COPING UP WITH THE PANDEMIC THROUGH CYCLING

I woke up early this morning only to realize that it has only been four months since the lockdown happened. To me, it seems like it has been several years. Ever since it happened, I just wake up each day with uncertainty, with anxiousness and lots of what-ifs. As a person who loves to travel, this pandemic has basically impacted me mentally. And also the fact that we never know when we will be able to travel again just basically adds up to the worries that we already have. 

Before the pandemic, I have actually tried to save some amount for my future travels. Sadly, I needed to cancel some trips because of the restrictions. But as a person who always tries to look on the bright side of things, I decided to spare some of the amounts I saved to get a bicycle. ‘Well, if I can’t fly, might as-well ride a bike instead!’ , I told myself. Also, the fact that I am based in Vancouver and Vancouver is a great city for biking is just one of the major reasons to own a bike.

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It has been two months since I got my ‘First-Ever Bicycle!’. Growing up, I never had my own. I remember when I was a kid,  I always go to my friend’s house to borrow his bike. So imagine the excitement I had when the Bicycle Store contacted me that my bike was ready for pick-up! 

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After getting my bike, I decided to break it in and cycled around Stanley Park. It was my first bike ride in almost 2 years, the last one I had was when I was in Berlin in Germany last 2018, so I had a bit of a challenge, especially when the track goes uphill. Though challenging, the view at the top made it worth it and eventually I just forgot all  the struggle and basically felt proud of myself which is basically a fulfilling feeling. 

Each day after getting my bike, It has started to become like an inspiration to me to wake up and go to work each day as I just look forward to riding it every after work, which I never felt ever since the pandemic happened. And each time after every cycling session, I just feel better physically and emotionally that  it makes me look forward to the next session.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Sometimes, I get invited by other cyclists to bike with them, allowing me to discover places in Vancouver that I haven’t been yet, and most of these places have a view to die for. My favorite so far is the beach near the University of British Columbia’s Mall street, it’s just the perfect place to watch the sunset while you get warm in a bonfire while having a platter of cheese, meat, and fruits. 

Being able to go to these places, especially through cycling, and during this pandemic has definitely fed my wanderlust spirit a hundred times more than before it all happened. And for the first time, I started to have the same feeling of appreciation towards local travels to that of international travels. 

Riding my bike not only keeps me mentally and physically fit, which is basically the state we need to be in during this whole pandemic but it has also allowed me to connect with new people who share the same interests as me. Though this whole pandemic has affected the world badly, biking or cycling has helped me cope up with the whole thing, it has allowed me to experience the feeling of being extremely free, particularly when the wind hits you as you go against it. It’s just one of the silver- linings that I cannot overlook. 

Riding my bike not only keeps me mentally and physically fit but it also gives me the feeling of being extremely free, especially when the wind hits you as you go against it. 

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Applying for a US Visa in Canada

Earlier this week, I went to apply for a U.S visa. Fortunately, I was able to pass the interview and I was approved. As promised, I will be sharing the details as to what I did during my visa interview, what the requirements are in applying for a US visa and some tips that may help you pass the consul interview.

I applied for my visa here in Vancouver, British Columbia. I just moved here as a worker a few weeks back and since it’s my first two weeks in the job, I am not yet that occupied, hence, I decided to apply and book an appointment for my US Visa Interview. Fortunately, I was able to get a spot for my personal interview two weeks after I submitted my DS-160 form online.

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The US Visa is one of the most straight-forward visa application processes ever and also one of the hardest Visas to obtain, especially if you are a holder of a third-world country passport. To be honest with you, this is not my first time to apply for it, I have been denied when I first applied. They didn’t give me a specific reason as to why they have denied why application but they just gave me a general reason that they cannot provide me a visa as of the moment. When I applied, I was residing in the United Arab Emirates, earning a decent amount and have traveled to several countries in Europe already, and I have both a valid Schengen and UK Visa.

Also read: HOW TO APPLY FOR A SCHENGEN VISA FOR PHILIPPINE-PASSPORT HOLDERS.

I guess they just deny people who are young, single and don’t have that much justification of deep-rootedness to his or her country of origin or country of residence. Or maybe if they know that you will re-apply then they will just deny you if you’ve failed to meet their requirements during the interview, but yeah, these are just my theories.

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The difference when I applied for the first time and this time is that they now ask you to provide your social media handles when you’re filling your DS-160 form online. Which I think is great as you can prove that you have been to places if you’re like me who posts a lot of travel photos on my social media.

Steps: There are only three major steps when applying for a US Visa

Complete the DS-160 form

The DS-160 form is basically pretty much about your personal information. Make sure to have all the necessary information ready like your parents’ date of birth, contact person in the States, etc.

You can access the DS-160 form here.

