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Les Talk, More Travel

On Blogging: Don’t Change! Be Yourself!

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Last year, I paid a lot of money to change my blog membership to a ‘Business Plan’. I’d never earned a cent from writing, but for the first time ever, I’d been offered a paid opportunity to host an ad on my blog, for an organization that was incredibly aligned with everything I write about. The amount of money I would have made would have *just about* seen me break even for the upgrade, but I figured it was more than worth it, since I gave myself a crash course in creating a contract, a price list, changing my blog around so that I could include plug-ins and ads, and making it look nicer with an upgraded theme.

Then it fell apart. The company, and the person who contacted me, were legit and genuine, but the guy just ghosted me, right when he was supposed to sign a contract. I saw a travel blogger who I’ve followed for years do an ad for the company on Instagram, maybe a month later. He’d probably decided that ads on Instagram were better investments, and no doubt that this blogger in particular had a much larger audience, and I really didn’t have enough knowledge about any of this to write back and try to convince him to still work with me.

So… I had changed my entire blog layout, spent hours working through tweaks and getting caught up on everything I needed to learn, and spent a lot of money. It ended up being an expensive, intensive and unnecessary professional amateur development opportunity, I guess. I can’t afford to keep the business account, so I’ve downgraded, back to the much more affordable basic account. All the fancy stuff disappeared this week, but that’s ok. Because the experience taught me to ~~~*** be true to myself ***~~~. For real though, I’m not going to do that again. Here’s why:

1. It was stressful! Why did I spend so much time changing something I loved to cater to someone who hadn’t even paid me yet!? I should have been more honest and just confessed that I hadn’t hosted an ad before, and offered something that I could have provided. Maybe a sponsored post, or an Instagram post. He could have said no, and that would have been ok.

2. What was motivating me? I’ve decided that I don’t want to alter what I do – the thing I love – in order to make money. (Okay… that’s a lie… I’d alter things A BIT to make MONEY to do what I LOVE!) This guy wasn’t asking me to change – in fact, he’d contacted me because a lot of what I write about is very much in line with the travel campaign he was advertising, but it got me thinking about this. I’m not influencer material in the first place, but I don’t think I could sustain that lifestyle even if I were. I like autonomy, and I like to be wacky with my writing. I do like to grow and evolve as a writer, so in a weird way I appreciate cringing at old pieces (like I’ll probably cringe at this tomorrow), and I appreciate receiving constructive criticism, but sometimes IDGAF and I’m gonna write it the way I want to! For example I consciously choose to use the word ‘like’ a lot. Like (case in point) I wouldn’t mind someone telling me what to do, just not how to do it. You know? You don’t know? You don’t follow my crazy brain? TL;DR: don’t change! Be yourself! You do you! Just do it! Ba dap ba dap bah I’m lovin it!

3. It was a pretty dope year, blog-wise, sans advertising, which was empowering. Late in 2017, a talented, lesbian blogger couple asked me to write a guest post for their blog. I thought about it for a long time, and what came out was a vulnerable, long piece about how my coming out was related to travel. This post was the first one in a while that I really put myself into, which was rewarding in itself. It also generated a lot of positive reactions, and – I believe – directly led to my blog/Instagram being featured on an AUTOSTRADDLE LIST (basically the Buzzfeed of lesbians, but imagine if everyone who read Buzzfeed was your target audience). My blog was on a couple of other cool lists (Only Once Today, The Rainbow Route), I won a bit of money in a contest, and I got to work with ANOTHER talented and hilarious writer (Jenna Wimshurst)– we wrote guest posts for each others blog, which for me meant collaborating with Kyla on a piece for the first time! The fall was a little quieter in terms of collaborations and features, but you know what? My readership has increased in a way that I’m really proud of. The number of visitors and views on my blog have more than doubled compared to last year. Let me stress that I still have a very small number of viewers compared to bigger blogs (come at me, potential advertisers, lolz!), but it’s been cool to see the growth on my blog.

4. I think I’ll make specific goals for growth (and potentially $$) for the blog next year, where take initiative and have control. I have a few ideas for potential collaborations, along with posts I’ve wanted to write for a long time, and at the very least I will continue “creating content” (i.e. exposing you to my crazy brain) at least once a month.

