply a piece of fat from the steak Kerri was eating. We didn’t say anything to our waiter, who sensed something was up, and I’m not really sure why we didn’t. Perhaps we didn’t wanna cause a scene. Perhaps we felt bad for the poor guy who was gushingly nice to us.

The night of the maggot.

Years later, it came out that it was definitely a maggot, but my friends tried to salvage the situation. So we sucked back more alcohol, got drunk and forgot about our worries. To beer! The cause, and solution, to all life’s problems.

$10 to anyone who can tell me where that quote came from.

  • Mark Penney (aka The Wicked Newfoundlander)

    Hi Candice,

    I just stumbled across your website last night. Great stuff and excellent writing. As an expatriate Newfoundlander I love your sense of humor. Keep it up. Looking forward to reading more of your posts and the Marc Critch video was awesome.

    If your feeling hungry check out my food blog A Wicked Scoff sometime.


  • Steven Richardson

    Homer Simpson gave you your quote at the end. I am so smart. I am so smart. S-m-r-t!. Keep the $10 for now. If/when I make it to Newfoundland, we can meet up and you can buy me a beer and swap travel stories :)

  • KatieC

    “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
    The Simpsons

    Googling is NOT cheating!

    Question – Whats worse than finding a maggot in your food?
    Answer – Finding half a maggot.

    I had just one night/day in Vancouver and got up at 6am with the intention of walking half of the Seawalk in Stanley Park. I was loving it so much that I accidently ended up about three-quarter way around so it make more sense to keep going to the end.
    Strange sights I saw in Vancouver – black squirrels, a guy fast asleep on a couch that was sitting on the sidewalk and a skunk crossing the street in front of me. Needless to say I snapped photos of all of the above.

  • Alouise

    I love the One Day example. Sometimes something really great can come out of a bad situation. And I can definitely say that the postgame 4 celebration in Vancouver was the biggest celebration I’d seen. I mean I like hockey, but that was just insane.

  • maggie

    y’know, the stuff you say about your time in gros morne this year pretty much describes how I feel every time I go to PEI. Which is why i go back every year… though I could probably use the vacation time elsewhere (or even stay right here and catch the fuck up with taking care of my LIFE…)…. “i’d never feel lonely here” is a thought I can place into a moment in so many different places in PEI…
    (i will retire there. i love my job here, and i can’t imagine working there. . . but i will die there.)

    also, loved your celebration bit :) one of my fondest university memories is when the men’s hockey team won gold in the 2006 olympics. . . such a wonderful celebration!

  • J.R. Riel

    Homer Simpson. But keep the $10 because, yes, I cheated.

  • The Constant Complainer

    I think you’re going to become a champion beer pong player. LOL. And as far as the random acts of kindness, I found myself with the chance to do that just the other day. A woman was in line at the store and had forgotten her wallet. Her child was screaming and she was flustered. So I just paid for her items. It was all of $13, but you would have thought it was $1,000 by the way she reacted. It felt good to help someone out.

  • Dave

    Kindness: I discovered the best Montreal Smoked Meat I’ve had so far (I sample some on every visit – this one was off the beaten path, away from the tourist areas) thanks to the kindness of a local stranger who struck up a conversation with me when I happened to take a break to study my map whilst exploring his neighborhood.

    And then of course there’s YOUR kindness visiting with Marc and me while we were in St. John’s last month. :-) Oh, and of course you also learned from us what nice people New Yorkers can be once we let that “NYC Guard” down.

    Oh, and nice pic there on the Brooklyn Bridge. Fun fact: That university you saw there at the foot of the bridge on the Manhattan side, Pace University, is where I got my degree.

  • Dave

    I should also add a comment about your fear of flying: I, too, am a fearful flyer, and I travel for a living doing the consulting thing that I do. I cope with it as follows: (a) I learn the sounds and feeling that every aircraft type makes during normal operations, so that if it’s something unusual from that I can be legitimately terrified; otherwise, it’s all “OK; and (b) I remind myself constantly that the cockpit crew wants to see their families at the end of the flight as well, and thus will do everything they can to save us if for no other reason than selfishness. Mind games, but they seem to work for me. Yours may vary.

  • SpilledInkGuy

    Totally beat to the punch! Twice!

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