Hello dear readers,
What better way to begin a blog (I do so enjoy that new blog smell, don’t you?) than at the beginning. In our case, this would be late August to early September. The moving period.
A lot of people choose to live at home for university – it’s financially advantageous, convenient, and if you have a really good post-secondary institution in your hometown or nearby, it can even be ideal. However, most people I know end up moving to another city when they choose to continue their education. Either because the program they want is better in some other place, or they just want to get away from home. But whatever the reason, second, third and fourth year students are annually treated by the sight of little freshmen scuttling around with maps and bewildered expressions, hoping that some city-savvy senior student will be kind enough to give them directions to the student services building.
Am I painting a picture yet – do you see yourself in the poor freshman I just described? Well, here it is guys; the best advice you’ll hear to get you through this savage first month of never-ending streets and stores, clubs and apartment buildings that seem to just disappear at will, making it impossible to find your way wherever:
That’s it – get lost. Give in to the most timeless of mankind’s compulsions and just go explore.
Seriously though, the best way to get to know a place, to get to know your new city, is not by following the guidebook or a map, but by taking some time aside and wandering the streets. It is important to be safe though. It’s easy to get lost in a new place, especially if you’re as directionally challenged as I am. Just ask any of my family – I get lost all the time. It’s kind of sad. But I digress. Safety first kids 😉 Here is a list of equipment you’ll need:
- A map. I know I said they’re not really useful, and maybe I shouldn’t have. They don’t help you get to know a city, but they are great travel insurance. If you do get horribly lost, it’s important to be able to find your own way back home. So buy a decent map or download one on your phone/gps/whatever. Also, when you do find an awesome place you’d want to visit again, you can mark it on your map!
- A friend. Walking alone is fine, but it’s much safer if you know where you’re going. Every city has an underbelly, and they’re not a place you want to wind up without backup, especially if your lust for the wandering kicks in after sunset. So take a friend – everything’s more fun with one anyway.
- A cell phone. Just in case you forget/can’t read your map, or if you find yourself in an emergency, a well charged phone is a definite must. Also, you might just want to invite your other friends to join you once they get out of class!
- A bus pass or money for transport. Just in case you wander further than you intended and need to get back in a hurry. Or if you just get too tired to walk back.
I’m really into the comic book scene, and so before I moved down to Toronto, I did a search for comic book stores that would be in my area. I found a bunch and marked them on my map, vowing to visit them as soon as I could. Once I got there though, it turned out my maps weren’t as accurate as I would have liked, and it turned out they were a fair hike away, and I didn’t really have the time to get out there in the first few weeks.
The day after I’d moved into residence, a friend and I went out for a walk. We weren’t really looking for anything – we just wandered down Younge street, wondering if we’d find any interesting shops. And there it was – nestled between a restaurant and a clothing store – a rickety, dingy staircase that led up to the most amazing, packed-to-the-rafters, comic book store I’d ever seen; The Hairy Tarantula. It seems tiny, and the floors are uneven, so you have to watch your step. But the staff are helpful and funny, the store’s selection is huge and they offer their stock for the American pricing (plus ten percent off that if you get a membership) which is mind-blowingly cheap compared to Canadian prices. This is just one example of the awesome places you can find if you stop looking for them.
Every city has its own quirks and nuances, and it takes time to discover its secrets. Just today, as I’m sitting here in the theatre student’s lounge typing this up, I was talking to the girl sitting next to me and heard, for the first time, about the Path – the world’s largest underground shopping complex (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) where she got lost this weekend. And all this time, it’s been right. Under. My. Feet!! I had no idea, and now my Wanderlust is kicking in. I must go explore this place – an underground complex of tunnels, weaving all the way from Union station to Dundas stop on the TTC (The Toronto Transit Commission), filled with shops, food courts and (apparently) a lot of La Senza’s. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
If I hadn’t gone out wandering, I’d never have discovered my little comics oasis. A lot of my friends have put on these attitudes of “Oh, I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to just stay in my room, study and maybe go to some parties for four years.” And yes, studying is key, and it’s important to keep up right from the beginning. Parties are fun, and you should go to those too. But I urge you – set some time into your schedule to explore with your friends. It’s how you make the memories – discover that pub with the perfect ambience, or the vintage clothing store that gets first pick. Or even the comic book store with the best prices and a cat infestation 😉