Photos will be posted shortly. (See album here – updated on Nov 30, 2011)
After a long trip, I usually like to take some time to reflect on my journey and to think about the things that I have learned, people I have met, and new experiences I have encountered. This particular Montreal trip was incredibly special to me. Not because I was completely surrounded by “M-Love” (i.e. being around friends from the Millennium Network), but mainly because I reconnected with myself and learned to live the local lifestyle of a Montreal-er. It might sound a bit selfish, but really, I am sure my friends would say this was a beneficial “retreat” for me. One friend even labeled it a “mini vacation” and stated (this morning – Friday, Nov.11, 2011) that I would soon be returning to reality.
Was this a dream? No. To me, this was very much a reality. Contrary to what most people believe – that reality is what your day-to-day life is – reality, to me, is constant. My work, my studies, and my learning are occurring wherever I am. It’s really the mentality one adopts while travelling and how open one is to the stimuli around them. That said, I’ll admit this trip had much more stimuli and vastly additional elements of “fun” outside of what I “normally” encounter, but let me say this, these “elements of ‘fun’” are features I will implement into my life, moving forward!
Ever since I returned to Edmonton from Waterloo (August); Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria (September); and Toronto again (September), I have been in a constant state of transition and progression, whilst preparing for graduation (December 2011) and the next significant chapter of my life. I purposely took a leadership course to create time for introspection and reflection into my life. These past 4.5 years have accelerated progressively, and this week, I felt renewed. The biggest contributor? Great friends and amazing conversations.
Before coming to Montreal, I had a list of goals I wanted to accomplish – one of them being an emphasis on connecting with new friends. I enjoy connecting with others – not networking, and I stress this, because I find the term “networking” has a very skewed and negative definition nowadays. (Maybe that’s just because I am a business student. I’ve blogged on the topic of Networking before.) Nevertheless, two rules of connecting I live by are:
- Everyone has a story to tell
- Everyone’s story will teach me something
I connected with a number of people – over Twitter and Facebook – before arriving Montreal. Our connection was vibrant – online. It was even more meaningful, offline! We (finally) met at the Millennium M-Catalyst Conference and then let our relationship take off from there. What was unique about our relationship is that both parties were extremely open to sharing their experiences. There was a dialogue that existed. And while one person was sharing and reflecting on their own life experiences, the other was attentively listening and learning through the journeys of the other. I was particularly drawn to this week’s conversations, because I noticed the continuous bouncing of questioning from both parties. The genuine interest exhibited throughout the conversation, in addition to the natural flow of diverse topics discussed, were clear signs of a phenomenal connection. In an instant, I was invited into their world – unprotected, open, and honest. We sacrificed hours of our busy schedules to delve in one another – wow! Two conversations I’ll highlight are: 1) standing outside, in the wind, at 1:00am for an hour, after a 2 hour conversation beforehand, 2) walking and talking in the rain for 2 hours, losing track of where we were going. (It was extreme, but I’m young – and boy was it memorable!)
Living a Meaningful Life
Friends always ask me: “How do you have so much time to travel? Don’t you have school?” The simply answer would be: I make time. Travel and community work, are two aspects of my life that have provided me with so much motivation and positive energy throughout my life that I feel it is essential for me to indulge in these activities regularly. This week, I met with my good friend, Yassir, and discussed many of our values together. We dug deep into the reasons behind what we do, shared our passions, and dissected our lives – from childhood to present day. We found many similarities that catalyzed a special bond between us. This is just one particular conversation I had during the week. I sincerely thank everyone who gave me an uncensored sharing into the intimate details of their lives. Our friendship is invaluable to me and I treasure these two-way relationships very much.
I will highlight the rest of my time in Montreal in point-form. (Sorry, I’m getting really tired and feeling like I’m starting to ramble. I just know that once I get off this plane, I will not have time for this kind of a reflection. Yes – I’ve grown to have the best “Tammy Time” during flights. It’s ridiculous… I’m working on this!)
Eat. Pray. Love.
Highlights of the past 8 days:
- Living the life as a local Montreal-er
- Taking public transit, the Metro, witnessing the amazing Bixi system in use!
- Walking the streets and knowing their names (plus, having a sense of direction to where I was!)
- Attending classes at McGill – sitting in on classes outside of my degree: Human Sexuality, Political Science/Philosophy, Geology. (I am fascinated by Aristotle and Socrates!)
- Interacting with local non-profit organizations and the community
- Developing a friendship base in the local area
- Engaging in conversations on all topics imagined!
- Indulging in its diverse culture and food – eating Lebanese food from Basha, inhaling greasy poutine from La Banquise, getting my hands dirty from eating smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz, tasting the most amazing tart from a Portuguese bakery, having all-you-can sushi on St. Catherine’s Street, munching on sesame bagels from Fairmount, having everything spoken in French and English, great wine and conversation.
- Back in 2008, my experience was more focused on learning how to be independent, creating friendships while abroad, and being an active tourist.
- Jumping from tapas on Crescent Street to Peel Pub on my first night out in the city!
- M-Catalyst Conference – Montreal (Meeting very passionate & high potential leaders)
- Attending my first ever LGBT film screening (Images & Nation Festival) – “Leave It On the Floor” popular musical
- Learning about the Krishna Hare way of life from a monk
- Hosting an IMPACT! Alumni event – bringing together alumni from 2009 and 2011.
- Attending my first NHL hockey game (Montreal Canadiens vs. Edmonton Oilers. Final score: 1 vs 3 for the OILERS!!!)
- Participating in the first Fall Millennium Network Montreal M-Hub gathering
- Witnessing the student protests downtown Montreal (Tuition hikes)
- Remembrance Day Ceremony & 11/11/11 on McGill Campus
- For the full day-to-day schedule of my 8 days, see here.
- Re-connecting with friends I have not seen since 2007 (MacShads) & 2008 (JExplore friend, Yasenia, from Turkey) & 2009 (A close friend I met in Hong Kong, John)
- Introduced to Geistrio and met MNetwork members from Ontario/Quebec
- Reuniting with friends I saw earlier this year in Toronto/Ottawa
- Welcomed into my best guy friend’s home and seeing his daily lifestyle; Meeting my friend’s family.
- Being there for my friends when they needed me most
- Truly taking time to rest; making some very important decisions; learning to say “no” and listening to myself .
To summarize this trip, I’d say it was not only extremely eventful, but I lived each day to its fullest. I was energized and fully immersed in the activities of each day and lived every moment as happily and fulfilling as I could – whether it was napping in the middle of the day, tasting a Portuguese tart, or engaging in a moderated discussion about challenges we face with technology in modern society. It was a personalized schedule that was not only structured (to an extent), but had room for spontaneous events, which I allowed myself to be flexible with.
Thank you, again, to all who made this experience so memorable and fulfilling for me.