My trip to Canada is more than halfway over and I’m just now getting a chance to write this. Typical.
I want to start by addressing something that seems to be fairly common: travel anxiety.
Weirdly enough, I have no problem with flying itself. Whether I like it or not, if the plane is going to crash, it’s going to crash, and there’s not much I can do about that beyond trying to get out safely…somehow. So flights aren’t a problem for me.
What I do have a problem with is worrying about:
- whether or not my luggage will be okay,
- if my carry-on is going to get flagged for being too big or not fitting under the seat properly,
- getting to the airport on time,
- having enough time to go through security,
- security detaining me for some crazy reason,
- having something not allowed in my carry-on,
- not taking my shoes off quickly enough during security,
- my boarding pass not scanning correctly,
- not having packed enough,
- getting all my crap into tubs in a timely manner,
- putting my shoes back on quickly,
- forgetting my laptop in a lone bin,
- and generally not knowing what to expect during international travel.
Yeah, my mind is not a fun place to be right before a flight. I am a ball of nerves until I safely pass through security, locate my gate, and plop down until it’s time to board.
I try to tell myself that the worst that can possibly happen is I miss my flight, but that doesn’t help when I have no idea how I would even attempt to deal with that. Most of the tickets I buy are non-refundable, you-can’t-change-anything-unless-you-pay-an-exorbitant-amount tickets.
Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead for this particular trip, but in light of my worries about international travel, I decided to apply for the Global Entry program, which includes TSA PreCheck. It’s $100 and I think it’s worth it for the increased peace of mind. I will report back once I know!
Lessening Travel Anxiety with Packing
I’m hoping that Global Entry will help my anxiety with regard to getting through security, but I still needed help in the luggage department.
Most of my anxiety around packing revolves around not exceeding the allowance for a carry-on and checked bag. I can probably attribute most of this to flying with Spirit, because they allow only one personal item on (and the size was recently reduced), and they’re fairly strict with it.
My other problem is that I try to fly as cheap as possible, which generally means trying not to check a bag (if it’s not free).
In this case, it was $25 each way for a checked bag. I figured I’d be able to pack everything into my carry-on just fine…until the night before I was set to leave (because that’s smart!).
All my clothes fit, but the reality was that I was staying somewhere for three weeks and I still needed to fit toiletries somewhere and then they’d have to be under 3.4 oz and fit in one plastic bag and oh no what have I done!?
Thankfully I was able to add a checked bag to my itinerary and immediately most of my worries went away. Funny enough, of course I managed to pack both the carry-on and checked bag to the brim along with a backpack. Because when you give yourself more space, or luggage, you will fill it.
Takeaway: Don’t put a price tag on peace of mind. If I’m traveling for longer periods of time, I’m just going to pony up the cash and pay for a checked bag. Or fly American more often, since my credit card allows for a free checked bag. I’m also a fan of Southwest for that reason.
Other takeaway – I should probably pack smarter. I have a horrible habit of trying to pack for every weather condition under the sun, which leads to over-packing. Oops.
Last takeaway – if I happen to forget something, chances are I can buy it at my destination. It might be more money, but the point is the problem is solvable.
First Experience with Customs
Okay, enough luggage talk. I mentioned being nervous about international flights since I’ve never taken one before. I’m thankful that there weren’t really any issues to speak of here.
The flight was basically an hour long, and in the middle of it, we were given forms to fill out which we would then pass onto Customs once we landed. I…wasn’t exactly sure how to fill out some of the questions, but it was easy enough.
Once I deplaned, I navigated my way toward Customs. The first step was feeding the form I had filled out into a machine, which decided to act like it couldn’t read the form, so I had to answer some questions for clarification.
After that, the machine every so nicely spit out a ticket thing (sorry for the lack of technical names here) that I had to show to multiple people on my way around the airport. So I left the machine, headed to the Customs Officers (no line there, although I was last off the plane, so…), and then headed out to collect my luggage.
Another benefit to being the last off the plane: my luggage was already on the belt, so I didn’t have to stand there waiting.
I figured out how to exit the airport (it’s rather big), and handed my ticket thing to the agent who was blocking the exit. They didn’t even look at it.
Overall, it was a super smooth process, and nothing to worry about in the slightest. I had been warned beforehand that there might be a line, but I guess it was a quiet travel day/time.
First Night: Burlesque
I kicked off my stay in Toronto with a Burlesque show, because why not? It was the first one I had ever been to and it pretty much met, and then exceeded, my expectations.
