This is it

This is finally it. After 61 pre-departure blogs (I counted), this will be the last one that I write before finally leaving for Canada. My God I've been waiting for this moment!

And I'd love to sit here and say I'm ready and waiting to leave, and counting down the minutes. But that would be a lie. I haven't started packing yet. And I haven't even got accomodation sorted for when I touch-down in Vancouver 2 nights from now. It's not that I didn't try. I've attempted to arrange a dorm at American Backpackers, but they don't seem the best at communication. I guess that's what you get from somewhere that only costs $10 per night. I tried booking online, and the booking may well have gone through... but they just haven't told me that it has. And when I tried calling them, within their opening hours, I was greeted by Bob Marley. That's right, their voicemail is the song 'One Love' by Bob Marley, so I didn't get too much sense out of that. So I then sent them an email last night. I'm still awaiting a response, so we'll see how that goes. This place definitely has character, I can tell that much. Though I'm not too interested in character seeing as I'll be arriving in downtown Vancouver probably gone midnight. I'm more interested in just having a bed, so if I don't hear from them soon, I'll be assuming the reservation null and void, and arrange something else. It's shouldn't be difficult. It's not like my knowledge of Vancouver accomodations is too limited. I've reviewed 3 of the hostels on the hostels page. And I've even worked in a lot of the hotels doing silver-service waiting when I was there in 2005. Not that I could afford any of those places mind.

I am almost there though in everything I need to buy. My ski pants were delivered about 20 minutes ago. You could fit a sumo wrestler in them, so I'm definitely going to have to be wearing a belt with them. But for £14.99 off eBay, you can't expect too much. They can do a job of some sort.

Then I've had my thermal underwear delivered. Surprisingly you might say, if you read a previous blog where I was addressing this company, but they arrived. In hindsight, going for blue long-johns might not have been the best idea. I was thinking dark blue. They came as more of a baby-blue kind of colour. Lucky they'll be covered most of the time. That's all I can say. Having this stuff though means I could test out my elaborate stay warm plan for the Winter. Thermal long-sleeved t-shirt, followed by a Nike compression vest I used to play American football in, followed by my gold coldgear Under Armour, also previously used to play American football in. So 3 under-layers. Then a fleece or jumper of some sort on top of that, with my Columbia jacket that I used in Nova Scotia to get through the Winter there, with never more than a t-shirt underneath. It's pretty much 2 layers, as it has a fleece layer, then a water-proof, wind-proof layer, so I'll essentially be wearing 6 layers all Winter. Should be enough to keep the cold out.

Panorama Though one surprise I got yesterday, was that it appears snow has already fallen in Panorama. I know a guy currently living in Whistler, and he was telling me just a couple of days ago that no snow has fallen yet. It's probably only about 10 hours driving from Whistler, to where I am going, so I was assuming that it would be the same. But Kirstly put some photos on Facebook yesterday, and there is snow. There is a lot of snow. It was the first time of seeing where exactly I'll be working, so it was cool to see them. Makes everything seem a little more real all of a sudden. I'll add some more of those photos throughout the rest of this blog.

No snow was actually one of the things that I was worrying could go wrong and hamper this trip somewhat. It's bound to happen eventually, that the effects of a warming climate mean that skiing one day becomes a thing of the past. The way that preparations for this trip have gone so far, I was beginning to worry that this was the year after speaking with this guy in Whistler. And if there's no snow, then there's obviously, so skiing. And if there's no skiing, then there's no ski-lift. And if there's no ski-lift, then there's no work for me. Luckily that fear has been somewhat laid to rest now. There are still a hell of a lot of other things that could go wrong though.

Panorama ski lift The good thing about there being no snow, is that it would mean I wouldn't have to ski. And if I don't have to ski, it means that the resort will never find out that I may have exaggerated my skiing ability to get an outdoors job, back when I had the interview. And ultimately, they may both lead to the same outcome: No work. It's just if there's no snow, I cannot get work, but keep my dignity. If there is snow, and I get fired for not being able to ski well enough, then I can get no work, and I lose my pride by getting fired. Hopefully it'll never come to that. We will find out though. Then there's the problems that could arrise regarding accomodation. I haven't spoken to my "landlords" since I accepted the condo. I did give them a phone number to call me in England if there was any problems. However they were old. And old people generally aren't too good at technology things. Like phones. Judging by there lack of appreciation of the Internet when I spoke to them, somthing tells me that they may struggle to make a call abroad. I'm planning on phoning them tonight to confirm that everything is still fine. However, the condo could still go very, very wrong. And then there's Greg, my flat-mate. He seems a really cool guy from what I can tell. But there's only so much that you can tell from MSN conversations. I've agreed to pay Panorama the full damage deposit, and first months rent, when I arrive because I'll be there first. He can pay me back once he arrives. But what if I do this, then he decides for no reason, that he doesn't want to live there anymore? Or he's just one of those people who is really shit at paying back money? I could be left pretty-much screwed over.

