|#Joyful Journeyist & the Adventure of her LIFE!||
Canada has always been on my dream list of places I MUST go. I had a solo trip planned to visit my Aunt in Seattle, another place I had not yet explored, and knew I HAD to make the trip to Victoria while there. The time of year was October, off season (my absolute favorite time to travel) so the weather would be nice and the crowds low. I started my intense research process to figure out how to have a maximum experience on a minimum budget.
I have always wanted to stay in a hostel so I figured this was a great time to knock that off my list too. Lodging is typically the most expensive part of the trip (next to transportation) and hotels in Victoria were over $100 a night. For less than half the cost, I could get a private room with shared bathroom in the hostel. If I really wanted to save, I could have gotten a shared (bunk beds) room for around $20. While I love meeting new people and socializing, I also REALLY need and value my private time. I figured since I would be getting plenty of interaction during the day, I would want to come home to a private place to crash for the night. Booking a single room in the hostel was a perfect compromise for me.
With lodging for 1 night secured, my next decision was whether I wanted to book a tour of Butchart Gardens or use public transportation to go it alone. This is where doing your homework really makes the difference. Typically I like to do my own thing and NOT be confined to a tour bus and its set schedule. Because I was only going to stay 1 night in Victoria (and then 2 in Vancouver) I really had to maximize my time. I was taking the ferry from Seattle to Victoria in the morning and would have all afternoon to explore. I was going to have a carry on suitcase with me and figuring out where to store it was also a concern. After exploring my options, I decided it would be best to book the bus tour through Clipper Vacations. They have packages that include the ferry from Seattle and different tour options. They also have all inclusive options that include lodging at very reasonable prices. The Butchart Gardens tour included a narrated drive through Victoria (bonus) and drop off at your hotel (or in my case, the hostel) afterwards. We would have 2 hours to spend on our own at Butchart Gardens. They also store your luggage on the bus so that solved another issue.
This seems like a good time to address the question lots of you may be thinking. "Why did you want to go to Canada by yourself?" Let's see if I can explain it in a way that will enlighten you as to why I love solo sightseeing. I LOVE gardens. I LOVE art. I LOVE exploring new places and just wandering around, taking thousands of pictures. For me, the journey IS the destination. I also LOVE my husband. He, however, does not share my love of gardens, art and mindless wandering with no real destination or agenda. When he has time off work, he wants to get to his "vacation" destination ASAP. He then likes to just relax. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with this. He works harder than anyone I know and is entitled to this down time. I very much enjoy my vacations with my incredible husband. He is my soul mate and he completes me. That being said, we are pretty much polar opposites when it comes to travel. Whereas I love everything related to travel (including the getting there part), he doesn't enjoy it. He tolerates it and would be happy to tolerate my gardens, art and exploring if I asked him to. The point is, he only has so much vacation time a year and I want him to ENJOY it--not tolerate it. There are plenty of things that we enjoy doing together and cruising is his absolute favorite vacation. I love cruising with my hubby and doing my other exploring trips on my own. I do most of my solo trips during the week while he is at work so that we can have the weekends together. Because we have been married over 20 years, we understand and respect our individuality. The differences we have are what attracted us to each other in the first place. We also have complete trust in one another. His only concerns (initially) were safety. Once I reassured him that I was an extremely cautious and experienced independent traveler, he was okay with it. It also helped when they came out with the "stalker" app and he can see where I am at all times in case I were to get snatched. I just realized I was starting to ramble and get off topic a bit so let me refocus and get back to Victoria, BC!
So, Butchart Gardens was everything I thought it would be, and more! Visiting in October was a great first time to see it. I definitely want to go back in the spring and summer to capture the beauty of the changing seasons there. After having a snack in the restaurant, I went back to the bus and enjoyed the scenic ride back to the city. The bus driver dropped me right outside my hostel at 2:30 pm and I was able to check in and drop off my bags before heading out to explore Victoria by foot. Everything is very close so it's easy to see most of the highlights within a couple hours.
I was able to see Butchart Gardens and the beautiful city of Victoria in less than a day. My first solo trip outside of the US was a success and not over yet! Tomorrow morning I get up at 0 dark thirty to catch the bus to Swartz Bay where I will take the BC Ferries over to Vancouver! This adventure will continue in my next blog post. Come back and see how Vancouver stole my heart. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments box/link.