San Diego Sunshine

I just returned from an amazing, sun filled week in San Diego. You would think that, living in Canada, I travel to the United States all the time, but I usually go as far as possible when I travel, so I haven’t been to many states. To be fair, San Diego is really far, probably the furthest place in the States from where I live, so it’s not like I stuck close to home this time either!

I traveled with one of my best friends. She and I went to Spain nine years ago, so I knew we would travel well together! We also have our freak out moments at different times, which is a definite plus while traveling (her: can’t find the bus stop, me: too many people and someone touched me.)

We had originally booked a hostel, but ended up staying in an airbnb house, which was much better. I learned many things on this trip, the most important one being that I’m so done with hostels. I’m a grown-up now, no more sharing a bathroom with 13 people.

San Diego is a big city, and I’m sure we didn’t see everything, but we did as much as we could, and that included relaxing on the many beautiful beaches!

Day 1

We started with mimosas for breakfast, then we walked and walked and walked (over 21 000 steps, according to my fitbit!) We took a guided tour of the city on a trolley and stopped in several interesting places, including Old Town, Coronado and Seaport village.

Day 1

Day 2

We went to the zoo! I was so excited! I have a love affair with giraffes and they were amazing. There was a baby giraffe too. We also saw elephants, koalas, pink flamingos and pandas. There were plenty of other animals too. In the evening, we were so exhausted and were wondering what to do. We didn’t want to go out, but we didn’t want to just hang out around the house either. Someone gave us tickets to an advanced screening of Antman, so we ended up going to the movies!

Day 2

Day 3

Our first beach day. We went to Pacific beach and it was wonderful. There was quite a bit more seaweed than I would have liked, but it was the ocean, so I’m not really complaining. We had Mexican food for lunch, ate gelato and relaxed in the sun. It was a perfect day.

Day 3

Day 4

We took a trip to La Jolla to see the seals. They just lay out on the rocks, sunning themselves and pay no attention whatsoever to the people walking around them taking pictures. It was surreal to get so close to them. Also, they smell really bad. After lunch we left the cove and went to the beach. Less seaweed this time. I bought a hat and it made me feel fabulous.

Day 4

Day 5

Before we left, we booked a culinary walking tour of downtown for day 5. What we didn’t know was that it was the Pride parade, right in our neighbourhood! We missed the parade, but still saw plenty of colour and partying going on. Also, strangely enough, it rained! There was a huge thunderstorm, which is very unusual for San Diego. The end of our tour got canceled, so we got to go on another one the next day.

Day 5

Day 6

We started the day off at the Hillcrest farmer’s market. It was so cool to see people selling food they grow themselves, and there was definitely a different variety than what we have at home. On the way, I stopped at an atm, and it was covered in glitter! The Pride festivities were still going strong. After the market, we headed to North Park for our second culinary walking tour. There was wine. Bliss.

Day 6

Day 7

Our last day was spent in Balboa Park. There are lots of museums in the park, but we wanted to enjoy our last day of beautiful San Diego weather outdoors. We visited the botanical garden, the rose garden and the desert garden. We had to leave in the afternoon to make our flight, but it was the perfect last day in this amazing city.

Day 7

I loved San Diego and I would definitely go back. I enjoy spending a whole week in one city, because it gives me a better feel for a place and I don’t have to pick one or two things to see, I can do it all (almost).

Where to next?

Realistic travel inspiration

I love traveling. I also rather enjoy Pinterest. When you put the two together, you get an abundance of lovely images with inspirational quotes on them like “Travel while you’re young, don’t worry about the money” and “I’ve left my heart in so many places”. These are great, and I pin them to my Wanderlust board like nobody’s business.

But.

Traveling is not really like that, is it? I’ve recently returned from a ten day trip to Costa Rica (I’ve been there three times. I love it. You might even say I’ve left pieces of my heart there.) It was an amazing trip, and quite the learning experience. However, it wasn’t picture perfect. The airline lost my luggage (it went to Hawaii) and I found myself buying 12$ deodorant and carrying around hotel toiletries in a shower cap. A three hour trip to a volcano took over 5 hours, and I was green by the time we got there. Oh, and it rained and the clouds covered up the volcano. I went hiking in flip flops and used my credit card like I stole it from someone. It was real. It was incredible.

