This was a big experience for me for many reasons. There was the obvious reason of being able to work with my team members who I had only ever seen as tiny pixels on a Zoom meeting screen and finally get to see them in real life.
But for me honestly, the biggest thing I got was a huge sense of independence. For one, I had never traveled internationally before. That was kind of cool (managing passports and international papers on my own for the first time), but really not too different from whenever I travel across the US for school. But most importantly (and most ironically) was independence from technology. I realize just how dependent I am on technology during travel, but I was about to get a rude awakening on arriving to Vancouver. Think about it. If you are about to travel somewhere new what do you do to prepare? Well, the answer to this question may actually vary a lot depending on when you were born. But quite frankly…I don’t think I ever planned enough until now.
Before this trip, here’s what I would have done:
- I would just land at the airport–using my phone to look up the flight/gate numbers.
- Then check my hotel address online and honestly, not even have to read the address because I could just click on it and directly call an Uber or Lyft to take me straight to hotel.
- Then use Google Maps blindly to get around town.
Does it sound super cringey and reliant on my phone? …yes. But my mentality then was that “hey! I’m only here for a week–why bother learning about the area?”
But my ultra-cringey plan (or I guess non-plan) was thwarted by a couple of things:
- My cellphone’s data plan did not cover Canada
- Unlike certain areas in the Bay Area, free public wifi was not a common thing–I had 3 wifi spots (the airport, the hotel, and at work)
- Uber/Lyft/any rideshare service does not exist in Vancouver!
At first I was frustrated, and to be honest, a little scared. But when I really think about it, this could not have been any better. My new plan became:
- Actually learn the address of my hotel
- Use public transportation (Canada Line train) to get from the airport to the nearest stop
- Walk through the city to get from the bus stop to my hotel
- Ask for directions is necessary
- Build a mental map of the area
Despite the fact that I will mostly likely not be going to Vancouver anytime soon, building that mental map was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I’ve always told people “oh! I have a bad sense of direction” and used that as an excuse to blindly follow Google Maps. But the truth is…I don’t really have a bad sense of direction. I just…never bothered. After all, why put in mental effort into knowing your location when you can just…you know…not do that. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy: I said I had a bad sense of direction, so I never tried getting around on my own, which led to a lack of practice, which led to…a seemingly bad sense of direction.
It may seem like I’m exaggerating the extent to which this affected me–-but bear with me! Not having Google maps truly changed my life for the better! It gave me this freedom to know where I was at all times. Have a sense of the places around me. It pushed me to LOOK UP, to actively search for street signs and landmarks instead of glancing at them exactly when they would be there. I asked strangers for directions which just gave me more confidence overall. And one time in conversation with someone, I missed my turn. But! I knew approximately where I was. So I was able to find my way back using streets I hadn’t even used before simple because I understood the layout of the city! I understand that for some people…I may just be stating some obvious life experiences. But I know for a fact that there are quite a few people out there who haven’t experienced this. So I hope this convinces you to please try it!
I’m not saying Google Maps is evil or anything. I did use it during my trip: I’d come to my hotel and plan out my route. But then as soon as I stepped out the door–I was on my own. That was the new feeling of freedom and independence I hadn’t had before.
I liked that feeling so much–I didn’t want to get rid of it. So stopped using Google Maps as much as possible when I got home. It’s so wonderful to have this mental idea of where everything is and I’m glad I was able to carry that lesson back from Vancouver to my daily life.
Also! I got to visit Stanley Park which was gorgeous: