Monday, February 20, 2017

So I live in China now

Shanghai Night City Wallpaper

Who saw this coming? Not I. Not I. At the turn of the New Year, I had the next two and a half years laid out in front of me. Go to Colombia, find a job till the summer then start working at an international school in the fall for a two year contract. Set it and forget it. I should have known I didn’t have life figured out. The biggest surprise from all of this and an option I frankly never considered was not enjoying Colombia/South America. Granted I only visited Colombia for just over three weeks but the time spent there left me anticipating my return flight home and essentially no desire to find a country I found more suitable. Maybe I would have fallen in love with Peru or Chile but I may rely more on my gut instinct than I should and my gut and heart was telling me I didn’t belong there and that I’d be happier at home.

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Colombia isn’t a terrible or incredibly dangerous place but it’s not the best and safe wouldn’t be the first would I would use to describe it. I never got robbed or go into a situation that made me fearful but a few friends got robbed and I also felt like I needed to look over my shoulder or be careful not to bring my wallet out or worried they would steal my not so modern phone that they would ultimately regret taking from me. It is more than possible that I could have moved there for two plus years and nothing negative would have happened to me but it wasn’t a chance I was interested in discovering the outcome to. On the positive side, Minca is worth visiting and was once filled with guerilla fighters who now drive you up the mountain on their motorcycles. I stayed on a coffee plantation and did a coffee tour, went on a little hike and ate delicious food. The mud “volcano” was the other highlight and fully recommended.

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Other small details that I didn’t love was feeling that Medellin was possibly more overrated than New Zealand. Almost. I don’t get it. Yes it has good public transportation and cable cars. Yes they have a rich area for foreigners and has an eternal spring climate but I didn’t find the nightlife as outrageous as advertised and the food didn’t blow me away. Overall, I’d give Colombia a B for effort and while it’s trendy to fall in love with Colombia, it just didn’t speak to me. If you have an inkling that it is for you, I definitely think you should make it happen but I’d also leave some room for exploring a few other neighbouring countries whilst you’re there.

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Other general thoughts on Colombia before this turns into a blog about all things Chinese is that I obviously knew that they spoke Spanish but I was under the impression some Colombians could speak English. They cannot. When a few of us were taking a mini-van/small bus to Guatape, (also worth visiting) I noticed they sell more tickets than they have seats so you have literally women and children sitting down in the aisle; it’s madness. Also on said buses, men will come on with dozens of treats and try selling them to you. Not overly delicious. You want drugs? Don’t worry, a thousand people will try to sell them to you….constantly. They have green fire hydrants! I brought my massive orange pack, my day bag and a fairly big gym bag with me to Colombia which was wayyyyy too much stuff. For China, I only brought my day bag and gym bag and carried both bags on. I’m on a minimalist mission and you’ll be hearing all about that later. Hint: less is more people! (Luckily being poor and without a home has naturally led me towards the path of minimalism)

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I will leave it at that and make a more complete Bert moves to Shanghai post later on in the week but I’m still alive and think things are going to be OK. Stay tuned.

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“The best way to meet someone is to have something better to do than meeting someone.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day 15. Colombia.

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I brought too much stuff; that’s the thought that has been crossing my mind the most these days. It’s like I’ve never travelled before because it’s amateur hour travelling with Teacher Bert in 2017. At least in 2011, I didn’t know any better; there’s no excuse now. I have a massive bag, a gym bag and a day pack all filled to the top. I temporarily lost my $50 water bottle, had to make an immediate return to the hostel to get my wallet and I left my Polska towel at a hostel in Cartagena and didn’t manage to get it back in time. I also think I lost like 70, 000 Colombian pesos the other night and I surely paid too much for my Colombian sombrero. Who is in charge around here?

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Looking on the positive side which is apparently a thing people do, I’ve lucked out in terms of people I’ve met and having people to spend the last two weeks with. The last ten or so days has been spent with an American from Delaware who makes YouTube videos for all intense and purposes we will call Ben. I suppose it’s nice not being alone all the time and having someone I can remark my witty comments to. Splitting cabs, eating food and wandering around with other human beings from North America is I gather better than doing it alone with my headphones. I find it a bit strange to travel this far to chill with people from Montreal but meeting local people who speak English and want to explore isn’t the easiest thing to make happen. I knew everyone would speak Spanish here but I thought it would be at a higher level than it is. I have some serious Spanish learning to catch up to. Colombians are fairly friendly and I feel pretty safe but it’s not like I’m blown away by either.