Sometimes, the travel bug is an actual bug, and not worrying about money means spending 14$ on a toothbrush. I think what Pinterest needs is some realistic travel inspiration, not just the pretty stuff. So here is my take on travel inspiration, for the real world.

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adventure

animals

bugs

flip flops

free

horse

lost

moments

rum

sand

smell

Happy travels!

Getting comfortable

I haven’t been here in a while. I’ve been busy. Busy in a good way, busy doing amazing things, going on adventures and meeting fascinating people. Not the dreary “I’m so busy with my lists and my job and my schedules and deadlines and things I don’t actually want to do” kind of busy. Happy busy.

As I write this, I feel as though I’m brushing down cobwebs and shaking off the dust. I’m settling in, remembering why I love it so much here. I’m getting comfortable, as though I’m sitting in a pile of pillows, wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea on a rainy day. My, how I do love it here.

It does feel a little different, to be honest. Is this space different, or am I? Maybe it’s a combination of both.

I’ve had a summer of extreme awesomeness. There are no words to express how truly blessed I feel to live this life. I’ve seen, felt, lived, dreamed, laughed, traveled, sang, cried, jumped, swam, received and given.

There’s a saying that goes “life begins where your comfort zone ends” or something similar. While I admit that letting go of the fear of being uncomfortable allows for new experiences and discoveries, there is something to be said about comfort. It is so delicious to feel comfortable, content and carefree. I am giving in to comfort. I will be uncomfortable tomorrow. Who knows what will happen…

This is me being comfortable. I call it "Alice in Wonderland before she falls through the rabbit hole." Adventures are about to happen, but in this moment, I am comfortable.  Actually, if I remember correctly, Alice was bored to death before she ended up in Wonderland, so many this is not a good analogy after all.

This is me being comfortable. I call it “Alice in Wonderland before she falls through the rabbit hole.” Adventures are about to happen, but in this moment, I am comfortable.
Actually, if I remember correctly, Alice was bored to death before she ended up in Wonderland, so mayby this is not a good analogy after all.

How to do yoga in the jungle

I just spent a blissful week in Costa Rica doing yoga. I love yoga so, so much! Hot yoga is my favourite, so I wasn’t worried about doing yoga somewhere deliciously hot. I learned quite a few things about myself and my practice when I was there. I also learned some valuable lessons about doing yoga in the jungle and at the beach.

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1. It is not your jungle

You know who was there first? The ants! They were there to stay, but thankfully, ants don’t bother me at all. These weren’t some kind of crazy, biting ants, just yellowish, let me eat your picnic, ants. I also saw the biggest grasshopper ever, in the world. There was a praying mantis who caught my attention for so long, I was no longer paying attention to class.

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2. I am not a morning yoga person

I woke up every day as the sun came up and got up around 6:30. This was not difficult for me, it was actually enjoyable, which was a surprise. Meditation started at 7:15, and lasted 15 minutes. I enjoyed this as well. Not so surprised here. Yoga was from 7:30 to 9am. This was very difficult for me. Big surprise!

Although I love practicing, morning is not a good time for me. I didn’t feel like pushing myself at all and just kind of moved through the poses. I had very little energy and no desire to find any. I was also hungry, which didn’t help the situation. About halfway through class, I would find some energy and start to enjoy myself a little more.

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3. Monkeys trump yoga

During class one afternoon, someone saw a monkey. Well, it didn’t take long before we all got up off our mats and ran for the windows to see it! As an elementary school teacher, I’m usually on the other end of something like this, trying to teach when everyone wants to make sure they don’t miss what’s going on outside. It was cute, and it was swinging from a branch, acting like a monkey. I think he knew we were watching.