And there are countless other things I've calculated could go wrong in the next couple of weeks. All I'm trying to do, is prepare myself for if, or when, they do. Speaking of the damage deposit... I'm not expecting that back. I think I said in a previous blog I wanted to have a good relationship with the landlords and the neighbours I'll have in Invermere. Well hopefully, they'll be young people in this appartment block, so the occasional all-night party isn't out of the question. If they aren't, I can't see the relationship will last. I spoke to Greg, yesterday I think it was. He was all excited, because of all the things he could buy in Canada that were illegal in Australia. BB guns, paint-ball guns, fireworks... Apparently they're all illegal in Australia. So he was telling me that as soon as he lands in Calgary on the way to Invermere, he'll be picking up supplies of all of them. Bye-bye damage deposit. At least it'll be fun! Once the damage deposit is lost, it's like we've been let off the leash. You can start raising-hell without worrying it'll cost you. Bye-bye damage deposit. Hello fun!

My bus-ticket to Invermere is all booked now as well. So at 09:05am on the 25th, I'll have finally arrived. It's only a 13-hour bus journey. In reality though, this has been one hell of a long journey. When did I start making this website? Way back in January or early February. When did I start the application process for my Canadian visa? I can't remember exactly, but I think it was a similar time. To get to this point has been a 10-month journey. And in 8 days, I finally arrive!

Panorama I've detailed through these blogs, a lot of the things, outside of my control, that have been going wrong and hampering my travel plans. Well it really doesn't help when I start doing things myself to screw me over. My credit card was fraudulently used, so the account was closed and a new credit card was sent to me with a different number. I've detailed that before. But up until yesterday, I've kept the original credit card. Both of them in fact, because I had 2 identical cards. For security though, yesterday I decided to cut them into many small pieces before I left. Afterall, they were no longer useable. And as I'm cutting them, I have this feeling at the back of my head... I'm sure there was a reason I hadn't cut these up earlier. And it was just as I finished destroying the 2nd card, that is suddenly hit me. The NFL ticket I'd booked in Seattle was paid for with that card. And I need the card to pick up the ticket. I doubt the card has to even be in use anymore, but just for identity purposes, I needed the credit card. And I had just cut mine; both of mine, into many small pieces.

I then had to spend much of the day yesterday exchanging emails with Ticketmaster to try and get an alternative arrangement. It might not have been necessary. Afterall, I sold my ticket for the Eagles game, and it was collected by someone else with no trouble. But if I was there in person, I was assuming that they would demand to see the credit card used to make the purchase. So first I get told that a recent bank statement would be an adequate substitute. I knew that living green would come back to haunt me one day. All my statements are online only. And seeing as the account was now closed, there was no way to print any off. So eventually, they said that they were able to change the payment used to purchase the ticket. I was assuming that this just meant that they would change around the details online, and it wouldn't affect the tickets payment, seeing as it had been fully-paid for. But it then said at the bottom of the email, despite the fact that I'd told them that the account I originally purchased the ticket with was closed, something along the lines of "This credit card [the one I'd told them to change the payment to] will be debited with the cost of the ticket, and the account that the ticket was purchased with, shall be refunded the same amount." So great. Now they're charging me for the ticket, again. And they're sending a refund to an account that no longer exists. I just hope that Nationwide has measures in place to make sure that I get credited with this amount. Because right now I don't really have the time to be exchaning countless emails with people in America. If not, then I guess I'll end up paying for this ticket twice. And seeing as I initially bought a ticket to the Eagles game that I was only able to sell for a fraction of what it cost me, I could pretty much have paid for 3 tickets, to get to one NFL game. You ever get that feeling, that you just aren't supposed to do something? I just get a feeling that God, really, really, doesn't want me to get to another Seahawks game at Qwest Field. But I will be there. The Redskins are going down!!!

