The Honey Life

Late September at our cabin on Bulpit Lake near Bancroft, Ontario.

Late September at our cabin on Bulpit Lake near Bancroft, Ontario.

Autumn in Toronto this year is beautiful. For most of October, it has been unseasonably and wonderfully warm. The air is full of a crisp freshness; the ground smells of damp leaves. We slip into cozy coats and snack on apples.

Having been a student or in training for more years than I care to think about, my life still follows the annual rhythm of the school calendar. Fall has always been a bit melancholic – a time to put away the carefree mentality of the summer, to re-organize and re-centre and prepare for the arc of the academic year ahead. But that’s why, to me, fall – even more than spring – has always felt so full of possibility.

We have been back in Canada for more than a month now. We have been wrapped up in love by our families and friends and communities. We’ve started work again. We’ve found a place to live.

It is good to be home.

Grandma and Mom showing us our wedding "guestbook" -  the comforter they made of the pieces of fabric that our wedding guests signed.

Grandma and Mom showing us our wedding “guestbook” – the comforter they made of the pieces of fabric we had our guests sign at our wedding.

Gary and Allan set up outdoors for our deep-fry party - the last dinner we will ever eat at the Siu cottage.

Gary and Allan set up outdoors for the last dinner we will ever eat at the Siu cottage: a deep-fry party (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. On the menu: bloomin’ onions, corn dogs, calamari, dumplings, spring rolls, doughnut holes and more.).

I have not forgotten about this blog, and it seems that you have not, either. I was surprised how many people told me they kept up with us while we were away by reading our posts. Many of you have also checked in since Allan last posted pictures of our hike at the beginning of September.

I’ve come across a lot of blogs that have just fizzled out or stopped abruptly, like it was abandoned mid-story and now just floats out there on the Internet for everyone and no one to see. I didn’t want The Honey Year to be like that. I wanted it to have a proper end, though I’ve been dragging my heels until now. I kept thinking that I didn’t have the time or space to write; I’m not sure if I just wasn’t ready to yet.

Croatia: the last leg of the honey year.

Croatia: the last leg of the honey year.

A common question we get asked now that we’re back is some variation of “Does it feel like you never left?” or “Does it seem like it was all just a dream?” The answer, surprisingly, is that often it does feel like that, mostly an artifact of life being so full right now that we don’t often think or talk about our time in London. But, like a dream, there is this vague sense, even as we go about our new daily routines, of a not-too-distant time when we felt deliriously happy and unburdened, when life was simple and carefree.

Someone asked us too if we thought we were reflecting on our time through rose-coloured glasses; Allan quipped back that we were quite aware of how rosy things were while we were there! And it’s true. We would often look at each other out of the blue, blink in disbelief and declare a hearty “Honey year!” Or jokingly say to each other, “It’s not fair,” pretending to sympathize with others whose lives were not ours. We were always cognizant of our precious, fleeting time.

What I know now, and what I think we knew all along, was that our honey year wasn’t made awesome by all the travel we did, or even by living in London. Instead, it was extraordinary because it was about the two of us, starting a life together, being a family in a foreign place, having our own home, gifted with the time to nurture a new marriage unencumbered by jobs, cars, a mortgage, caring for children, caring for parents – things that we, nonetheless, do hope one day to be encumbered by. We treasured every day of the honey year because we knew that this perfect convergence of elements would never come again.

And so, we find ourselves back in “real life,” faced with tough grown-up decisions like, where do we want to live? Should we rent or buy? Is there more schooling for us in the future? What’s next for our careers? And do we want to expand our family? If so, what will this mean for where we live, whether we rent or buy, going back to school and advancing our careers?

Thanksgiving brunch: watching our friends' babies practice their downward dogs.

Thanksgiving brunch: watching our friends’ babies practice their downward dogs.

We are back, and we’ve settled back into our lives happily. The honey year has come to an end and so too has this blog. Thank you for journeying with us. I debated continuing to write and post pictures about our life but Allan and I decided we should keep the blog to its original purpose: a self-contained journal of our first year of marriage. I do hope to keep writing in some form. I may be forced to join Facebook soon so keep your eyes peeled.

We’re planning to move into an apartment soon, and, realizing that buying things for a house is expensive, it occurred to me that normal people use their wedding gifts as a way to furnish their new homes; meanwhile, Allan and I instead blew all of our wedding presents last year on tuition, rent, and travel in Europe. I don’t care. I’d rather have memories of our honey year than all the stuff in the world. Because little things will remind me of London and my heart leaps instinctively with reminiscent joy. I hope that never changes.

Here’s to living the honey life.

Le Tour du Mont Blanc

We just completed the Tour du Mont Blanc, an 11 day, roughly 168km hike from Les Houches, France through Italy, Switzerland, and back into France. We don’t have a lot of time to post pics and comments now as we are still on the road for another couple of weeks before we move home, but we thought we would quickly post some of our favorites.

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We took an alternate route on day 2 past Col des Fours, the highest point along our tour at 2665m.

We took an alternate route on day 2 past Col des Fours, the highest point along our tour at 2665m.

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At Col de la Seigne, on the border between France and Italy

At Col de la Seigne, on the border between France and Italy

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Our shared dorm room bed at Refuge Elisabetta.

Our shared dorm room bed at Refuge Elisabetta.

Sunrise day 4

Sunrise day 4

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Sun rising over Elisabetta

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The one photo we have of our hiking buddy Carl, a British Mountain Guide, whom we walked with for a day or two. He is on vacation from guiding but ended up on the mountain trekking and climbing anyhow.

The one photo we have of our hiking buddy Carl, a British Mountain Guide, whom we walked with for a day or two. He is on vacation from guiding but ended up on the mountain trekking and climbing anyhow.