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4. Yoga on the beach is not really going to happen

About ten of us from the retreat went into Tamarindo for the day, with very good intentions of practicing yoga together on the beach at the end of the day. You know where we ended up? In a restaurant, eating and drinking! I have lots of pictures of me doing yoga poses on the beach, but I never did an actual practice. It was usually too hot. Also, when I’m at the beach, there so many sights, sounds and smells, there’s no way I’m staying present. What if I miss something, like a shark or a pelican?

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5. Yin wins

When I first started this blog, I was doing a lot of power yoga. After my week in paradise, I can confirm what I’ve been feeling for a while: I’m not much of a power person anymore. I like yin, with it’s melt-into-the-floor poses and passive postures. I’m not saying I’ll never do power yoga again, and I still love flow, but the afternoon classes, which were less power, more yin, were like candy to me. Maybe it was the slow pace of Costa Rica that got me all yin-like, or the fact that I was running around all day learning how to surf and stand up paddleboard with the crocodiles, leaving me with little energy for yoga at the end of the day. Yin was a welcome relaxation.

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The yoga studio at Peace Retreat had an open feel to it, letting in air, light, and the sounds of the jungle. I felt very lucky to be able to practice in such a beautiful setting. I can’t wait to go back and practice there again!

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Pura Vida

You know that feeling, when everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be and you’re exactly where you should be? It doesn’t come around very often, but last week, while I was in Costa Rica, I felt it. After only two days, I knew I belonged there. It just felt right. I’m not ready to give up my whole life and move there, just yet, but I am already planning my next trip. A girl can easily get hooked on the feeling of knowing she is where she is meant to be.

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I can no more cover my whole trip, even though it was only a week, in one post, than I could count the books I’ve read. It’s impossible, there’s too much magic to squeeze in to one little post. I’m not even sure I can find the words to express the wonder, the joy, the excitement that this adventure brought me. But I will try.

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I stayed at a place called Peace Retreat Costa Rica. People say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but I’m guessing they haven’t been to Peace Retreat yet. It’s owned and run by Hali and Kevin, two Canadians who moved their life and family down to this happy, beautiful, peaceful corner of Costa Rica. The place is amazing, but it’s their light and love that make it shine.

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Peace Retreat is located in the village of Los Pargos, which, I learned from a Tico, is slang for lazy people. I didn’t meet anyone I would call lazy, but the slow, easygoing way of life was definitely appealing. There’s a beach, called Playa Negra, and it draws surfers to it, like bookstores lure me in, like a mermaid calling to the sailors.

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The village is pretty remote, so it’s not a big tourist attraction. I loved that, even though, technically, I was a tourist. I say technically, because in my heart, I knew I belonged there, and when you belong, you’re not a tourist, are you? There are dirt roads and people regularly stop and ask you if you need a ride. No one wears shoes. Everyone smiles. No one says “I have a deadline” or “I’d love to, but I have to do all this work I brought home”. I’m not saying people’s lives there are perfect, because I’m sure they’re not. We all have our issues, but to an outsider, it all looked pretty amazing.

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I did yoga, learned how to surf and picked a lemon from a tree. I saw lizards, monkeys and I almost saw a crocodile. (I was happy I didn’t!) I took a stand up paddleboard tour through the mangroves, heard the monkeys every morning before the sun came up and got myself a custom made bikini (pink, of course). I went to Tamarindo, tried to do a handstand on the beach and leapt into the air every time someone said “Jump shot!”.

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Pura Vida means pure life. Life at it’s purest form should be, in my opinion, joy. And that’s what I found in Costa Rica. Joy. Bliss. Happiness.

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Winter Blues

I am not an equal lover of all seasons. I enjoy all of them, just not the same way. Spring’s got flowers, rain, dresses, rain boots and grass. Summer has sun, beach days, camping, vacations and ice cream. Fall is colours, sweaters, pumpkins, scarves, lattes and boots. Winter has snow. Also, it’s got snow.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some great things about winter as well. Hot chocolate, reading wrapped up in a blanket, skating, tea and that quiet feeling when it’s snowing and all the sounds are muffled and everything is soft.

