A Week Of Being Unemployed In The Rocky Mountains, AB

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Today: An unemployed travel blogger who spends some of her money this week on snow pants.

Occupation: (F)unemployed/travel blogger
Age: 28
Location: The Rocky Mountains, AB (I'm travelling in western Canada and spend most of this week near Banff.)
Salary: $0 (I'm travelling on $3,000 savings.)
Paycheque Amount: $0
Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $1,000 (We're staying at Airbnbs, motels, hotels, and friends' places.)
Travel Insurance: $106.85
Netflix, Spotify & Amazon Prime: $0 (thanks, Boo!)
Phone: $68
Adobe Illustrator: $20.99 (I'm trying to learn graphic design, mostly for myself, but also as a way to potentially earn money while travelling.)
Google Drive: $1.99
Donations: $20
iCloud Storage: $3.99
Squarespace: $21.26

Day One

12:48 p.m. — I order an Uber to take R. and I from Calgary's airport (YYC) to an Enterprise Rent-A-Car lot in a nearby suburb ($26.64). Did you know that all Canadian airport codes begin with a Y? Why is that? (Accidental pun.) Turns out it was $300 cheaper to rent a car 15 kilometres away from the airport. Money > convenience. Good job on figuring that one out, R. And thanks for paying for the entire rental for the next two weeks. $26.64
1:14 p.m. — I make a quick stop at a Canada Post office to confirm my identity. I tried signing up for FlexDelivery online, but for some reason couldn't finish the process and had to go to a physical location. I recently found out about FlexDelivery, and it's pretty awesome! It lets you pick up mail in any post office in Canada — for FREE. Wow, go Canada Post! The clerk looks at my Québecois driver's license, appearing perplexed by the faded sticker on the back of the card listing my "new" address (it's been almost three years). She asks me where I got the sticker from. To reassure her, I reply, "from the driver's license people." Totally legit, right? After a few lengthy and awkward seconds, she decides I'm kosher enough for this service. I'm now good to receive mail all across Canada. I text my mom to give her the green light to ship me a letter I need from Montreal.
I should explain my nomadic lifestyle before I get further into this diary. I left a steady job in Montreal a few years ago. I was working in a non-profit, which was interesting, but I didn't like being in a 9-to-5 office, and I often felt unhappy, bored, and stuck. Plus, there was no potential for growth, so I knew I would stagnate. During my second year there, I met some awesome people on a trip who were living in San Francisco and invited me to be their roommate and open a community centre together. That's where I eventually met R. This past fall, my contract in SF ended, and R. decided to work remotely, so we could travel and ski throughout the western U.S. and Canada. So far, we've been to Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Denver, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and now Calgary, Banff, and Revelstoke. In the spring, we're moving to Montreal for a few months. I'm looking forward to settling down in one place for long enough to dedicate myself to the job hunt. I've tried applying and interviewing while travelling, but found it challenging, especially because I won't be available to start for another few months.