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One thing that came as a surprise and I am not adjusting to is cold showers. On the list of things I despise, this is towards to the top. Granted, it’s 30 plus degrees outside so I understand their reasoning but I’m a house cat. Food is decent and pretty cheap. Uber is available but not sure there’s a drastic price difference. The stray dog situation reminds me of Thailand and escorts are everywhere which has a certain Asian feel to it. Highlight so far is the mud volcano day hands down. We booked a tour the night before, left at 10:30, walked up the “volcano” and this ensued:

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Walking back down the steps after this potential religious cleansing felt like aliens learning to walk for the first time and learning about life on their new planet. While it was super touristy, it was an experience I’ve never even knew existed. There was also a baby in the volcano and she wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about her current life situation. There are guys who take your picture for you, massage you, and ladies who wash you off after for a total price of 12, 000. I think the tour in total cost 70,000ish which is about $30 Canadian. After the mud had been washed away
 and we felt like citizens of Earth, the bus took us to a pretty dope beach that was hands down better than the beach we took a day trip to before; playa blanca. Nothing inherently wrong with the first beach but it’s massively popular and with limited room to get my Frisbee game on.

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So after Medellin, we hit up Cartagena where we went to a few beaches and the volcano. Cartagena also has these party buses that take over the town at night. Several attempts were made to make the party bus a reality but it ended up being too long of a tour for too much money; finding the meeting point was also a challenge. This is what we missed out on:

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Cartagena has some solid street art, worthwhile hostels, a cool old town, a historic fort and good food:

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After Cartagena was Santa Marta. Whenever you are booking a mini bus or regular bus to another town and you are staying at a hotel or hostel, just ask them the best way instead of being a hero and doing it on your own. I booked our tickets online but apparently the bus station is a little far out of town so we could have gotten to Santa Marta faster and more conveniently if I would have just asked for help. It all worked out though and we spent the night here just hanging out at the hostel which is apparently a wind tunnel. I was also reminded on this trip that I remind people of Ted on How I Met Your Mother; I take this as an insult due to the fact that Ted is not cool and definitely a bit of a dud.

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I have been interviewing with schools and have more set up. I’ve certainly been on the Gringo trail and excited to get off it for a little while. I'm headed towards the northern most part of South America tomorrow so should have solid pics and hopefully a tale to tell from that. I miss home more than I can remember but I think that’s due to spending the last 6 months seeing my words can’t describe cute niece and getting far too big nephew almost daily. Things seem to be coming together and should be clearer at the end of the week. I also hate Aaron Rodgers. I wish you an enjoyable third week of 2017.

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"Whatever you do in this life, it is not legendary unless your friends are there to see it."

Barney Stinson

Friday, January 6, 2017

Colombia eh? Si señor

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Sooooo what’s new? It’s 2017; that’s exciting. I’m in Medellin, Colombia until Sunday then I’m off to Cartagena, Colombia where I have a job interview on the 11th for a job at an international school. I have a few other interviews set up for a teaching position that will start in September. So Bert, why Colombia? Well, my goal is to live on every continent so South America was next on my radar. After picking my continent, I needed to zero in on a country. Everyone I talk to raves about Colombia. Decision made. There is a job fair at the end of the month in Kingston which I will be attending if I don’t secure a position with a school whilst in Colombia. I thought visiting a few of the schools before agreeing to spend the next two years here would be a prudent choice. I also want to learn Spanish and adore the heat. I’d like to explore all of South America and am roughly planning on spending the next two plus years in South America. Great. How is it so far?

