Welcome to the new monthly series, Life of Lauren!
For regular followers of Justin Plus Lauren, you’ll know that this blog is written by a Canadian gal named Lauren. I write about my travels with my partner, Justin…and sometimes I go places without him, too.
While I adore writing all about my various travels, sometimes it takes a little while for me to get those photos and words out there. For instance, I travelled to Ireland last October, and I’m still writing about that trip. In fact, I still have loads to write about my trip to Iceland in June of 2016, and my adventure to Italy in May of 2015!
This monthly wrap-up series will give you a chance to read about everything I’ve been doing over the past month. This includes trips that I may or may not have written about already, what I’ve been up to at home (because I am a part-time traveller), and whatever else I feel like writing about. In other words, I might get a little more personal here and include some non-travelly things.
Of course, if you want to see what I might be doing from day to day, feel free to check out my Instagram stories!
I love sharing travel stories, advice, and tips on this blog. One thing that I’ve always wanted to do, yet struggle with, is getting more personal with you, my reader. I’m hoping that this monthly feature will be my gateway to exploring that style of writing.
In February, I enjoyed some local travel around Ontario, as well as one bigger trip to the Caribbean.
At the beginning of February, I checked out three frozen waterfalls in Hamilton, Ontario. One of my best friends, Shannon joined me. I hadn’t ever visited one of the waterfalls before, and I need to go back in the summer to see it all thawed out. The other two waterfalls I’d never seen in the winter before. Shannon and I also hiked around all three areas, and it wasn’t even that cold outside.
After the hike, we went to one of my favourite vegan spots in Hamilton, Democracy Coffee Shop. On our way to Democracy, we stumbled upon Donut Monster – a new donut shop on Locke Street. I’d heard so many things about Donut Monster because most of their donuts are vegan. We bought a few right before closing time, even though there were only a few varieties left. They were so good, and I can’t wait to go back for more.
Plus, I’m an awesome girlfriend and brought home some donuts for Justin to try, too.
My other friends, Sarah and Ryan, met us at Democracy for a coffee. Then, we went down to Shannon’s place to visit her new-ish puppy, a Bernese Mountain Dog who keeps growing bigger by the second. I showed Sarah and Shannon my new obsession, playing HQ Trivia on my phone once or twice a day. I still haven’t won a piece of the cash prize, although it has taken our phones (and those of my co-workers!) by storm.
ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO
Later in the week, I met up with Lindsay of I’ve Been Bit to continue hiking the Bruce Trail. I got a little bit behind…as in, I hadn’t hiked ol’ Brucey in over a year! Even though it was pretty darn cold, we got lost, and we ended up plowing our own trail in the snow, we still had a total blast.
If you’re intrigued by my goal to hike all 900km of the trail, or if you want to see what two crazy Canadian girls felt like doing in the winter, check out the my post about hiking Short Hills Provincial Park (Bruce Trail Hike #8).
After the hike, we went to a restaurant and cafe called Mahtay Cafe & Lounge in downtown St. Catharines. They are a vegan-friendly place, and I was starving. After ordering a noodle salad and a mushroom flatbread, we opened up our laptops and attempted to get some blogging done.
As it was a Thursday night, we participated in the #WeekendWanderlust Twitter chat together. We’re both hosts of Weekend Wanderlust, so why don’t you hop on over to our Facebook group and join if you haven’t already?!
So, before the next amazingly fun thing I did in February, I worked.
And worked. And worked some more.
Leading up to my vacation, I worked four consecutive twelve hour shifts at my full time gig, directly before hopping on a plane the following morning. I don’t know when I found the time to pack, blog, or do much of anything during those days.
By the time I was in Miami, I was grateful for rest, relaxation, and the chance to spend twelve days in a row with Justin.
CRUISE WITH HOLISTIC HOLIDAY AT SEA
I won’t go into too much detail here as I’ll be writing quite a bit about it soon. Justin and I spent Valentine’s Day together in Miami, dining at Full Bloom (at their new location – or at least new since I’d been there last).
Then, we boarded the MSC Divina for 10 days at sea. We spent five of those days in port, and three of the islands were brand new to me. The cruise ventured to St. Thomas (USVI), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Martinique, Barbados, and Guadeloupe.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we enjoyed many days on the beach or in the ocean.
The cruise itself was really enjoyable, and it was great to be around so many like-minded people. Even though we were part of a group with Holistic Holiday at Sea (and some passengers weren’t on the vegan cruise), our vegan group numbered over 2000 people (and outnumbered the non-vegan passengers on the ship)!