1:43 p.m. — After parking at the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre, R. and I head inside to rent our skis, poles, and boots — our companions for the next week and a half. I paid a deposit in advance to reserve them, and R. pays for the rest of the rental amount. What a sweetheart. The guilt of being (f)unemployed is building up, but R. keeps reassuring me that he'd rather have this lifestyle, with him working remotely to pay for a large portion of our travels.
2:24 p.m. — We haven't eaten anything since breakfast, which was...when again? After flying in from Denver, picking up the Jeep, confirming my (questionable) identity, and picking up skis, we're famished. As navigator-in-charge, I look up a well-reviewed spot to eat. My policy is simple: It has to have at least a four-star review on Google Maps (ideally, over four), and under two dollar signs ($$). "How do you feel about arepas?" I ask R., which is a redundant question, really, considering how hungry we are. He nods. Arepas it is. When we get to the Venezuelan joint, we order a guac-filled chicken arepa for me, and another one bursting with shredded beef for him, plus an order of warm, mushy, starchy yucca fries and Coke. With R., there's always Coke involved (the brown bubbly kind), or a hazelnut latte if it's coffee time (just wait and see). He pays.
3:27 p.m. — We head over to Mountain Equipment Co-op. R.'s snow pants ripped right before the trip, not leaving us time to get him new ones before our flight. Surprisingly, the selection of snow pants is very poor, with only three types to choose from, starting at $250 (wah?). After trying on a few, he settles on a pair that we decide to keep as a backup option, in hope of finding a cheaper alternative elsewhere.
4:05 p.m. — There's a cute coffee shop across the street from MEC, and we head there to get R. a hazelnut latte and a butter croissant. I'm still full from the arepas, so nothing for me. I'm glad we brought our reusable mugs with us. I sip to approve his latte and take a bite to certify the freshness of the croissant. And we're on our way towards Banff.
5:13 p.m. — We arrive at our Airbnb in Dead Man's Flats. (What a creepy name. But hey, it was the cheapest option around.) After a warm shower, I tuck myself into bed, trying to relax while keeping my eyes open. Staying awake is key. If I fall asleep now, I'll wake up in the middle of the night, mess up my sleep schedule, and be completely exhausted tomorrow. It's a sleepy slope... I meant slippery slope. R. comes into the bedroom and nudges me. "Let's go get groceries?" he asks, making a statement sound like a question. So polite. He's turning Canadian quicker than I thought. And we didn't even get poutine yet. Or eat at Timmy's. I reluctantly dress up and we head out.
7:02 p.m. — We park in the charming centre of Canmore and stop by Sports Experts to look for a cheaper pair of snow pants for R. We find a decent pair for half the price of the MEC pair, and we take them. We then drive over to Safeway for breakfast food, fruit, and snacks. Recently, I introduced R. to the classic combination of lox and cream cheese bagels. He's now hooked. We get to the cash, and I offer to pitch in for a few items, while he covers the rest. $21.40
8:43 p.m. — We head home. I toss a few ingredients into a bowl to make us a salad. We enjoy it with fresh French bread and smoked Gouda, splayed over the couch, while watching About a Boy (R.'s choice). I love that we both enjoy movies that focus on character development.
10:30 p.m. — We get into bed and pass out almost instantaneously. It's been a long day.
Daily Total: $48.04

