My Time In Montreal
Months before I planned my East Coast adventure, I had only anticipated going to New York. Montreal was an add-on I made out of impulsiveness (which I may or may not explain later) about a month into the first stages of planning my solo trip.
After doing research, I found out that three days in the city would be enough, as people were saying that there isn't much to do (kind of like Vancouver). Even as I was making my itinerary for Montreal, there was only a limited number of attractions to visit. This made it easy for me to make a more strategic plan of what I'd be doing every day.
As I mentioned in the prologue of my solo trip, I kept a small leather journal with me that I wrote in at the end of each day. It wasn't until the last few days where I stopped doing so, because I wanted to embrace everything I was experiencing. On the flight back home from Toronto, I completed the travel journal. That being said, I'll be implementing some of the entries I made during my trip along with my reminiscent mind.
DAY 0: August 21st - Oh, hello anxiety and fear!
Months before my trip, I was feeling anything but scared. However, the night before I left Vancouver, it was as if all of the anxious thoughts of loved ones decided to flood my mind all at once. Hands shaking and eyes fixed as I was packing my suitcase, my thoughts were flying everywhere and bouncing off the walls of my mind;
What were you thinking, Lindsey?! You're going to be gone for two weeks and live on your own. What made you think you can do this? What if something happens to you?!
As this was going on inside, my aunt opened my bedroom door to ask me how packing was going and if I was ready to leave, whereas all I could say was "Good. Yeah." As soon as she left, I broke into tears and cried for a few minutes because I was so tense, thinking about all of the worries that have been projected on me, especially within the few weeks prior to departure.
"Don't go out at night. You should always be back home before the sun is down." What if I lose track of time? What if something happens that delays me from getting home? "Be careful in New York. It's the city with the highest crime rates. Always be aware of your surroundings! Wear your bag at the front! Be very cautious!" AHH.
It doesn't sound too terrible now that I'm writing it down, but anxious thoughts of others along with a certain tone of hesitation and worrisome looks did not help my situation at all. I could sense the fear right through their words. Nevertheless, I spent my sleepless night reminding myself that all of the worries were coming from a place of love.
DAY 1: August 22nd - It's really happening.
Around 6AM, my mom and sister dropped me off at the airport. I figured out how tired I was by not being able to print my plane tickets at the check-in kiosk just to find out that I was at the wrong one. After retrieving my papers to freedom, I hugged my sister goodbye for the whole family and walked away into security screening.
Yes, I wore my TEDxSFU lanyard holding my luggage lock keys on my neck, because I just knew I would somehow misplace them.
They stuck with me the whole trip. :)
"Today's mood forecast:
A mix of hunger, tiredness, anxiety, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, excitement!
~ it's kind of confusing deciphering from anxiety and excitement though... I only got about three hours of sleep last night -- my eyes still be blood shot red, but welp; I'll have plenty of time to catch up on sleep.
I've currently been waiting to board my plane to Calgary (then Montreal) and I'm so excited because I love plane rides AND I'm so excited to have poutine and sleep early when I land.
I know I can do this. I know who I am, I got my ish together.
Adventure awaits for Livin'Lin. ~"
Experiencing turbulence while flying in clouds for 25 minutes was EVERYTHING.
Montreal welcomed me with rain that I longed for while Vancouver was currently witnessing heat waves and BC wild fires. Thankfully, I trusted "The Weather Network" enough to pack a rain jacket.
After retrieving an OPUS card (similar to the compass card back home) to access public transit, I stepped out, into the humid air for my hour-long journey to my accommodation. Finding my AirBnB was my first adventure. Since I arrived in Montreal around dinner time, it was dark by the time I made it out of Laurier Station to my hood for the next few days -- Plateau-Mont-Royal.
9:14PM EST -- Those Damn Watermelons
Everything up to this point didn't feel real. I felt like this was going to be like every other trip that I did alone (I know, so dumb). Yes, it was slightly confusing finding the 747 bus at the airport and intimidating to hear beautifully and fluently spoken French, but once I got on the bus, I thought "Ok... this is just like Vancouver, but everything is in French... aight, I got this."
The metro station wasn't confusing, but it was a lot more spacey than any other I'd seen before. The process of actually 'finding' my AirBnB was trickier than I thought.
