"Blogging isn't journalism, it's graffiti with punctuation."

social media

MERRY CHRIST(ine esti)MAS: 2015 Year In Review

The essence of drama is conflict. I had a lot of both in the past few years, but 2015 was oddly light and serene. I hustled my ass off, pulled every string, worked and LIVED, and received very little flack from the universe. 2015 was THE YEAR.

I started the year in New York City where I was housesitting. On a chance invite from a friend, I attended a Moth Storytelling event. I had been listening to the Moth podcast for years, and this was a story-slam event, meaning I could put my name in a hat and possibly be called up on stage. I threw my hat in the ring, decided what I would say while I was waiting in line to get into the venue, and wouldn’t you know it….

SPOKEN WORD

Live Storytelling and Spoken Word means a lot to me and I continued to do it back home in Toronto at Raconteurs:

Storytelling is an extension of writing to me. It feeds my need to tell stories and also to be a ham. I also discovered that working out ideas on stage proved excellent for cultivating written story ideas. 2015 was also the year of–

Chris Writes All The Things

Editors this year were like, “Hey Chris, do you want to publish stuff? HERE, HAVE ALL THE PUBLICATIONS YOU LIKE.”

It was like payback for many years of only publishing maybe one or two pieces every 6 months.

Of course, this wasn’t by fluke. I busted my ass, I submitted and submitted and submitted, and got rejection after rejection, but my acceptance rate kind of skyrocketed this year. I actually found myself in the odd position SEVERAL TIMES this year where I had to reject one publication because another had already bought my piece. I was selling pieces so quick, in some instances, I had to turn people down! I ALMOST sent them the lame boilerplate rejections they had sent me for years, but nahhhhhhh.

SELLING STORIES

 

The first piece I sold this year was actually an academic essay which I sold to Palaver Journal based out of a southern University. I finished my Masters Degree ten years ago, but I can still flex my chops when I need to.

Then I sold my first piece to VICE, which was really exciting because I had been reading them since 1998 and am a huge fan, so it was great to see my pieces go across the VICE network and do really well.


vicecanada

Then I sold them another piece
vicesecond1

And then another
vicethird

And then a bajillion more…
fhritpheader

I found out one of my short stories made the long-list for the prestigious CBC Canada Writes Creative Nonfiction Prize, and they profiled me on the CBC website!
IMG_7218 cbc canada writes

Then I sold a short story to GRAIN when they wanted to buy another story of mine, but I had to turn them down because another journal had already bought it, so they asked for anything else I had, and snapped up this piece right away!
grain1

And then I cold-pitched METRO News Canada and they printed my piece in the centrefold:
metro

And then EVENT published one of my Nonfiction stories in this issue:
event

My bio is a BOSS-ASS BITCH
event2 (2)

Then I sold a travel writing piece to VERGE Magazine:
vergesnippet

And just a couple weeks ago, another one of my serious essays about sexual harassment and the experience of reporting it to the police was published by my old friends at AufBau:

And this isn’t even all of my publications! Just a cross-section! I also sold three more stories whose publication dates are imminent, like TOUTE SUITE, dropping in a few weeks soon! So expect to read more from me in the new year!

Speaking of HouseSitting

This year, I did back…

…to back

…to back

…to back

…to back

…to back housesitting gigs.

These pictures aren’t even all of them. In total in 2015 I did ELEVEN housesits in 12 months. Considering that 4 of them lasted more than a month, and one of them lasted almost 3 months, that’s a lot of housesitting with snugglecats and dogs and not having to pay rent.

Last name Win, first name Epic.

And it’s not over yet. I’ve been housesitting for years and years now, so why stop in 2016. Starting in January, I will be housesitting in VIENNA!!

I haven’t been to Vienna since that first European clusterfuck trip in 2005 (here are some posts about that trip…. gosh this blog is old). I was last in Austria in 2012 for my Eurail Extravaganza, but I missed out on Vienna, so I’m super excited to spend a lot of time there this Winter.

I want to to everything Viennese, like eating strudel served by Michael Haneke on a harpsichord.

I’ll also be swinging through London, Prague, and Amsterdam, so the great tapestry of adventures I’m trying to build can continue!

Hey, You Never Know

One of my main mantra’s of 2015 was “Ask and you shall receive.” In the past I’ve refrained from asking for what I wanted because I assumed the answer would be no, or, more likely, I felt pretentious for even asking. Like, who the fuck are you Christine? You got some balls asking for that.  That changed this year, when I realized that the worst thing that could happen was they’d say No. And if that’s the worst-case-scenario, it’s pretty surmountable. So with that in mind, I figured no-guts-no-glory. I’m a writer, so my income is limited (obvi). The amount of funds I can allocate to quality of life (movies, music, theatre, concerts, performances, dance, festivals, etc) is extremely limited. So what did I do when I wanted to go to an event but couldn’t afford it?

I asked for free tickets.

And I got them.

BOOM.

This year, just because I asked, I gained free entry to the following:

Once: The Musical
-National Ballet of Canada performance of Sleeping Beauty
Deadmouse: The Musical 
Basquiat exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario
-secret alt-J concert
-the Stars of the Lid concert at the Unsound Festival
Joel Plaskett Emergency concert
Bettroffenheit theatrical play
-several Toronto International Film Festival movies, including
Homesick,
Disorder/Maryland,
Bang Gang,
Summertime,
Son of Saul.

If It Ain’t Broke…

Everyone knows I’m a huge flea market person (and this year I joined the super secret but now highly coveted collective of BUNZ Trading) so this year I procured a lot of fantastic antiques at bargain prices, and sometimes, for a few tokens or a bottle of wine.

