Expat Magazine

14th Blogiversary: The Raconteurism Edition

By Gail Aguiar @ImageLegacy
This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Blogiversary

14th Blogiversary

In the beginning…

14 years ago today, I started writing in Blogger, back in its innocent, unintegrated pre-Google days when it still belonged to Pyra Labs. Before that — the late ’90s! — I wrote in Geocities, now defunct. I didn’t even own a computer until 2000; I scanned my film photos and wrote entries at internet cafés. My first posts in Blogger were so short they were more like long tweets, but that was four years before Twitter was created.


In 2002 I was working full-time, four days per week from my home office and one day during the week I’d take an early-morning ferry and work at my company’s office on the Sunshine Coast. This was my old stomping ground back then. At night when I should’ve been writing essays for my university courses, I was messing around in Blogger’s publishing interface and writing posts complaining about research papers instead of tackling them. I remember having to explain what blogging was to my boss of retirement age, who I suspect never understood the appeal, the same as many people today still don’t. That’s OK. These days, I feel the same way about highly-frequent Facebook status updates. Blogging doesn’t appeal to everyone as a reader but for the blogger, writing regularly has its benefits. I don’t put status updates in the same category as long form writing, though.

In those first years of blogging I was on the cusp of burnout: I was enrolled in three courses per term for 36 months in a row, but didn’t finish my degree. Instead, I moved to the U.S., then Toronto. In the meantime, however, I did write 5,664 posts. If there was a degree in blogging, I have earned it!

The Numbers

14th Blogiversary

blog posts as of July 28, 2016


I don’t think blogging has made me a faster writer, or a better one. Perhaps more concise. I try to pay attention to readability, grammar, spelling, and all of that, but what I’ve poured more energy into the past eight years or so has been better photography, much of which doesn’t get blogged. I’d like to think that while my writing volumes have dipped, the photography has been given a boost.

That said, the past three years have seen a shift in topics and titles. The blog has always been a reflection of my world view, but since I moved to Portugal the general focus on travel has taken a back seat to travel around Portugal and life in Portugal as a foreigner. For anyone not interested in Portugal, this page must be a snoozefest!

I do try and mix things up from time to time, to maintain the variety of topics. Since the blog is centred around recent photography and I’m still a relative newcomer, pictures have naturally been Porto-centric and Portugal-centric. I think the easiest way around this is to dive more into the archives, to vary the content, or tell more stories that don’t have photos (which is why they haven’t been told yet).

So, without further ado, I present 14 very short stories with no photos, in random order, untold (or partly untold) in the past 14 years of this blog. I started to follow a loose theme, but some are just random.