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Refuge Bonatti

Refuge Bonatti

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Sunrise leaving Bonatti

Sunrise leaving Bonatti

At Col Ferret, on the border between France and Switzerland.

At Col Ferret, on the border between France and Switzerland.

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Baguette

Baguette

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One of the many glaciers we saw on the tour

One of the many glaciers we saw on the tour

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I took a morning walk at about 6:30am from Refuge Bellachat and saw 4 Chamois. You can seen 2 in this picture.

I took a morning walk at about 6:30am from Refuge Bellachat and saw 4 Chamois. You can seen 2 in this picture.

Refuge Bellachat

Refuge Bellachat

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And we’re off!

Hiking Scotland's West Highland Way in June. More of this to come, soon.

Hiking Scotland’s West Highland Way in June. More of this to come, soon.

A quick note to say that we’ve handed in our dissertations(!) and our moving out of our flat in a couple of hours. In the end, these last few days were pretty much the whirlwind that I had anticipated, though built into that was getting to spend time with friends that were important to us this year, so, no regrets.

We’re off on our hike and anticipate being relatively unplugged so the blog will be quiet for a few weeks, but I’ll be back with pictures and stories, and some final thoughts on the honey year. Tomorrow is our one-year anniversary! See you soon.

Getting ready to leave London

First, some final pictures from Paris (we got back on August 22):

We had a picnic on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, and watched the sun go down while the Tower lit up.

We had a picnic on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, and watched the sun go down while the Tower lit up.

And we had another picnic the next morning on the steps of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

And we had another picnic the next morning on the steps of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

**

I’ve been waking up nervous most mornings. We’re well into our final few days here in London. Every day there are good-byes to be said. The flat is cluttered, and dirty (“Oh well, we’re leaving,” has become our mantra), and there is a mountain of laundry to do. Today the flat will become even more chaotic as we get our big suitcases out from under the bed and open them on the floor to begin packing.

All the things that I still need to do swirl in my head constantly. I spend my days juggling dissertation writing, preparing to move out of the flat and back across the Atlantic Ocean, and planning for a big mountain hike (more below) – all the while wondering if I haven’t missed any balls that should be up in the air as well. This past weekend I inadvertently stood up a friend for breakfast because I had written her a note asking her to meet me Sunday, only I typed “Saturday” by mistake. Oh boy.

I’ve been making one last, big, final push to get my dissertation done, but I feel like I keep pushing and it doesn’t seem to want to move. I keep putting in longer hours – late nights, early mornings, work while eating, don’t stop for breaks, don’t go to the gym, don’t look at your “fun things I want to do before I leave” list – anything to get myself to just get it done. But it’s still many hours away from completion. I don’t begrudge my dissertation for consuming my time (really, my education was my ticket to London so that would be incredibly unfair) but I keep thinking I would love to have some time to think and reflect and slow down a little before I leave, instead of working on my dissertation up until the very last moment, packing frantically and running out the door (in my head I imagine personal articles trailing behind my suitcases).

People keep asking me how I feel about going home and I think I’m happy. And sad. And scared. The truth is, as much as I actively pursue challenges and adventure, I’m really scared of change. We’re going home to our families and friends and familiar streets where we know where everything is and how to get around, but there are some big adjustments too. We need to look for a place to live. I’m starting the final leg of my residency which will be completely new and I will no doubt go back to feeling like I don’t know anything and am at the bottom of the totem pole…because I won’t, and will be. Allan starts work at his old job but in a new office with new colleagues. So even though we’re going back to the familiar it will all still seem, at least for the first while, very strange.

About this little walk we’re doing: We’ll be hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc before we come home, a sign that our time in London really has come full circle. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a long-distance trail around the base of Europe’s highest mountain (Mont Blanc) that takes you through France, Italy and Switzerland. Last year we had wanted to do the hike as our honeymoon, sometime between our wedding in early September and moving into our flat a few weeks later. It didn’t work out because our student visas didn’t arrive in time for us to book the trip, but it ended up being for the best. Instead, we did the complete opposite: a Mediterranean cruise, where we basically slept the whole week, exhausted from the wedding, packing, consecutive red-eye flights and jet-lag. There’s no way we would have survived the hike. I had pictured the hike as a leisurely walk, the two of us strolling hand-in-hand along smooth paths through charming villages, eating meals of fondue for dinner before resting in a cozy bed and breakfast at night. In reality, this trail is a proper 170km, 11-day hike, with, on average, one kilometre of ascent and descent daily. We’re told to prepare for everything from heat to hail, and all the other weather patterns in between. Most nights we’ll be staying in mountain huts in dorm rooms of a dozen people or more.

I can’t wait.

And we’ll be doing it exactly a year after we had planned to do it. Instead of a prelude, it’ll be a grand finish to our European adventure.

More from Paris

Yesterday we spent our morning working on our dissertations, our afternoon criss-crossing the city by foot and our evening with Suvit. Some highlights:

Trying to blend in with the locals: eating a baguette in Luxembourg Gardens.

Trying to blend in with the locals: eating a baguette in Luxembourg Gardens.

Suvit took us for authentic  buckwheat crêpes.

Suvit took us for authentic buckwheat crêpes.

How to eat cheap ice cream on the Champs-Élysées: buy a four-pack of Ben & Jerry's from Monoprix.

How to eat cheap ice cream on the Champs-Élysées: buy a four-pack of Ben & Jerry’s from Monoprix.

It wasn't just us; we saw other people fascinated crouching low to examine the the spider webs on the Pont Alexandre III bridge...

It wasn’t just us; we saw other people crouching low to examine the humongous spider webs (and spiders) on the Pont Alexandre III bridge…

...even though this was the view when you looked up.

…even though this was the view when you stood up.

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