Spending the summer in Gatineau

Mosaiculture in Gatineau

Catching up with friends and family

This has got to be my biggest disappointment of my summer.

I moved back to Canada for the summer months so I would have a chance to catch up with my family and friends, but I didn’t end up seeing much more of them than I would have should I have just gone back for a couple of weeks.

At first, it was all exciting. I arrived back in Québec City, spent a few days with my parents, visited my grandparents and saw some friends. And then I moved to Gatineau.

At a distance of about 5 hours drive, it’s not that close to Quebec city, however, my friends all got excited at the prospect of a few days away in the Capital region, catching up and visiting. But what we didn’t take into account is that if you don’t make solid plans, next thing you know the season is over and you haven’t seen each other.

Which is exactly what happened.

We all had the best intentions in the world to spend tons of time together, but life got in the way. And before I knew it, it was already October. I’m glad I got to see the few friends with whom we managed to make our schedules work together, but I would have been more than okay with spending a lot more time with them too.

My plan was also originally to go and visit my friends for weekends here and there, but because I started skydiving and my goal was also to put money aside, I ended up not wanting to take days off and ”lose” money. Not a smart decision in hindsight since money doesn’t really help to maintain friendships or when one is feeling lonely.

Settling down

As scary as this was when I arrived in May, as it was to be expected, time went by super quickly. And before I knew it, it was already time for me to move on to new adventures. My first few weeks living in the holiday trailer felt quite long. I was the only one living on site on Monday and Tuesday, the two days when GO Skydive is closed. I didn’t have a car, so I was limited to public transport (almost nonexistent in that area of the city) or using a bike.

While I enjoyed some alone time, which I always seem to need in my life, I felt rather lonely. Especially after coming back from Kenya living with a group of people almost 24/7, and living in London where I was catching up with friends, going on dates, and living in a hostel. Gatineau and the dropzone felt really quiet and lonely.

One of the many DZ visitors

However, because the season was only starting, people started coming more regularly at the DZ to stay. Kass and a few others moved in, and I finally had a network of friends to hang out with. So much so indeed that I started to crave some alone time again.

Between working long hours and having bonfires at night, time went by quickly. I didn’t really have time to go anywhere else, so I focused my attention on my new friendships, connecting like I hadn’t done in a long time. Talking about our dreams and fears, and truly getting to know people. It felt really different to actually get past the small talk that I dread so much. I’ve also met some amazing people who gladly shared their knowledge and experience with me.

Jumping!

Getting started in skydiving also opened up a new world to me. It is a much more complex and intricate world that it looks like from the outside. There’s so much to learn and the possibilities are endless. It’s also a lot safer than most people from the ”outside” world would assume. Of course, there are some accidents, just like in any activity involving a certain level of risk.

Shortly after starting working, I began my AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) course. And from my first jump, I was back to that feeling of awe and total relaxation I had experienced during my tandem in Diani, Kenya. For most people jumping off a plane can be a bit stressful, but oddly for me, it’s super relaxing. Just like yoga. Albeit a bit more extreme.

Almost as relaxing as skydiving

From the plane ride to the actual stepping out moment, the freefall and the time under the canopy, I find the entire experience calming. The only way I can explain it is that I get to enjoy some time alone, thinking only about myself and the experience I’m living in that specific moment. The views are amazing from up there, and there’s nothing that compares to the feeling your body experiences during the freefall. It’s true freedom. All worries and thoughts weighing you down are left on the ground. And you are finally free.

Of course, this is not quite how I explained it to clients coming for their first tandem jumps. No one would have ever believed me that jumping off a plane could have the same calming effect as relaxation or yoga to me!

Because I was working the manifest, and working every business day, I, unfortunately, didn’t get to jump as often as I would have liked. I would usually manage to get on the last load of the day, once all the tandems were checked-in when there was availability and the wind speed would allow it. I did most of my jumps at sunset. So much so indeed that towards the end of the season I did a jump during daytime and I was surprised by how bright it was. And how far away we could see! It was nice to see far and wide, but nothing really compares to jumping when the sky is all different shades of pink and orange. It is truly beautiful to get to enjoy the sunset from up there, although it was also very distracting at times!

When I started jumping, it quickly became clear I would be known as the plan-B girl. My accuracy eventually got a bit better, but landing in an industrial area (avoiding all the possible hazards such as buildings, electrical lines, trucks, fences, a pond and a tree) for my first jump did set up the tone for my season! I usually land nicely on my feet, although quite often there’s no one around to see it. I guess I do truly love sightseeing!

