Montreal and New Straw

We went on vacation to Montreal earlier this month! During a snowstorm! And it was fun!

We live in the Boston area, meaning we’re about a five hour drive away from Montreal. And yet, in our years living around Boston, we’ve never visited Canada. A foreign country, with a foreign language (in Quebec province), right there, close enough to take Fluffster along for the ride. Granted, most people there speak English, but I still got to order a croissant in French.

At this point you might be wondering why “straw” is in the title, much less “new straw.”


Well, it’s based on a concept described in Temple Grandin’s book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals It’s a fascinating book, and re-reading the first chapter is making me realize just how much of an impact it has had on our lives. Honestly, go read that first chapter now, it’s amazing. I’ll wait here.

Done? How perfect is it that the chapter basically starts off talking about “freedom,” when that’s the basis of this blog? And how familiar do some of those concepts sound to your own life, especially the seeking system? And the pigs in Disneyland?

New things were the key. The pigs loved fresh, new straw, which they found very interesting. The old straw was boring. You would think straw is straw, but it isn’t. New straw was exciting; old straw wasn’t.

New straw. Old straw just doesn’t bring any joy, but new straw? Oh wow, new straw is fascinating! It sounds unintuitive at first, but if you start trying to apply the reasoning to your own life, it’s the most logical conclusion. Who would be satisfied watching the same TV show on a constant loop, for example?

Later on in the book, Grandin talks about how just a small amount of straw a couple times a day can have huge impacts on pig wellbeing. They don’t need to have straw bedding or other more expensive arrangements – just a little bit of new straw each day.

And new straw for humans? Also very reasonably priced. Sure, that designer handbag could satisfy your seeking impulse, but so could thrift shopping, or making your own bag. Even better, window shopping or exploring the great outdoors.


We are fond of travelling – of seeing new places, tasting new food, and generally having new experiences. But we’re also working towards financial freedom and have a dog. The thing is, there is so much to do and see that is less than a day’s drive away. Like Montreal. Quebec province is basically a tiny France in driving distance, where we vacationed for less than the cost of flights to France. That’s a great deal on new straw.

Cost (USD) Notes
AirBnB $268 Very nice 1 bedroom apartment by a park
Transport $150 Assumes $0.30/mile with our old car
Dog Sitting $55 Two “daycare” days – one on
Museums $87.97 Biodome, Insectarium, Planetarium + parking (We would skip the Insectarium next time but definitely check out the Botanical Gardens in better weather. The Planetarium was fun, but nothing too different. You can get discount tickets on certain days as well)
Other $406.93 Mostly, if not all, food-related, including things like maple syrup and fancy cheeses that are now in our fridge)
$968 No-holds barred, all-expenses paid trip to a foreign country for 5 days

When was the last time you visited some local attraction around you? It’s as if anything close by and easily accessible is less interesting. The great thing is, it doesn’t have to be. One more thing we share with pigs is the joy that anticipation brings. For pigs, that may be a bell that sounds before straw is brought in. For humans, we can plan and look forward to trips for weeks or months. It’s one of the key tenants expressed in Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending (affiliate link), which is another great book to check out. In fact, we’ll probably do a full book review/overview at some point.

Not everything went according to plan in Montreal thanks to the snowstorm (and then the rain…and the traffic…), but we’re happy with how things turned out. I mean, yes, it would have been ideal if we did not get our car stuck in snow, but we were still able to have a great time.


2 thoughts on “Montreal and New Straw

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      If you’re anything like me, you have a backlog of books to read. 😉 It’s another full time job to keep up with all the great books and blogs that are out there.


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