For you long-time readers of the (infrequent) blog publication “National Questioner” there is new competition brewing in the Sasquatch vs Candy Travel Mascot story. Indeed it has been quiet but with the soon-to-leave-Canada traveler Eeva on the precipice of global sight-seeing new events heat up! It seemed that twin Sasquatches, both known as ‘Quatchi’ were ousting ‘Ms Brown’ (of M&M candy fame) but new developments have arisen with the mini Ms Brown keychain in the picture. Which will it be??

For those who are not familiar with this dire tale of mascot domination it all stems back to posts dating back to April 2013. An innocent article about travel mascots has turned into an unprecedented competition of stuffed toys on a global scale! To update the new followers of the National Questioner you will find the first story re-posted below (and future be re-posts to be published soon) to see how this turn of events came about. In a future post all will be revealed as to who the official travel mascot will be.

Here is the reprint of the first and second stories:

My “Traveling Companion”

There are a number of (travel) blogs that I follow and among them I was happy to discover that some authors travel with a “companion”. As a matter of fact, I know of several friends who do the same. I was pleased to learn this as I decided, quite some time ago, to do that exact thing. It’s nice too know that there are others who have a mascot too.

So who will be my buddy when I go RTWing, you ask?Well he is a furry, hockey loving, blue earmuff wearing, camera toting Sasquatch ! Back in February 2010, during the Vancouver Winter Olympic games, my BFF gave me a key-chain with one of the three Olympic mascot attached: Quatchi. He loves hockey – need I say more? Additionally, we make a good pair since he enjoys traveling and meeting new people. Oh and food. We’re a travel match made in heaven. Although I have not traveled with Quatchi yet, I intend to tote him along on my summer trips to visit family as a starting point.

I realized as I was penning this post that I should find Quatchi (tucked safely away in my rucksack along with all my travel gear) and have a fun photo op! Especially since the night before I learned that a fellow Couch Surfer also traveled with her Quatchi key-chain. I was spurred on to finish this blog post and snap some adorable pictures. I dug into my closest and hoisted my trusty bag onto my bed. My kitten was intrigued by a new place to sit in as I hastily pulled items and threw them around. Uh…where was Quatchi?! He was not there! I sifted through everything strewn about my  bed. He was nowhere to be found. I checked the junk drawer, silently scolding myself for putting this special key-chain in such a place. Nope! Not there either. Where is Quatchi?! I check every known place he could be. HE’S MISSING!!! What now? I must of inadvertently put him in the “toss/donate” pile when I moved in the fall. Replacing a 2012 Winter Olympic mascot key-chain was not that simple, I suspected. They were only available for a short time and in limited numbers. Three years later there can not be a store carrying them. Hmmmm…but this is the 21st century. The Internet to the rescue, specifically E-Bay. Not only do I find an unused Quatchi key-chain with tags still attached, he is being sold locally! I placed my order and picked him up days later. Easy-peasy! Gotta love the Internet!

So here is my “new” traveling companion. Piper was interested in him but I was afraid he might become her new toy so I had to remove him from her little paws. Quatchi’s first trip will be to Ontario when I visit my family in the upcoming months. I anticipate the day when Quatchi and I will begin our epic journey!  Onward ho!


Here I am, finally “on the move” so to speak. I have sold or donated some of my belongings and stored the remainder. I have, with help, scrubbed and shampooed my former apartment to an acceptable gleam. After haphazardly tossing my travel goods and clothes into luggage and departing YVR I have landed in the bitter cold of Ontario for a month. And what an ordeal that was! Yes, an ordeal. Best laid plans…blah blah. Unfortunately true when under a time crunch and things do not go quite as envisioned. The penultimate days of my departure were among the most stressful in years. And for a planner like me it was difficult to just go with it. And who am I kidding? – I rarely can just “go with it” (won’t this trip of a lifetime make me learn that lesson well?!) but this time was certainly difficult.

If I was able to step into Doctor Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S. and go back I would do things a bit different. One would have me being an additional person to help myself move as the third person, I was told, was ill.  That left two of us to move my apartment down two flights of stairs and into a utility van. This threw me off and I was rather upset. Despite the setback my friend Barbara is a Tetris genius and packed that truck tighter than a sardine can. However, the lack of the third person (and me not eating for 8 hours) made the move both physically and emotionally draining. I have scaled those stairs over 30 times and have the bruises to prove it. Secondly, I would purge and discard more items. I honestly thought I had less stuff than I did. I really annoyed myself. I have often prided myself on not having much. Having realized that the opposite was true, I was irked that I remained attached to so much stuff. Some of it was for practical purposes (saving money upon my return) and others for; well I am not certain why but I was not willing to part with it so easily. That also impacted my move into storage. Finally, I would not work right to the end. I would allow a few more days to purge, pack and process. Had I done this, I suspect that the 10 hour move would not have stressed me to the degree that it did – and my ultimate tearful breakdown been averted. Perhaps I would have been able to think and recruit a few last minute friends and have it go smoothly and quickly. When it came to my final luggage pack I just shoved everything into my backpack, second bag and carry-on with a fervent frenzy. I tossed whatever into whichever bag without much thought. Fortunately, it was a funny result – there were socks in every corner of every bag and had undergarments stowed in my carry-on. Thank goodness I was not randomly selected for a search in security or things could have been embarrassing.