Making true friends

Being single, back to my home country and working in a dropzone where it’s fairly easy to meet people to have fun with, I ended up being a lot calmer on the hooking up side of things than during my first dropzone experience.

My jumping might have been limited to jumping off a plane and not really meeting anyone to have fun with, but I did meet true friends. And that’s what I’ll remember from this summer season in Gatineau. Meeting genuinely good people, and meeting some of my best friends. I don’t know if I’ll make the decision to move back to my home country eventually, but since skydiving is such a small world, I’m not worried I’ll get to catch up with everyone, probably rather sooner than later!

Love!

Settling down for the summer

Skydiving, or the best feeling in the world
Skydiving, or the best feeling in the world

After being on the road for the last few years without getting paid for most of the work I did, yay volunteering, it was getting time for me to get an actual paying job.

I had loved my first skydiving experience so much, I wanted to stay in that field. While I was housesitting a lovely blind dog in London and catching up with some friends, I had applied for jobs in a few skydiving centres in Canada. After chatting with two of them, they both offered me a summer job.

I had to decide on which location and team seemed more fitting, and I finally decided that Gatineau would be a good option. It’s close enough from Quebec  City that I can see my family and friends, but it’s also an area of Canada I really don’t know anything about.  I knew I could double up working and discovering a new area.

Addicted to change and freedom

I have now been working there for 3 weeks, and like any other new adventure, after a few weeks, the novelty effect starts wearing off. And it makes me uncertain. I always go through the same mental process when it stops moving. I know for most people it’s when things change that it makes them uncomfortable, but with me, it’s the opposite. It makes me anxious when I can expect what’s next.

I tend to feel trapped when I have the feeling that I know exactly what I’ll be doing in a month or a year from now. My body and mind crave the freedom I’ve been calling my life since 2013, excluding my attempt at coming back to a normal life 3 years ago.

Not quite like the white sand beach of Kenya, but still very pretty!
Not quite like the white sand beach of Kenya, but still very pretty!

The more I travel the more I realize I am addicted to freedom. Just like any addiction, when it comes times to stop, you experience withdrawal symptoms. Now, of course, it’s not like I’m physically addicted to drugs, but I do have cravings. I have moments when all I can think about is packing my bag and hitting the road again. And I have to stop and remind myself that in order to be able to keep traveling the world, I need to replenish my bank account.

The job and the team at Go Skydive are actually quite good. My colleagues are great, positive, encouraging and everyone is super supportive. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such an environment where everyone seems to be aware of how hard everyone else is working. The best part of my job so far is to keep learning about skydiving and also getting to talk to people before their first tandem and seeing the pure bliss on their faces afterwards. Half of them are really anxious and excited, and the other half are either super relaxed because they are adrenaline junkies or because they have not yet realized what they are about to do. And since I’ve always liked jobs that are super busy, I feel in my element, especially during the weekends.

Becoming Canadian again

I keep thinking that everyone sounds funny when they speak because I haven’t heard the Canadian accent in so long. And although I’ve been told I now sound Scottish, I know my inner Canadian will resurface soon. I’ve already had a few Tim Hortons’ coffees so my reinsertion as a fully fledged Canadian is well on the way.

One of my new neighbours
One of my new neighbours

Since arriving back and settling in Gatineau, we’ve had a few evening of bonfires. I got the chance to see some pale Northern Lights, and the mosquitos found me again. I’m definitely adjusting to being Canadian again. I don’t think I’ll get into the whole hockey thing though, that would be pushing it.

But before you know it, I’ll be the one sounding funny, hey.

Always far from some of my friends

Being back in Canada also means that I get to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time. And since I got a new job, I’m also making new friends in the process. But it doesn’t make it any easier to be away from the people I love that are spread all over the world. This is one of the major downsides of my lifestyle. I’m always far away from some of the people I care about the most since they are all in different countries. I’ve never been so thankful in my life for technology, mainly WhatsApp, and Messenger!

Learning to be patient

I’ve had death and sickness in my friend circle lately, and although it was not unexpected, it makes you rethink your priorities in life. I do not want to be the one to have regrets if I don’t make it to 50 years old. I’d much prefer living my life right now, pushing my limits and settling and relaxing when I’m older.