Schedule an appointment online

After completing the DS-160 form, schedule an appointment online through the US government online portal for Canada. Make sure to have your payment method ready, as of the moment they accept payment through bank transfer, credit card or Interac eTransfer.

You can book your appointment through here.

Documents Required:

-Printed Confirmation Page with Eligible Barcode

-Printed Accomplished DS-160 Form

-Passport with more than six-months validity

-1pc 2×2 Photo (If you have used the same photo on the DS-160 form which you have submitted online, they won’t ask for the hardcopy,  they will only ask for a photo if you brought a different one from the ones you’ve submitted) 

-Proof of residence (Work permit, study permit or PR Card)

-Bank Statements and any other documents which you think will help in your application. Please note that a flight ticket is not required, they actually encourage people to obtain the visa first before booking any flights. 

Prepare for the interview

Once you have submitted your DS-160 online and have booked your appointment, prepare for the interview. When I say prepare for the interview, I mean prepare yourself to answer for possible questions that they will be asking like: ‘What is your purpose of visit to the United States?’, ‘Who are you visiting in the United States?’, ‘Why the United States of all countries?’ , ‘What is your job?’, ‘How much are you earning?’ And many more.

On the day of the interview, please note they will not allow any big bags, purse or anything bulky which is not necessary for the interview. Also, mobile phones and other devices which can record or transmit data is prohibited inside the consulate or embassy. So I highly suggest that you go there light, or if you are going with someone, you can leave the things with them while you go for your interview.

During my Interview

Me: Good morning, how are you?
Consul: Not so bad, thanks for asking.
me: that’s great (smiled)
Consul: What is your purpose of visit to the United States?
me: I wanted to visit my friend
Consul: you sure it’s your friend and not your girlfriend?
Me: She is a childhood friend, we grew up together back in the Philippines
Consul: Do you have any Families in the States?
Me: Nah
consul: any families here in Canada?
me: Nah
Consul: how long have you been in your job?
me: several weeks, I started last January
consul: what? You just arrived here?!
me: yeah, but I decided to apply now since It’s not so busy in my job as of the moment because of the season
Consul: (looks at me then looked at the computer while typing a lot)
-brief silence-
Me: Is everything ok?
consul: Show me your permit.
Me: ‘handed my permit over’
Consul: ok I’m approving you, that’s it
Me: thank you, enjoy the rest of your d… (consul left the counter
)

The interview lasted only for less than five minutes but it seemed forever. All throughout the interview, I was just being myself, and yeah, I just spoke to the consul as if he is a good friend.

One thing I always advise people who are going to a visa interview is to be ‘brutally honest’. Once caught lying, they will instantly reject your application and in worst cases, they will ban you from re-applying. If you are true to your intentions, then there is nothing to worry about.

On the day of your interview, you need to dress to impress but not overdress. Though I went on my interview with a basic tee and a jogger and I think I was able to slay it, so, haha. Also, manifest good thoughts, it helps a lot. You know what they say, we get what we attract.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

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Pitt Meadows, The best Day-Trip from Vancouver

Aside from being a gorgeous city, Vancouver is also a gateway to tons of stunning gems in British Columbia. One of the gems which I recently visited is the city of Pitt Meadows. Pitt Meadows is located just an hour’s drive away from Downtown Vancouver. And I can pretty much say that it is one of the best day trips to do when you are visiting Vancouver. 

READ ALSO: EXPLORING ALBERTA, THE ULTIMATE CANADIAN ROAD-TRIP

I never heard of Pitt Meadows before. I only found out about it through my friend Jeff who is also my photography mentee who’s workplace happens to be based in Pitt Meadows. Often times, during his free time, he goes to Pitt Lake -one of Pitt Meadow’s major attraction to practice and apply what we have discussed from our prior photography session.

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Here is a little fact about Pitt Lake according to Wikipedia:

Pitt Lake is the second-largest lake in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. About 53.5 square kilometres in area, it is about 25 km long and about 4.5 km wide at its widest. It is one of the world’s relatively few tidal lakes, and among the largest. In Pitt Lake, there is on average a three foot tide range; thus Pitt Lake is separated from sea level and tidal waters during most hours of each day during the 15 foot tide cycle of the Pitt River and Strait of Georgia estuary immediately downstream. The lake’s southern tip is 20 km upstream from The Pitt River confluence with the Fraser River and is 40 km east of DowntownVancouver.

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So one weekend, we decided to have our photography lesson at Pitt lake in Pitt Meadows. We did some portrait sessions, with ourselves as models taking turns being each other’s muse haha. 

READ ALSO: EXPLORING CANADA, THE BEST COUNTRY

Then we took some landscape photos from different areas of the lake. Of all the photos we took that day in Pitt Lake, ninety-nine percent of it is pretty much incredible! The lighting, the scene, and the vibe is just on point! You basically cannot take any bad photos here. 

Here are some more photos to convince you to add Pitt Lake in your bucket list when visiting British Columbia or should I say Canada. 