I am truly blown away that thousands of people signed up for a specialty vegan cruise. I’m so happy that veganism and plant-based diets are growing in popularity.
The vegan food was really tasty, and it was really awesome not having to cook for a couple of weeks. We also ate copious amounts of marinara pizza as afternoon snacks and late night meals. I know the specialty vegan meals in the restaurants were fabulous, but I’ll always remember eating a ton of this pizza!
We had personal training sessions with Dani and Giacomo of Vegan Proteins / Plantbuilt. These sessions gave us the motivation we needed to get back to exercising and lifting at the gym. In fact, Justin and I went to the gym on the cruise ship every damn day. And since we’ve been home, we’ve made a point of working out almost every day, except for a couple of times where work or life got in the way. Thanks for setting us on the right track again, Dani & Giacomo!
Justin and I took a Yoga Nidra class, which was something completely new to the both of us. It helps the body and mind to become completely relaxed, as a way to let go of anxieties and stress. I swear, I entered a dream-like state and time flew by faster than I thought possible. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this, and I’d love to find more yoga nidra classes at home.
I’ll be writing about ALL of this in way more detail soon! Stay tuned.
I try to make it out to events in Toronto when I can because I love networking with other travellers, tourism boards, and brands. While I was travelling and working way too much in February, this didn’t really happen.
However, because I’ve never done Life of Lauren before (and because it’s my blog and I can do whatever the heck I want), I’ll include one from the end of January.
I attended the Discover Austria Gala Evening with a number of tourism boards and brands in Austria. It was a beautiful event with a hosted dinner, and we got to learn about the latest and greatest for Austrian tourism.
One of my favourite parts of the event was learning about what was happening in Salzburg, a city that stole my heart last summer.
The event definitely made me want to go back to Austria ASAP. Who knows, maybe it will happen? Stranger things have happened…
Yes, something crazy and spontaneous happened! I was at work one night when I received an email from YYZ Deals, a Toronto-based flight deal newsletter and group. There was an amazing deal on a flight to New Zealand at a rate that I’d never even knew was possible.
I texted Justin, “I found an amazing flight deal…to New Zealand! What do you think?”
I think that most of the conversation involved my frantic Google searches for travel dates and the like. It’s all a blur now. Even though Justin hates long haul flights with a passion, he enthusiastically replied, “Let’s do it!”.
And with the click of a button, we booked flights to New Zealand for November of this year!
I figured that we’d end up going to Japan in the fall, but it looks like we’ve traded that trip in for New Zealand. Can’t wait to start planning this one! Feel free to send all New Zealand tips my way.
BOOKS, TV, FILM, ETC.
I’m so happy to have finally finished reading the book, An African Love Story: Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick.
I visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant orphanage in Nairobi a couple of years ago when I was volunteering in Kenya. I was fascinated with the story behind the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and scoured their website for more details.
When I stumbled upon Daphne Sheldrick’s book randomly in a small bookstore on a trip through the Finger Lakes, I knew that I had to read it. This book details Dame Sheldrick’s life story, and it’s wonderful. I know I had tears in my eyes on several occasions, whether the stories illustrated her relationships with people or animals.
The book details the hardships of combating poachers and learning how to raise orphaned elephants, back when no one knew how to do it. David Sheldrick and Daphne Sheldrick have devoted their lives to the animals, and they truly are heroes.
Justin and I watched every episode of Nathan For You in February, and we can’t wait until new episodes come out. Nathan For You is a documentary style reality comedy series, and it’s one of the funnier shows we’ve watched in a long time. The final episode of the latest season, Finding Frances, is epic.
THIS MONTH, I’M OBSESSED WITH…
- Our cats, Chickpea and Tiny (this will never change). When we travel, I miss them so much! I swear that I end up talking about the cats half the time I’m away.
- Coffee – I will probably write this every single month. It’s Tim Hortons Roll Up The Rim time here in Canada. Do you know what that means? If you’re Canadian, you do!
- My day planner. Writing down everything that I have to do keeps my life organized and somewhat sane. It also comes with fun stickers.
- Google Flights. I’m constantly looking at flight prices and figuring out where to go next. Can you relate?
- HQ Trivia. It’s a live game on your phone that airs every day at 9pm ET (and weekdays at 3pm ET). I’ve never won, although I’ve gotten to about question 9 (out of 12 questions) before. It gets pretty tricky!
That’s all for now, folks! Until next month…