Category Archives: Dare Me

How to Plan Your California Road Trip: From San Francisco to Los Angeles

I want to help you structure your California road trip on the pacific coast highway (PCH) so you maximize time out of the car, actually immersed in your surroundings.

But first, I have a confession to make. This Cali trip was intended as a solo expedition to prove that I CAN and not allow my single status to hinder life experiences. But all that changed due to budgetary and itinerary sacrifices I wasn’t willing to make, plus a parental throw down along the lines of “over our dead bodies are you going to LA by yourself”. I’ve learned that only when I don’t heed their advice, are they right and I couldn’t handle any more drama, so I listened.

Instead of flying between LA and San Fran (1 hour, $100), my dad met me for the coastal drive (4353835 hours, $100+ in gas) but it was so worth it. I think we both learned about each other – he says all you have to do is feed me every 3 hours (after two near starvation experiences in one day). I learned that he has difficulty tolerating me in my least perfect moments (road trips are stressful and uncertain).

What I said to a stranger: "he's my daddy, not my sugar daddy" #onlyinLA

What I said to a stranger: “he’s my daddy, not my sugar daddy” #onlyinLA

In truth, I felt a bit disappointed for needing accompaniment but I couldn’t tell if it was my soul or ego talking. At least part of my motivation was to keep up with the independent, fearless women of the Internet and sound badass at the water cooler. But enough about me, this is about you!

When to go to San Francisco / California Coast  & Other Practicalities

San Fran is at its best weather wise in September and October BUT daylight hours are more limited so if you can’t do the ideal itinerary below, go in June to maximize sightseeing. Also the ocean is warmest in September at the end of the season (71F).

In terms of planning a weekend trip to Yosemite OR Tahoe – I would suggest booking last minute after you’ve arrived and based on the weather forecast. Outkast says it best: “You can paint a pretty picture but you can’t predict the weather”.

If you want to do any camping, I’d suggest early to mid September as a sweet spot. I found tours that did 2 nights and 3 days with camping in both Tahoe & Yosemite (for $500) but that would be intense driving and cold at night. Yosemite single day trips are available, but involve 7 hours on the road.

Freezing my buns off in Tahoe - 5 degree freak show

Freezing my buns off in Tahoe – 5 degree freak show

The Drive Itself from San Francisco to Los Angeles (LA) & Other Practicalities

California is full of mountains from top to bottom, which are 50 shades of brown (likely due to the drought). There is no cell or radio reception in Big Sur so bring CDs or a fully charged iPOD for the journey. Roadside service stations didn’t exist – you had to bank on the next town for sustenance.

Also Americans don’t seem to believe in streetlights. I would invest in a data plan since Google Maps App saved us many times (better than GPS).  And while they say Canadians are polite, West Coasters are so nice, happy and helpful.

I’ve never seen so many active and fit people in my life, from those biking the steep and windy roads to jogging Runyon Canyon in 40 degree weather. They must not be eating in the restaurants where portions are massive. You can easily split an entrée and appetizer for two and save some dough.  LA had the most organic and gluten free options, plus juice bars (vegan treats were harder to spot). Whole Foods will rob you and Starbucks is the equivalent of Tim Hortons (no value coffee chain).

In terms of accommodations, prepare to spend $200 – $300 a night for a hotel, motel or AirBnB. I booked three AirBnB’s but can only recommend the one in Lake Tahoe (Rick Gunn is my idol). I was expecting a personal experience where you hang out with the hosts but that wasn’t the case. Plus you have to make your bed on vacay (boo).

An Ideal California Coast Road Trip Itinerary from Los Angeles (LA) to San Francisco

If I could redo the trip, here’s what I would change. Keep in mind that subjectivity counts. Also if you’ve already been to either LA or San Fran on a standalone trip, you can shave days off in both city centers, which is budget friendly.

4 – 6 nights in the Bay Area based on your Itinerary

  • 4 Days in San Fran area proper (including one nearby excursion i.e. Sausalito/Muir Woods or Napa for a half day). Stay in City Centre. I hear road to Muir is extremely windy. Sausalito was a diluted version of coastal Europe.
  • 2 nights / 2 days at either Tahoe or Yosemite (if you want to mimic my itinerary) but not both as they are 5.5 hours apart (learned that the hard way and lost a hotel booking). Tahoe is 4 hours away, 1.5 of which include ascending and descending 8,000 feet.
Full House Credits - all day every day. Everywhere you look...

Full House Credits – all day every day. Everywhere you look…

The California Coast:  3 – 5 nights (instead of 2)

  • 1 – 2 nights in either Monterey or Carmel. If you skip Santa Cruz and drive straight to Monterey for lunch, drive the 17 mile and head to Carmel for dinner/overnight.
  • 1 – 2 nights in Big Sur area – the windiest roads, with the best views and most natural attractions (parks for hiking etc.) Big Sur has limited options (camping, cabins or pricy motels/hotels i.e. $400 – $500 a night). Book this first and base the rest of the trip around its availability.
  • 1 night in Cambria – cute, small town, ocean front, and one of the first towns an hour after Big Sur. My dad and I crammed everything before this point into the same day. This was our first coastal overnight.
  • I would stop in Santa Barbara for an afternoon but I wouldn’t do an overnight there unless you want to hit up the Camarillo outlets without backtracking from LA (1 hour north on the 101). We did an overnight here and regretted it. Stay by State street. Morro Bay and Pismo Beach are worth skipping too, especially the latter.
The Magic of Big Sur. Worth the headache & drugs.

The Magic of Big Sur. Worth the headache & drugs.

3 – 4 full days in Los Angeles (Instead of 2) 

  • Malibu was underwhelming (The Real Housewives say hi) though we didn’t see Zuma Beach (supposed to be nice, no bathrooms). Paradise Cove charges $40 per car and loses sunlight rather early (#europedoesitbetter).
  • Talk shows only film Monday to Thursday and are a full day thing. Ellen gets booked way in advance.
  • Stay by the water, where it is much cooler and comfortable if you can. Also “heated” pools matter off season.
  • Venice Beach is tacky bordering on terrifying. There were a lot more homeless people too (Hollywood dreams gone wrong?). Santa Monica is nice, if you like to hear kids screaming on rides. 3rd street has a nice pedestrian promenade with shops & restos (check out The Misfit). Lemonade (the franchise) is awesome – let’s start one and get rich.
  • You can rent bikes along the water at Marina Del Ray, Venice Beach or Santa Monica (and likely other beaches too).
  • Runyon Canyon has no bathrooms and its all uphill when you get there. We learned that the hard way.
Santa Monica Fun #pplinLAmademenervous

Santa Monica Fun #pplinLAmademenervous

I’d go back to Cali but I would take on less, be more clear on “must have” experiences, go slowly, stay in hotels or with friends and I would do LA down to San Diego for more palatable beaches. It wasn’t as rejuvenating as Europe – just mildly disorienting and unfamiliar, without castles, ruins or temples to awaken your soul. But still a nice break from the routine of every day.

Leave your Cali travel tips in the comments – do you disagree with anything? Hidden gems I missed? Resto reco’s? 

Think Twice Before You Label, Judge or Envy Someone As Skinny

Recently my life coach brought up how I am not standing in my power after I confided feelings of shrinking and hiding from life. It seemed like everyone had an unsolicited opinion to give, which made me feel small. Do you ever feel that way? 

Why are you so skinny? You should eat more. When are you going to get drunk? When are you going to get a new man? 

Every time I went out on the town, I was exposed to beautiful souls completely in their power, as if to reinforce the message: this could be you. From the empowered drag queens at El Convento Rico on College, to the tell-it-like-it-is, hips don’t lie gay man in Yorkville, to the overwhelming energy from an enigma at The Drake (we danced grade 6 styles and tore up No Scrubs).

Lady Gage Born This Way #werkit

Lady Gage Born This Way #weskit

It inspired me to wax poetic rant on some truthful subjects I haven’t touched on before. I hope it comes across less as complaining and more as tough love to get us all more in our power!

