A Travellerspoint blog

2018 Year in Review

Happy New Year's Eve!

Let's take a look at what the heck happened this year, shall we?

January

- started my second semester at UVic
- booked another Europe Contiki
- celebrated Jenna Day with afternoon tea and fancy hats

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February

- turned 22!
- went to Toronto with Jill

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March

- got accepted to Practical Nursing!
- ten little puppies were born, one of which would become my Jasp

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April

- finished the semester and took off to Europe
- London, Paris, St Jean de Luz, San Sebastian

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May

- Zaragoza, Barcelona, Nice, Monaco, Cinque Terre, Florence, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii, Rome
- got stung by a jellyfish in Capri
- left Europe with an amazing squad of new friends
- lost my baby girl and a piece of my heart
- collected my little Jasp and began puppy-parenthood

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June

- spent 98% of my time with baby Jasper
- Morgaine came to visit and we jokingly discussed me moving to Scotland

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July

- a couple of warm weekends at Cowichan Lake
- discovered that I can't actually start the Practical Nursing program until September of 2020
- had a bit of an existential crisis

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August

- did some research on getting a visa for the UK and moving continents with a puppy
- bit the bullet and actually applied for the visa
- broke the news that I was potentially moving to the other side of the world
- went to Ed Sheeran!

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September

- visa got approved and I started hyperventilating a bit
- found a place to live in Scotland and packed at the very last minute
- said goodbye to pretty much my whole life, a good job, and most of my savings account
- arrived in Seafield, Scotland with Jasper

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October

- got a job!
- explored a bit of my new country
- second, third, and fourth - guessed all of my decisions
- dad came to visit!

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November

- LaTasha came to visit!
- explored more of Scotland
- planned a little trip to Germany
- got a little Christmas tree and decorated it all by myself

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December

- went to the German Christmas Markets!
- actually had a moderate social life with some new friends (thanks guys)
- had the strangest Christmas ever, but was adopted for Christmas dinner by a coworker and his family

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For 2019, I don't have specific resolutions because no one ever follows through with them anyway. But as I've been looking through my photos from this year, there is one that I think captures the feeling I'm aiming for for this coming year.

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Happy New Year.

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 09:30 Comments (2)

Thank You

I have gotten a surprising amount of messages and comments on my last post. The unanimous response has been "stay". (Also some version or another of "Jenna, chill the f*ck out".)

Here is what I did today:

- wrote that post
- cried a little bit
- hugged Jasper
- went to work
- had a decent shift
- went to the pet store to get a toy that Jasp hopefully won't shred
- took Jasper on an adventure through a field with grass that was taller than him
- booked a trip to Germany
- made a burrito
- watched a movie

I am currently wearing sweatpants, drinking tea, and feeling a lot calmer than I was this morning. I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who took the time to comment or message me today. I have saved every message in a new album on my phone, and when I inevitably have another meltdown I will read them again.

I hope everyone has a good day. (And I would recommend having a burrito for dinner.. it was delicious.)

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 11:27 Comments (1)

So here's the thing:

I have no idea if I have made any of the correct decisions regarding this move. Perhaps I did this whole thing too fast. I mean, I had the idea to apply for a visa to the UK and then sent my application and money in three days later. I ended up sitting in my flat in Seafield less than two months after that. Considering the amount of paperwork involved in not only moving myself to the UK, but also moving a puppy, that did not leave a lot of time for second thoughts. I don't really know what I expected moving away to be like, but the one thing I was counting on is that "Travel Jenna" would arrive in spectacular fashion. That has not happened. Maybe she is still wandering around Rome, I'm not sure, but she is definitely not in Scotland.

I have tried to make a decent start. I found a local soccer team that invited me to practice with them; I got a job; I figured out the transit system and ticked off the final administrative things I needed to do for my visa. I even bought vegetables at the grocery store. So how come it is 7:40am and I have been awake for several hours because I am so anxious about going to work today? Sure, it's a new job and that is scary, but that doesn't account for all of my feelings. I did not go to soccer practice last night because I just needed to go to bed, and I am jealous of my dog right now because today his only task is to lay on the floor.