Panorama That's a lie. We have pretty-much no chance of winning, but I just want to see my Hawks playing live one more time.

To try and ensure that there's no more credit card fun like this, I have notified the banks that I'm going abroad. I always assumed that people would be the ones whom had the final say on whether a card was being used frauduently or not. So I sent one of my banks a message with my rough itinery. Apparently it doesn't work like that though. It's all automated. I have now had a marker placed on my account regarding my travel plans. This will apprently reduce the number of checks carried out. They go onto tell me "Although your notification will significantly reduce the chances of transactions being referred or declined, we cannot guarantee this..." So all I've done by the sound of it, is reduce the likelihood that they think I'm using my card fraudulently. But in reality, they still might cancel my card. Which would be a real pain to have to fix from over in Canada. If I send them my Canada phone number, apparently if I am flagged, I can fix it all over the phone. So that's worth knowing. I probably wouldn't have bothered sending them my Canada number when I finally get one. But it sounds like it could make my life a shit-load easier.

"Osbourse fears Sterling collapse", BBC And you know the one thing that you really don't want to see when you're about to go travelling and will be living out of UK bank accounts? Well that's news headlines that include the words "sterling collapse." But that's exactly what I was greeted with on Saturday. And with my limited economic knowledge, despite the insistance of the labour party, I agree with Osbourne's stance here. I've been saying in previous blogs that I'm expecting the pound to weaken. And thinking like this, common-sense is telling me to invest a large portion of my savings into a more secure currency. I am expecting, for example, the Canadian Dollar to strengthen against the pound in coming months. If I did that, and the pound did weaken, I could change my money back, and have got richer in the process. And common sense is telling me to do this. The one reservation I have though, is that if it was this obvious, surely everybody would be doing it. Right? So my belief that money simply cannot be made that easily, combined with the lack of time that I currently have, is stopping me from investing in a currency such as the Canadian Exchange rate dollar. Right now, £1 is worth CA$1.84. I am betting that in 3 months, and yes in even 6 months, £1 will buy you CA$ <1.84. And I will feel like a mug for not doing it. We will find out. Only time will tell!

Do you know one of the best things about going abroad? You never have to cook dinner. I've noticed this before. People want to see you for a final time, and for some reason you have to eat at the same time. So I haven't had to cook myself dinner in about it week. It's awesome. Almost worth just pretending to go abroad for all the food. It's brilliant.

As I'm now winding up my lifestyle in London, and doing everything for the last time: This morning I went to the gym for the last time, I've been out for my last run etc., I've started asking myself; what do I expect from this trip? When I return, whether it be 5 weeks from now, 5 months, or hopefully 5 years, what will determine whether or not this trip has been a success? What do I expect from it?

I've been saying since the beginning, that no matter what, I will keep writing these blogs, at least in the short-term. I just want to have a detailed record; something that I can look back on, 20 years from now, say, and know that this was my life. I've been keeping this blog regularly for about 6 months now. And unless for some reason I have to stop, I will continue keeping this blog for a number of years. And at the end of the day, this blog is really for me. It's something for me to be able to look back on in years to come. But at the same time, I'm not a private person, so I've made these entries public for anyone who wants to look at them. And I encourage people to look at them. But if no one apart from me, ever looked at these blogs again, I would still continue writing them for the immediate future. It's something that I want to do, and it's something that I enjoy doing. Therefore, the dream scenario for me from this trip, would have to be that this website started receiving so many hits, that the ad revenues totalled an amount that I could more or less live on. For that to become a reality, it is my estimation that this website would have to receive 10,000+ hits per day. And being realistic, that's just never going to happen. I would doubt that I ever get even close to that figure. But as I said, writing these blogs is something that I am going to continue to do in the immediate future. But writing them takes time. Each blog entry I write takes a couple of hours, sometimes more, to write. So I'd have to say that if this trip went like an absolute dream, the best possible scenario, would be that I could survive off the ad revenues for this website. That my main source of income, would become this website. So essentially, writing these blogs, became my job. That is the dream scenario for me. It would mean that I could travel indefinitely, and it would mean I would be getting paid to do what I would be doing anyway. I'm a realist though, and there is little to no chance of that ever becoming a reality.