A History of Feeling Self Conscious About Being Underweight

I am perpetually trying to gain 5 lbs and contrary to popular belief (“everything looks good on you”), finding clothes that fit well can be a challenge on my petite, 5 “1” frame. Before you get all “poor little rich girl”, hear me out.

I’ve been underweight since birth. In my toddler days, people accused my mom of starving me, which is far from the truth (I just refused to eat, a post for another day). My mom developed such anxiety over what people thought of us, that I developed social eating anxiety disorder by osmosis. I would worry that people assumed I was anorexic and that I had to prove them wrong by eating a lot, which ruined my appetite, creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Many restaurant visits ended in feelings of shame, frustration, anger and long periods of hiding out in the bathroom stall.

In my tweens I developed lactose intolerance. Acid reflux and IBS came in my late teens. I felt a lot of shame around my IBS symptoms, which were exacerbated by stress or anytime I lied to myself really.  I didn’t accept them and in turn, neither did those around me (like my mom or first serious boyfriend), so the symptoms worsened.

I tried to control my diet to avoid digestive upset – it literally ruled my life up until February of this year. Anytime someone commented on my size, I felt like crying. I worried about wearing shorts and a tank to yoga, imagining fellow yogis silently judging (“she must be obsessed with working out“), which really defeats the point of being all “namaste”. I bought clothes that made me look fuller.

let it all hang out #poorpear

let it all hang out #poorpear

The Naked Truth (or Potentially Awkward Causes) Behind The Skinny

To make a long story short, after many medical tests that ruled out conditions like Crohns or Colitis, I focused on the psychological and nutritional components. I am more or less forced to eat clean: coffee, chocolate, milk products, alcohol and fried foods bother me and my metabolism is either German or Japanese engineered because that sh*t is efficient. Literally.

What bothers me the most is that society is too politically correct to voice when someone is overweight but has no qualms when someone is underweight, when both can be caused by mental or physical health conditions.

Barbie Girl falls into the psychological category...

Barbie Girl falls into the psychological category…

Call it a compliment or passive-aggressive bullsh*t but it puts me on the offensive.I feel compelled to comfort the “I want to feed you a burger” commentator with tales of my hyperactive metabolism but really, it’s not my job to make strangers feel better and no one has to know my personal business (except you my dear readers).

The Solution: Accept Your Own Body Shape & Discard The Rest

The point is to think twice before you comment about that skinny b*tch in yoga (or silently admonish that large person). Rarely is anything what it seems and everyone struggles with their shape and appearance. Where is the value in trying to relate to others based on external appearance (“You’re so pretty“. “No you are!“). What matters most is relating via heart and soul…

Anytime we make a judgement, it is generally an indication of suppressed shame or pain within us. Believe me, I learned this the hard way through shadow work post recent break up. Let’s focus instead on sending love and compassion to our own bodies, just as they are. And to everyone we come across.

And while we are at, let’s not support media outlets or brands that prey on our insecurities by cultivating a narrowly defined body image ideal.

So tell me, Am I alone on this one? Add to the conversation, whether you agree or not, in the comments!

5 lessons from travelling to Greece, Italy & Croatia

It’s an odd feeling, stepping off a plane – that pseudo time machine when you aren’t really anywhere; just a sterile vortex with hours to kill. You can’t quite believe the sun, palm trees and inspiring architecture when you land. The same holds true when you snap back to the familiar.

Rome was my favourite, Split came in second, Dubrovnik third (we were getting tired and did not stay in the city centre) and Venice came in last – it was way too touristy and didn’t feel authentic.

Besides freeing myself from the shackles of the internet and learning about ancient times, I loved living in a postcard and strengthening my new relationship. But there were some things I wish I had done differently…

Lesson #1: Pay Attention to Practicalities

Trekking through Rome’s cobble-stone streets and Dubrovnik’s medieval city walls highlighted the fact that I probably would not have survived in ancient times. Sore feet got in the way of enjoying the sights. So next time, I will forgo fashion and pack some real running shoes. For ladies with small feet, size 35 is a rarity so don’t expect to find nice looking, affordable shoes while you’re there.