I already had a typewriter, but I still went ahead and got myself a second one. Because reasons.


My two bee-yoots, side-by-side

And then I got a rotary phone. It’s a necessity in the modern world.

And then I finally hooked up speakers to my record player, so I went on a vinyl-buying binge, and got some gems like Duke Ellington (click the little volume button in the bottom right of the vid to listen!):

and the master Django Reinhard!

With these new gadgets, I am now able to open a sassy new office… in 1979.

Speaking of Music


I went to some kick-ass concerts this year. In years past I had grown a bit tiresome of concerts (I had been a music critic for about 5 years and now I have a touch of tinnitus…) but, I guess… YOLO

This year saw me at:

-Kiasmos
-alt-J
-Chilly Gonzales
-Stars of the Lid
-Hauschka
-Joel Plaskett Emergency

alt-J!!

alt-J!

I want to stuff Kiasmos into a bong and smoke them.

 

And, my, the new music I discovered this year!

FAV SINGLES OF 2015 include:

-“Emotion” by BORNS

-“Carry On” by Coeur de Pirate
-“Landfill” by Daughter

-all tracks by Tycho
-“All Clear” by Aidan Knight
-“Let it go” by Saint Saviour

-“Black to Gold” by Dear Rouge
-“Them” by Nils Frahm

-“Pretty Pimpin” by Kurt Vile

And the Oscar Goes To…


I saw a lot of films this year, and even reviewed some during TIFF for VICE. Here are the ones that haunted me long after the credits rolled:

-VICTORIA

-The Daughter

-Son of Saul

-Homesick

-CitizenFour

-Disorder/Maryland

As you can see from this list, I am not really a mainstream/Hollywood/wide-release film person. I prefer indie cinema, the ones that make the festival circuit. They usually have no money behind them and therefore can take more risks or tell stories we don’t normally see. So you can take your Chris Nolan/JJ Abrahms/Michael Bay clusterfuck and order it on DVD. Yawn.

Get Busy Livin’

As I said, I started the year in New York (housesitting). I also traveled to my hometown of Montreal (housesitting), and just recently I went to Miami (housesitting). But I really wanted to exercise my passport, so I bounced down to Mexico, Guatemala and Belize for a Mayan Adventure!

I made a short film about my experiences, I figured it was more fun than posting a bunch of touristy photos. I call it GET RICH OR DIE MAYAN. Enjoy!

To thine own selfie be true

I’ll end this post with the one thing everyone really wants to see:
BEST SELFIES OF 2015


I don’t really post selfies anymore, but I do take them from time to time. Here are the ones I took and never posted!

Remember, you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Happy New Year 2016, munchkins.

SEE YOU IN VIENNA!

Check Out My official website

Don’t forget to visit ChristineEstima.com for more!


The Spadina Monologues’ 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 100,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Word up, hombres!

20121210-105054.jpg

Well hello traffic spike! Yesterday was a very busy day for The Spadina Monologues, and I’m sure most of that is due to the lovely folks over at Eurail.com linking me up on their Facebook page. They have been my awesome European-extravaganza-benefactors and have been very encouraging and supportive for the kind of rail journey that I wanted to take.

So fanks for the linkage guys! And welcome new readers! Check out my Eurail 2012 category for all the posts on my journey thus far!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Dropbox like its hot.


Eurail day 13: Cesky Krumlov to Nuremberg, and How to Travel with Electronics

20121201-194458.jpg

Today is a travel day! Taking 3 trains to get from the Czech Republic to Germany, so a long travel day but also a scenic one! I am zooming through snow-capped mountains and little villas! There are rabbits and farmers waving at the trains and ponies running alongside, and a doe! A deer! (A female deer).

20121201-194509.jpg

So since I have all this free time, time for some of my tips on travelling with iPhones or tablets. Here’s how you can always stay connected whilst on the road without paying high prices.

Avoid Roaming Charges

If you’re from Canada or the USA, your network carrier will try to persuade you to purchase one of their roaming packages for your trip abroad. But if you look at the fine print, you’ll notice that their plans are actually quite outrageous! $5 per gigabyte downloaded. $0.75 per text message sent AND received! And sometimes you can’t even send out messages or calls depending on which country you are in! It is really not worth it. Here’s what you do:

1) If you’re going to be gone for longer than a month, but don’t want to completely deactivate your phone account and lose your phone number, switch your plan into a holding plan. All carriers have an option that lets you hold on to your phone number for about 6 months for a minimal fee, but your phone is essentially deactivated. That way you can’t be charged on your network for roaming or for long distance calls.

2)Turn on airplane mode. iPhones and Androids, and some newer Blackberries, have the airplane mode option. If you turn this on while travelling, you won’t connect to your network carrier but you will still be able to search and connect to wifi sources.

3) Does your phone have SIM card capability? Then buy a SIM card when you arrive at your destination. They are almost always free with whatever finite plan to purchase with it. Get a pay-as-you-go plan of course, that lasts for as long as you’re in the area, for a flat fee, and ideally with unlimited text messages. In the States, AT&T has a $25 plan that lasts for 2 weeks with unlimited texts. In the UK, O2 has a month-long plan for £15.50 with unlimited texts and you can use the plan all over Europe. If you’re in Asia or Africa or South America, ask if the plan you buy is also good in neighbouring countries. Usually when small clusters of countries can share plans and rates. When you need to top up, you can almost always do that online.