I love this blog, and it might look uglier from now on, at least during the transition from $$$ to $, but writing makes me happy, and I want to keep feeling that way! Thank you so much for reading, love you! (Seriously who doesn’t have a blog these days; there’s definitely a disproportionate amount of writers to readers, so really THANK YOU if you made it to this line!)

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What Moving Means: ‘Pro Tips’ from a Seasoned Mover

This post is mostly about the logistics of moving, but click here to read my thoughts about making social connections in new cities – especially as an introvert!

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Moving causes pandamonium!

In September, Kyla and I bought our first home, and on Halloween, we moved in. This was far from my craziest farthest move, but it was definitely the most significant! It got me reflecting on my past relocations, and I figured that I’ve moved over a dozen times in the last decade or so. Across Canadian cities, over the Pacific and back THREE times, between states in Australia, to a new neighbourhood in Seoul, a couple of temporary, “extended visits” to my parents’ house in Ottawa, across Canada to Victoria, WHEW!

I actually love moving. I love that it’s dynamic and makes me feel like I’m evolving; I love getting to know new cities and neighbourhoods; I kinda weirdly love getting rid of stuff and re-organizing. But. It’s. Effing. Stressful. And expensive! All at once it can be a logistical nightmare and nostalgic and sentimental and heartbreaking. While I’m confident that this most recent move will be my last for a while, I wanted to share some tips that have been helpful for me in the past. If you have a move coming up, I hope that you can combine some of these ideas with your own strategies (P.S. what are they?!?!) to preserve the fun bits while fending off the stress!

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Victoria, BC: 10 Things to Do in the Fall

This is an updated version of a post I wrote two years ago. Most of my recommendations are the same, but the info is current!

It’s been raining on and off here in Victoria, which means… hygge time! Being warm and cozy INDOORS! But sometimes, I want to have an answer other than “Netflix” when someone asks me about my weekend. Plus, after 3 years on the Wet Coast, I’ve learned that you pretty much have to suck it up, put on some rain boots, and find things to do until at least December when it’s more acceptable to to start hibernating.

It’s actually a great time of year to explore: the big crowds of tourists are gone (if you’re a tourist, still come visit though!), there’s still lots of sun and blue skies between the showers, and there are so many amazing things to do in and around the city! Here are some ideas:

1. Check out the Salmon Run at Goldstream Provincial Park:

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Sunshine Coast Trail: Lewis Lake to Tin Hat Mountain Loop

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Last weekend, we hiked a very small part of the Sunshine Coast Trail, a 180 km hut-to-hut trail north of Vancouver. Because we only had one vehicle to work with, and the price of getting a shuttle to pick us up along the trail was fairly steep, we opted to do a loop this time around. Plus, we really wanted to include Tin Hat Mountain in our trek, which is easily accessed via a 2 day loop from Lewis Lake.

Here’s a rundown of our 2 days on the trail, broken down into sections, including stops in Powell River. Let me know if you have any questions or, if you’ve done the hike, suggestions for next time!

Victoria to Powell River:

The ferry runs 4 times daily from Comox (Vancouver Island) to Powell River (Sunshine Coast), and takes about 1.5 hours. You can also drive the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver, which includes 2 ferries.

Powell River was a cute little town! We had some time to kill once we arrived, so we headed straight to Townsite Brewing; they had great beer, arcade games, and they’re the sponsor of Tin Hat Mountain hut! We had dinner at Costa del Sol, which had so-so food and service, but a fabulous atmosphere and ocean views from the cozy patio.

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Cayo Levisa, Cuba: Bedbugs and Bare Bums

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Aaah Cuba. Where we rode horses through the Viñales valley, open-air salsa danced in Trinidad, played in the waves on the Havana Malecón… oh and where we went to dinner basically in the buff on the romantic island of Cayo Levisa!?!