Let's just be honest here. I am sad. I am very lonely and I am second-guessing every decision I have ever made. I have learned a lot about myself and how to be happy over the last couple of years, and this is not cutting it. I want to quit this job, and I want to come home and hug everyone and go sit by the ocean. However, I am also terrified of looking back on this later and feeling like I did not use this opportunity properly. So that means that I am just very very confused.

And here's another thing: I feel guilty even typing this out, because on paper I have done exactly what I wanted to do. I took my puppy and moved to the UK. How many times, whenever I was stressed in Victoria, did I say "I could just move away and work in a coffee shop or something". Well, guess what? I moved away and got a job at a coffee shop. Now what? But am I even allowed to say that? Sure, this all happened quickly, but as I kept saying, Scotland was a pretty "on brand" decision for me. And I spent a lot of money to make this happen. Therefore, I feel like I am obligated to enjoy this experience and definitely not complain about it in blog form for the whole internet to read.

Here is what I want to do: I want to take Jasper for walks around the Scottish countryside. I want to test all the coffee shops in Edinburgh and find out which one is the best place to read a book. I want to explore little towns in the UK and take a trip to Germany in December to visit the Christmas markets. But, those are "travel" things and not "living somewhere else" things. Living somewhere else means working a minimum wage job so I can buy Jasper dog food, right? But does living somewhere else mean coming home from said minimum wage job and immediately going to bed, and then waking up in the morning to do that again? In that case, I could have saved myself a lot of money and done that at home. So if I am being slightly more realistic, but also trying to accomplish what I had in mind for Scotland in the first place, here is what I want to do: I want to take Jasper for walks around the Scottish countryside. I want to enrol in a photography course at the college nearby and document my time here. I want to write a book. I want to learn how to live on my own and be self-sufficient, because I don't want this experience to have been a waste of time. But regardless of what I do, I don't want to have Scotland, or living abroad, or being on my own tainted by being miserable. And I definitely do not want to feel like I am wasting time or opportunities.

I want to make it very clear that I know how fortunate I am. Not many people have the time or the resources to do what I have done. I was able to work around my one major fluffy responsibility by bringing him with me. And I know that a certain level of anxiety and loneliness is unavoidable under these circumstances. So I am sorry for sitting here and ranting about this, but I needed to stop these thoughts from swirling around my head.

So here's the thing: how do I make this better? Wearing my Harry Potter sweater and buying a mug shaped like a whale are not doing the trick. Maybe I just need to suck it up - I don't know. Who has suggestions? Who can mail me a hug? Who knows if I will delete this when I get home from work today?

I am out of words and I need to make coffee. I hope everyone has a good day, or at least sees a cute dog. Sorry for complaining.

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 03:55 Comments (12)

Hello again...

AKA Where The Heck Am I?

Hi everyone,

Obviously, my Europe trip never received its final updates on this blog. My apologies. Long story short: it was amazing. I made more new friends, took beautiful photos, and ate and drank a lot. After Nice, I went to Monaco in a fancy dress, then Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii, and Rome. I flew home from Rome and then the next day I got a puppy. So, as you can imagine, I had a busy summer.

Life update: as you may or may not know, earlier this year I applied and got accepted to the Practical Nursing program in Victoria. I was anticipating that program to begin in September of 2019, so planned to spend this year attending UVic and biding my time. However, at the end of July I discovered that I would not be able to start until September of 2020, which meant I had two years to wait. In typical Jenna fashion, my first thought was to use this time to travel. But wait, I just got a baby puppy. My compromise, much to the dismay of a few people (sorry Mom and Dad), was to move somewhere instead of just roaming around another continent and bring little Jasper with me. So, he and I are now living in Scotland. On August 1st I applied for a visa that allows me to work and study in the UK for two years. My visa was approved on September 4th; my last day of work was September 24th, and I moved on September 26th. Jasper and I have now lived in our little flat in Seafield (just outside of Edinburgh) for two weeks.

