OUR 5 MONTHS IN CANADA
What seemed like a beautiful summer we always wanted to experience, somehow ended up being a black hole with never ending bad news. We went to Canada all full of hope along with the will to build a better lives for ourselves by finding jobs and saving the money for college because I always wanted to finish my master degree in landscape architecture in Copenhagen. But more importantly, we went to Canada to work on ourselves, to broaden our minds and learn how to breathe outside of the comfort zone. Little did we know how many hard and crucial life lessons Canada had in stall for us and moreover, how soon they were going to hit us.
The reason I am here writing about our experience 2 years later, is to let you know that 'happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light'. It took me two years to be able to write about this without getting emotional, but the good thing is now I know for sure that everyone is able to rise above the bad things in life if you are only brave enough to take the matter into your own hands!
Nevertheless, in all that negativity Leš and I did discover what a great team we are even in the worst of times and we will cherish that beautiful feeling forever.
Life in Calgary
From all the places in Canada we ended up in Calgary. I still get chills when I remember our life there. This city is mainly inhabited by homeless people, drug addicts and alcoholics. Not that I judge anyone's life choices but it made me feel rather unsafe and scared. I was afraid to walk alone the streets and generally I didn't want to leave the apartment. I witnessed so many crazy things happening in the streets and I still can't get some scenes out of my head. Moreover, Leš had a rather unpleasant experience working for one tattoo studio there. It was all based on mobbing, yelling, orders, passive aggressiveness and overall negativity every single day… All in all, I wouldn't recommend visiting Calgary if you ever find yourselves in Canada!
On the other hand, we did manage to find some nice places there and some of my favourite shops in the world, Plant and Luke's, are in fact in Calgary! So here they are:
Luke's drug mart (unfortunately I do not have interior pictures) :
Kensington (a neighbourhood):
In this part of town you can find bunch of cool bookstores and our favourite place in that area was Hexagon - a coffee shop with board games! You can just go there with friends, pick a board game from the shelf and play it while drinking coffee, actually actively hang out with people. So refreshing!
If I remember correctly the ticket was around 17$ (CAD) per person but it's worth it! The perspective is so good and you have a nice 360 degree view of the city :)
Crescent Heights is a neighbourhood that gives you that 500 days of Summer view. Remember when Tom and Summer sit on that bench overlooking LA? It was a 10 minute walk from our apartment so we went there very often, drank fake beers and watched the sun set behind the skyscrapers. Doing that occupied our minds with brief happiness and we forgot about the fact that we are almost penniless and far away from home. It is really important to be able to find joy in small things or moments. Without those, we are hopeless.
Besides these few spots I mentioned, there is not much else I was fond of in Calgary so my biggest recommendation is to skip this ghost town when coming here and just focus on Calgary's backyard - Banff National Park!
Mountains and lakes
Naturally, we couldn't have lived in Alberta without visiting Banff even for a day. It is Canada's oldest national park and in 2017 the entrance was free of charge since Canada celebrated 150th birthday which was perfect opportunity for us then. We rented a car via Turo app. It is one of my favourite apps and I'm extremely sad it is not available in most of the countries. Basically it is an Airbnb for cars. People rent their own cars and when you want someone's car you don't need a credit card, just debit card or cash and I found it cheaper than rental car companies. So easy and convenient!
During our two day trip to Banff we managed to visit Bow River, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake and Peyto Lake! Seeing the Rockies for the first time was such an incredible experience. I don't think I could ever forget feeling so small and unimportant and it was just what we needed right in that moment.
This viewpoint is a bit hidden. To reach it, you need to walk further from the main deck and just follow the path along. It is a 7-10 minute walk and I highly encourage you to go because you'll have much better view and fewer people around for sure!
Lake Louise and Emerald lake:
The easiest way to get around Banff is of course to have a car and I can't really recommend any other mean of transportation since there is so much to see and time should be on your side, especially if you don’t have much of it. I would love to go back and take it a little bit slower again, camp for a few days and be there just to soak it all in a bit more calmly one more time.
The best period to go is from June to September, maybe even October. You have the best chance of lakes not being frozen and the temperatures are beautifully refreshing in the mountains so it is really pleasant to be there during summer whereas during winter the lakes might be frozen, it is way colder than in the cities of course and the paths that lead to the lakes are a bit difficult to walk because of snow and ice.