Being more realistic then, what do I want from this trip? It's hard to say. I sometimes feel lost in life. I feel lost in the direction that I want to take. I see people starting careers, settling down with family etc. That may be the life that they want to lead. But personally, if I knew now that my life was going to follow the same path that everybody else's does, then I'd rather not live it to be quite honest. The thought of working a normal job for the next 40 years, having a normal family, and a normal car in a normal house, just sickens me. I don't exactly know the direction I want my life to take, but one thing I do know, is that I don't want it to go in that direction. So what direction do I want to go? It's hard to know that when you just don't know the purpose of why we're here in the first place. And this is something I've touched on before. But if, through my travelling, I can get just a little bit closer to knowing the direction I want my life to take, then I think I would view that as successful. If I can offer some clarity to myself, then it will have been worth all the time, and all the money.

You hear stories of people who travel, and their travels lead to their careers. Like the person who started the 'Rough Guide' guidebooks, did so because he had travelled so much, and knew so much. And what he did, was create a lifestyle for himself, where his travelling became his career. If this website cannot harvest a significant income, which I do not believe it will, then I'd guess, any other way that I could fathom that would allow me to travel indefinitely, is what I want. Writing guide books, becoming a travel journalist; something along those lines. I just don't want my life to get to a point that my only option is to live the normal life. Have the normal career, with the 2.4 children. And if, by the time I return, whenever that may be, if I have leant enough and opened up enough doorways that I can live my life the way that I want to, not how I'm expected to, then to me, that will mean it has been a success. If I come back, with no money and the only avenue open to me is to live the normal life... then that's when I'll be disappointed. Without wanting to sound too cliched, I guess you could say that I'm going to be exploring myself. Finding out about myself. Because I know that if I followed the path I'm supposed to at this stage of my life, 50 years from now, maybe 60, when I'm laying on my death-bed, looking back at how I lived my life... I know that I would look back disappointed. And that is maybe the one fear in my life. The one thing that scares me, is looking back, and being disappointed. Looking back, knowing it's too late to do anything about it, and being disappointed. So to me, this really is more than an extended holiday. It's when my whole life, from this point fourth, is shaped. Because right now, I don't know the direction I want to take. But if I arrive back and I still don't know, then I fear that maybe I never will.

Since I last wrote a blog, I've received a bit of clarity about the situation with the house, that I'm not moving into. Turns out that, as I thought, 2 Canadian chics were set to move into one of the rooms. But apparently they backed out at the last minute, which is why it was so late that I received the offer of a room. What I have found out, is that it was a master bedroom, with en suite, so is really suited for 2 people. And the planned rent for each person, is $375. So essentially, to rent the room it is $750, which is way more than I'm paying now. I'm not sure if this figure would be altered at all for just one person to have the room, but all of a sudden, it doesn't look such the awesome deal that I was bemoaning missing out on in the last blog. So as long as things work out with my condo, I guess things have worked out for the best.

The other bit of travel-related news, is that I've found a kiwi who is going to be in Vancouver at the same time as me. We've spoken a little on Facebook, so it's very possible I could get to know someone in person, who will be at Panorama, before I move down there. Which'll be cool. Though to quote: "... we could meet up and get the the piss :)" I assume he means, get on the piss. Sounds good to me. I was kind of hoping to be able to ease back onto alcohol after a 4-month hiatus. I guess if you're going to do something wrong though... do it wrong properly. If I'm honest I'm not sure I'll have time to meet this guy at all. Having to be up so early for the NFL game in Seattle (my bus leaves at 05:50 am), I only really have 2 free nights in Vancouver. And I've already compiled a rather large list of things I need to do there, or buy there, so having days hungover might not be the best plan. And Vancouver is a special place to me. It's the first place I ever really feel like I gained total independence, back in '05 (that's something I touch on in the before I left page). And because it's a special place to me, I have certain places in mind that I want to visit. To reminisce about the past. Just to think back. To look back at how my travelling all started. So I'm really not short of things to do in Vancouver, so maybe having a night out on the piss as well is being a bit ambitious. We'll see how things go though. At least it's another person I've spoken already who I'll be working with come December 3rd.