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I love rating places as either over or underrated. Take a moment to guess what my initial assessment of Medellin after spending almost a week here and going on two day tours of the city, taking the cable cars and wandering around aimlessly, I must report that I’m slightly disappointed and must rate Medellin overrated. Is it New Zealand bad? Of course not. It’s easy and cheap-ish to get around the city. Ubers abound everywhere. The temperature is quite nice and there is mango everywhere. I also got a cheap pedicure, apparently cheap shaves are available and there is a strong police presence that is reassuring. It’s also my own fault for not learning Spanish before moving here so I can’t blame the country for being Spanish speaking but I thought English would have a stronger presence here. No senor!

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The city is quite large and isn’t conducive to just wandering around and figuring it out. Poverty is rampant, a lot of stares on the metro, not the best cuisine and overrated partying makes me wonder what all the hype is about. It’s a solid city with some things to do but after almost a week here, I’m ready to bounce and check out more of Colombia. I think a smaller city with more beach\jungle and less white people would be more up my alley. There are a few peculiar things about Colombia that I’ve noticed that you might take a mild interest in.
-Their fire hydrants are green. Am I the only one who finds this fact fascinating?
-At stop lights, instead of homeless people just asking for money, they will juggle, breakdance or some other busking activity that I quite enjoy.
-Many women in their mid-20’s seem to have a kid or two without male support.
-Colombians are quite short and I am by far the tallest on the metro. Wearing a Canada t-shirt is also not helping me blend in to my surroundings.
-Apparently you can drink in cars and on the streets here. Apparently.
-Same time zone which I find surprisingly comforting.
-No adapter needed for plugging electronics in.
-You can rent bikes for only an hour at a time so on our bike tour of the city, we needed to keep replenishing our accounts which I found silly. I asked my guide why we couldn’t rent them for a day. His response: “Our culture is different than yours. Ours is……………..more damaging.”
-They love wearing jeans and semi/very provocative clothes.
-I ate wings one night in this fancy district where all the rich people hangout and they give you gloves to eat your wings with. Gloves to eat wings. This seems practical but I couldn’t take part of this social norm.
-They burn these on New Year’s:

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That’s all well and good Bert but tell us about all the mistakes you’ve made in the past week. I’d love to!!
-I’ve lost three phone chargers in less than a week; two before even leaving my brother’s place.
-I gave my sunglasses to my mom so I wouldn’t forget them. Don’t give someone who is equally as forgetful as you to hold onto something for you. My fault.
-I didn’t book my flight to Cartagena early enough so it’s about twice the price it should be. Still only $108 but should have only been $50.
-Made no friends and didn’t talk to anyone on a four hour walking trip. I might also have been one of the very few drinking beer on the tour which did not endear me to the group. I’m on vacation.
-I went to buy new chargers for my phone and left my phone at the store. The lady was trustworthy but I definitely need to learn to take a minute, understand my surroundings then make a plan. There really is no rush.
-I tried finding the museum of modern art but somehow couldn’t figure out the giant signs pointing me in the right direction. I got a pedicure instead. Not convinced this was a mistake.

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I’m going to finish my week strong in Medellin but if I don’t make it back to Medellin again, I will be okay with that. I wish you a super duper 2017 destroying all the goals and dreams you’ve set for yourselves. 

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"If the party sucks, make it better or leave."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Dating advice from Teacher Bert

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I’m sure since the moment I started posting here five years ago, you’ve all been wondering in the back of your minds “When is he going to finally give us some dating advice?” Wait no longer my friend, our time has arrived. Should you take dating advice from me? No, no you should not. Should you do the opposite of what I think is best? Yes, yes you should.

Things you should do:

I’ve been on one date with one lady in my dating career but I will try to pass on everything that I have learned in that time-span. First things first. Do something you haven’t done before that you think would be fun or something you know you already love. Worst case scenario is you just did something you’ve always wanted to try or you did something you enjoyed even if the guy was a dud (see writer).

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Keep it short. 
Don’t be going on 9 hour thousand islands trips. Under an hour is the dream but no more than two. You theoretically have your entire lives to start annoying each other; let’s keep the first one short and sweet.
I’m a fan of outside, having your environment help with the conversation and nothing too formal. Eat ice cream and go for a walk in the park or play Frisbee while listening to music and drinking a few beers.