Another thing winter has is cold and dark days. The days are so short, it’s dark when you wake up, and dark when you leave work. This serious lack of sunlight is quite the downer.

The past few weeks, I’ve been having the winter blues. I’m bored, but I don’t want to do anything. I want to get out of the house, but it’s too cold to go outside. I want to see my friends, but I’m too lazy to move. I want something different, but I don’t know what.

I don’t hate winter, but I’m looking forward to Spring!

Since sunshine and daffodils are still a couple of months away, I’ve decided to make my own bright and happy days. Well, to find some. I’m going to Costa Rica for a week of yoga, adventure, sunshine, beaches, turtles, surfing and bliss. I’m leaving on Saturday and I am looking forward to it!

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27 out of 101

On October 1st, 2011, I started a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. It’s been an amazing year. Some of the things I imagined I would do right away have yet to be done, while some of the things I thought would be done towards the end of the 1001 days have been accomplished already! It’s been great. If I’m feeling restless or bored, I look to my list and find instant inspiration and motivation!

Here is a recap of what I’ve done so far. For the full list, click here.

12. Try snowboarding.

I did this last year with my friend Julie. We went out a few times and I fell in love with it! I’m actually looking forward to snow this year. Sadly, my friend Julie moved to Abu Dhabi, so I lost my snow buddy, but I’m still going to make it out to the hill, because I enjoy it so much! I fall a lot, but that’s nothing new!

13. Go to Central or South America

When I wrote this, I had Costa Rica or Brazil in mind. However, not everything happens as planned. I went to Cuba this summer and although I’m not sure the Caribbean counts and Central or South America, I have decided that, for the purpose of this list, it does! It doesn’t mean I won’t go someday, but 1001 days is less than three years, so I’m not sure I’ll make it before then.

18. Do 108 sun salutations

I did this twice! Once for the spring equinox and once for the summer solstice. There was supposed to be an event held for the fall equinox, but it was outside and it was cancelled due to rain. I was disappointed, because I thought I might do 108 sun salutations for all of the seasons in 2012. It’s definitely not easy, and your legs feel it the next day, but it’s a great experience.

22. Take a trip with my mom

My mom and I went to Cuba together this summer. I love my mom and I like her too! We have a great time together. I always feel bad for my friends who don’t like to spend time with their mom, or who just don’t get along. My mom rocks.

23. Go running along the canal

The canal is beautiful and I always see people running and think “I want to do that.” So I did. It was a beautiful day and it made me happy.

24. Get a cellphone I can text with

I got one for my birthday, last November. I enjoy my phone, but it is not surgically implanted in my hand. It’s not an iphone, it doesn’t do anything special. It lets me text, which makes me thing I have caught up with technology, although deep down, I know I haven’t.

30. Visit the National Gallery

I went to see the Van Gogh exhibit in September. The gallery is beautiful, which is why I wanted to go again. It’s right across the river, I should go every time there is a new exhibit.

34. Go hiking

I’ve done this several times since last October, and I hope to do it again before the 1001 days are up. There are so many wonderful places to hike and walk in the woods around here, there’s no reason not to go!

37. Make a dress

I wrote this thinking I would make myself a dress. However, last year, for my class play, I made two dresses for two very happy little girls! I think two mini-dresses equals one me-size dress!

38. Eat beets

I don’t like beets, but, at a restaurant for my birthday last year, I discovered fried beets. They were delicious and did not taste like regular beets at all. This means they did not taste like dirt.

39. Climb a tree

Trees are made for climbing. I’ve discovered I can climb a tree when it needs to be climbed, it doesn’t matter if I’m wearing white or a dress. I can do it.

43. Play volleyball

I’ve done this twice. I’ve discovered I’m not very good (ok, I knew this already) but I do enjoy it very much. My goal is to get better (meaning not duck when the ball comes my way) and maybe play on a team next summer.

45. Get an IMAX teacher movie pass

I’ve been to several movies, and it’s definitely worth it! One and a half movies paid for my pass, now all the movies I see are free!