Now all this brings me to crux of this post (all said with melodramatic surprise and disbelief for effect): Why the heck did I never read about this part of traveling on any blog or travel site????? I love Bootnsall’s Plan Your RTW Trip in 30 days feature but it does not mention that one should always hire movers (I am all for that). Where in all the travel blogs I read do they discuss allotting extra extra extra time to clean your apartment to get the security deposit back? And nobody said that 4 days out my cat would have to go to the vet for treatment of an unexpected open sore (and rob me of $226 but give me peace of mind). Or that (mattress) recycle places are popular on weekends and take over an hour just to drop them off? Hhhmmm – where were all those posts?! Yeah, nowhere that I saw. Ugh!

What packing really looks like!

What packing really looks like!

Yet for all my mocking, it really is worth mentioning that for many travelers the packing up of a former life for a new chapter is difficult. Amongst the excitement and giddiness of planning travel is the minutia of sorting one’s life which can be a huge stressor. I can honestly say that my move was one of the toughest things I have had to carry out. Being short-handed with a deadline and causing another person to wait was not good. Being unable to arrive early on my last day for the remaining clean up and having to rely on others for help was humbling. The luggage pack, fortunately I was able to laugh about as it was a bit silly and I could smile. Despite the fact that I have moved from apartment to apartment half a dozen times in the last 11 years, this was the most trying.  I am forever grateful to those who helped me. However, some insight would have been appreciated. To have heard of others who went through the same, often questioning if it will all be worth it, may have affected me positively.

So, for those of you who will plan extended travel and be making a move into storage like myself, please heed my advice:  take more time, more help and in some cases, more money to bypass the incredible stress that often comes with moving on a very tight schedule. And eat, make sure you eat. I have never questioned a decision more in my life yet I did exactly that. Now that I have survived, albeit a bit bruised and am at the start of this chapter I can say, without a doubt, I have made a fabulous choice to travel yet  would accept a do-over in the packing and storage department. Since I cannot: “what’s done is done”.

Now is the time for rest, decompressing, using my parent’s sauna, more planning and then a bit of fun with friends!

Photo taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju (2014)

Behind the Scenes

Stuff waiting to go

Stuff waiting to go

It has been quiet here on the blog front, yet I have been quite busy. Along with my regular work schedule I have had an indoor yard sale, co-ordinated times for friends buying some of my items and packing up other stuff for donation and/or storage. The latter being the most space and time consuming. Last week I made four donation trips (by foot) to the local Salvation Army. I am lucky it is only three blocks away and that it was sunny weather. This week I am renting a car to run numerous errands including taking my cat to the vet for shots and a checkup. I already miss her yet I know she will be in good care at my best friend’s home. Additionally, I have some phone calls and e-mails to take care of. Since I am self-employed I also need to have my business and personal taxes prepped and dropped off at my accountants office for filing in 2015. Needless to say this is the least exciting part of planning extended travel yet it is necessary. For the most part I like to have things tidy and orderly so it must be done despite the tediousness of it all. Oh! I still need to clean my apartment if I want my security deposit back. That is where my most amazing sister comes in – she’s flying down for the weekend to help me. Luckily I have a small apartment. The final step will be transporting my furniture that I am keeping to my best friends storage unit. There will be gratitude all around for her and my friends helping with the “move”! Needless to say, I would rather be attending farewell parties and last tea dates with friends I will not see for months and months. Alas, the work is not gonna happen by itself. On the plus side I have daily senses of accomplishment from all this work that leads me to my goal.


Today is the final installment of “Sunday’s Special Spot”. I hope you have enjoyed the snippets provided and that it has stirred up a longing to see the world yourself. As an old proverb rings true, It is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times, I am taking that to heart. Time to step forward on a new adventure and I hope that you find yours as well. 

It is fitting that this final post is of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain – one of my stops on my European leg. This yet unfinished basilica was Antonio Gaudi’s life’s focus. He worked on it from 1883 (construction began a year prior) until his death in 1926. Taking on a mix of styles such as late Gothic and Art Nouveau, some have speculated that it may be completed in 2026 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s passing. Others estimate both sooner and later time frames. Despite its completion it is unique and fascinating architecture.

Sagrada Familia facade

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Photo credit – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain (as granted by Mok9 – own work)

Interior columns, La Sagrada Familia

Interior columns, La Sagrada Familia

Photo credit – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain (as granted by user Hgoerz – own work)