You are there to have fun so…HAVE FUN! Let’s face it, this person probably isn’t the one but we can learn a few things from everyone who enters our lives. They know tons of things that we don’t. They have at least one or two interesting tales or experiences that could enrich your life.
This might be more for guys because I feel like there might be more pressure on us to make a quality first date impression but try not to impress them too much. Be yourself and ask yourself, “Is this person actually legit or do I just want to hang out with them because they are good looking?” Just because someone is good looking or other people like them, does not make them cool. Don’t be overcritical but look for things you like but be on the lookout for things that could become taxing.

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If you haven’t been hanging out with Teacher Bert recently, you have missed out on what I’m going to call Question Bert. I’ve developed and researched a variety of fascinating questions to use on first dates and in everyday life with people I’m forced to have small talk with. While people say it’s not a job interview, essentially it is. I’m a BIG fan of questions but make it seem natural and don’t pepper them with questions. Be cool but have a good 10 in your back pocket.

Remember things they say. What???? I know, right? People think it’s important and rightfully so. You don’t need to remember everything but remember what they do, a trip they have planned, their best friend or roommate’s names, etc. I promise it will make greater strides than you spending $200 eating at a French restaurant for your first date. Another point, avoid going to restaurants but try to incorporate food because women love snacks/treats. There’s a saying that says “It’s not a date unless you split something.” Do with that information what you wish.

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Don’t: (Oh boy. I’m going to try and not get carried away here)

Don’t be someone you’re not. If you aren’t super funny, put the comedy routine on the back-burner. You aren’t into sports? Put down the racket for now. People can see through what you aren’t so embrace who you are but be open to learning something new.

Details. Details. Details. If you are a guy and you don’t think she’s going to notice that thing in your car, stain on your shirt or whatever little thing you are trying to hide, you couldn’t be more wrong. Women have hawk eyes and attention to detail. Tighten up your game and get out there stud.
Punctuality. Be on time you monkey head.

Do I have to tell you to dress nicely, have good shoes and smell like a vanilla candle?

If you have a problem with losing and being somewhat competitive, DO NOT bring your date to a board game café. Just don’t.

Don’t take everything so seriously. Don’t picture her as someone you might marry or blah blah blah. It will all work itself out so just try to have fun, make them laugh and if you go on a second date, build on what you’ve built on the first.

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Don’t kiss them. Whatever you do, don’t kiss them. Oh, you are going to kiss her as she looks for her keys at the end of the night? Stop. It’s too much for me. Don’t kiss them on the second if we you really want my advice. When they think you’re going to zig, you zag. Don’t be like everyone else. Don’t be predictable. People on dates are guessing what they think you’re going to do next. Leave them guessing.

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Meeting up with people and going on dates with strangers can be extremely awkward in a ton of different ways. One of the first dates I went on after being away was with this 24ish year old Asian girl I had met. We met up for lunch (try to meet up after work or at night) and had sushi. I wasn’t really feeling it and I’m bad at faking interest so towards the end of the date she says “You don’t meet many new people, do you?” Jab, jab, upper cut. My counter to that would be that I meet lots of people and I feel like I know pretty quickly where things are and are not headed. Maybe I go with that first impression too long but I think it’s important to go with your instinct most of the time. I’ve personally have had enough for one year and am looking at 2017 with a high sense of optimism.

I think we make dating harder than it needs to be. If you want a simple, clear way to decide if you want to keep dating someone, I have the solution. Don’t worry about ten years from now. Don’t worry about next month. At the end of every date if you are thinking about seeing this person again, ask yourself “Would I rather see them or would I rather _________”. If you’d rather do something else, that is not the wrong answer and maybe you shouldn’t see that person again or maybe another time might work better. Just keep asking yourself “What would I rather do. Meet up or do my own thing or meet up with someone else?” I promise it will solve your problem. What would you rather do? Simple as that.
I will leave you with these two posts I’ve written previously

And a post from my main man Mark Manson. He sums relationships and other factors in our life as Fuck yes or no. If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a no. Even simpler. Happy American Thanksgiving.

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“Fortune favours the bold.”


Monday, November 7, 2016

How's your first impression?

