Gift Guide: Volume 1 // My Wish List


It’s that time again. Today, the first in a series of gift guides that will roll out over the next couple of weeks. And I’m starting with my own list.

As I’ve said before, this blog is about coveting and collecting experiences, not things. The thing about nesting, though, is that it requires stuff. Not new stuff, not fancy stuff, but stuff…and I didn’t have much of it when I moved into my new flat. I had so little, in fact, that I was able to move from my previous home to this one in one cab ride. I was a nomad, so I packed light.

So the little bit of spare cash I’ve had these past few months has gone to fun purchases like bookshelves and lamps and not-fun purchases like a mop and tea towels and ice cube trays. That means my wish list is a lot easier to come up with this year. I’m still making tea by boiling water in my one and only pot, so you understand…

This wish list, besides being fun to come up with and design, is the first instalment of this year’s gift guide. If you have any 31-year-old, newly-settled-down, cash-poor young women on your list this Christmas, she may like any of the items below. Probably. Perhaps.WishList_Gift-Guide

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I’m settling in. I said a while back that that was the plan, but as recently as April I was actively planning my escape…as is my way. I wasn’t planning on going very far – my Melbourne student debt precludes any big adventures – but to somewhere not here. Calgary, maybe, where the streets are paved in money and cowboys (or so I’m told). Then, in July, everything changed. Or at least enough changed to make staying put a great deal more attractive. The most important change: I got into a housing co-op in Gastown, the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver.

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Coming Soon.


So I’m late again. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about this little blog – in fact, I’ve been thinking about it endlessly. I’ve been working on some holiday posts for the weeks to come – I’m feeling very merry – and finally finishing up my blog redesign. It’s a fun process, playing with colour swatches and perusing fonts and creating mood boards. Mercifully this time I have a team of designers and a developer at the ready to help me do the many things I cannot do. With any luck, the new and improved Chelsea Tells Stories will be live by Christmas.

In the meantime, I’ve got lots planned, so keep checking back.

Thinking, and writing, and making lists.

O'Connor by Dangerdust

Oh, hello. I can’t quite believe it’s been nearly seven months since I last posted. I don’t really have any good excuses, other than that I wasn’t really sure anymore what I wanted this blog to be – or whether I wanted to blog at all.

It turns out, I do. I’ve been going through something lately that has really got me thinking. I’m not ready to talk about it (yet), but I will tell you this – it’s got me thinking, and writing, and making lists. Contemplating what it is I really, really, really need and want out of my life, in the short-term and the long-.

I’ll share some more details in the coming weeks, or months, or whenever I’m ready. In the meantime, one thing I’ve figured out is that I miss writing this humble little blog. It helps me make sense of things, and I could definitely use that right about now.

I will be back with more this weekend. And that’s a promise.*

*If you don’t believe me, that’s perfectly understandable. I’ve made this promise before. But this time, I mean it.

See you soon.

Illustration from the amazing Dangerdust.

One year on.

Whaaat? It’s been a month since that last post in which I promised to be a more prolific blogger. Time flies.


Seriously. Time flies. Last week marked one year since my return from Australia. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I left that place–and those people–that I grew to love so deeply.

I’m not going to lie. It’s been a tough year. There’s barely been a week gone by that I haven’t questioned why I came back to Canada in the first place. On many occasions–and as recently as last month–I have seriously considered moving back. I’ve looked at visas, jobs, flights. But I haven’t gone.

And these past couple of weeks, I’ve reminded why I decided to come back to Canada. Family. There have been so many times that this reason hasn’t seemed to hold water–if my family loves me, don’t they want me to be happy, even if that means my living far, far away? But then…my grandpa died the other week. And though being available to attend–and speak at–his funeral isn’t in and of itself a good enough reason to stay, the family stuff that rises to the surface when you lose someone you love is. That is, the reason family is important–and why being part of their lives on a more-than-once-every-other-year basis matters–is suddenly crystal clear.

And so I will not move back to Melbourne, even on days when I really, really, really want to book a ticket and go. I will have to settle for a visit–hopefully soon–and a look back at those wonderful years down under.

And now, a random assortment of my photos from Australia.

Federation Square Cricket players, Fitzroy Surfer, Bell's Beach Australia2012-11-18 14.44.19 Wilson's Promontory, AustraliaMe and my mum, Great Ocean Road, Australia Wilson's Prom, Australia Me and a koala, Great Ocean Road, Australia Twelve Apostles, Australia Melbourne Melbourne Great Ocean Road Great OCean Road, AustraliaCottlesloe Beach, Perth

Flinders Station, Melbourne Australia

From top: The flag of my adopted home | Federation Square, Melbourne | Cricket players, Fitzroy (Melbourne) | Surfer, Bells Beach | Bondi Icebergs, Sydney | Wilson’s Promontory | Me & my mum, Great Ocean Road | Wilson’s Promontory | Me & a koala, Great Ocean Road | Great Ocean Road | Melbourne | Melbourne | Great Ocean Road | Great Ocean Road | Perth | Flinders Station, Melbourne

Want more Australia? Don’t we all.