How did we manage that? Long story short, it had a little to do with some uninvited roomies in Viñales (bedbugs, baby), and a lot to do with a tropical storm that set in RIGHT after we’d stripped down to wash all of our clothes and get rid of the icky buggy feeling. But you can read the long story long, because Kyla and I joined forces for the first time to write allll about it in a guest post for comedy writer Jenna Wimshurst: Nearly Naked on Cayo Levisa

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Oregon Road Trip: The Coast

This is Part 2 of my post about our Oregon road trip; in Part 1 you can find some suggestions for what to do, eat, and drink on a weekend in Portland! (You can also find out how much I freak out about driving… #roadtrippp.)

Day 4: Wine and Dunes: Portland to Florence

By now you probably know that Portland is cool, but byeeee Portland! Today’s the day you get to drive out to the coast with the wind in your h—ohh but actually you have loads of time, may as well make a couple of stops along the way!

Eugene’s right on the route from Portland to Florence, so it’s a great spot for lunch. We needed a cheap food day after PDX, so we opted for scrumptious food truck tacos, but there are loads of options, and even a Voodoo Doughnuts if you were too stuffed to try it in Portland.

Ok now it’s time to drive off to the coas—oooh hang on though, there’s a WINERY route basically ON THE WAY?! Durrrr you are going there! There are lots of wineries to choose from near the Territorial Highway, just off the route between Eugene and Florence. We visited Sweet Cheeks Winery and Sarver Winery to share a tasting at each (had to be responsible, we were driving). Both offered great wines and stunning views of the rolling vineyards.

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11 Things to Look Forward to at Victoria Pride 2018

On Monday, the city of Victoria raised 5 flags in anticipation of Pride (including the transgender, two-spirit, genderqueer, and non-binary flags, alongside rainbow). With just a few days left until Victoria’s 2018 Pride Week kick-off, there’s a LOT to look forward to in the next couple of weeks! Here are some events to consider!

 1. Drag Ball (July 1st)

The annual Canada Day kick-off to Pride Week and can’t-miss event: Kings vs Queens in a softball game where, in the wise words of WLIIA, “the rules are made up and the points don’t matter!” An awesome day to get dressed up in rainbow and day drink… or join in the game! More info about Drag Ball.

Continue reading “11 Things to Look Forward to at Victoria Pride 2018”

Oregon Road Trip : A Weekend in Portland

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Or: The Story of How I Overcame My Anxiety/Mild Phobia of Highway Driving with DIY Exposure Therapy (i.e. just driving, no escape) by Splitting an 11 Day Road Trip with My Ever-Patient Girlfriend! JK, I’ll save that riveting story for another time! But suffice it to say, when we planned this trip, I wasn’t ONLY thinking about all the food we were going to eat in Portland and the dramatic coastal landscapes we were going to see, I was also thinking about passing trucks at high speeds on the I-5 while remembering to focus on the MILES, not kilometres, on my speedometer, and lots of other things to do with driving. Obviously, I didn’t die, and I didn’t FEEL like I was going to die for at least MOST of the trip. Plus, it was so nice to have the flexibility to choose where we wanted to go and how long we wanted to stop. In conclusion: successful DIY project, and also: successful road trip.

K so back to Oregon: Here’s a guide to an excellent (IMHO perfect) Oregon road trip, based on a compressed version of our trip (we started in Vancouver*, spent an extra night in Portland, and had to stay the night in Port Angeles on the way home to catch the ferry to Victoria). Next up is the coast!

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Guest Post: The Trouble with Travelling as a Lesbian Couple

Jenna Wimshurst is a comedy and travel writer who also happens to be a lesbian. Humorous travel writing and being a lesbian happen to be two of my favourite things, so when she wanted to write a guest post for my blog, I was ecstatic! She even spells ‘travelling’ the right way the same way we do in Canada! Clearly, Jenna is fabulous. Once you’ve enjoyed her insightful and hilarious essay about what it’s like to travel as a lesbian couple, head over to her blog to read more things that will have you guffawing in seconds!

The Trouble with Travelling as a Lesbian Couple

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The couple in room 12 are lesbians

In April 2016, the UK Foreign Office updated its travel advice warning gay and transgender travellers visiting the American states of North Carolina and Mississippi to be careful. It really got me thinking that a) America can be a dangerous place for LGBTQ community, and b) thank God there’s a government body here to tell me to tone down my gayness when on my holibobs otherwise I would’ve been throwing my lesbian self about all over the joint.