4) Don’t have a SIM card-capable smartphone? (aka the Blackberry Curve?) Whip out your old Motorola flip phone that’s collecting dust in your drawer, and buy a local SIM card when you arrive so you are still reachable by your family and can use it in an emergency without paying roaming charges.

5) Another option is to buy a “Global Sim” from an online source. Starting at £29 and increasing from there, they mail you a sim compatible with your phone, or they can include a phone, they assign you a phone number, and your phone is good all over the world. You are charged based on where you are in the world, and who/where you are calling. If you’re doing an RTW, this is the best option rather than buy local SIMs at every stop.

6) Stuck with a stupid flip phone and no wifi capability? Remember that you can send and receive tweets from Twitter via text message! Log into your account and link your phone number to your account. That way you can still converse with the world even when you’re travelling through no-mans-land.

Using North American electronics abroad

Most people are exquisitely annoyed upon their arrival on the other side of the planet and find that the local electrical outlets require different plugs, or that the voltage will blow their hardware right out.

1) Google that shizzle ahead of time! Always always always research ahead of time what kind of plugs are used and what the voltage is in a given country. The Internet has all that information available.

2) Buy plug adapters and/or voltage adapters. All travel shops at home, or even at your destination (best places are airports) will sell these devices which transform your North American plug to a European, UK, Asian, or Australian plug. In North America, all devices are geared for 140 volts, but abroad, they all take 220-240 volts. If you try plugging in your 140volt hair dryer into an outlet in the UK without a voltage adapter, it will blow up in your hands. The good news is that all electronics, like your smartphone, your laptop, your iPad, your camera, etc, are DUAL VOLTAGE, meaning that they automatically can switch the voltage on their own, so all you will need is a plug adapter.

Buying electronics abroad

Did you forget your camera on your desk? Did your laptop break in your luggage? Don’t blow a gasket, you can always buy the exact same products abroad, and sometimes for cheaper without skimping on quality. In 2006, I was in Berlin when my camera just konked out and died. I went and bought another camera for €200, and guess what, I’m still using it today! All the pics you have seen on my blog the past 6 years are from this camera, and long time readers know I take a truckload of pics every day! I’ve dropped that camera countless times, it is scratched and faded, but it still works beautifully. €200 well spent. Bargain, really! But there are even greater bargains to be had if you’re in the right country:

1) Many countries impose taxes on all goods and services bought. Those taxes are then used for a variety of things, from public housing, to the military, to health care. But most governments also recognize that tourists shouldn’t have to pay those taxes since they can’t benefit from them. So they offer refund schemes to tourists. If you buy an iPad in Thailand, for example, from a licensed merchant who also participates in the refund scheme, he will give you the proper documentation you need to claim the tax back. Then when you are leaving the country via the airport, you hand in those documents to the “VAT refund desk” and you get back all the tax you paid on that item. Usually, you are required to have spent a minimum amount on your goods to claim the tax back, and you have to keep all your receipts and the appropriate forms, but it should be rather straightforward. Make sure your merchant participates in the scheme, and if he doesn’t, go elsewhere. Canada also has a refund scheme for tourists. If you’re going to many countries, it is worth googling which one of them also has a scheme. You could end up with some sizeable money in your pocket. But the best part is, you are probably paying less for the exact same device abroad than you would at home.

Don’t double up on electronics

For every expensive piece of hardware you carry, that becomes just one more thing some thief could steal. Carry as few devices as needed. Don’t carry both an iPhone and an iPod! Transfer your mp3s to your phone! Don’t carry your iPhone and your camera! iPhones have excellent cameras on them. Don’t carry both a laptop and an iPad! Are you mad, woman?!

For those of you wondering how I have been able to blog and tweet and Facebook and foursquare and Instagram and email and text and call and google this entire time I have been travelling …. Well…. This is how! Ps follow me on Twitter!

Here is how I spent my money today.

20121201-194930.jpg

Nuremberg is famous for its Christmas Market and I am arriving right when it’s starting! So excited! I have my mitts, my leg warmers, and my toque! TIME TO PARTY!

On a side note, Czech Republic was my halfway point in this Eurail trip! I can’t believe how far I have come! But still so much more awaits!

Huzzah!


Layla Mansor, the lying pharmacist from Edmonton

20121122-011612.jpg

Do the photos on this Facebook profile look familiar to you? They should, BECAUSE THEY’RE MINE. I was alerted tonight to this Facebook profile who not only stole all the photos of me that I posted on Twitter and my blog, but she also stole the biography I wrote on the upper right hand side of this blog and is passing it all off as her own! Except she added in the bio that she’s a pharmacist, and changed “atheist” to “catholic.” FIGURES!

She probably found me because she’s from Lebanon originally and now lives in Edmonton, and my ethnicity is half Lebanese.

Layla Mansor, girl, you got some ‘splaining to do.

This is really alarming and distressing to me, as it infringes on my privacy and my person. It is fraud, and it is the behaviour one would expect from an immature cretin of the lowest order.

Layla, honey, you are not me.

But you wish you were.

If everyone could go to her profile and report her for abuse ( the widget is next to the “add as a friend/message” button) that would be greatly appreciated!

This is literally my worst nightmare AND ITS WHY I ALWAYS WATERMARK MY PICS ON HERE, but she stole older pics of me before I started watermarking. This took some serious digging on her part, the pathetic wimp.

Seriously Layla, live your own life, as lame as it may be, because you cannot live mine.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, oddly enough. In 2010 I had a twitter imposter who operated as me for 6 months before I found out AND HAD THEM SHUT DOWN.