14 Very Short Stories (2002-2016)

  1. 2003: I couchsurfed in Amsterdam with a guy whose first name and last name were exactly the same. Yes, it was his legal name! In 2011, I saw his name again on a different couchsurfing forum and he happened to be in Toronto, so I messaged him and we met up for a long catch-up. A lot had happened in eight years, including the death in 2007 of my travel companion for that trip in 2003.
  2. 2013: a relative of David’s found me through a search of family names online. I’d published some early 20th-century pictures I’d scanned, and she had some photos that were unlabelled. Together, we could fill in some blanks. She found me just in time, because I was packing to move to Portugal and didn’t know what I would do with some of David’s things that I’d been moving around with me for years. There is no other family that I know of now — David’s mother passed away in February 2015.
  3. 2004: I stumbled upon an itinerary I was making in the spring, and Faro, Portugal, was a possibility after traveling down the coast of Spain. I did go to Spain, but not to Portugal. If I had visited Portugal back in 2004, it wouldn’t have qualified for my birthday tradition of traveling to a new country, which means I probably wouldn’t have met Paulo in 2011 — if at all.
  4. 2006-2007: I lived for a year in a friend’s condo in Toronto, which I called “The Yuppieville Suite” because of the downtown neighbourhood. He hadn’t bought any furniture for it yet because he was never home, which worked out for me because all the furniture I’d brought with me in a U-Haul from my house in Pennsylvania filled the condo. In 1998, that same Toronto friend was living in Vancouver and when he moved to Toronto, I’d bought all the furniture that was in his apartment — lock, stock, and barrel — to move into my own place on Beach Avenue, which I gave away in 2005 when I closed down the apartment to move officially to the U.S. (where I’d already been living for a few months). In two different apartments in two different cities, eight years apart, we were surrounded by each other’s furniture.
  5. 2011: A prolific and well-known Vancouver blogger whose website I’d been reading for years and commented on had passed away, after a long bout with cancer. (I was living in Toronto by that time and had not met him.) He’d written his last post before his death and left instructions for his longtime friend to post it after he died. The post went viral around the world, and his friend’s name emerged in the news articles. As it turns out, I recognized that friend because I’d met him in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1994 — he was visiting his cousin, who was my flatmate.
  6. 2010: For Easter weekend, I couchsurfed in Detroit with some artists. Another couchsurfer, a Londoner on a round-the-world trip, stayed there the second night. In 2014, that same couchsurfer contacted me because she was searching for something online for work and recognized me through some content that I’d posted about Portugal, four years later.
  7. 2006: In March, I stayed briefly in Dusseldorf, Germany, with a friend who I’d first met on a ferry while hitch hiking in New Zealand in January 1993. On that trip he was traveling with a friend, and I ended up traveling with them on the North Island before I flew on to Singapore. We made a good team: they didn’t know how to cook and I needed transport. Every night I’d teach the two Bavarians some English over wine. We were having such a good time that I’d extended my trip, and on the last night before my early flight I had far too much to drink. The only thing I distinctly remember is vomiting in a planter in the financial district, and waking them up early the next morning because they’d promised to drive me to the airport. Fast forward to March 2006: my friend showed me slides (how old we are!) of that trip and then told me the sober, designated-driver version of what happened that last night and early morning. It did not resemble my version AT ALL, which meant I’d been carrying around this completely distorted-by-alcohol recollection for more than 13 years.
  8. 2016: While we were in Istanbul last month, we would strike up conversation with people on the street. On two occasions, when they found out I’m Canadian, their remarks were: “I know who your Prime Minister is, he’s a good man.” (I have so many photos of Istanbul but I don’t have the heart to post any of them right now, with Turkey in such turmoil. I will, just not yet.)
  9. 2009: I was in four countries on my birthday: Slovakia, Austria, Italy, and The Vatican. It wasn’t planned this way, but I’d just been hired at a new job two weeks before my trip and my itinerary for this birthday trip was constantly changing, due to all the uncertainty whether this new company would grant me vacation time just 10 days after I started. My new country was supposed to be Slovenia, but my Austrian friend who lived nearby in Graz was spending time in Rome and invited me to stay with her friends there. I booked a flight to Vienna and back from Rome, but neither Austria nor Italy counted as new countries. I chose to visit Bratislava (Slovakia was a new country for me) by taking a hydrofoil from Vienna, and I booked a cheap flight to Rome from Vienna. So, on my birthday I woke up in Bratislava, took a bus to Vienna, a flight to Rome, ate an enormous birthday dinner at a seafood restaurant, then my friend’s friend’s husband offered to drive me to The Vatican before midnight because he wanted me to squeeze in one more country! I couchsurfed the whole trip except for The Vatican — but wouldn’t that be a story if I did!
  10. 2011: That time in Toronto when I rented out a room to someone who I later discovered was moonlighting from her very normal day job by making porn on my furniture when I was at work. (Ask me in person how I found out.) While I was debating how I’d deal with this situation, the singer Amy Winehouse died of a suspected overdose, and this renter who had idolized Amy started going in the same direction in reaction to the news of her death. I talked to her before heading out to shoot a wedding, and when I returned that night her family was at my doorstep to pick up her things — she’d checked into rehab.
  11. 2006: I was accidentally gifted with a comedy show in iTunes from a guy named Glenn. The message: “Happy Birthday, Dana! I thought this show was hilarious; I hope you enjoy it as well. (There’s no swearing, and only the slightest hint of ‘mature content,’ but the kids probably won’t find it very funny.)” I wrote to Glenn and let him know that was very kind of him but I wasn’t Dana and maybe iTunes will let him “ungift” an unredeemed gift code. It took four emails to sort out who was who, but in the end he suggested I keep the movie for my trouble and hoped I found it funny (I did).
  12. 2008: I went on a strange kind-of-sort-of date in Toronto. I sold my HP printer online through Craigslist, and delivered it to a guy north of the city. We ended up chatting for so long that he made me dinner, and we made an arrangement to meet for dinner on another day in my neighbourhood. We had a pleasant but slightly awkward dinner in a restaurant, and when the bill came, he made no attempt to pay so I ended up paying for both of us. And that was the last we heard from each other.
  13. 2012: Paulo and I couchsurfed in Mt. Tremblant, Quebec, in a house that belonged to people we had never met before — or since. One of his former couchsurfers was housesitting for these people, and we were couchsurfing with her.
  14. 2015: In July I couchsurfed in Andorra. It’s a small country and I had only sent out one couch request, but received an enthusiastic YES from a girl who turned out to be Portuguese-Canadian. What are the odds?? But what was even more surprising was that she’d say yes: she was having a colonoscopy the day after I was due to arrive, and was studying for an exam in Madrid the day after I was due to leave, then flying to China. If it were me, I would have probably said no under those circumstances, but I’m so glad she said yes because it turned out to be a great experience!

WHEW. Do you see why I don’t have pictures for most of these stories?!?

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