If you plan to rent a kayak (which we didn't because we were extremely broke) do it on the Emerald lake. An hour will cost you 60$ which is the cheapest fare among all Banff lakes.
Our favourite lake was Moraine! It is still one of my favourite places in the whole world. I could never ever forget the feeling when it presented itself in front of our eyes. We were climbing the path to the viewpoint and suddenly at one point the trees arranged perfectly and we saw it through the branches. My heart skipped a beat and I started jumping and running haha, I was so happy!
The best thing about that afternoon is that we’ve met some amazing people there! They hanged their hammocks and we even took some pictures in one. The stars aligned for us that day for sure and we were so grateful to have experienced this beautiful side of Canada as well which honestly I thought we are not going to see at all.
The colour is sometimes blue and sometimes greenish, depends on the weather conditions and we had the luck of seeing the lake while it was blue!
The strong colour is actually a result of glacier melting. I have never seen anything so beautiful in the whole world. Just wow.
On the third day of our trip we went all the way to the other side of the Alberta province to visit the Dinosaur Provincial Park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well known for being one of the richest dinosaur fossil sites in the world. Fifty eight dinosaur species have been discovered at the park and more than 500 specimens have been removed and exhibited in museums around the globe.
Another place I liked very much is Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail we have visited on our way to Kelowna. Leš and I went to Kelowna for a tattoo convention with the studio he worked in so we made a quick stop to see the forest. One of the most impressive woods I've been to!
After some time in Calgary we ended up in Vancouver. Leš was chosen as a guest artist for Liquid Amber tattoo studio there so we just went there and stayed for 3 beautiful weeks. Leš's cousin's friend lives in Vancouver so we stayed at her place free of charge which was so nice of her. It was such a cool city and it felt very European! Vancouver has amazing laid down vibe and so much to do and see.
The pictures show the iconic Gastown neighbourhood. Make sure to check it out! There are numerous cool coffee shops, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and of course the best tattoo studio in town - Liquid Amber :) I spent most of my time in Vancouver right in this area and I loved it!
It is very difficult to recommend anything here when there's so many things to do. What I can say for sure is that THE best place for us was Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver. Being able to walk among tree tops is one of a kind experience and I would highly recommend doing it! The feeling is incredible and it really gives you a different perspective while in nature. There is a city bus that picks you up in the town and brings you all the way up there so it is really easy to reach this forest heaven.
The entrance is not free but if you are a student you get a big discount so make sure to bring your student ID.
Also, while you are in Vancouver make sure to check out Stanley Park, the Planetarium, UBC and its botanical garden, Dude chilling park and even go to Granville to try food from local markets and do some proper shopping. Anyhow, whatever you may choose to do in Vancouver you will have great time for sure :)
Looking back now, our time in Canada was just series of unfortunate events but we somehow made the most out of it by visiting the beautiful nature Canada has to offer. If I were to go back again I would rent the car and only spend time camping in nature. In my opinion, if you want to see big cities, go to USA. I know you can feel I have this strange love-hate relationship with Canada, and I do, but it has nothing to do with the country, just our bad luck and us somehow being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am sorry I don't have more information from Canada but everything feels a bit blurry and I think I suppressed a lot of memories from that period of time. We have actually visited few more amazing places while we were there but I don't have any decent photos; Kelowna, Lethbridge, Vancouver Island, Enchanted Forest... If you have any questions I would be happy to help out but I can't really say whether I'm the right person to do that.
I would just like to stress that our time spent in Canada was definitely one the worsts period of our lives. What I like about it now is that it made me learn so much about life, appreciating small moments, people, my country, friends… everything. It made us love Croatia so much we don’t ever want to leave it, even though we came to Canada with that intention. This experience turned our lives upside down but at the same it showed us the important things in life and set the path for what was meant to be. If it wasn’t for Canada, Leš and I would not have discovered tons of things about ourselves, us being a great team both in love and in work and we wouldn’t have returned to Croatia and each start our own businesses. The beginning was wobbly and difficult but here we are 2 years later. I am writing this to anyone who maybe feels like hell now, whose life is currently messy and the perspective about future is somehow clouded. It is okay because everything happens for a reason. You just need to see it through and be able to learn from the situation and take that lesson with you further in life. And remember, what you seek is seeking you!
Anyways, I'll finish this strange blog post with the photo of my favourite sunrise ever which happened on our way back to Croatia.
Stay adventurous and I wish you happy travels! :)