Day Two

8:43 a.m. — I wake up alone in bed. R. has been training himself to get up early to get work done. When I peek through the bedroom door, I see him asleep on the couch. I give him credit for trying. It's really cold in our unit. We ask for a space heater, and it gets delivered within the hour. I take a shower and make us R.'s favourite breakfast: lox and cream cheese on bagels. R. is technically on vacation, so I offer to be in charge of cooking and dishwashing.
9:40 a.m. — I realize that now that I'm back in Canada, I can use my Air Miles card again. Not that it does much. I usually accumulate enough points to redeem for a $50 gift card at DeSerres every three years or so, which I gift to my artist sister. I check my account and notice that I have enough points to redeem for free movie tickets, plus popcorn. My excitement bubble bursts when I see that the tickets will take three weeks to ship (um, can't I just download them?). We're only here for two weeks, so even FlexDelivery won't save me now.
1:04 p.m. — It's my turn to go shopping today. My ski jacket and snow pants have seen better days and could definitely use an upgrade. We go to a consignment shop selling used gear, and I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality and size of the selection. I spot turquoise snow pants that fit, and I make a short list of several coats. I ask R. to help me to speed up the process. A dollar falls out of the first coat he picks up. "Should we take it as a lucky omen and buy this coat?" Lesson: It literally pays to help your partner shop. I end up opting for a different jacket, a grey Burton one. The two items come to less than what R. paid for his new snow pants. Gosh, I love thrift shopping. Also, I really need to find a job soon. $112
2:03 p.m. — We're off to Lake Louise, but I realize that we've left our National Park Pass (offered free by our host) back at our Airbnb. U-Turn. We're grateful to our host for helping us save $20 a day, which is what it would've cost to enter the park otherwise. We're back on the road at 2:30 p.m. and arrive at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise by 3:30 p.m.
3:45 p.m. — It probably wasn't a smart move to arrive at Lake Louise's top tourist spot hungry. We head over to the deli and order a chicken pot pie, beef chilli, and squash soup. R. pays. We ordered too much and struggle to finish the soup before finally giving up on it. I hate wasting food, but there's not much we can do. We let the meal digest while we sit on one of the Chateau's heated window sills and strike up a conversation with a woman from Canmore (people actually *live* there?). She came to Lake Louise to cross country ski with her cute dog and a friend.
4:15 p.m. — R. brought his skates, but I need to rent mine. To my dismay, the hotel shop only rents out hockey skates. I let go of my former-figure-skater ego and settle for a size 37.5. At least they fit (actually, they're the best fitting skates I've ever had), and they're super-warm. R. treats me to the rental and adds two hockey sticks to the order. They throw in a souvenir puck for free.
4:24 p.m. — The sight that greets us when we exit the hotel is literally breathtaking. We're at over 5,000 feet in elevation, and I'm out of breath. You'd think that after more than four months travelling at high elevations, I would be used to it. But nope. The mountains around us drop towards the lake on each side and meet in the distance, forming what looks like an immense, layered, snow-covered rock wall. We're in awe of this beauty and grateful to join the skaters gliding across the lake's frozen surface. I'm especially thrilled to make my childhood dream of seeing Lake Louise come true.
6:23 p.m. — After skating our lungs out, we retire indoors to warm up. Back at the deli, we order a cup of berry tea and carrot cake for me, and a hazelnut latte and croissant (getting the drift?) for R. It's my treat this time. We sit by the fire pit outside, the sky changing from dusk to dark over us. What a magical feeling it is to be outside surrounded by all of this surreal beauty. After the sun has set, we make our way home. $18.11
8:12 p.m. — We stop by Safeway to return one unsuccessful purchase of salmon jerky (which frankly tasted more like mouldy paper), and grab the milk we forgot yesterday, plus a few more pieces of fruit. R. pays. Back home, we repeat last night's dinner (salad, bread, cheese), this time to the company of Silicon Valley. I confess to R. that I'm losing interest in the series. We agree that it felt more relatable when R. and I lived in the midst of it. We left that part of California over four months ago, and this tech-crazed, venture-capital talk is starting to feel distant. And we're kind of glad for it — we were getting fed up with it all. When the show is over, we go to bed and fall asleep to the sweet memory of skating in this magical snowy kingdom.
Daily Total: $130.11