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I’ve thought about writing a post like this for about two years at this point. With all that time to ponder about the topic, you would assume that you would be getting a high quality, well thought out post from Teacher Bert. You would be mistaken. The idea first came about two years ago with a friend when the topic of what if what we thought we looked like wasn’t really what we actually looked like so mirrors, water and pictures weren’t the complete picture. So we started researching how to find out how other people see us. The main objective was purely superficial and wanting to know if who we see in the mirror is really us. The article went into great detail about more in-depth specific areas to focus on to understand ourselves and what to look for in making a good first impression, maintain friendships, etc. 

Robert Rodriguez

The article got quite deep and right at the end of the lengthy article, our answer was merely a footnote when it stated “If you want to know how other people see you, hold a mirror up in front of another mirror and that’s how people see you.” It was one of those had to be there moments but it was the funniest thing that happened that year by far.  I then randomly found a book on first impressions and it has taken me this long to comb through it so let’s dive into how people see us and how we can improve.

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I’m confident and certainly not proud of the fact that I don’t think I give off a great first or even second impression. I think my fifth, tenth and sixtieth impressions are great but I don’t think people meet me at a party and think “I like that Bert guy.” Most people come around to the idea of Bert making their lives more entertaining but some people take longer to warm up than others. Two areas I knew I needed to focus on before reading about this was that I don’t smile enough and could make more eye contact. I can specifically remember my cousin telling me that I needed to work on it which I think I’ve made strides on but still not a 100% comfort level.

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 After reading First Impressions, I was alerted to the fact that I also should spend a tad more attention on matching rate of speech with people (I talk too fast when I get nervous; I was also told to slow down how fast I speak in Thailand because they were just learning English), give more compliments, show some deeper feelings, people like being gently touched in conversation (apparently) and to be the one to introduce yourself first. A few things. I specifically avoid touching people I just meet because I think it’s strange. Even on a first date, I won’t touch them and almost want to message them just before meeting them that I don’t want to have an awkward hello hug. I’m super awkward at meeting people and they go for a cool handshake and I’m doing a classic business man handshake; it’s awkward 80% of the time. I’m not cool. I wish it was Thailand and everyone did this to say hi and goodbye:

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I’m also guilty of not being the first person to introduce myself. I have a memory of this being a New Year’s resolution of mine but alarmingly, it didn’t stick. I want to be the type of person who goes for it first. The other person is thinking/dreading it as well so you might as well get the points for doing it first. It certainly shows confidence and being comfortable in the situation. I also struggle at remembering their name and using it in conversation. Like appallingly bad. I’m almost positive my mom is named Beth. This and smiling will be the two areas I focus on first. 

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Things I do well? Oh, thanks for asking reader. I think I excel at asking other people questions, listening to their response, being an active listener and not trying to brag or show off to impress people. (it would be a short conversation) I think I’m good at making people feel comfortable if I’m comfortable around them, good at making people laugh and being able to laugh at myself or share mishaps to gain common ground. If you want to take a quick gander at the tables and fill them in to give you some insight, here is the link. Click on tables on the left hand side on the site.

They suggest tackling one issue at a time then once you feel comfortable, starting on your next area of weakness. They also suggest taking pride in what we do well because it’s easy to beat ourselves up about on downfalls and not focus as much on our strengths. Asking yourself how you actually want to be perceived is a good step in understanding what changes you want to make, if any. If you are happy with the way everything has gone so far, no need to change but I feel like there is always room for improvement. Asking a close friend for some tips is recommended but not to take the advice too personally and get offended. I think you are super-duper not matter what.

I took this quiz and it turns out I’m super shy. Agree? Give the test a whirl:

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 “If you are grading your own test, you will pass every time! Be careful of your self-perception because it could deceive you.”

Mario Hill

Friday, October 28, 2016

Going on a trip? Bring these

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Since the last post was a bit on the sad side, I thought it would be a good idea to have this post a little more upbeat! I will try to keep this short and sweet. If you are about to or thinking about a little adventure for yourself, I’ve compiled an incomprehensive list of items you might want to investigate further. Obviously, nobody has paid me any money to talk about things I’ve used or want to use whilst travelling. Nobody is paying Bert for his mom and two friends to read his blog. Let’s get started.

