Thoughts From Our Balcony: Comfort Zones

The balcony of my Airbnb hovers over the busy streets of Mile-End in Outremont. As I sit on the landing that is covered with colorful wooden pots and flowers, I feel at peace and think about comfort zones and how often people push their boundaries—especially myself. I know this may sound silly, but to me, this trip and exact moment in time is out of my comfort zone.

While I write on our balcony, flurries of cars, motorbikes, and people pass underneath me playing music, laughing, and talking. Some are friendly and smile as they pass by. This morning, I woke up at 7 (that’s the time my body wakes up now…the joys of the internal clock!) after an interesting night of sleep. Oftentimes, I cannot sleep in new places, and this night was not any different. This feeling of the “unknown” along with being jazzed from the espresso I had at 10 p.m. the night before (oops) was flooding my system as I lied in bed thinking about all of the different ways we stepped out of our comfort zones that day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was Ian’s first time out of the country. I remember as we were driving towards the border, my husband’s attitude changed; he started acting apprehensive and quiet. I remember grabbing his hand, and instead of telling him it will be OK, I just talked about how exciting it was to travel to a new place! Honestly, I felt it too, but some reassurance and talking about our excitement helped. The apprehension faded until we arrived in Montréal and found the place where we’d be staying for the next few days. Don’t get me wrong—the place is darling. It’s exactly what the pictures looked like, and the host has been so helpful the entire process. It was just this: We’ve never done this before. Not only are all of the parking signs in French (good thing we know military time and the days of the week in French!), but we also do not know the area. We don’t know where the good restaurants are. We don’t know where are going. We felt very vulnerable. I kept telling myself that this was what made this trip exciting!

We unpacked and found our route using the map that our host left for us. Our apartment is nestled in a busy area filled with artists, musicians, and beautiful architecture. We enjoyed the walk to the hubbub of restaurants. It was here, however, where we began to pause. We were extremely nervous to approach the restaurants let alone eat there. After looking at many and deciding that we would keep on going to the next one, I decided that we stop at a quaint, Parisian looking restaurant. When we sat down at a table, we noticed that the entire menu was in French. We had no idea what to order (another post to come on this particular topic!) and were embarrassed that we didn’t know the language that well. Our waitress, who spoke English, helped us immensely, but we couldn’t help but feel even more out of our comfort zone. But, Ian and I both tried new food and found ourselves loving the experience, excited for more to come.

On this journey, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite literary quotes. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo recollects something that Bilbo used to tell him about adventures:

“He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”

Yesterday, I learned that it is OK to break out of your comfort zone. It’s OK to try new things and take safe risks. If we don’t take risks, then we simply aren’t living. When we first arrived and that feeling of overwhelming, “I don’t know where I am” panic arose, we could have just found a hotel and relocated somewhere a little closer to the main part of the city. But we didn’t; we chose to just “be.” Break out of your comfort zones. Explore. Don’t be afraid.

In our apartment, our host has created beautiful masterpieces and paintings that she hangs around her home. They are awe-inspiring and motivational. One of my favorites is something that she sketched. It hangs on a wall right as you walk in the door. I plan to look at it every day while I am here and remember it thereafter as a reminder to let go, just be, and take life as it comes.

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Bonjour from Montréal! Day One

Bonjour from Montréal! I am currently writing on a cozy couch in our Airbnb in
Mile-End! It’s our first time using Airbnb, and although we were a little nervous to step out of our comfort zone, it’s a very relaxing and homey place! Not to mention— it’s affordable! The woman who lives here is a traveling artist and rents out her place while she’s doing shows. Her apartment is filled with hanging plants, paintings, and all types of artistic flair. It’s very cozy!

Ian and I left Connecticut this morning at about 8:30 a.m. We were very excited to get started on our journey! We decided to make a little pit stop in Burlington, VT to have lunch, stretch our legs a bit, and have a quick visit with Ian’s cousin and his fiancée. They’re getting married in a few weeks, so it was great to see them before their big day!