46. Go on a road trip

I don’t know if going to Montreal, which is 2 hours away, counts as a road trip, but it was a car full of girls with one bride-to-be, on a mission to find some dresses, singing ABBA songs and eating chocolate cookies. I say it counts.

58. Play Monopoly

I played with some of the kids in my class, and it wasn’t quite how I remembered. They didn’t want to spend their money on anything, so they just kept going around, passing go, collecting 200$. I felt bad buying properties and making them pay when they landed there. But it was still fun!

61. Try a yoga dance class

I’ve done Madonna flow yoga with Natalie, one of my favourite teachers. It’s ashtanga yoga, but it’s to the music of Madonna. We sing, we dance, we vogue. If this isn’t a yoga dance class, I don’t know what is!

63. Try a new kind of tea

I’ve tried many. I even went to a tea house with the road trip girls, although not during the road trip. I love tea. Must keep trying new kinds.

64. Do yoga on the beach

I went to a moonlight yoga class which was held at the beach. I also did some yoga poses on the beach in Cuba. Not many though, it was too hot!

68. Give someone flowers

I picked some May flowers for my mom for mother’s day. I’ve been doing it every year since I was a kid. They grow in the woods and I used to go walking to pick them. Now, I usually park by the side of the road and wave at people who look at me like I’m crazy, in the woods in my dress and sandals.

72. Do the hula

I had the Hawaiian hula in mind, but I did a couple of hula hoop dancing classes. Lots of fun and a great workout!

74. Donate to a good cause

I thought I would donate a big amount to a charity, but I realized I donate regularly, just smaller amounts to different causes. I always give to the kids packing my groceries for their sports team, the man sitting at the table in the mall for cancer, the run for the cure, the fundraising for my 30-day challenge. I give in small doses, but as much as I can.

77. Make a list of the books I read (up to 101)

I’m at 54. Number 55 is taking me a while.

84. Write a list of 101 things that make me happy

I’ve started. I’ll post the whole list when I’m done.

86. Do yoga every day for one week

Well, this one took on a life of it’s own! I not only did yoga for a week, I did it for 30 days. Twice! Once in the spring with my friend Julie and once in September. I will probably do it again!

90. Not buy any new clothes for one month

This one also became something else. I did a no-spending challenge last May, where I did not buy anything but essentials. It’s crazy how much money I saved. It has made me realize I buy way too much crap I don’t need. I’m not as strict with myself as I was in May, but I have changed my spending habits.

98. Ride in a limousine

Did this last December for my friend’s birthday. I don’t like champagne, but it tasted lovely in a limo!

99. Run on the beach

I went for a run in the spring in an area that was somewhat unfamiliar, and I was surprised when the path brought me to the beach. It’s not a large beach, but I ran next to the water to get to the path on the other side. It made me happy because it was unexpected!

So far, I’ve done 27 things on my list. I can’t wait to do the rest!

My week in Paradise

I have just spent the most relaxing week of my life in Paradise, also known as Cuba. If you’ve never been there, please, drop everything and go right now. I’ll wait. ( … ) See what I mean? Amazing, right?

I left with my mom last Thursday for what had to be the longest day of traveling ever for a 4 hour flight. Just to give you an idea, we left home around 9:30 am and got to the hotel around 10:30 pm. But everything went smoothly, so it’s all good.

When we first got there, it was dark and my mom did not want to go to the beach. I think she was afraid of sharks or lizards or axe murderers. We explored the hotel a little and we didn’t really know what to think. There weren’t many people there and it felt like a ghost hotel. Like Hotel California, which, incidentally, played on repeat all week.

The next morning, however, we woke up to this.

The beach was incredible. White sand, clear turquoise water, even a few crabs. It felt like being in a postcard. There were a couple of piers not too far away, so we decided to walk over and check them out. Afterwards, we were so hot we decided to fling ourselves into the ocean, which tastes like pretzels, by the way, and have another drink.