Anyone see the movie Catfish?

Someone get Nev Schulman on the phone.


Ermahgerd! My Eurail.com adventure begins!

20121116-165703.jpg

I announced it a couple months ago, and now it’s happening! My cross-European extravaganza with Eurail.com begins imminently!

As you will remember, I was chosen by the good people at Eurail.com to blog and tweet my way across Europe using the rail network. I have to visit 12 cities in 30 days, and I have to do it all on 15€ a day. Totally do-able! I love a good challenge, I live to travel, I’ve bought and used Eurail passes before, and I’m rather frugal in my everyday life anyway, so this challenge is a match made in… I was going to say “heaven,” but really, it’s a match made in Utrecht.

Eurail head office represent!

Anyhoo, coming fresh off the heels of my amazing Thailand-Cambodia-SituAsian, this trip will continue the adventurous spirit and sense of wonder fostered in Asia.

The plan of attack
Now 15€ a day, while do-able, is still quite the challenge. If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know that it isn’t cheap! So obviously I need to approach this with a strategy in mind. Here’s how I’m going to live on 15€ a day without skimping on awesome fun or adventure!

20121116-160030.jpg
#1 Couchsurfing. Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of hostels and will always sing their praises, but this is one time when even hostels won’t serve my purposes. Luckily there’s an awesome network in place for backpackers on a budget called Couchsurfing. People all over the world connect and offe their couches to travellers. It’s a great way to meet locals and to save your hard earned pennies. I’ve had a Couchsurfing profile for quite some time because I tried it out in New York City and in Vancouver, and had nothing but amazing experiences. So now that I’m going to really Couchsurfing hardcore, I’m really glad I have learned the ropes (somewhat).

#2 Making all my own food. No restaurants or take-outs for this gal! This is a trick I picked up from staying in hostels that offer guest kitchens. If you go to the local grocery store and make your own food, you not only save so much money, but you won’t gain weight because you know exactly what’s going into your meals …. Not that I’m obsessed with my weight or anything. Oh don’t give me that look.

#3 Starting off in Eastern Europe. As someone who has extensively travelled throughout the continent, I have learned just how much cheaper Eastern Europe is compared to the West. Most of the Eastern countries have recently emerged from communism, or from wars, or from severe visa restrictions that kept Westerners out. As such, because they are so new to tourism and their economies are not on parr with the west, the cost of living there is much more affordable. One of the rules regarding this challenge stipulates that if I don’t use the full 15€ one day, the extra cash can rollover to following days. So I’m banking on the fact that I’ll save more money in the east which will come in handy as I head westward and the prices suddenly rise. Who knows, if I save enough, I may even be able to afford a hostel if one of the couches I’ve requested falls through!

#4 Avoiding train reservations. I plan on going into further detail on this point in a later post, but here are the basic details. Most high speed and overnight trains in Europe require a reservation on top of your rail pass. Now Eurail.com has provided me with my Global pass but if I were to take a train that required a reservation that would cost an additional 20€ extra! Which exceeds my budget! However, with some careful planning, some flexibility, and a positive attitude, you can avoid reservations by taking the slower local trains and avoiding all overnight travel. You get to enjoy the scenery, visit towns not normally on your route, and save! For more on train reservations, read this handy guide.

#5 DBahn iPhone app. The German national railway, otherwise known as DBahn, has been publishing up to date train schedules for years, and now they have a handy iPhone app (which also works on my iPad, you can download it here). This service will inform of me of which trains require reservations, when trains arrive and depart, if the schedule has changed, and will basically be my lifeline as I move about Europe. I used to buy the seasonal train schedules DBahn would publish, so I can swear by their accuracy and would encourage you to download it as well if you’re galavant ing across the continent!

#6 Free and cheap activities. You can’t go to Europe and stay indoors! You have to get out and see the city! But many times, doing activities in a city requires a lot of coinage. It doesn’t have to though! There’s lots of things you can do that cost mere pennies, and sometimes nothing at all! I plan on writing an entire blog post about that during my travels, so expect some awesome travel tips this month!

20121116-170049.jpg

The Route

I have been planning and mapping out where I’d like to go, and finalized my itinerary.

As many of you know, I lived in Europe for years, am an EU citizen, and have travelled extensively across the continent. So when deciding where I wanted to go on this trip, I decided to go places in Europe somewhat off the beaten path, places I’ve never been before, places that most Eurail pass holders may or may not gloss over and miss the first time they galavant across the continent.

My chosen cities are as follows.

Split, Croatia
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Padova, Italy
Innsbruck, Austria
Salzburg, Austria
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Nuremberg, Germany
Strasbourg, France
Frankfurt, Germany
Cologne, Germany
Bruges, Belgium
Utrecht, Netherlands

As you can see, these are mostly small villages, only Ljubljana is a capital city. These are all countries I’ve been to countless times, but cities I have dreamed of visiting yet never had the chance! You’ll also notice that I’m travelling from East to West, and finish off my travels in Utrecht so I can pay a visit to Eurail.com’s head office for a hello and a high five.

The Mini Challenge
Eurail.com set me a mini challenge within this challenge to ride through Italy during this adventure. As anyone who has ever been to Europe will know, Italy is not only one of the most expensive countries, it also requires a reservation on almost all of their trains. Because I have to live on 15€ a day, and most reservations cost 20€, reservations are out of the question. So I decided to travel to Padua because it is really close to the Slovenian border (where I’ll enter the country) and the Austrian border (where I’ll exit), so I should be able to take noting but local trains and avoid the reservations! Also, Padua is one of the settings in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and apparently even has a tourist spot called Juliet’s balcony that I can check out. For free, of course!