Day Three

9:05 a.m. — I've been struggling to get out of bed for at least 30 minutes. Having made his second attempt to wake up early, R. climbs back into bed next to me and takes a nap. I get up, make us breakfast, and wash the dishes in our apartment's abnormally tiny sink. One drinking glass cracks upon touching the tap. Then another follows suit. Was it me or were they broken already? I use R.'s nap as an opportunity to call my mom.
1:45 p.m. — R. and I look up a hiking trail on AllTrails (love that site). After finding one we like right outside of Banff, we dress up and head out. The hike is just the right amount of challenging, gradually ascending without being too steep, and lengthy without being too long. The surface of the packed snow is icy, and I slip occasionally, so R. lends me his arm for support, then places himself behind me for the remainder of the hike. We get to a few spectacular view points, stopping to take in the sight of the Rocky Mountains, stretching across the horizon and towards the sky, and breathing in the soothing smell of dense pine forests. What a blessing it is to experience this!
4:09 p.m. — We've come back down from the hike, feeling completely reinvigorated. I love hiking. Sometimes I don't love it during the hike, when it's hard and I'm out of breath, but I definitely love it afterwards. Google Maps points us towards a coffee shop where we order a hot chocolate for me, and a non-hazelnut latte (shock!) for R. I pay. $10.25
5:15 p.m. — I guess the hot chocolate didn't quite qualify as lunch, or dinner, whatever it is. Our eating schedule has shifted in a weird way. But that's vacation mode, so it's all good. We browse the map and find a well-rated Greek restaurant. Before long, we're ordering chicken and lamb skewers that come with rice, potatoes, and a Greek salad. We start with a spicy feta and pita appetizer while we wait. Everything is heavenly, especially after the hike. R. pays.
6:30 p.m. — Back home, we install ourselves on the sofa and work on our individual projects: R. on sorting expenses, committing code on GitHub, and whatever else programmers do on their vacation time, me on a blog I'm trying to launch. Before travelling with R., I took several solo trips (Costa Rica, St. Lucia, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany), and I'm writing about travelling alone as a woman. I hope to inspire other female travellers who are thinking about it to actually get on their way.
7:42 p.m. — I suggest Monsters Inc. as tonight's movie. R. hasn't seen it. After finishing the film, we discuss movie production. Our curiosity lit, we throw ourselves into a YouTube marathon, searching videos on Pixar's history, animators, and directors. The subject is enthralling, but I want to sleep.
12:30 a.m. — We're under the blankets and ready to call it a day.
Daily Total: $10.25

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — Ouf. I was supposed to wake up at 8 a.m. R. probably didn't want to wake me. I guess we're skipping skiing today. I get up to join R. in the living room. After breakfast and coffee, we work on our own stuff. I edit a blog post I wrote yesterday, adding photos to illustrate my points.
1:30 p.m. — We realize that we left our water bottle at the coffee shop in Banff. We meant to fill it up after the hike, but instead forgot it by the bathroom. I'm a little bummed. I really liked that water bottle. It was printed with the name of the town where R. and I first kissed. I call the coffee shop, and they tell me they didn't find anything. We head over to look for it anyway.
2:30 p.m. — After searching for our water bottle without success, we pick up our ski passes at the Banff Sunshine ski resort. We paid for the Mountain Collective pass a few months ago (it's about $680 each), which gives us two-day access to several mountains across the U.S. and Canada. We've already used it in Utah and Colorado, and we're excited to test Canadian snow.
3:07 p.m. — We head over to scenic Lake Minnewanka. We see people moving across the ice like ants on a mission. Some are skating, others are taking photos, and a few are on their regular daily stroll with their dog. We walk to an area on the lake where the snow has been cleared off. We can almost tell the thickness of the ice by seeing through it (it's gotta be at least 10 centimetres). We are amazed by the frozen bubbles visible under the ice's surface. I'd seen them in photos, but I didn't believe they're real. Well, myth busted: They are. We're far enough from everyone that it's quiet. As I'm taking photos, our ears tune in to a peculiar noise we've never heard before, like the call of a whale (I almost hear Dory making her whale sound). We can't imagine that ice would make such sounds, but what else can it be if not that?
4:22 p.m. — After our walk over the frozen lake, we head to Canmore for sushi, steaming miso soup, and hot tea. We order a few different rolls, some nigiri, and a seaweed salad. R. pays.
5:27 p.m. — We make our way to a nearby coffee shop and place an order for a decaf cappuccino with oat milk for me and a latte for R. We also get a brownie and berry strudel to share, then settle into the work we were doing earlier this morning. $17
7:43 p.m. — We stop at the corner store next to our Airbnb in the hopes of finding something for a late supper. Alas, the closest thing we can get to real food is Tostitos and dip. R. pays. As we're about to exit, I notice that all the customers coming in are purchasing lottery tickets. Apparently, the prize is over $21 million. I skip the lottery but, feeling naively lucky, I purchase a cheap scratch card. Alas, it's not my lucky day. R. should've purchased the card; he's the lucky one. $2
8:05 p.m. — We're back home for a relaxing evening. We talk about music, movies, and a bunch of other topics. Conversation flows, and so do the snacks. We climb into bed and close our eyes before midnight.
Daily Total: $19