Other lesbians and gays will be familiar with those nervous few moments you get when you first approach the hotel reception with your partner and check into your double room that only has one bed.

A few things go through my mind when I first give my booking details to the receptionist:

– Are they going to say anything about us being massive lesbians?

– Will they say that we can’t stay at their hotel because of our sexuality?

– Will they press the homosexual button where rainbow flags drop down, Wham bursts out of the radio and suddenly two sparkling pink cocktails appear in our hands. Sounds fabulous.

But even if they don’t say anything, I know that they’re going to be telling their colleagues that there’s two lesbians staying in room 12 straight after they’ve served us. Ok, I don’t KNOW this, but I HIGHLY suspect it.

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Trinidad, Cuba: 5 Things to Do Around Town

Going to Cuba? Learn more about hanging out in Vinales and ideas for days in Havana.

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There’s lots to see and do just outside of Trinidad, a colourful, cobblestoned, colonial, UNESCO World Heritage town in Cuba’s Santi Spíritus Province. El Nicho and Caburní waterfalls are close by in Parque Natural Topes de Collantes; you can take a slow, steam train ride into the Valle de los Ingenios and look out over the former sugar production centre from Iznaga Tower; you can even visit an island full of iguanas for the day! All of those things were on our radar for our visit to Trinidad (ok, only *I* was into having iguanas swarm me), but we didn’t do any of them! Instead, we opted to spend our time wandering around town and visiting a nearby beach.

If you’re looking for a relaxing few days in a beautiful town, here are a few ideas! (Sidebar, I’ve noticed a theme in a lot of my posts: “this is how to relax in ___”. I really like downtime!)

 

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2 Days in Havana

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We only had a day and a half in Havana, so we squished a lot in! I found that it was completely possible to have a great time on a short trip to Havana, without it seeming stressful!

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Photos of me taken by Kyla.

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How Travel Helped Me Come Out

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It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to really put my heart into my writing, but it was such a joy to immerse myself in this piece for Travel with Mei and Kerstin.

Mei and Kerstin have been featuring lesbian travellers on their blog, and they asked me to share a story. The topic was open-ended; it could be about how I started to travel, a specific travel story, lesbian travel, or something else. As I started reflecting, I realized how interconnected travel and coming out were for me, and how difficult it would be to disentangle travel and my sexuality from my current identity. What followed was a sort of summary of 10 years of travel, where I focus on coming out, and the important connection between being a lesbian and being a traveller.

Take a look at the article here: Lesbian Traveler: Leslie from Les Talk, More Travel.

Read more on my blog about: my coming out story, queer and lesbian Victoria, BC (this could use an update!), one of my favourite trips with my girlfriend, and some highlights from Vancouver and Victoria’s Pride festivals.

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Seoul-ed Out: Everything Seoul, Korea!

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My good friend Katrina will be heading to South Korea for the Olympics this year, and I’ve been bombarding her with information about Seoul! I lived there for 2 years between late 2012 and early 2015, and it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. I feel homesick for Seoul all the time. Sometimes I miss the little things, like the subway system, or staring confusedly at the grocery store shelves, trying to make sure I was buying the right kind thing. (Really, I miss that!) Sometimes, it’s the big things. Entertainment at all hours. The food. My lifestyle. It’s always nice to look back on that time, and I was inspired to write a Seoul megapost, for anyone heading that way for the Olympics or otherwise. Here are some things to see, do, and eat in the winter*. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list! Do you have a favourite Seoul food or activity that’s not included? Feel free to leave a comment!

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10 Reasons to Visit Viñales, Cuba… and Stay a While

 

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When Kyla and I landed in Havana a month ago, the first place we headed was Viñales, about 2 hours west of the capital. We stayed for 5 days! After the craziness of Christmas (and life in general), we wanted our first stop to feel relaxing, rather than packing up and moving every couple of days. The Viñales valley turned out to be the perfect place to stay put. It’s not on the coast, but it’s not too far from a stunning beach, and the town and surroundings offer stunning landscapes and tons of activities (plus tons of ways to fill your belly and sample local rum)!

 

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Here are 10 reasons to hang up your hammock and stay a while in Viñales!

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