First, I was walking westwards (the wrong way), then I walked past my street and way eastwards... when I finally found la Rue Boyer, I rang the doorbell about three times for two different apartments because the number ____ was directly above ____, and I had no clue which one was right. I waited for what felt like 10 minutes (though it was probably half that time) and started anxiously sweating outside -- also because it was humid out. The people that lived upstairs opened the door and I asked them where my host, Nelia, was and the guy told me that she wasn't home, but gave me her phone number. Long story short, she picked up, I told her I was at her apartment, she asked if I was outside, and then BAM, the door opened and I was SO. RELIEVED. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a place to stay.
When I got inside, she gave me a tour of the place and showed me my room. Today was very tiring and I thought I'd better finish my food, so... I took out the watermelons mama packed me this morning (or I think, last night) and started to cry. ~
It was funny at the time and it's still funny now. I was sitting on my bed with the covers pulled down and the Ziploc container in my hands, triggered by watermelons that my mom had probably packed me the night before, and I couldn't help but realize that I was across the country and so far away from home. I didn't even want to adjust my watch because this feeling of missing home surprised me and I could barely take in that I was in a foreign room that I booked myself months ago.
My sobbing was quickly disrupted when Nelia asked if I wanted to eat something, to which I declined. I started an inner motivational monologue to myself, saying that I'm very proud I've made it safely to my place and that the city is just waiting for me to explore it. After recollecting myself, I knocked on the door of the room next to me, because there was also another guest who arrived earlier; a girl, one year younger than me, who was visiting from Czech Republic. She was also travelling by herself for two weeks, but instead, exploring the cities in Ontario. Though she was sweet, her demeanor was very quiet; and when someone is more quiet than me, I'm powerless in trying to pull them out of their shell.
After acquainting myself with my house neighbor, I went into the kitchen to speak with Nelia. In addition with providing me brochures of the city entertainment and attractions, she told me about where I could buy groceries and how to get around in the area. As she was talking, I noticed that she had an accent and asked her if she spoke any other languages, to which she replied "Yes. Tagalog." I know a Filipino when I see/hear one! From that moment on, I felt more comfortable being in my position; almost like a piece of my family came along with me.
I planned to get poutine the night I arrived in Montreal, but Nelia suggested that I don't go by myself, since it was past 10PM. I didn't like feeling restrained by this new sense of freedom given to me, but I told her that I understood and went to my room to FaceTime my family back home. As I was speaking to my brother, Nelia knocked on my door and said "Let's go. C'mon, I'll take you to get poutine." As my blood was rushing with excitement and content, I ended the video call and said I'd be back later.
Walking and being with Nelia was like being with my aunt back home. As we were walking on Mont-Royal Avenue to "La Belle Province," I told her about my trip plans alongside learning about one another. Once we got to the diner-style restaurant, the place was empty. After eating half of my poutine, I got up to ask for a plastic bag and used the opportunity to practice my French conversational skills (and to see if they still existed). The guy who was working asked me if I spoke Spanish, which struck us into a conversation of how one can tell what ethnicity you are. At one point, he told me that I could speak English if I wanted to, but I refused. After my first mini, solely French-spoken conversation, Nelia got up from the booth where we sat and we both said our thanks before going out the door.
Before heading back home, she walked me to another street and showed me one of the nearest grocery stores by her place and where I should buy "the best" ice cream. Her offer to walk with me just so I could get poutine was such a sweet gesture, I slept with a smile on my face after calling back my family. My first night in Montreal was definitely one to remember.
DAY 2: August 23rd - Well, this is underwhelming.
Maybe I just wasn't feeling it, because after working for months, I kind of just wanted to sleep for two weeks straight. That being said, I didn't find downtown Montreal exciting enough for me to not want to lay down and rest. My morning started with my OPUS card not letting me through at the metro station. I decided to approach the elderly lady next to me who had long grey hair and a rolling bag. I'm not exactly sure what she told me, but she offered to walk me to the other exit of Laurier station where there was an information kiosk, which was a few blocks away. At this point, my heart felt so loved by the kindness I've received in Montreal.
In about half an hour, I was downtown. Before heading over to Old Montreal, I decided to buy fish 'n' chips at "Brit and Chips," because I read that they were kind of famous (and if you didn't already know, this has been my favourite food since forever). To my taste buds, they were solid, but I still prefer "Go Fish," here in Vancouver. After eating, I started walking around until I reached Old Montreal.