The best days to go to Pitt Lake is basically during the weekdays where you can have the whole place all for yourself. During the weekends, it’s just a bit crowded. 

Thanks for reading! Happy travels! 

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Exploring Alberta, The Ultimate Canadian Road-Trip

Banff and Jasper National Parks have always been two of Canada’s major highlights. A trip to Canada wouldn’t be complete without having been able to visit at least one of these two. Fortunately for me, I was able to visit both! Well, thanks to my friend for enthusiastically showing me the beauty of her country!

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We started our journey from Edmonton and then we made our way to Canmore passing through Red Deer and Calgary in Alberta. We spent the night in Canmore at a friend’s place. Canmore is a small but very gorgeous town, it looks as if it’s a magical Christmas village that came straight out of a fairytale.

Read Also: Exploring Canada, The Best Country In The World

The next morning, we headed off to Banff. Banff is just an hour’s drive away from Canmore. In Banff, we went to see the famous Louise Lake, though partially frozen cause it still was spring during that time, it still looked incredibly marvelous! So imagine more when it’s completely taw, showing that magnificent sparkling turquoise-colored water! Anyway, that’s just one more reason for me to visit it again, but next time it will be in the summer months for sure.

We also did a little side trip to Cline River Heliport just outside the boundary of the two national parks for the ‘ 6 Glacier Helicopter Tour’. Here we Dived deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, lifted off and soared 9000 ft (2900m) over Cline Pass. A helicopter tour that was jam-packed with amazing sights. Highly recommended if you wanna see the beauty of the Canadian Rockies from above.

After our quick helicopter-tour, we headed to Jasper. The same as Banff, Jasper is also a breathtaking place. And if you’re an animal lover, then you’ll surely love the elks, deers, caribous, coyotes, and other animals which roam around the town. We also visited Athabasca Falls, a magnificent wonder in Jasper. A paradise for landscape and nature photographers.

After Jasper, we headed back to Edmonton with a quick stopover at Edson for some authentic A&W Burger and rootbeer, I know! So Canadian! haha. Yeah, It was a quick one but it has surely blown my mind away with the beauty and abundance of wildlife in Alberta or Canada in general. Canada takes care of its nature and resources, I wish every country should follow.

In my entire photography career, I think I took the best nature and landscape photos in these places. There’s just lots of things to see and do in these national parks, and I barely scratched the surface of it. So I guess that’s one major reason for me and my baby(my camera) to visit again haha.

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Exploring Canada, The Best Country

Growing up, I have always been surrounded by people from different parts of the world, predominantly Canadians. Often times, they show me photos of their home country, and basically those photos has sparked the desire in me to travel there someday, so ever-since then I always wanted to visit the country.

So fast-forward, earlier this year, I was able to secure a Canadian Visa. Thanks to all the people who has helped me in this process. In my opinion, getting a Canadian Visa is one of the easiest process which I went through, everything was done online and I just went to the Visa Application Center to submit my Biometrics and Passport. Great Job Canada! I will not be discussing the whole process of getting a Canadian Visa in this post but I will definitely discuss and share that in a different blog post. 

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Downtown Vancouver

So I traveled to Canada earlier this year. I flew from Paris to Montreal through AirTransat, an airline which is based mainly in Montreal. I flew from Europe as it’s so much cheaper to fly from there compare to like flying directly from Dubai. So first things first whenever I arrive in a country, to go through Passport Control. For some reason, whenever I go through passport control, I always feel some jitters. Maybe because I’ve felt discriminated from all the interrogations from officers from my previous travels.

British Columbia Parliament Building

Ok so going back, to my surprise, upon handing my passport to the officer, she just looked at the pages then looked at me with a smile and said ‘welcome to Canada!’- that was like the first time an immigration officer greeted me with actual words and welcomed me to their country with a huge smile! Oh well, only in Canada! 

Banff, Alberta

I have spent two-whole months exploring Canada, from the exotic coast of British Columbia to the snowy-peaks of Alberta. Within those months of exploring, I’ve concluded that Canada is basically one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited. This country just boasts breath-taking natures, from Icy Peaks to turquoise-colored lakes which definitely has made the photographer in me giggled with excitement each time. It is also in Canada where I’ve experienced extreme hospitality from people. Definitely one the many good things which I will never forget from this trip. 

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Canada is one of the most-memorable country which I visited. Mainly because of how beautiful the country is and how friendly people there are. So imagine how I felt when I needed to leave the country- yeah, I was filled with emotions. I know this visit is basically just an introduction and I know that I will be back for sure. I also think that  it is a destination which I will always go back to for a visit but will feel the same excitement as if it’s my first time visiting. So definitely looking forward to it, and hopefully it will be sooner. 

Have you been to Canada? If so, how was your experience? Feel free to share them on the comments below!