And another thing: don’t forgot your camera charger because you will spend your days rationing battery life in order to catch the most important moments.

The Dubrovnik City walls walk takes 2 hours & has a million stairs.

Lesson #2: Spend more time in each city

After traveling all the way to Europe I gave into the temptation to pack as much in as possible, after giving up Plitvice National Park in Northern Croatia and Postojna Cave in Slovenia (one day!).

We had 2 – 3 days in Rome, Split, Dubrovnik and Venice. It was frustrating to have to constantly learn where to eat and shop and how to get from point A to point B. Just as we grew familiar in a place we had to say goodbye. We also never made it to Murano near Venice, or Trogir/Bol near Split, or Montenegro near Dubrovnik because we didn’t have time to explore the surrounding areas.

Not only that, but I felt the same time pressure I feel in Toronto to go go go. I kind of felt like I needed a vacation post vacation.

View of the coast in Split Croatia

Lesson #3: Don’t worry before you really have to

The sky was full of thick, dark clouds the afternoon we were slated to fly from Split to Dubrovnik via Zagreb (Croatia’s northern capital). After hearing from a cab driver that flights sometimes re-route to Split due to bad weather, I started to panic. Maybe I would have to take the 5 hour bus ride I was desperately trying to avoid (I get car and boat sick).

Years ago, a flight to the Bahamas gave new meaning to the word turbulence (I pray I never have to experience that again). But even if the flight was delayed and turbulence was avoided, I would surely miss my connecting flight and get stranded in Zagreb (= vacation ruined). I called Croatian Airlines. I called my dad. I couldn’t eat.

And in the end, everything worked out fine. The panic was for nothing, as it usually is. Sometimes we scare ourselves out of something before we begin. Fear must be managed in order to live well!

The menacing sky in Split, Croatia (Austrian architecture)

Lesson #4: Don’t expect your new partner to morph into your EX

I was actually really scared to take my 9 month old relationship on this epic trip. I worried that once he saw the real me, he would run for the hills. I didn’t want history to repeat itself because I knew I would have to let him go and start over.

Did we fight? Yes, of course. We had one bad fight and other bouts of bickering but all were short lived. We did not go to bed angry. He was calm when I panicked. He made me laugh many times each day, mainly at my own expense (instead of yelling at me). He let me pick off his plate without complaint and ordered Sprite instead of Coke so we could share (soft drinks are so expensive in Europe). He let me rest in the shade, while he searched in the sun. In the end, it felt romantic and we had fun.

So two great people may not be great together. You just have to find compatibility, whereby the other person doesn’t annoy the sh*t out of you. In fact, they find you amusing.

Close up shot of us at the top of cable car in Dubrovnik

Lesson #5: Overcoming your fear is easier when you do it with someone you love

So back to the topic of fear. I was afraid of taking a Gondola ride due to the potential for motion sickness. While the water was calmest at night, it was too dark to see anything. During the day, the canals were uber congested with taxis & gondola jams (least romantic, most choppy). We decided on dusk because traffic was minimal and it was still light enough to be awed/distracted by the surroundings. After all, who goes to Venice and doesn’t hit up a Gondola? I knew I would regret it.

After nearly drowning as a kid, he was afraid of putting his head under water. After encouragement and tips from me and some hand holding, he did it! Taking one for the team for the sake of the other person pushed both of us outside of our comfort zones. And in the end, it felt kind of good. Click here to read about about my biggest regret (it has to do with family).

Me with the gondola man

I’m already scheming how to use my 3 weeks wisely next year. Probably Greece again due to family, plus its Turkish neighbour (Istanbul and Cappadocia look amazing).

What fear did you conquer this summer? And what’s next on your travel wish list?

Random Acts of Bravery: Karaoke and more

My first instinct is to run away from things that scare me or avoid them at all costs…to protect myself and keep a sense of security I suppose. It annoys me beyond belief. I want to be Braveheart (carebears foreva).