Even if you haven't read my last blog, you can probably tell by the name, that I was up and running again last Thursday. Well that run went so well, that I decided to have another run on Saturday. It's strange to me, that looking in the mirror, my body is far less aesthetically pleasing than it was when I wrote the 'Run and done' blog. There's no doubt in my mind that I've gained fat on my body in this period. Probably due in part to my inability to run anymore, but probably due more, towards my shit diet. But there is no doubt in my mind, that my body has become much less aesthetically pleasing since then. I mean I can barely see my abs anymore. So it confuses me, how I am now even fitter than I was then. I was extremely pleased with the time I did on my 7-8 mile route in the last blog that I wrote. Well this time, I somehow managed to cut 2¼ minutes off that time, almost certainly attaining my best time for that route. 2 and a ¼ minutes for fucks sake. For a route as short as 8 miles, that is a collosal amount of time. And it bemuses me, how it is even possible for me to record such fast times. I'm getting noticably fat. I've noticed it. So common sense, plus my own experiences, tell me that I should be recording shit times. But I feel as fit and healthy now, as I have done in a long while. And it bemuses me as to why. You know how when you go out running, you start out with a certain bounce in your step. You are making bounds, rather than steps. This is how anyone starts out, but as your body tires, you expect your feet to start to drag a little, and these bounds eventually just become normal steps. Well this never happened to me on Saturday. I arrived back at the same pace, with the same bounce that I left with. Such was my fitness, that I could run this 7-8 miles with absolutely no let-off. Almost doing it as a slow sprint, rather than a jog. And it just bemuses me how this can be the case, because to look at, there is no doubt my body has deteriorated recently. I just find it strange. If there did have to be a trade-off though, health vs appearance, health would win everytime. Luckily they usually go hand in hand. Though not this time for some reason. I guess it could be because my knee feels fully healed. But apart from my appearance, I just feel healthier overall right now. And I don't know why. Judging by my diet, and by my appearance, I really shouldn't feel so good. But man, I can really run right now. It's almost a shame I have to go somewhere that's covered in snow!

Jethro Jro Williams On the topic of appearance, this is a photo I took on Saturday night. I want a record of how I look before travelling, to see how it affects my body. I don't actually look too bad here, but I made sure there was a light above me, to give emphasis on what little muscle I'm carrying. In real life, I don't look that good. I don't look anything like it. Hey, Eurika moment! Why not invent a light, that you could attach to you head, that sits about a foot up, and a foot in front of you head, and just shines down on your body. That way you could walk around with no shirt on and look good, all the time. Because for me, I can only ever look good with light right above me. If I stuck a light on my head, I'd look good all the time. It's genius! Why do I have all my great ideas, just as I'm about to leave?

Speaking of which, have a guess at how many people have joined the Facebook group 'Justice for baby P' now? 182,591. Imagine how rich I'd be if I'd pissed off all of them. I'd be a millionaire. And it's not just them. 'Campaign to get justice for baby P' has 124,140 members. And another group, also called 'Justice for baby P', has a further 33,274 members. And the list goes on. There are 149 groups currently on Facebook, that contain the text 'Justice for baby P'!!! Just think how rich you could get if you pissed off all of them! Why do I have to go abroad just as I have my best money-making idea ever? It's genius.

On that cheery note about dead babies, I think it's time to wrap up what will probably be the last blog entry I write before arriving in Canada. I haven't even started packing yet. And though I wouldn't normally take too long to pack to go away, the fact I hope to be gone for a number of years, means that I really don't want to forget the essentials. A forgotten passport could put things right in the shitter. I have got an elaborate plan for my packing. Because I'm cheap, or sensible, depends on how you look at it, I have bought the cheapest flight that I can find. And as such, my baggage allowance isn't huge. So when packing, I shall be wearing all of my heavy clothing. Winter coat, wearing it. North Face walking boots. Wearing them. If you happen to be at the airport on Wednesday, look out for me. I'll be the idiot wearing way too many clothes, and sweating because of it. It'll hopefully keep me under the baggage weight limit though, and free up space in my backpack. And at least I won't be getting cold on the flight. Might be too hot, but I defintely won't be cold.

And on that note, I say congratulations to Brock Lesnar, the new UFC heavyweight champ (I told you). I say "fuck me, is George Bush still this dumb", as he again insists that the free-market is an operable system, as the world falls into financial turmoil and recession. And I'll leave you with one more thing: "During the gold-rush, it was the men selling the shovels that made a fortune."

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