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — I'm up. I make coffee, and R. eats breakfast. It's too early for me to eat.
9 a.m. — All packed and ready to go, we leave for Banff Sunshine.
9:40 a.m. — We get to the mountain and take the gondola up. I'm wearing my new jacket and snow pants, but R. thinks the new coat is too thin and recommends that we do a test run near the cabin where I stashed my old, warmer coat, just in case. R. is right. The coat I bought does nothing to keep me warm. I get back to the cabin and change into my good, old winter jacket. Ah, much better.
11:58 a.m. — I'm hungry. I haven't had breakfast, and my stomach reminds me of that. I buy a slice of Mediterranean pizza from the restaurant at the top of the mountain before heading out for another run. $8.40
1:38 p.m. — It's now lunch time for the two of us. We warm up with vegetarian pho, another slice of Mediterranean pizza for R., and a Pepsi. R. pays, and we're back on the slopes.
4 p.m. — Visibility worsens, and I'm not able to distinguish the ups and downs in the snowy terrain. It's also so foggy that I can't tell how fast I'm going. After several minutes of riding in total confusion, I start to feel sick, something like motion sickness. Soon I'm so nauseated that I stop and lie down on the snow. R. stops next to me and worriedly asks me what's wrong. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have motion sickness — from skiing! I make it to the gondola, and we take it down to the cabin where I flop into an armchair and can't move for the next 30 minutes. I Google "skiing" and "motion sickness," and turns out it's a real thing. Ski sickness is also known as Häusler's disease. It happens when the visibility is poor, and it works just like motion sickness. Well, at least I'm not alone.
5:13 p.m. — Once I'm able to stand without feeling the need to vomit, we go back down the mountain. Maybe eating would help to solidify this acidic feeling. We drive to an Italian restaurant in Canmore and order two types of pasta, with, of course, a Coke. R. pays. I feel better after eating.
7:12 p.m. — We savour takeout cheesecake while watching Julie & Julia. I love how the women's lives resemble our own. Julia travels with her husband, while Julie launches a blog. I also love Meryl Streep's acting in this movie.
9:20 p.m. — I take a shower and read in bed. I'm trying to finish a book we found at the airport in Salt Lake City that actually belongs to Calgary's library. We took it with us when we found it a few months ago, knowing that we'll be flying to Calgary later on. The time has come. Or almost. I have a few more days to finish it. It's called Doing Good Better, and it's about becoming a better philanthropist and altruist. Although I love the topic, I find the book a tad dry. Perfect to put me to sleep.
10:30 p.m. — I wake up around 1 a.m. to see that R. is still not in bed. I open the door to the living room and see him at his computer. I can't believe he's still awake. I motion to him to come join me, which he eventually does.
Daily Total: $8.40