Save a horse, Ride a Cowboy Boat (or both)

I hate boats and tend to turn green on them – just ask my cousin about the time we whale watched. I have no desire to go on a cruise because of this. I’m afraid of nausea and throwing up BIG TIME which has led me to create limitations. This kinda sucks and I kinda want to conquer it.

The last time I rode my Uncle’s speedboat I made him drop me off at a boat gas station dock where I waited for their return. This year the peer family pressure started re: the boat and I protested but you know what? I went on it again (and a jetski for about 60 seconds).

Did I have a giant smile on my face and fully enjoy the experience? No, I was afraid that I would feel nauseous and kept yelling “SLOW DOWN”. But I made it and didn’t avoid it and that is something.

Release your inner braveheart in this life. Cheers to 80's cartoons! And gingers!

Popping my Karaokeeeeee Cherry (Sober)

On Friday night I went to Kramer’s Bar and Grill for a birthday knowing that I had to do this karaoke thing this summer, even though I’ve had a permanent cough for the last 8 months (worse now than ever). The song choice? Ironic by Alanis Morrisette.

I chickened out by finding a singing partner and during our song I could only hear her voice and the music. For real I thought my mike was off. After watching gals of all shapes, sizes and dispositions saunter to the mike, give it their all, complete with dance moves and impassioned faces (seriously it looked like sex faces which was somewhat disturbing), I thought I could have done better. Being a perfectionist makes me want to do every task with flying colours i.e. awe sweeping over the crowd due to my surprising talent, a standing ovation to follow (this actually happened to my cousin that night). Wanting that result actually spurs performance anxiety (what did you just mentally picture? hehe).

That being said – I did it and I shall do it again. I will practice night and day until I feel comfortable doing a song by myself, mike held close to the lips, imagining that I’m alone in the shower (shower and car singer addict).

PS I had the pleasure of being hit on all night by someone who admittedly had a girlfriend. Seriously where do they come from and how can I disable the magnet? Is it sad that I kind of felt something even though I knew it was totally fake and inappropriate? RELAX I would never act on it.

On Health Sleuthing

I’ve been plagued with stomach issues for the last 8+ years (they’ve said it is IBS, I’m not so sure). I recently cancelled an invasive test out of sheer terror. But I plan to rebook it STAT because it is better to know what’s wrong than continue on blindfolded (where’s the piñata?)

I’ve also had sinus issues and a constant cough that continues to get worse and have been investigating answers. I discovered dust, mold, dog and ragweed allergies (Boy in the Bubble – anyone?). I feel like the allergy-plagued little boy complete with head gear, braces, freckles, suspenders, poor posture and sad eyes. I joke that if I signed up for online dating now, I’d include “FREE OF CHARGE: 90 year old smoker’s cough, sans the smoking.” I’ve always felt like an old soul but my God I feel like one now.

I am trying to keep my sense of humour but in all honesty feel like a hot mess. I cannot even consider dating until I find out what is wrong with me and how to treat it. I wake up every day trying to feel positive and become unnerved when all my symptoms emerge. It is frustrating and taking a toll on my outlook and how I spend my time.

At the end of the day, health is the most important thing. Do what you have to do to keep yourself happy. Take the time off work, listen to your gut if a doctor shrugs it off as nothing, take control and be persisent. You know your body best and what feels normal.

DO SOMETHING THAT SCARES YOU.

You will survive. And if you feel like you could have done it better, just do it again – I bet it will be less scary this time.

On Gay Clubs, Script Pitching and Falling for a younger man

“I said hey baby, let’s take a walk on the wild side”: losing my gay club virginity

I went with my friend Anita and two of her main gays, who I grilled with curiosity questions – obviously! One of them enjoys making out with girls just for fun which I found interesting (no we did not make out). I entered with visions of picking up a shiny new gay best friend (which I’m lacking)…But alas, I left empty-handed.  To sum it up in one word (okay two): WILD & FUN.