So yeah, I live in Scotland now. I would like to still use this blog, but I think the format will change a bit. I won't be moving around much, although I do still hope to take advantage of the close proximity to Europe while I'm here, so every new post won't be from a different location. There may not be much continuity, honestly. It may end up just being an online journal for me and whoever else happens to read it. As cute as he is, Jasper doesn't contribute much to our conversations, so I might need to just talk to the internet for a while until I find some human friends.

Let me know if there is anything in particular you would like me to ramble about.

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 05:16 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

Oops

Hey everyone....

Remember how I said I would try my best to keep this updated? Clearly my best is pretty bad. No, I am not still in Nice, although I wish I were. I do plan on writing about the rest of this trip, more for my own benefit than anyone else's interest at this point. Check back in three months or so... Maybe then it will be finished.

Sorry!

Love,
Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 07:04 Comments (0)

España

Hello!

I was in Bordeaux last time I checked in. We only spent one night there, and then the next morning we went to Spain! En route to San Sebastián we stopped in Saint-Jean-de-Luz for lunch, which is a little French town very close to the border. I had "Basque Salad" and it was absolutely delicious. We arrived in sunny San Sebastián at around 3:00pm, did a little drive around town, and then arrived at the hostel (one of the best hostels I have ever been to!). Unfortunately for anyone who had never stayed at a hostel before, they will now have extraordinarily high expectations. The hostel had sangria on tap, which was awesome, and we all had quite a bit during dinner before heading out. A lot of the bars in Spain are tiny, so when 30ish of us showed up we completely overwhelmed the place and pretty much everyone who wasn't in our group just left. We basically ended up with a private bar, which was cool. We went to two bars and then a club, which was quite slow on a Monday night. But it was quite fun. I got home around 2:00am.

The next morning we had the whole day free in San Sebastián. A group of us hiked up a hill to see the big statue of Jesus that sits on top. The statue itself was not particularly exciting, but the views over the town and the beach were amazing. It started to rain just as we can were walking back down, so we turned into the windy, cobbled streets in the centre for lunch. In Spain they do this thing called "Pintxos", which is a whole bunch of little appetizer type things laid out on the counter. They give you a plate and then you choose which ones you want to try and then pay based on how many you picked. It was delicious. Lots of seafood options, bits of bread with various toppings, vegetable skewers, and tortillas (not like the wrap, they're sort of like little omelettes). There are a million little pintxos bars in San Sebastián, so we had a few things at a couple of places for lunch, and then ended up doing the same thing (plus sangria) for dinner. The rain had stopped by about 1pm, so the rest of the afternoon involved wandering around, eating gelato, and walking on the beach. It was delightful. Everyone had a quiet night, after the extravaganza of the night before.

From San Sebastián we drove to Barcelona! We stopped in Zaragoza for lunch and a wander, which was cool. There is a massive church there that apparently had three bombs dropped on it, but none of them detonated. So now they are just hanging inside the church, which was sort of spooky. When we got to Barcelona we did a driving tour of the city, and then everyone began getting ready for the nigt's events. We went to a flamenco show! It was held in a restaurant in a "fake town" in Barcelona, that was built to look like a generic Spanish village from 100 years ago. It was very pretty. Dinner was just endless courses that no one could finish, and bottomless sangria that some people did in fact finish. They had live musicians and a wooden stage, where three flamenco dancers did their thing. Flamenco is very dramatic and loud. It was a good show. After flamenco we all went to a karaoke bar! Two other Contiki groups were also there, and surprisingly so was my trip manager from my last tour! I knew he lived in Barcelona but I didn't know he was coming to that bar, so that was cool. It took him a second to recognize me I think! And, shockingly, I sang karaoke! Plot twist. It was super awkward, but that was my goal for this tour! I chickened out of karaoke on my last trip. I sang Shania Twain with two other girls from the group. And no, there is no video evidence, but it did happen.