We love Burlington. Ian and I visited for the first time two years ago. It was very cold, so it was nice for both of us to visit again with warmer weather! We immediately made our way over to Church Street where you can find a mix of historic architecture, shops, restaurants, and street entertainment. It’s so fun! We met at The Red Onion, a delicious sandwich shop, and cafe, and got the Red Onion Sandwich: a hot sandwich with turkey, bacon, apples, red onions, smoked gruyere cheese with sun-dried tomato mayo. It’s so delicious!

 

After lunch, we walked around Church Street and took a trip down to view Lake Champlain! It was a beautiful day; after a few hours, we felt refreshed and ready to continue our journey up to Canada.

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Montréal

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We arrived in Montréal very tired from our drive, but exhilarated to be in a new place! After we unpacked and got settled, we decided to find a place to eat. We found this delicious restaurant, Lustucru, where we sat down and had some drinks and ordered our dinner! It was tough to order because we do not know French very well, but our waitress was incredible and helped us! I ordered the veal ravioli, and Ian ordered the beef dish. Both were very good. I also ordered an espresso, which is currently giving me the energy to write this blog post!

 

Tomorrow we are headed to Mont Royal to do some more hiking and exploration. We can’t wait!

The Mangiones are going to Montréal!

Hey, all! Ian and I are headed to Montréal tomorrow for a few days to celebrate our (almost) one-year wedding anniversary! It’s hard to believe that we’re almost at our
one-year mark of being husband and wife. With school at the end of this month (and other exciting things happening in September), we decided to take our anniversary trip a little early! We’re super excited—this is also Ian’s first time out of the country! I’ll be posting updates and photos as we go! Hope you take some time to follow our adventures!

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Science is telling us to read more—and we should listen

Bibliophiles, rejoice! Today is National Book Lover’s Day!

For someone like me, every day is National Book Lover’s Day! As I mentioned in my post last June, Why I Read, Why I Write, reading and writing is an escape. Reading brings me solace; it helps me put reality on pause and enter a brand new world. Whether it is jumping on Buckbeak’s back with Harry, Hermione, and Sirius, or dancing in the Netherfield ballroom with Lizzie and Jane, I find peace and calm. Not to mention, in a world filled with screens, it is good to take some time away from the flashing, buzzing, and pinging, and open a book.

Reading is something that everyone should do. In fact, science demands it. Recent studies have found that reading books decreases stress levels, improves memory, and more. Here are five reasons why you should read more:

Reading reduces stress

There is nothing better than coming home from a busy day and sitting down on the couch with a book, blanket, and a hot cup of tea! When you’re feeling stressed, sometimes it’s better to put away your phone and electronic devices and dive into a brand new world. Reading will help calm your mind, shift your focus, and even give you the motivation to tackle those challenging tasks or combat your day-to-day stressors.

Reading stimulates your brain

Every time you pick up a book, you have the opportunity to boost your critical thinking, vision, language, vocabulary, and associated learning. Studies have even found that those who read on a regular basis throughout their lives (and even starting in the middle of their lives) experience slower memory and mental decline. So, the next time you want to get a good workout, try exercising your brain with a book!

Reading helps with your sleep

Shutting down your electronics and diving into a ritual of a hot cup of tea and a book before bed relaxes your mind and gets you into the routine of going to bed. Reading before sleeping will help clear your mind and avert your focus from the day’s stresses or tomorrow’s to-do list.

Reading helps you become more open minded

One of my favorite things about literature is the ability to enter an entirely new world filled with different thoughts, ideas, and experiences. As a reader, you are at the mercy of the narrator and characters, who might expose you to new points of view or events that you might not be aware of. Having the ability to read and accept different perspectives helps you become a more open-minded individual, thus a more successful, productive, and happier person!

Reading gives you a feeling of community

There is nothing better than meeting a fellow bookworm! Like any hobby, readers have plenty of opportunities to join different communities and talk about their love of books. From Goodreads to joining or establishing your own book club, books bring people together!

Happy National Book Lover’s Day! Celebrate by picking up a book!