Things I’ve had/have or similar.

Forge 75 Backpack Eclipse/Lava

I don’t have this bag specifically but you can get a solid bag for under $200. The bigger your bag, the more stuff you’re going to bring. The old adage “Bring half the stuff and twice the money” is more than accurate. 

This mesh bag might be my favourite purchase because it was so cheap and comes in handy weekly even at home. Mine is orange though so it adds a certain pizzazz. Keeps your dirty laundry away from your clean and it some countries you can just drop the bag off and pick it up a few days later. Why not buy two since you’ll be down a bag as your clothes are getting cleaned!

Organic Cotton Sleeping Bag Liner Rectangular White

This might be my second favourite. Comes especially in handy if you are staying in hostels; much more sanitary and gives you piece of mind. Basically the liner of a sleeping bag that sort of acts like a cocoon. I lost mine pretty early into my travels but would certainly recommend and buy another one.

Cosmo Headlamp Plum

Comes in handy on hikes or dark hostels. Frees up your hands whilst carrying items. Not expensive and
makes you look prepared. “Oh is it dark miss? Let me show you the way. Oh I like to stay prepared!”

Conspiracy Razor Outdry Trail Shoe Black/Heatwave
Another great item that was taken outside a hostel in Malaysia. Don’t leave these gems outside people. Great for hiking and going sockless if that’s the life you’ve chosen.

Nothing sexy about extra battery chargers for your phones but I promise you will need it.

Since we are on the charger topic, you will also need an adapter and you don’t need to spend a fortune on it.

You won’t want to lug around your big pack all day through X city so throw this daypack on and get out there missy!!!

High Jinx 24 Daypack Black/Asphalt

This might not seem necessary but one night everyone will be around a campfire or hanging out on a beach and you will want some beats. I also use it for shower music and podcasts to entertain me while I clean my room.

This might not seem necessary but one night everyone will be around a campfire or hanging out on a beach and you will want some beats. I also use it for shower music and podcasts to entertain me while I clean my room.


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I suppose you think this is where I talk about not playing with frisbee on a roof in Thailand? Well I'm not going to say it.  

Ultralite Towel River

This one I was advised against by my brother and since I’ve lost both of the ones I’ve bought, you could probably skip it but one day you will wish you had it.

Classic Stainless Steel Bottle 1.18L Shale Black

This will be a lifesaver more than once. I’ve broken a few and learned that it’s best to shell out the money for a good water bottle.

Raptor Dry Bag Poseidon

You’re going to get wet. Do you want your stuff getting wet? If not, get these.

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The sun will kill you. Protect your eyes and your skin. If you want to get fancy, try the spray on sunscreen; it's a delight. 

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Money clips are more convenient than wallets at times.

You want people knowing you’re from Canada and it’s nice to have a warm sweater. Also an item I don’t have any more but working on finding a replacement. This or a nice Jays hat or toque.
Canadian Flag 3 x 6

It’s a classic thing most Canadians and some American do. Do what your heart tells you.

Things I’d buy if I had more money:

Fenix 3 GPS Watch Silver/Red

I’m purposely not buying myself a watch because I think that it’s a classic girlfriend gift to give. I’m going to be watch-less for a while here team.
Pro Guide Board Shorts Black

My swimming costume is not very fancy. A good pair is always well received.

Squamish CIS Jacket Evening Blue

Sometimes it rains. Put on a rain jacket. Problem solved. I also recommend a solid umbrella.

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If you are looking to buy a Christmas present for a man this year, go with this. They also have comfy close if you are a man looking to buy things for a lady. No kissing!!!

I have a standard camera and it suits me just fine but a waterproof camera gives you more options if you are somewhere a bit more tropical or ocean focused.
Retractasafe 100 Cable Lock Smoke

Can’t trust everyone out there. Lock up your things.

Other items that could come in handy is a deck of cards, hand sanitizer, Kindle, wireless headphones, addresses of people you want to send postcards to, and any candy or specific product that you love that you would miss abroad. 

Here are two post from people who know actual stuff about tech gear and more travel accessories.


 “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”