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.

may your days be merry and bright

HappyforBlog copyHappy Christmas, friends! I didn’t manage to get all my Christmas posts written this year, on account of things getting crazy in my world. Some (more!) big changes are underway–more on that in the next few days–and it’s been an exhausting and emotional month. But now I’m holed up at my parents’ place, surrounded by my nearest and dearest and enjoying my first big family Christmas in years and years.

Wherever you are, I hope your holidays are filled with lots of good food and great people.

Thanks for making 2013 this little blog’s best yet. Check back soon! Big things in store for 2014.


gifts for the jet-setter

Since I am at heart a traveller who has decided to put down roots for a while, and because Chelsea Tells Stories began as a travel blog, this next gift guide is probably not unexpected. If you’ve got a nomad on your list this year, I recommend that you put one (or many) of the following gifts under the tree:
Gifts for the Jet-Setter

1: Baggu duck bag in Sailor Stripe | 2: Jennifer Hill iPhone case in Bangkok | 3: Beats Solo headphones | 4: Fuji Instant Camera | 5: JCrew jewelry case | 6: Everyday Camera Strap from Uniforma | 7: WakaWaka Power solar charger | 8: Artifact Uprising Hardcover Photo Book | 9: Moleskine Classic Photo Notebook | 10: ONA camera bag

1. On the road, you really can’t have too many versatile canvas bags. This one is cute (nautical stripes=always classic), and can be used for picnics, beach days, and/or trips to the laundry. It is washable and can be scrunched up and stuffed in a backpack when not in use.

2. Boston-based designer Jennifer Hill designs gorgeous patterns based on trips to places she’s never been. Buy your favourite gypsy an iPhone or iPad case based on his or her favourite city. Pictured here is Bangkok; there are heaps of others to choose from.

3. As I’ve written before, noise-cancelling headphones are an essential for long-haul travellers. These ones happen to be associated with RED, so a percentage of proceeds goes to help fight HIV/AIDS. Also…they’re purportedly almost impossible to break, which is a bonus for clumsy ladies like me.

4. Help your wandering friend supplement their digital photos with tangible ones, printed right on the spot while they’re on the road.

5. This lovely little jewelry organizer from JCrew will help ensure that your travelling lady friend’s bling isn’t a tangled mess upon arrival.

6. The camera strap that comes with any SLR is neither comfortable nor cute. Rectify that with one of these colourful leather straps from Uniforma.

7. This solar charger means travellers don’t have to leave their devices back at the hotel while they’re out exploring. Bonus: for each WakaWaka charger purchased, one will be donated to help with typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines.

8. I can’t say enough good things about Artifact Uprising’s lovely photo products. Help your loved ones get their favourite travel photos off their devices and into their lives with a photo book, photo box, or set of postcards. (Or buy them a gift certificate so they can curate their own collections!). I will be compiling a couple photo books one day very soon…

9. Another way to make tangible what lately has largely been digital is a Moleskine photo notebook. Every traveller loves Moleskines (I think?), and this one is extra special because it’s fully customizable–cover and inside pages…

10. Mark my words: this gorgeous ONA Brixton camera bag will be mine one of these days…

If you need more ideas, check out my list of essentials for long-haul flights. Or…help your friend travel light by giving meaning rather than material. Scatter Joy for education in Ethiopia (’cause your nomadic friend most certainly knows how fortunate she is and would love to know that good has been done in her honour!).

(And if anyone in the world is wondering, yes, I want every one of the things on this list myself!).

Gifts for the West Coaster


Though I’ve gone on record as saying that this blog is about coveting and collecting experiences, not things, gifts are an exception. My family is going light on gifts these days, but I can’t wait to buy and wrap some little things for my people this Christmas. It’s been so long!

My first gift guide is a celebration of the local. In my case, that means products that have been made in and around Vancouver and Victoria, BC. Here are a few lovely little gifts from beautiful British Columbia:

Vancouver Gifts1. For your lady friends: pretty feather necklace by Beazuness. $30 on Etsy  |  2. For your bestie: hand-dyed leggings by Daub + Design (aka my high school friend Lexi). I just bought teal ones this past weekend, and I don’t want to wear anything else! $89 on Daub + Design’s website  |  3. For anyone under the sun (expect maybe lactose intolerants and vegans): Cocolico Vanilla Salt Caramel with Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Crunch. Available at these locations around BC.  |  4. For the lover of the lost art of letter-writing: letterpress notecards by Sunlit Letterpress. $13.11 for 4 on Etsy. Custom orders available.  |  5. For the traveller or the hipster: leather camera strap by cindykuo. $45 on Etsy.  |  6. For just about any chic lady you know: delicate hammered silver and gold stacking rings by Jen Ellis Designs (I’ll be buying some of these babies at Portobello West this weekend!). $38 for 3 on Jen Ellis’ website. Check out her other stuff; it’s lovely!  |  7. For your sister: chunky knit infinity scarf by PikaPikaCreative. $69.95 on Etsy.  |  8. For the old-school gentleman in your life: shaving kit from The Copper Hat. Around $100 on The Copper Hat’s website.

There are more where these came from! I’ll be including more local gifts in my upcoming guides.

(And of course the most meaningful local gift I can recommend this holiday season is to scatter joy for education in Ethiopia.)

Sleigh bells ring (are you listening?)

Holidays a mixBack when burned CDs were a thing, I used to make Christmas CDs for my friends. By my last year in Canada, it was an all-day operation, to make the playlist, burn the CDs, create festive envelopes, etc. I could never get it down to one CD, so usually it was a two-volume set: Sleigh Bells Ring (Disc 1) and Are You Listening (Disc 2).

Obviously, things have evolved since then–my computer doesn’t even have a disc drive–so the best I can do these days is a Grooveshark playlist. If you’re ready to get into the holiday spirit (it is December tomorrow!), head on over and take a listen.

…and check out this Scatter Joy campaign, which I’m proud to be a part of. Just $25 provides quality education (=scatters joy) to five kids in Ethiopia.

Next week–gift guides!