Day Six

8 a.m. — YES! I manage to wake up on time. We pack and leave for Lake Louise Ski Resort.
9:30 a.m. — We're early on the mountain and drop off our extra stuff in the cabin. On the way out, we get ambushed by a woman who gives us a crash course on what to do in case of a bear encounter. We listen to her half interested, half make-this-a-bit-faster, while I pat the fur on a taxidermy black bear on the table. It's kind of gross, yet soothing at the same time. I'm afraid to ask about this bear's story. When the woman is done talking, I go wash my hands.
10 a.m. — We take the gondola up. A sweet old man sitting with us proceeds to give us recommendations on all the trails. We're grateful for his advice, but our brains are pretty saturated with all the information he gives us. We ski down part-way with him, then, to his great dismay, we hop on a different chairlift.
12:40 p.m. — After a solid two-and-half hours of skiing, we're ready for lunch. We head to a restaurant on the east side of the mountain and order chicken fingers and fries, a Beyond Meat burger, and — you guessed it — a Coke. R. pays. We eat, warm up, and go back out into the snow.
3 p.m. — We're ready to call it a day. We pick up whatever extra clothing we left in the cabin and drive to Canmore, where R. gets to taste his FIRST Nutella-topped beaver tail. It's my treat. $7.30
4:30 p.m. — We stop at Safeway to restock. R. pays.
6 p.m. — Back home, after a warm shower, I browse social media. In the meantime, R. makes us salad. I try hard not to pass out. I'm sooo tired. R. keeps me awake by putting on Seth Meyers's Netflix special. He's really funny and definitely helps delay sleep.
10 p.m. — I'm done. I brush my teeth and head to bed. I try to keep myself up a little longer with a book while R. types away next to me in bed.
11:40 p.m. — Half-asleep, I ask him to close the lid and join me in la la land. He reluctantly does with the statement "I'll sleep when I die." I guess I just have to kill him every night...with my love.
Daily Total: $7.30

Day Seven

8:20 a.m. — I'm struggling to open my eyes. R. tries to wake me up, then gives up and goes to the living room.
9 a.m. — I manage to get myself out of bed, blanket wrapped around me. I wobble into the living room, looking like the Michelin Man. I plop onto the couch next to R., who's laughing at this sight. I lie down next to him (or maybe on him). We just lay there for some time, enjoying this moment of quiet togetherness without disruption. We talk about our upcoming trips and fly over Montreal on Google Maps satellite view. I show him some spots I want to take him to when we get there. We agree to take a break from skiing today.
1:50 p.m. — We drive to a café we've been passing daily. Once there, I order a mango, pineapple, banana, and apple smoothie (delish!) and a chicken ciabatta sandwich. R. gets a bacon wrap with a latte. He pays.
4:40 p.m. — We drive to the consignment store where I bought the snow pants and jacket a few days ago. I need a warmer jacket. The one I bought is no good. I browse through more appropriate winter coats, and R. helps me again. The first jacket he lifts up rains quarters on him... AGAIN. What is up with this guy? I shake numerous other jackets. Nothing. Not a penny. Only a dirty old tissue. Not fair. I soon find a jacket that fits and looks decent. I leave $57 poorer, and R. 75 cents richer. $57
4:58 p.m. — We drive to the local library, located in the same building as the town's sports centre, which includes a gym, climbing wall, pool, sauna, water slide, hot tub, and even a lazy river. I wish I brought my bathing suit. Instead, I order a decaf cappuccino at the coffee shop on the first floor, before going to the library. $3.70
5:07 p.m. — After settling into a wooden cubicle, I dive into finishing an article for my travel blog. I review, then publish the piece.
7:02 p.m. — We've left the library and are on our way to A&W (also a first for R.) to pick up sides for the chicken we've got planned for tonight. We place a drive-thru order for regular and sweet potato fries, along with a burger and root beer for R. What a change from his daily dose of Coke! I don't like root beer. It tastes like medicine, minus the healing properties.
7:35 p.m. — As soon as we get back, I heat up the oven and throw in the chicken. We were going to BBQ it originally, but it's cold and raining, so plans have changed. While it's baking, R. and I pack our stuff for tomorrow, getting ready to leave for Revelstoke.
10:30 p.m. — I fall asleep as I'm reading and wake up at 3:30 a.m. I'm surprised to find the spot next to me empty. We have a long drive tomorrow, and I want R. alert, so I'm confused why he's still not sleeping. I know he'll be alert regardless, but I'd feel better knowing he slept. So, in the end, him sleeping is all about giving myself reassurance. I drag myself into the living room and give him a look that says "How and why in the world are you still up? We're driving tomorrow and you need to be sleeping. Get in bed, young man." He gets the message and joins me.
Daily Total: $60.70
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