First landing, a bit far from the dropzone, but I managed to avoid all obstacles; the parachute landing in the tree after I touched the ground.
First landing, a bit far from the dropzone, but I managed to avoid all obstacles; the parachute landing in the tree after I touched the ground.

That being said, I also seem to have to learn to be patient, and not stress about things not happening quickly enough for my liking. I am working on that aspect in my life right now: learning to be patient and trying to enjoy having some routine and not having to rethink my entire life every few weeks. But to say that this comes easily would be lying.  Like anything else we learn in life, with baby steps we’ll get there!

Finding a new goal

After reaching my seventh and final continent, I knew I needed a new goal. Living a life without really knowing what I am trying to achieve doesn’t really appeal to me. I need a focus to direct my effort and energy towards. I had liked my tandem jump so much, that I had decided to apply for jobs in skydiving centers. I knew it would be a great opportunity to get my solo course done, learn a lot from other people’s experience, and hopefully get to experience the awesome feeling I had during my jump in Kenya.

I have now started working towards getting my solo license. I’ve completed my ground school and went for some fun time in the wind tunnel. And thanks to my passionate and understanding bosses, I’ve even managed to get my first three jumps done in the week after my ground course. All while working!

It made me realize that this is definitely something I want to do. I find the whole skydiving experience to be truly relaxing. I know most people find it frightening, but to me, it has a calming effect. From the time in the small plane going up to standing by the door looking down, there is nothing else like it. The feeling of falling towards the earth, opening the parachute and having fun under the canopy, all of it is truly amazing.

For the remaining of the season, I will be working at GO Skydive in Gatineau, so if you happen to be in the area, feel free to come say hello, and maybe get your first tandem in! You never know, you might even discover your new passion!

Getting ready for my first front flip out of a plane!
Getting ready for my first front flip out of a plane!

Choose love

Quebec City
Quebec City

I was going to write something totally different today but with the shooting in a Mosque last night in my hometown, Quebec City, I feel the need to write about it.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “it doesn’t matter, it’s happening too far away, in places where they deserve it”. That kind of thinking is usually the reflex after a drama. You count your blessing, happy this stuff always happens far away. You don’t feel that concerned until it happens to you. Or close by.

Some of the comments after the shooting were in the lines of “I can’t believe it happened about 1km away from my home”. That’s where it hurts apparently. When it’s close to home. As long as it doesn’t touch you it makes it easier to ignore. But when it happens in your backyard, it makes you realise it could have been you. You might not be that special snowflake after all.

This shit is happening every day all over the world. It is time to open your eyes and make it stop.

Do not fall for Trump’s and other’s hate speeches and “safety” measures.

This demonising of the other instead of showing compassion and care is what allowed all previous genocides. I still wonder how can people not see that and still fall for it.

Divide and conquer has lasted long enough. It’s time to change our approach. This one has been faulty from the start.

All humans are the same. We all want and need the same few things in our lives. Shelter, food, safety, love through either family or friends and feeling like we belong and we matter. Just because you don’t understand something or someone’s choices doesn’t mean they are wrong. And while you can think that they believe in something stupid, it doesn’t mean they are not worthy of the same basics as you. Killing other people for a cause has never really worked. People may convert or pretend they do, but if that’s not genuine does that count for your God?

We need to stop this nonsense of being scared of everything that is different. If we can get along interspecies, why can’t we get along within out own species?

Mosque in East London
Mosque in East London

I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand people who hate on other people because they are different. But I’ll keep trying because maybe one day I’ll find the clue or the way to explain things that will make sense to them. A lot of people in the West believe in God because they were told and taught to. And people in the Middle-East believe in Allah for the exact same reason. If you are going to believe in a religion, at least do the work. Get to know your religion. Truly, in and out. The pretty and the ugly. Compare it with others. Inform yourself.

Don’t go only looking for confirmation bias. You know what I’m talking about. Confirmation bias is to go look for information that will corroborate what you believe in. If you are interested in someone, you will notice the ”signs” that they might be interested too all while ignoring the ”signs” pointing to being just friends. This applies to everything. It takes a lot more work and humility to consider you might be wrong.

Maybe you don’t know everything.

Being right, or believing you are, doesn’t give you the right to force that onto someone else.

Question everything.

Be honest with yourself and admit your flaws.

Nothing is perfect and no one has all the answers but if we work together maybe we’ll find some answers.

Be human.

Choose Love.