On our full day in Barcelona, I did a tour of the Sagrada Familia in the morning and then walked from there to see the Gaudi apartments. In the afternoon I walked down La Rambla, which is the big Main Street in Barcelona that goes all the way down to the port. On my way back I did my standard wander, turning down whatever street looked interesting and getting a bit lost until I found a place I recognized. I ended up walking 21km! I had dinner with Mikael, my previous trip manager, and we had a good chat, exchanging sparknotes versions of the last 2.5 years and talking about our other tour members and what they were up to. I then went back and joined the walking tour that my current group was doing of the gothic quarter of Barcelona. Now that is a cool area to wander around, especially in the evening. We finished the night with gelato and some goodbyes, as this tour is "modular", so some people leave in Barcelona and other people join, and then the same thing will happen in Rome, which is where I will finish.

Yesterday morning we picked up 32 new group members, and there are now zero empty seats on our coach. We drove to Nice, which was a long drive but very pretty. Last night out included dinner was actually at an Irish pub for some reason, but it was tasty. We then went to a bar called "Wayne's" that had a live band. Apparently at Wayne's you are supposed to dance on the tables, as that is what they were built for. So we did! It was a bit strange, but the band was really good and everyone had fun. It was also only a few minutes walk back to the hostel afterwards which was nice.

Okay, that brings us mostly up to date! Tonight's events will be very exciting, as you will probably see on Instagram. We're going to dinner in Monaco! Stay tuned.

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 04:49 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Contiki 2.0: London and Paris

Hello! Bonjour!

I have just arrived in Bordeaux, and will be heading out soon to find dinner and probably some wine. We are only spending one night here, so I don't think I'll have much to say about it, unless tonight becomes much more wild than I am anticipating. But after last night, I doubt that.

I arrived at the hotel in London after waiting in line at Heathrow passport control for two hours. When I checked into the "Contiki Basement", I was informed that the startup meeting time had been changed, and was in fact in 45 minutes. So I met all of these people for the first time after flying all night, and only having time to get changed. I was also quite confused upon arrival because there were two different trip meetings happening in the same place at the same time.

After the meeting, it was still light out so we were offered a London walking tour, which was great because I wasn't thinking I would have any opportunity to actually see any of London before our departure. It was a sunny evening, and I was pleased to discover I still pretty much know my way around the city. I had a quick grocery store dinner, showered, and then crashed immediately. I was proud of myself for staying awake until 9pm, and I woke up in the morning mostly adjusted to the time change! This went way better than trying to adjust to Australia time...

We finally got the many humans organized and onto the bus at about 7:45am the next morning. Our tour manager's name is Cerrie, and she is hilarious and very nice. The drive to Paris was sleepy and fairly uneventful, albeit with the slightly awkward introductions to a bus full of strangers. I was actually really excited to meet people though, and I have made friends! We didn't arrive in Paris until 6:00pm or so, and then had a group dinner at the hotel. In order to get to the centre of Paris from our hotel, we had to drive through a big park that is apparently where all the Parisian prostitutes hang out and look for clients. We named all of them Rhonda as we drove back and forth. We took a quick drive around the city, and then returned to bed.

Saturday was our full day in Paris, and the weather cooperated wonderfully. We got dropped off at the Eiffel Tower and then had the day to ourselves. I took many pictures, since I brought my real camera this time. (My wide angle lens works beautifully, Dad, thank you!) I continued my tradition of just wandering around cities, starting at the tower and working my way towards the Arc de Triomphe. I went up to the top of the Arc and got some city panorama photos, which was very cool. I meandered down the Champs Élysées, and then through side streets towards the Paris Opera House. I had mentioned to Cerrie that I had wanted to go to Versailles, but didn't have time, and she suggested going to the Opera House, as it had a similar level of opulence. She was correct. It is a beautiful building, with winding marble staircases, chandeliers, and gold everything. I didn't get any good photos inside, but there was a big long balcony that I wanted a photo of, so I waited for about 20 minutes to get a picture without any people in it. After the Opera House, I walked to the Louvre, and got some gelato in the park. I found some other Contiki people in the park and we all hung out there until the bus arrived to pick us up.