20121116-170100.jpg

My Expectations

Lets not mince words or split hairs here, this will definitely be a challenge! Lots could go wrong, and even if it doesn’t, staying under budget could be a strain or a stress! I fully expect at least one Couchsurfing host to withdraw their invitation at the last second, or for me to miss a crucial train connection, or for me to run over budget! It’s all going to happen at least once! But I also expect to meet some amazing people, make new friends, see and explore these areas that I’ve only read about in books! Even when the fit hits the Shan (see what I did there?), you have to remain positive, just remember where you are, get in the spirit of things, and relax. It will all work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end. For more on my travel philosophy, check out my post on long term travel for the solo woman.

I fly to Croatia to begin my journey on Monday! Wish me luck, munchkins!

20121116-170054.jpg


Ermahgerd! My Eurail.com adventure begins!

20121116-165703.jpg

I announced it a couple months ago, and now it’s happening! My cross-European extravaganza with Eurail.com begins imminently!

As you will remember, I was chosen by the good people at Eurail.com to blog and tweet my way across Europe using the rail network. I have to visit 12 cities in 30 days, and I have to do it all on 15€ a day. Totally do-able! I love a good challenge, I live to travel, I’ve bought and used Eurail passes before, and I’m rather frugal in my everyday life anyway, so this challenge is a match made in… I was going to say “heaven,” but really, it’s a match made in Utrecht.

Eurail head office represent!

Anyhoo, coming fresh off the heels of my amazing Thailand-Cambodia-SituAsian, this trip will continue the adventurous spirit and sense of wonder fostered in Asia.

The plan of attack
Now 15€ a day, while do-able, is still quite the challenge. If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know that it isn’t cheap! So obviously I need to approach this with a strategy in mind. Here’s how I’m going to live on 15€ a day without skimping on awesome fun or adventure!

20121116-160030.jpg
#1 Couchsurfing. Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of hostels and will always sing their praises, but this is one time when even hostels won’t serve my purposes. Luckily there’s an awesome network in place for backpackers on a budget called Couchsurfing. People all over the world connect and offe their couches to travellers. It’s a great way to meet locals and to save your hard earned pennies. I’ve had a Couchsurfing profile for quite some time because I tried it out in New York City and in Vancouver, and had nothing but amazing experiences. So now that I’m going to really Couchsurfing hardcore, I’m really glad I have learned the ropes (somewhat).

#2 Making all my own food. No restaurants or take-outs for this gal! This is a trick I picked up from staying in hostels that offer guest kitchens. If you go to the local grocery store and make your own food, you not only save so much money, but you won’t gain weight because you know exactly what’s going into your meals …. Not that I’m obsessed with my weight or anything. Oh don’t give me that look.

#3 Starting off in Eastern Europe. As someone who has extensively travelled throughout the continent, I have learned just how much cheaper Eastern Europe is compared to the West. Most of the Eastern countries have recently emerged from communism, or from wars, or from severe visa restrictions that kept Westerners out. As such, because they are so new to tourism and their economies are not on parr with the west, the cost of living there is much more affordable. One of the rules regarding this challenge stipulates that if I don’t use the full 15€ one day, the extra cash can rollover to following days. So I’m banking on the fact that I’ll save more money in the east which will come in handy as I head westward and the prices suddenly rise. Who knows, if I save enough, I may even be able to afford a hostel if one of the couches I’ve requested falls through!

#4 Avoiding train reservations. I plan on going into further detail on this point in a later post, but here are the basic details. Most high speed and overnight trains in Europe require a reservation on top of your rail pass. Now Eurail.com has provided me with my Global pass but if I were to take a train that required a reservation that would cost an additional 20€ extra! Which exceeds my budget! However, with some careful planning, some flexibility, and a positive attitude, you can avoid reservations by taking the slower local trains and avoiding all overnight travel. You get to enjoy the scenery, visit towns not normally on your route, and save! For more on train reservations, read this handy guide.

#5 DBahn iPhone app. The German national railway, otherwise known as DBahn, has been publishing up to date train schedules for years, and now they have a handy iPhone app (which also works on my iPad, you can download it here). This service will inform of me of which trains require reservations, when trains arrive and depart, if the schedule has changed, and will basically be my lifeline as I move about Europe. I used to buy the seasonal train schedules DBahn would publish, so I can swear by their accuracy and would encourage you to download it as well if you’re galavant ing across the continent!

#6 Free and cheap activities. You can’t go to Europe and stay indoors! You have to get out and see the city! But many times, doing activities in a city requires a lot of coinage. It doesn’t have to though! There’s lots of things you can do that cost mere pennies, and sometimes nothing at all! I plan on writing an entire blog post about that during my travels, so expect some awesome travel tips this month!

20121116-170049.jpg

The Route

I have been planning and mapping out where I’d like to go, and finalized my itinerary.

As many of you know, I lived in Europe for years, am an EU citizen, and have travelled extensively across the continent. So when deciding where I wanted to go on this trip, I decided to go places in Europe somewhat off the beaten path, places I’ve never been before, places that most Eurail pass holders may or may not gloss over and miss the first time they galavant across the continent.

My chosen cities are as follows.

Split, Croatia
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Padova, Italy
Innsbruck, Austria
Salzburg, Austria
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Nuremberg, Germany
Strasbourg, France
Frankfurt, Germany
Cologne, Germany
Bruges, Belgium
Utrecht, Netherlands

As you can see, these are mostly small villages, only Ljubljana is a capital city. These are all countries I’ve been to countless times, but cities I have dreamed of visiting yet never had the chance! You’ll also notice that I’m travelling from East to West, and finish off my travels in Utrecht so I can pay a visit to Eurail.com’s head office for a hello and a high five.

