Back to the Real World

Edit: I never did post this. Not sure why. Perhaps too bitter? Fuck it. It’s going up.


We’re back home. yay.

Perhaps not the most interesting way to phrase it but there it is. Three weeks in Europe, bouncing around and seeing the sites, really makes you want to stay. Like seriously stay. I considered it for longer than I probably should have.

One negative aspect of living freely while traveling is seeing so many “possibilities”, and probably not valid possibilities at that. You look around at some location, the locals going about their daily business and think to yourself, “You know, I could do this. I could do this right here. I don’t have to go back.”

Of course, that’s bullshit. There’s so many things you’re not thinking about when romanticizing the possibility of sticking around in a foreign country: where are you going to sleep? How are you going to find work? What about health insurance while you’re in a country that’s not going to be happy if you fuck yourself up and need hospitalization? None of these things pop into mind when you’re gazing lovingly at that pretty bridge or amazing vista in the distance. No, you just want to  experience those things day in, day out while you live there.

Sure, the idea is great but the reality really sucks; trust me, I lived it. For almost a year I lived in London and during the time I was trying to survive, I didn’t see a goddamned thing that could be called a tourist attraction. And that’s what happens most of the time; you’re so busy working and commuting that you don’t make time to do the sightseeing you thought you’d do.

Another Zaal Trip Coming to a Close

We’ve only got another couple of days left in our summer vacation; time to return back to Canada where ‘real’ life prevails.

Back to work, at a job I’m not sure will fulfill my requirements for the future. Back to a shitty little apartment, that doesn’t fulfill anyone’s requirements. Back to a boring town that shuts down around 2200 unless you like going to the bars to drink your face off and deal with the Cro-Magnons which seem to live in those locations.  Don’t even get me started on the dearth of cultural opportunities we don’t have in Calgary. Wait… is that  a double negative?

To say that I don’t belong in Calgary sounds… disingenuous at best but it’s hard to argue that it makes for a decent ‘base’ of operations for travel. Not as good as, say, Toronto but that city has its own issues that I’m not sure I’d be happy with. It’s a central city with an International Airport with Oil and Gas money flowing through the streets. Good place to work but a great place to get away from.

As I get older, I realize that I am truly nomadic in temperament, always thinking forward to the next time I can be on the road, doing something new and interesting, seeing how different cultures deal with things so very differently that we do.

Here’s an example: this morning at breakfast, Sly pointed to the jam sitting on the plate of one other diner the next table over. It was in a small, glass container with a metal lid holding an individual portion. It was, actually, a very small jar of jam. Back in Canada, you would have received the same condiment in a plastic cup with a tear-away lid. I can only imagine someone from the UK showing up in Calgary, maybe Cora’s or Phil’s, and having these shitty little packages sitting on their table. How quaint, they would say, when in reality it’s probably bloody shocking to them.

I know I’m probably nit-picking, but I appreciate the ‘old’ societies. They have different worries than we do and they concern themselves with the small societal problems a whole hell of a lot less than we do. Want to put some boobs in your movie? PG! Want to show someone getting their head blown off? 18+! Seems sensible to me.

Their cities are more refined with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to make themselves better. Transit systems work the way they are planned to. London Transport services the city with its population of eight million and they do it well. Calgary Transit can’t seem to service one million.

And here’s the rub: I KNOW it sounds like some silly traveler on a trip enamored with a city he’s only been in for a couple of weeks. Fuck that, I used to live here and know about this city, warts and all, and would still choose to emigrate here if I got the opportunity.

Right on schedule, I’m getting maudlin just before my return to Canada. This always happens so I am prepared. I want the rest of my trip to rock and make it home in one piece.

So I can do it all again next year. 😉

Dunkeld Falls @ Old Military Road
Dunkeld Falls @ Old Military Road

Canadian Mobile Environment Sucks

So I’m in Europe at the moment with an Google Nexus 4 and my wife carrying a 5. Of course they are both unlocked from a service provider, as all phones purchased from Google are,  and  GSM pentaband so we can go with every mobile provider in Europe.

When we first arrived in France, things were pretty hectic: we were all tired and ready to get into Paris, proper. All of the SIM card options I had researched weren’t available at the Relay store we visited so, with the help of Sly, I opted for a “Tourist sim” which offered a flat two hours of international calling, 1 gig of data and 2000 text messages, all of which would expire after a month. This cost me an exhorbitant 39.95 Euro. But it was definitely convenient and got me what I needed, and more.

Fast forward a week and we’re on the Chunnel train to London. I’m leafing through the train’s monthly magazine and find an offer from Lebara for a free SIM card; I would just have to pick it up on arrival in London St. Pancras Station. Thinking this would be just another way to fleece travelers, I pocketed the voucher I would need to trade for a SIM with a shrug and thought little more of it.

Arriving at St. Pancras, I happened upon the location mentioned on the voucher so I walked up, pulled out my wallet for the inevitable ask and pushed the voucher under the window. The location was a currency exchange outlet, one of the more notorious businesses that savvy travelers tend to avoid. The cashier smiled, looked at the voucher and handed me a package containing a SIM card and instructions on how to top up the account. I tossed the package in a pocket and forgot about it until we found our hotel.

After settling-in, I jumped on the Wi-Fi and setup an account, purchased a data plan (only no need for minutes) and then put 5 quid into the prepay section so I could make the occasional call and text my wife (as she was using the SIM from France). And that’s it. In under 10 minutes I was up and running with a phone that could be used anywhere in the UK for only 10 quid.

No hassle, no walking into a store, no setting up a post paid account. Using only an internet connection I was up and running within 10 minutes with very little monetary investment.

I don’t even want to compare the process for someone that needs to do it in Canada as that whole fucking process just sucks.

This is what happens when a dozen or so competitors (yes, real competition) are vying for your money.

I’ll be using Lebara again if ever I find myself in the UK again simply due to the ease of use.