The show is put on by the Toronto School of Burlesque, so students performed as well as professionals.
The comedy bits in between acts had everyone laughing, and the acts themselves were awesome. There was a lot of variety in performance and since it was my first show, I appreciated that. The amount of ways we can express ourselves through art never ceases to amaze me.
There was one performer in particular who was making an appearance at the Dublin Burlesque Festival, and he was just too awesome for words. Most of the performances featured props of some sort, but he broke it down in the middle of his act with glow sticks and hoola hoops. It was amazing.
So if you’re ever in Toronto and you’re looking for something fun to do, I highly recommend going to one of the shows the school puts on.
Aside from getting my work station set up beforehand and stopping at an A&W fast food place (I don’t think we have any of those left in the U.S.?) for fries after the show, that was my first day in Toronto.
ROM Friday Night Live + Vikings
To go along with the glow stick theme, I had been discussing various potential plans with the friend I’m staying with when a rave centered around rocks and minerals was brought up (don’t ask). This apparently reminded him that something similar is indeed a thing in Toronto.
The Royal Ontario Museum essentially turns itself into a gigantic nightclub on select Fridays in the fall, hence Friday Night Live. You get access to special exhibits, food vendors, and most of the museum. It seemed like an interesting way to spend a Friday night, so I agreed, and we settled on the Viking exhibition.
I will say, unsurprisingly, that it’s a rather crowded event. It was also $17 to get in the door, and then you have to pay another $6 for food or drink tickets (this is all in CAD). I would probably recommend finding somewhere else to eat beforehand, or bringing some snacks with you.
However, I think the price of admission was worth it considering we got to see the exhibit and tour the museum. We spent a lot of time viewing gems and minerals because…well, do I really have to explain why?
The only regret I have is that we weren’t exactly paying a lot of attention to the time, and got in line for the Viking exhibition a little too late. We didn’t get to finish viewing it all. That may or may not have been because we were adamant about looking at every single thing on display, and then some. But can you blame us? Viking history is pretty awesome.
It’s on until April 2018, so if you’re planning a trip and you’re interested in Viking stuff, I recommend it!
Hunting for Food
Oddly enough, I didn’t include “being able to find food” in my list of travel fears. So I’m mentioning it now.
I have a severely restricted diet. It’s fairly safe to say I can’t eat most things. They not only need to be gluten-free, but they can’t have onion or garlic in them, which pretty much eliminates most pre-packaged meals or meats. I’m also restricted on what fruits and vegetables I can have, and I’m not really supposed to have anything with sugar or milk in it.
Needless to say, it took a long time for me to narrow my choices down and figure out what works, and I basically had to do that all over again here because most brands are not the same.
The first grocery store we went to didn’t have a section dedicated to anything gluten-free. I think I found maybe three things to buy there.
I’m not going to lie, I went through a roller coaster of emotions after that grocery trip.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find anything to eat here. I was angry at my body for having so many damn restrictions on what I could eat, because finding food shouldn’t be this difficult. I was depressed at the thought of having to drag my friend around from store to store in search of such specific shit that seemed overwhelmingly impossible to find.
I had a slight break down of tears in the car while my friend was running groceries from the first trip up to his apartment while I figured out what store had the best chance of having what I needed.
None of them seemed very promising and they weren’t located nearby, so my friend suggested a place around the corner just because of proximity.
When I found the gluten-free aisle I literally squealed and ran toward it. I’m not lying.
I feverishly opened and closed the freezer doors looking for Udi’s bread and anything else I could find to make a meal out of. I analyzed the shelves of pantry goods and picked up gluten-free pasta and snack bars. And then I treated myself to some gluten-free chocolate chip muffins because why the fuck not.
I was so incredibly relieved over something most people don’t need to care about whatsoever. Unfortunately, I’m not most people, and this is something I’m going to have to carefully consider and research before heading anywhere else in the future.
I’m very thankful my friend didn’t care that he had to spend two hours figuring out shopping with me, and I’m also glad it only took two trips to do that. It could have been a lot worse.
Furthermore, we went shopping at another store this past weekend and I was able to find the rest of the things I wanted for the rest of my trip.
This is a careful reminder that there are definite downsides to travel, especially if you have special dietary requirements. While I’ve enjoyed my trip here so far, getting the food situation figured out both in the house and outside (going to restaurants) has been a struggle.
While I want to be real, I don’t want to end on a depressing note, so I will say that my next update should be much more lighthearted. It involves flying a small airplane for about a minute and beautiful, sleepy towns with lakes and mountains. Stay tuned! =)1