It's quite a condensed area, but its history stands out through the beautiful cobblestone streets and European architecture. Most of my day was spent walking around downtown, mostly because I didn't want to be blocked at the metro station again. I explored Old Port, the tiniest Chinatown I've ever seen (it was literally a block long -- you could see the end of it from one side), a Christmas-themed store called "Noël éternel," parts of McGill University, McCord Museum, Argo bookshop on Saint Catherine Street (Montreal's main shopping area), and many churches. I have a rocky relationship with religion, but you can't deny that the architecture in and out of these holy places are stunning.
Other than Old Montreal, I really enjoyed McCord Museum and learning more about the First Nations Peoples in Canada. My visit there definitely solidified the fact that I not only love learning, but I also need to learn new things in order for my mind to be stimulated. The museum visit almost acted as caffeine to wake me up from seeing all of the grey in downtown. As I was walking to the metro station, I also made sure to take photos of the admirable architecture in the city.
Altogether, I visited many places on my second day in Montreal, but there were only a few highlights. In my journal, I wrote that my anxiety ruled over me, because in my opinion, the day wasn't productive enough, or at least it didn't feel like I did as much as I had hoped. I remember battling between buying dinner or not, because I didn't want to use my French, so I ended up just buying instant noodles and eating at home. Today, I learned that no matter where you go, your mental health issues will follow. All I could hope for was that tomorrow would be more fun, and I made it a goal for me to make it happen.
DAY 3: August 24 - You're more than you ever thought.
Around brunch time, I walked to Mont-Royal Avenue to find that a bunch of vendors had flooded the streets where cars were suppose to be. Later, Nelia told me that this was an annual event and that other main streets are closed off at some point in the summer for this festival-type affair. After taking in the crowd, I made my way to the famous "St-Viateur Bagel Shop" to buy a sesame seed bagel with salmon and cream cheese.
Yesterday's anxiety was creeping up on me, so I decided to call my friend back home and tell her how I was feeling, because part of me was also surprisingly lonely. I sat at a nearby park for a bit, but shortly went back to my AirBnB. After talking out my feelings and thinking things through, I finally ate my lunch that I bought. I'll just say that (taken from my Yelp review, lol) I'm glad I don't live here or else I'd be ordering one every day, because it was absolutely delicious.
I left my place later this day because I wanted to be at Mount Royal when the sun was setting. Before I made my way up to the lookout, I visited "Marché Jean-Talon" (similar to Granville Island's Public Market), and the big and beautiful St. Joseph's Oratory. At night, I bought cookie dough ice cream from Nelia's suggested shop, "Bo-Bec," and ate it while walking home. It started dripping all over my hands, so by the time I got home, I had to place the cone in a cup and try to eat what was remaining.
I don't know why I didn't mention anything in my journal about being up at Mont-Royal because it remains a huge highlight of my two-week solo trip. I spent a good amount of time up there, just overlooking the whole city and observing everyone else doing the same. In the middle of it all was a group of people doing yoga with a man playing the piano. The whole setting was everything to take in. I sat on the steps that led to the chalet at the top and took out an apple from my backpack. At this point, I was really missing my friends and wished that they were there with me just so they could see what I was seeing. I texted the one friend I had called earlier if I could speak again, but in the end, I was glad she couldn't get to me in time, because it forced me to breathe in the present moment and appreciate my surroundings, even if it meant being by myself.
I always thought that because I spend a lot of time being alone and that being an introvert, exploring by myself for two weeks seemed like a huge weight would be taken off my shoulders, but I was proven wrong by what I was experiencing. At this exact place, I realized that my life may just be constantly trying to find the balance of being alone and being with others. Too much of anything isn't good, but how will I know when I've had enough? Honestly, I don't think I'll ever know. My feelings tend to subconsciously control and justify my actions, but because of some source, we can't always do what we feel, and how we choose to deal with that is how we grow.
Overall, Montreal felt very similar to Vancouver. Downtown is small and grey, the transit system is easy to understand, everywhere felt more safe than anywhere I've ever been, the food was delicious, and if it matters, the people here are so good looking. Other than the superficial, it was the mental journey I was going through that I found the most significant during my three days here.
I'm thankful for all of the lessons that Montreal handed me, because without them, I wouldn't have had an amazing trip. I can't rewind to the state of mind before the remainder of my venture, but I'm sitting here smiling and feeling even stronger than I thought I ever could be, so I guess that's an indication that everything worked out for the best.