During one of my first solo trips, I bought a train ticket from Seattle to Vancouver. I pictured myself gliding up through the Cascades in a train car, sipping hot cider. I could envision walking around the streets of Vancouver, bundled up in several layers, searching for the most appealing restaurant among a cadre of cultural dining options. I planned to meet a friend at his favorite local bar. And then I planned to take a long, hot shower in my hotel room. The next morning, I would explore the shops with enough time to walk back to the train station and head back to Seattle.
This is not at all how it turned out.
There was an avalanche in the Cascades, so I had to make the four hour trip on a smelly bus with an old man falling asleep on my shoulder. On a positive note, the view on the drive was spectacular. I basically had my face and my whole body pressed against the glass the entire journey.
The bus station turned out to be two miles from my hotel, which I decided to walk to save money. I quickly found out that I couldn’t use my phone or GPS because I didn’t have an international plan. So I got lost. Really lost. About a mile and a half later, it started raining. Keep in mind that this was during winter.
It took me another mile and a half to finally find my hotel. By the time I got there, I was drenched, annoyed, and hungry. I quickly threw on some dry clothes and headed to the nearest restaurant I could find. It ended up being a place called “The Bodega” which was a Spanish, family style restaurant. Not the ideal place for solo dining. The waitress asked if I was single. After I sputtered out a surprised, “Yes…?” She asked if I would like to dine with the gentleman in the front of the restaurant. When I glanced over in his direction, I saw that he was a middle aged man with sparse hair. I quickly declined. She rearranged her face in what I can only assume was a sad, maternal facial expression. She looked at me with that expression the entire meal.
After my meal, I felt a bit refreshed and ready for another adventure. I used the restaurant’s wifi to find the bus route that I needed to get from the part of town in which I was staying to the part of town with the bar to meet my friend. When I found the right bus line, I didn’t have enough change in Canadian coins to ride. The bus driver gave me a sorry look and politely asked me to get off the bus. After going to a Starbucks and buying whatever was on the menu to get change, I got back on the bus. Twenty minutes and eight stops later, I realized that I was going the complete opposite direction of where I needed to go. I immediately got off the bus and had to buy another drink at a local sandwich shop. By this time, all the shops were closing as it was well after dark. I got back on the correct bus going the correct direction just to arrive a few minutes after he left.
At that point, I was fed up with my stubbornness and my experience in Vancouver. I hailed the nearest cab, returned to the hotel, and spent the rest of the night and the next morning watching French cartoons and eating some disintegrated granola bars that I found in the bottom of my backpack.
Because of all the mishaps and misfortunes, I only had the presence of mind to take three, mostly blurry, pictures during the entire jaunt to Canada. I happily boarded the bus back to Seattle, conceding to explore Canada another time. I learned a lot of lessons on that trip. The most important one being that if I had it all to do over again, I would have just paid the money to take a damn cab.
Sincerely hoping that you avoid my rookie mistakes,