The Mini Challenge
Eurail.com set me a mini challenge within this challenge to ride through Italy during this adventure. As anyone who has ever been to Europe will know, Italy is not only one of the most expensive countries, it also requires a reservation on almost all of their trains. Because I have to live on 15€ a day, and most reservations cost 20€, reservations are out of the question. So I decided to travel to Padua because it is really close to the Slovenian border (where I’ll enter the country) and the Austrian border (where I’ll exit), so I should be able to take noting but local trains and avoid the reservations! Also, Padua is one of the settings in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and apparently even has a tourist spot called Juliet’s balcony that I can check out. For free, of course!

20121116-170100.jpg

My Expectations

Lets not mince words or split hairs here, this will definitely be a challenge! Lots could go wrong, and even if it doesn’t, staying under budget could be a strain or a stress! I fully expect at least one Couchsurfing host to withdraw their invitation at the last second, or for me to miss a crucial train connection, or for me to run over budget! It’s all going to happen at least once! But I also expect to meet some amazing people, make new friends, see and explore these areas that I’ve only read about in books! Even when the fit hits the Shan (see what I did there?), you have to remain positive, just remember where you are, get in the spirit of things, and relax. It will all work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end. For more on my travel philosophy, check out my post on long term travel for the solo woman.

I fly to Croatia to begin my journey on Monday! Wish me luck, munchkins!

20121116-170054.jpg


Ermahgerd! I’m returning to Europe with Eurail.com!

Some MORE exciting travel news to announce! This has been in the works for a little while now and I’ve had to keep a lid on it, but now I’ve been given the green light to tell all of my little munchkins!

I have been selected by the good people at Eurail.com to blog, tweet, vlog & photog my way across Europe, armed with some wanderlust and a Eurail Global Pass. I have to hit up at least 12 cities in my favourite continent within 30 days, along with the challenge of posting daily about the adventures I’ll have, the people I’ll meet, the wonderful places I’ll see, and relaying some tips, tricks, and advice about rail travel.

But there’s a catch (of course!):

I have to live on €15 a DAY.

A DAY, PEOPLE!

Eurail.com will provide me with the rail pass and the funds, I just have to use the funds EXTREMELY WISELY.

FINALLY MY PARSIMONIOUSNESS IS BEING PUT TO GOOD USE!

Many of you are probably thinking you could never travel on such a tight budget. Well, as the most frugal backpacker on the planet, I am here to tell you that yes you can.

Many people don’t travel because they think they can’t afford it, that it is a luxury reserved for the rich and idle. I know from years of travel experience that, as long as you rely on your resourcefulness & ingenuity, remain flexible, read the fine print, and pre-plan, you can have an amazing holiday adventure that costs less than a day’s wage. And guess what, you don’t have to skimp on luxury or security (or hygiene, haha) just because you’re not paying top dollar.

I’m going to start this European extravaganza directly after my Thailand & Cambodia Situation (which I have tentatively dubbed The SituAsian. See what I did there?), so expect a more detailed plan of attack around mid-November.

 

So how did I score this deal?

Many of my long-time readers know that I work hard to have a social media presence. Interacting and engaging in social media has not only rewarded me with writing gigs (yay paycheques!) but also with a quality of living I wouldn’t normally be able to afford (I always say that if I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t have become a writer).

Everything from VIP music performances (DeadMau5, Dragonette, Estelle, USS, et.al.) and Toronto International Film Festival galas (barf!), to major travel opportunities.

Ford lent me car so I could take a road trip to Montreal.

Karikuy Tours sent me to Peru so I could climb Machu Picchu.

And Via Rail put me on the cross-Canada train from Toronto to Vancouver, culminating in my lecture at the Social Media Week Conference about my experiences.

And by the grace of Twitter, that’s how I managed to be selected for this opportunity as well. A little over a month ago, I saw this below tweet pop up in my feed.

It generated a lot of discussion in the travel circles, and I noticed a lot of travel bloggers vying for the gig. I ruminated on this opportunity for a few days before finally getting in touch with them and making a case for myself. I had a lot of ideas, and of course a lot of travel experience, so I knew if I were chosen for this I would definitely be able make the experience worthwhile & exciting.

After about a month of discussion and negotiations (they raised it from €10 a day to €15 a day! PHEWF!), Eurail.com chose me for the experience!

ERMAHGERD! TERVERL!

I will be revealing more details about this cross-European extravaganza around mid-November. Right now I have to divert all my efforts into preparing for my Thailand-Cambodia-SituAsian (I’m sticking with that name, I don’t care what you say).

In the meantime, munchkins, I hope more of you will be encouraged to push yourselves out of your comfort zone & experience something new!

Get cape.
Wear cape.
Fly.


New York Street Art 2012

Today, my delicious little munchkins, there will be fewer posts because I spent hours yesterday making this short film. I didn’t tell anybody, but whilst I was photographing all the amazing graffiti and street art in New York, I was also filming it so I could make something more visceral for the viewers…. it’s like being there with me on the streets of Queens and Brooklyn!

Enjoy!

 Places filmed include LES, Alphabet City, Soho, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint, Astoria and 5Pointz.