The Gay Club was like Britney’s “I’m a Slave for You” music video, only with some care bears and sparkly unicorns thrown into the mix. It was my first time going out with the expectation of No Pick Ups (which took the pressure off) and while I was surrounded by guys, it was very clear that none of them were interested in my offerings. The gleeful singing to Spice Girls and Aqua really brought this point home, although I was hoping for an outfit compliment at least. I also caught myself playing a game of “spot the straight dude” = impossible!

These boys were so free with their shirts off and dirty dancing, you could feel the sexual energy in the air and observe the art of seduction.

The takeaway:  let your flirty sexy side out when appropriate, and if you need any inspiration, hit up your local gay bar.

 
 
 

 

I am excited, yet stiff. This was one of the few shots with dudes in it.

 

“Pitch it like it’s hot”: a Screenwriting Contest

I attended a full-day film workshop (via Groupon) hosted by Raindance Canada which offers weekend courses on screenwriting and film making (they have locations in Montreal, Vancouver and London for sure).  After feeling socially awkward among my so-called (artsy) people, I met some cool dudes at the after-mingle pub party and we decided to attend this Script Idea Pitching.

31 brave souls took to the stage in front of 5 notable judges, including a random lawyer who heard about the event while staying at the hosting hotel i.e. a complete rookie. Oh and there was also two old man who acted like rebellious teenagers, heckling and laughing like they ran the show. Both of them pitched – I’m talking gray hair senior citizens. Well good for them I guess (am all about rambunctious seniors). I wish I took a photo!

Some were over the top, others were boring, others still froze completely but it made me feel like I may still have a shot at this thing (if I can stay disciplined and wade through my fear).

The feedback from the judges was insightful:

  • Get your audience to invest in the characters – that is the cornerstone of every screenplay.  
  • Think your story arc through and balance the big picture info, with smaller, compelling details
  • Know what kind of film this will be and who it will appeal to
  • Add some originality or a twist to earn bonus points
  • Complete at least a first draft of your script prior to pitching anyone because if they like your idea, they will ask you for a script and if you have one, you’ve made your life a lot easier.

I want to pitch my idea next year.

The Takeaway: you have to do the work and then put yourself out there to connect with opportunities (even if you feel like you will throw up/faint)!

“I want to love you, day by day, Pretty Young Thing”: Date a younger man? Sure why not…

I almost didn’t give him the time of day online, but was struck by the length and intellectual prowess of his rebuttal.

That and my mom is three years older than my dad, along with my my yia yia being 10 years older than my grandpa (click here to see her in action). So I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and also, at 21, Adele is incredibly wise and deep. She can’t be the only one.  

Thing is, I’ve met older guys who had their shit together and found them to be boring or I didn’t feel a spark or worse still, they came across jaded about life and were kind of oppressing. Ever since my big break-up, I’ve been attracted to “bad boys” and Mr. Energy fits that bill but has many more dimensions/facets.  

He’s missing some key “list items” and feels very risky to me because guys in general are less mature than girls and we may not progress and grow at the same pace, plus he likes to party and I am as wild as a plum. Then again, nothing in life is guaranteed – everything and everyone is a risk so I’ve decided to just go with it and promise not to kick myself in the ass if the probable happens. Plenty of Fish will be hearing from me either way.   

Because so far Mr. Energy makes me feel like the only girl in the room, is super affectionate and doting and we have fun doing anything, not to mention we have killer chemistry. It’s been 6 weeks and we are now kind of exclusive (I know!), which feels a bit weird since I’m used to total freedom and even though I was looking for this kind of connection, I didn’t actually think I would “seemingly” find it so soon.

So far it is teaching me to be less of a control freak and less pre-meditated in a relationship and I am being more myself, feeling accepted and trying to offer the same in return. Oh yea and I feel like I am 16 again around him, which really isn’t a bad thing. Taking things one day at a time and I’m pretty sure Alanis wrote this song for me.

The Takeaway:  Do something that scares you, like befriending someone younger and high energy – that energy will likely rub off on you and get you more in touch with your inner child and natural responses (instead of controlling them).  What risks have you taken lately?