On our second day there (I think) we took a bus into Varadero. My favourite part was all the old cars. They call Cuba a “rolling museum”. We walked around for a while and got our first glipse of Cuban culture. Varadero is mainly a tourist town, but there are flashes of the real deal here and there.

My favourite day of the week was when we went on a catamaran cruise. I had never been on a catamaran before, and it was so much fun! The weather was perfect, there was a bar on the boat and the bartender, Elvis, (seriously) made the trip into something awesome. He asked everyone where they were from and kept bringing us more drinks. He even got everyone dancing and singing.

The boat brought us to a dolphinarium where I got to meet Jessica the dolphin. It was surreal to actually touch a dolphin! Her skin felt like rubber and I was so worried I would scratch her, but apparently she wasn’t worried because she came pretty close! I was standing on the tips of my toes on a platform in the sea, trying to keep my head above water and not get in the dolphin’s way, in case she thought my braids were fish or something. I even got a kiss! Best part of the day, for sure!

We got back onto the boat where I liked to pretend I was a movie star and had my own private catamaran. All the other people were my movie star friends.

After I was done being a movie star (for the moment, not forever) we went snorkeling. In my case it meant putting on the floating belt, the mask and the tube thingy, then going into the water very, very slowly. This was followed by my not letting go of the rope, sticking my face in the water for approximately 48 seconds and seeing some cool fish and ocean floor before I said “ok, I did it. I’m done now.” The whole process lasted under five minutes. but I did it!

The rest of the day was spent eating lunch on the beach, swimming and drinking on the boat. Bliss.

The other days seemed to flow into each other as we did a lot of reading, swimming, talking and eating. The food was not incredible, for some reason everything tasted the same, but I had a wonderful time being there with my mom. We had drinks, but not as many as I thought, because the combination of the strong sun and the strong drinks was quite potent!

I even found a tree to climb! If you look hard enough, you will always find a tree to climb. Even in a lace dress, it’s possible.

I loved being in the water most of all. I’m not a strong swimmer, but I am an excellent floater! Plus, this was saltwater, so floating was even easier. I floated on my back, sitting up, even standing. My feet didn’t touch the bottom, but I could see it, since the water was so clear. I was float-walking around all week.

I tried to do a wheel on the beach, but it didn’t work so well, because my hands were sinking into the sand and the waves were pulling me into the ocean. It was the only yoga I did all week. I had brought my mat with me, but it was just too hot to practice. Also, I was quite busy doing nothing.

Really, the best thing of all was being there with my mom. We both like to talk and we both like to read, so we were perfect traveling companions for the week!

We also went to Havana, but such a colourful, vibrant city deserves it’s own post, so that will have to wait!

The ocean is where I belong

In July, I decided I wanted to take a trip somewhere. Anywhere, really. I went to a travel agency, picked one lucky agent, told her what my budget was and said “Send me somewhere.”

Then, I proceeded to stalk her for days, asking if she had any good deals for me, anywhere exciting to send me. I was hoping for an African safari or a tour of Iceland. My adventurous side was screaming “Egypt!” while my budget was whining “A bus to beach.”

I wanted to leave as soon as possible, but I discovered that the whole “I waited until the last minute to book my trip and I got a great deal!” thing was actually a myth. I decided I needed to be more flexible and added August to my available travel dates. After all, I am off all summer.

I was planning on going by myself, because that’s number 3 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days.

After a few days, I realized I had to adjust my expectations when it came to the destination. What I really wanted was a change of scenery and a plane ride. If you fly somewhere, it’s a real trip. (Not always, but this summer, yes.)

My travel agent suggested Cuba. I said “When do I leave?” I was telling my mom about my awesome deal, and asked her if she wanted to come. I did not expect her to say yes, but she did! This is amazing because number 22 on my list is “Take a trip with my mom”. It’s going to be just the two of us!

Here is where we’ll be for the next week.

I’m going to be completely disconected from technology. No phone, no computer, no Internet. I’m really looking forward to that part. I’m bringing a book (ok, 4 books) and I’m going to relax, drink, read and swim in the ocean. I’m going to do whatever I want to.

See you in a week!