Some of the street artists include:

Chris Veng Robots Who Kill
Miyok
Fitschen
JR’s Inside Out Project
Enx
Kobra
Curtis Kulig
Alec
Nick Walker
Space Invader
Hanksy
Spud
Jimmy Cochrane
Paul Richard
Swoon
Gilf
Rene Gagnon
Sheryo
Stormie Mills
Roa
TMNK (Art is my Weapon)


It’s a Twitter Miracle! Starring Eric McCormack & Christine Estima as herself

i should have known those two would be friends! ah LeVar, every time we interact, it gives me a lil tingle on the inside.

And this, my friends, is why you should all be on Twitter.

New York is such an amazing place. One where you can have lame Adrian Grenier hang times one week, and then amazing Eric McCormack hang times the next week.

Alright, I am officially celebrity-hang-timed-out. Leave me alone, famous people. NO PICTURES!

*CoughYeahRightNeverLeaveMeCough*


and I spelled ‘theatre’ the Canadian way, too


has a celebrity retweeted me and i’m missing it? cuz this tweet of mine has gone a bit stupid now.

it’s a decent amount of RTs, but nothing will ever top this tweet of mine which is still being RT’d to this day.

every day is a good day to go viral.

see you on the twatter, munchkins!


The Spadina Monologues gets some lurve from TLAC

TLAC (The Learning Achievement Centre) is a printing and publishing company, and they recently gave The Spadina Monologues some lurve on their official Facebook fan page!

fanks for enjoying this blog guys!

you came for the sass, but you’ll stay for the crass.

speaking of publishing, my novel that i’ve been slaving away at for years is now under the noses of some of the most distinguished publishing houses in north america as we speak. my literary agent submitted my pitch and manuscript a few weeks ago, so now we play the waiting game.

i am so humbled just to be considered.

(aka, i am shitting myself)

i’m not going to name any of the houses just this instant because i think that’s a bit premature (aka i don’t want to jinx it) so i’ll just say that i hope the universe is listening! (and paying out).

if you want to know more about my writing career (and dalliances in infamy), check out my Writing Portfolio, the media coverage i’ve garnered, or my About Me page!


Meme Advertising on the streets of Toronto

last week i saw these meme-vertisements in the east end of toronto, but didn’t blog them right away. then i saw that Copyranter scooped me on it! i photographed em first dammit!

no matter, i thought they were hilarious and funny, and like Copyranter says, the copy is actually FUNNY. way to meme! While advertising doesn’t exactly fit within the ethos of this blog, social media crossed with pop culture crossed with things pasted onto walls definitely does.

the adverts are the brainchild of The Hive based in Toronto. Hi Hive! I’m on twitter. Have we met? We should.


still miffed about being scooped …. whatever.


Justin Bieber and I are doing the nasty


i stupidly tweeted this on saturday night.


which resulted in this guy (the one with over 21,000,000 followers) retweeting me.


see?

(click to enlarge)

….and because of this, it resulted in me being bombarded by those fucking Beliebers. I could not keep up with the thousands of Belieber tweets, RTs, favourites, and follows being directed my way PER SECOND, that STILL hasn’t properly let up yet. Now my twitter feed stinks of the most horrifying thing in the world — puberty. I wouldn’t wish this kind of attention on any other 31 year old woman.  He’s a 16 year old boy! What the fuck does he know about anything, other than X-box and masturbation? So why do SO MANY Beliebers treat him like a religious experience? He looks like a moderately powerful pokemon. He’s only famous because he repeated the word BABY more than any other human being in a 3 minute period…. like an autistic child in a maternity ward. That’s not musical talent, that’s a mental illness.

AND his voice sounds like a fox fucking a bagpipe.

Those Beliebers are TERRIFYING! They look like the sort of people you’d find in a Maury Povich holding pen. I betcha if Justin told them to go fuck themselves, they’d give it a shot.

Now from what the Beliebers tell me, there are millions of girls who would kill to get an RT from Justin…. like I should be grateful that I was noticed by a boy who was a ZYGOTE when i was in junior high. If that’s true, then millions of girls need to aspire to greater things in life.

Look Justin, fanks for the RT and all, but you have cursed me with the burden of your crazy hormonal tween fans who would kick the face off a badger to get your attention …  and by extension, now my attention.

I will never buy your music, nor will I go to one of your concerts. The only thing that would ruin a Justin Bieber concert would be if my gun jammed.


Yo! Instagram THAT!

Both Listen Bird and I would like to find the last 6 centimetres of Toronto that HASN’T been instagram’d yet …. surely it must be out there.

So yesterday i’m parking the car near the Railpath so i can go for a jog….  i put the car into park… look over at the alleyway directly opposite me, and BAM, it’s like a Listen Bird ‘splosion. That wasn’t there last time i parked on this street! Listen Bird has been very busy lately.

luckily i never leave home without my camera. i jumped outta the car and went running down the alley, trying to find the right camera setting to start snapping.

luckily i don’t have an iPhone, so i can’t instagram. HIGH FIVE LB!


Social Media Street Art: Facebook “likes” the city

i found this on the sidewalk on college street near bellevue. i almost didn’t recognize it because my Facebook account is set to french, so i’m never clicking “like,” i’m clicking “j’aime.” i think if it hadn’t been for the distinct blue used in this stencil, i might have missed it. the thumbs-up symbol is a bit distorted as well, it looks like a weathered mitt.

that being said, i fucking J’AIME this to death. i have no idea who the artist is behind it, but i love the idea of social media mingling with street art, because that is essentially what this blog does!

social media has a huge political component to it, as it has the power to encourage revolutions, to whistle-blow on corrupt regimes, to bring hidden scandals to light, and to spread the daily news of the world to people who might not otherwise see it.

street art is very much the same, as it has a huge political component to it, the power to encourage revolutions, and to satirize/comment on/lampoon political leaders, corrupt regimes, along with the ability to question what the news corporations are telling us to believe.

so to summarize: more of this mingling, please. the two mediums are so heavily linked, they deserve to occupy the same conversations in greater frequencies.