Some posts:

The Highs & Lows of Living Overseas |  A Gastronomic Tour of Australia | Melbourne’s Magic | Melbourne Guides | Melbourne Guides: Where to Caffeinate | Melbourne Guides: Where To Splash Out on Supper | Melbourne Guides: Where to Eat on the Cheap(ish) | Melbourne Guides: Where to Imbibe | Great Ocean Road: A Gallery & Playlist | Wombats, whales & wallabies | Taking the Long Way

Oh, hello.


Hello, friends. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Much longer than I had intended. I felt like I needed to take a little time to think about this blog and where I want it to go now that I’m a (somewhat) settled-in 9-to-5 person. I’ve never been that person and a blogger at the same time.

I’ve also been working on my professional website, plus a blog redesign, both of which are taking much longer than I ever anticipated. Unfortunately, I’m just design-savvy enough to know exactly what I want to achieve, but not nearly design-savvy enough to achieve it. It’s an issue. I hope to roll out the new design in the next few weeks; in the meantime, though, you can expect to hear more from me again. If you can tolerate boring, clock-punching, moss-gathering, staying-put me, I hope you’ll keep checking back.

My Favourite Books of 2013*

I didn’t read as much fiction in 2013 as I did in 2011 or 2012. I read a few books related to branding and communications (like this one, which I loved) to help me in my job search, and I started a bunch of novel that I didn’t finish. Of all the books I did read all the way through, these were my favourites: Best Books 2013

1 Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter  |  2 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green  |  3 The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer  |  4 The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews  |  5 Run by Ann Patchett

What were your favourite books last year? I’d love to know! 

For some other posts about books and reading, click here

*These didn’t necessarily come out in 2013; I just read them last year…

UPDATE // 36 by 36

When I made my 36 by 36 list, I told myself that I would keep myself on track by doing a review every six months. Time goes so fast that I could easily find myself at 35 and not have checked anything off the list.

So here I am, 30.5 years old and checking in. It feels like an appropriate time to be doing this, since I had such a rough couple of months. During that time, I found myself thinking a lot about the kind of life that I intend to have. My 36 by 36 list is a reflection of that.

When I sat down to look at my list, though, I found that there were a few items on the list that don’t feel that important any more. It seems this list will likely shift as my priorities do. I realized, for example, that I don’t really care about learning to surf. I have fun trying, but it doesn’t really matter to me. I also don’t really think attending Lollapalooza is a priority. It would be nice to go to Lollapalooza, but there are a lot of other things that are far more important to me. So the list has changed, and will change again, I’m sure.

As far how I’ve done on this list in the last six months…not great. Blame lack of money during my unemployment or lack of time during my over-employment, the fact of the matter is that I did not do a great job crossing things off this list. I did do some things that were on earlier incarnations of the list: I taught myself how to use Photoshop, and cycled around the SeaWall and beyond many times over. I tried to take last summer off TV, but given my unemployment and my being new in Vancouver, I found that I had a lot of time to fill and Breaking Bad proved to be an excellent way to fill it.

I’m not going to use these updates to kick myself, but to remind myself that there are lots of adventures I intend to have in the coming years.

Here’s the updated list of adventures:

36 by 36We’ll see how I go…

an austere year

Adventure FundReal talk: I’m in debt. Though I’ve been fortunate to have an incredibly generous immediate and extended family, a decade of frequent travel and a master’s degree obtained overseas have put me in the red. This year, I’m going to do everything I can to claw my way out of it.

I hate the position I’m in for a few reasons (outrageous interest charges!), but the main one is that it restricts my freedom. For a hopeless wanderer like me, that’s an uncomfortable position to be in. It also impedes my ability to create this full, wonderful Vancouver life that I’m determined to create.

So, resolved to right my course, I’ve got a plan, spreadsheets, and tax-free savings accounts. Inspired by Blonde on a Budget (and to keep myself accountable), I’m going to write about my austere year periodically. It’ll certainly be a departure from my previous, predominantly travel-related content, but I suppose money is an important consideration for most travellers and wanderlusters.

On that note, I want to share an article that my friend Fiona posted on Facebook the other day. It really resonated with me, and I imagine it will with many other travellers. Why is it so much easier to live well on a little when you’re on the road? Is it because we’re so much happier and more fulfilled when we’re travelling, and therefore we need less stuff, less convenience, less material padding to fill the void?

I truly believe that one of the best ways to change your financial circumstances is to change the way you think about money and spending. So for this first spell of my austere year, I’m going to challenge myself to really think about each and every purchase I make, from a cup of coffee to a piece of furniture, and consider what value that purchase is adding to my life. If money is being spent mainly to offset the malaise of normal working life…is it worth it?

I’ll let you know how it goes.