After an hour or so at the hotel getting ready, we headed off to the "Parisian Dinner", which was in a restaurant near the Sacre Coeur. I ate snails! They are actually quite tasty. After dinner, it was time for the Nouvelle Eve Cabaret. I should also mention, everyone got a welcome drink at dinner, as well as half a bottle of wine each. The cabaret included half a bottle of champagne each. It was a good time. I actually think this cabaret show was better than the Moulin Rouge show we went to last time. They had a magician and acrobats, the kind of things you would see on Britain's Got Talent, to perform in between the actual cabaret numbers. It was a very entertaining show, which, as usual, left me wishing I could dance like that. Conveniently, there was a club close by, so we all went and danced, but did not do the can-can. I eventually got back to the hotel at about 2:30am.

This morning, the bus left Paris at 8:45am. It was very quiet, as you can probably imagine. It got a bit livelier after we stopped for lunch. We have now arrived in Bordeaux, and it is now time to go find dinner. I will report back later.

Update: dinner was tasty. A group of us went to an Italian restaurant. Cerrie also showed us the church where Eleanor of Aquitaine got married (the first time), which was cool. The centre of Bordeaux has lots of tiny, cobbled streets that open into surprise squares lined with restaurants. It would have been nice to have dinner outside but the weather kept alternating between clouds and absolutely pouring. Hopefully there is some sun in Spain!

Tomorrow we are driving to San Sebastián, and I am so excited. I'm sure there will be many photos floating around on the Internet by the time we leave. Speaking of which, I am quite happy with the photos I got in Paris. I may have to make another photo collage when I get home.

Alright. I'm going to bed. Hope everyone has had a good weekend!

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 12:47 Archived in France Comments (2)

Europe: Round 2!

Hello!

It has been 238 days since last we spoke... I am excited to be back.

Here's the deal:

I am doing another Contiki tour! And for the first time in this blog's history, I will actually be coming back on a predetermined date, and will actually stick to that date. So here is the schedule:

April 25/26 - arrival! Tomorrow I am flying to London, where I will return to the "Contiki Basement" and meet my new squad.
April 27 - driving from London to Paris, via the Dover-Calais ferry
April 29 - leaving Paris and driving to Bordeaux to consume some wine
April 30 - from Bordeaux to San Sebastian - my first ever step into Spain!
May 2 - San Sebastian to Barcelona, where I will meet up with the tour manager from my previous Contiki.... 2.5 years later!
May 4 - leaving Barcelona (and Spain, sadly) and heading to Nice, to revisit the birthplace of my compass tattoo
May 6 - leaving Nice (and France, until my next Europe trip....) and going to Cinque Terre to take many pictures for Instagram
May 7 - driving from Cinque Terre to Florence, where I believe we will return to the nightclub I had such fun at last time
May 8 - Florence to Sorrento, which I have been told is absolutely gorgeous
May 10 - leaving Sorrento and arriving in Rome! Rome is still my all time favourite place I have visited... can't wait to be back!
May 13 - time to make my way home... going to be a very long day of travelling.

This is just a short trip (at least in comparison to my previous escapades). And I know from past experience that Contiki is exciting, fast-paced, and exhausting. So, I promise to try and update this blog as much as possible, but I make no guarantees! I do love reading these back later though, so I will do my best. I am also bringing my DSLR on this trip! I am looking forward to getting some great pictures, so keep an eye on Instagram (jenna.miller10).

I leave in 16 hours, and I am all packed, but for some reason it doesn't feel like I am going anywhere yet. Between exams and work and coaching and organizing I have been quite stressed and not in a very good mood the last little while. I am hoping that tomorrow (perhaps when I am alone in an airport) Travel Jenna will make her first appearance and I will be ready and raring to go.

Fun fact: when I was about to start my previous Contiki, the idea that I was going to meet dozens of strangers and sit on a bus with them for three weeks was at the bottom of my list of things I was excited about. However, this time, it is pretty close to the top! I didn't really make friends until about a week into that trip, and yet I am still very close with some of them now! I am looking forward to seeing what can happen if I find a few people I connect with right at the beginning. I don't know if 19-year-old Jenna would even recognize me now!

Okay, I think that is all I have to say for now. I will talk to you soon!

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 21:27 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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