Shepard Fairey thinks I have Klout!

i’ve never been sure how much stock to put into Klout. if you’re not aware, Klout measures your online influence. how do they measure it? ….errm…. well that’s part of Klout’s controversy. no one can really figure out what they’re basing it on (some secret algorithm), and when people’s Klout score suddenly drops 20 points, their measuring system can be seen as rather arbitrary.

i don’t take my score too seriously, but i do enjoy it since Klout has awarded me some free perks, and because of it i ended up being named one of Toronto’s Top Tweeters.

but anyhoo, i log in to my klout account yesterday to find that DA MAN
aka Obey
aka Andre The Giant Has A Posse
aka Shepard Fairey
aka Obama HOPE poster
aka Exit Through The Gift Shop/Kwik-E Mart
aka dude who got punched out in Denmark for promoting peace
…..yeah, that AMAZEBALLS DUDE that i’ve profiled on this blog so often he has his own dedicated category,

had given ME a +K in GRAFFITI on klout!!!!!!!!

somebody change my shorts.

if you don’t understand the terminology, “+K” is a fun awarding system Klout has set up to allow users to give their peers and people who influence them “klout-points” in a topic the person in knowledgeable about. for example, most people give me +K in the topics of graffiti, toronto, and social media.

as you can see, the +K came from the verified account of Mr Fairey.

i am extremely honoured and humbled to be noticed by one of my favourite street artists. every time i find one of his pieces, i get all giddy and start jumping up and down like a school girl. when i first found one of his Obey stickers on Houston Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan near Alphabet City, I literally started jumping up and down and photographed the sticker a bajillion times. I would later find much more of his work around Manhattan and Brooklyn, and even a few impeccably-untouched and preserved stickers around Toronto!

Anyway, fanks sir!

Ps I’d just like to point out that, currently, my Klout score is higher than Shepard Fairey’s …. that can’t be right. See what I mean about that tricky algorithm?!

Check out my Shepard Fairey category to see more of his work that I’ve photographed!


Yes, I actually posted this

What?

Don’t give me that look.

I’ve had a few medical problems this past year! That COULD be an actual side effect, y’know.

And I have built my empire on TMI!

#Tumbleweed 

Pfft, no one uses Google Plus anyway.


SOLD!

The Love A Heart event was a massive success! As I blogged about before, I was asked by the wonder-woman event organizer if I’d like to be auctioned off on a date to the highest bidder, with all the money going to the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Naturally I said yes, but as the event approached, I slowly began to pass a kidney stone of sheer terror. It’s petrifying asking a crowd of 500-plus people to put a dollar value on your debatable-hotness! Bussey had blogged a few weeks ago that I would, in all likelihood, sell for $170 which I thought was extremely generous.

So how much did I sell for?

$300!!!

If I had been wearing underwear that night, they would have needed changing. (Undies are for quitters).

And who was my top bidder?


Dis guy.

Although technically he shares me with my wifey, but that goes without saying.

Now please enjoy this photogasm which accurately depicts the depravity and kickassery of the night.

No comment.

me, ashley, and sofi shall henceforth be known as the “boob troop.”

shannon and i have devil eyes!

was nice to see george again. we had a quick catch-up. he sold for $800, which i assumed would have been the top bid of the night. out of nowhere, ryan-gosling-esque Kerry pulls a $1025!! bless his heart, he then matched the bid.

if only all the hosers we knew in highschool back in scarbage could see us now

OMG IS THAT LEN?!! that’s what i was thinking the entire night, dude never comes out! it takes a lot to get him excited about events. he was also my saviour, basically talking me off a ledge for the past two weeks. i was genuinely shitting myself for this event, but he was coo’ing in my BBM ear to just have a laugh and remember it’s for charity (with extra shits n’ giggles). totally worked!

although after i got off stage, my adrenaline suddenly drained, and vicki needed to haul me outside for a quick breather, as i had a wee lil’ panic attack.

did i mention i stayed in a hotel that night? look at me, i’m adult-y.

view of the ROM. years and years ago, i worked as a tour guide on those hop-on-hop-off double decker buses for tourists, and when we’d drive by the ROM (which was still under reconstruction at the time), i used to say this joke to squeeze more tips outta the gullible americans:

and now we’re going by the Royal Ontario Museum, or the ROM as we like to call it. now as you can see, it’s still under reconstruction, but as you all know… ROM wasn’t built in a day.”

wocka wocka wocka.

i also once worked at the Royal Conservatory of Music….. for one day. i quit that job by the stroke of 5pm.

they were filming some movie or tv show at Varsity Stadium. probably one of those crap canadian tv shows like Being Erica or Flashpoint. (ps sorry to all my actor/director/writer friends who are employed on said-shows. i wuv yoos guise).

annnnnd…. scene.


See you at #LoveAHeart tonight!

Love A Heart is tonight!

my wifey and i are both on the auction block. come buy Valentines-y dates with us!

truth be told, i am kinda shitting myself, but at the end of the day, charity events like this shouldn’t be taken too seriously. it’s supposed to jolly! let’s have a laugh and buy some hotties a pint.

see you there, fellas!

(photography by Paul Hillier)