Tuesday, October 21, 2014

RTW Beauty Backpacking Secrets

Fran (left) and Gemma ring in the New Year in Thailand.
I met Fran and her girlfriend Gemma in Ecuador this May. Their 10-day tour of the Galapagos was a much-needed splurge at the tail end of a year-long round-the-world trip that had taken them from their home in the UK, to Asia, and throughout South America. 

Fran is perhaps most notably one of the co-founders (along with myself, Gemma and Katherine) of the Commonwealth Candy Club (because clearly that is what grown adults do while on vacation; form international candy clubs). However, she also holds one other claim to fameshe may be the only self-described "beauty product-obsessed backpacker" that I've ever met in my travels.

I mean, it seems almost oxymoronic. How can you backpack and be obsessed with beauty products?

The question has been plaguing me, so as I prepare for my very first long-distance cycling trip (!), in which I want to a) pack the bare minimum and b) look like less of a "mess" and more like a "hot mess," I decided that it was time to ask Fran for her best beauty backpacking tips. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Price of Travel


Last weekend, I was a speaker on a panel discussion at the Toronto Go Global Expo. Afterwards, I had a couple of students approach me. They wanted to ask me what it was like to like to have a mobile office, to have the ability to pick up and freelance from anywhere in the world.

“It must be amazing,” they enthused. And it is.

But in a lot of ways, it’s also very lonely.

Midway through June, I boarded a plane from Sydney to LAX, on route back to Toronto. On only the 26th week of the year, it was already my 21st flight.

That's why I vowed that it would be my last.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Q & A with Daniel Baylis, Author of "The Traveller"


When I call Daniel Baylis at our scheduled interview time, he’s just finished breakfast.

“I’ve had some coffee and some eggs, so that’s provided me with some fuel,” he tells me, sounding pleased.

“It sounds like you have everything that you need,” I tease.

He laughs and agrees with me. “Everything,” he laments, “except a plane ticket.”

It’s hardly a surprise that Baylis considers plane tickets to be a basic need. The self-published author of The Traveller: Notes from an imperfect journey around the world, Baylis became a poster boy for adult gap years after he spent a year travelling around the world. At 30, he was early into his career when he decided to take a break. Although he enjoyed his job, he also lived with a constant yearning for travel—and to travel with purpose. So he decided that he would start out on his yearlong journey with only one real goal: to “engage in reciprocal relationships.”

Over 12 months, Baylis would visit 12 different countries on a limited budget, exchanging labour in return for room and board. He had previously backpacked through Australia and New Zealand, but his destinations (including Africa, South American and Europe) were new, as was his method of travel (through work exchange placements).

I wanted to speak with Baylis, now settled back in MontrĂ©al, to learn more about his gap year changed his life—and his career.

Read more on Verge Magazine »

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

5 Things to Do in Calgary That Aren't Stampede



Every so often, even the nearest and dearest of friends will accidentally introduce me as being from Calgary. It’s not entirely inaccurate—despite living in Toronto for nearly a third of my life, I stubbornly insist on calling myself Albertan.

But being from Alberta and being from Calgary are far from synonymous. In fact, as any good northern Albertan knows, this isn’t just a minor mistake—it borderlines on a grievous error. Northern and Southern Alberta are two worlds apart (or in the case of my hometown and Calgary, 600 kilometres apart). They’re not in the same biome and as a result, they don’t look geographically similar and have distinct climates. Northern and Southern Alberta even cheer for different hockey teams. When someone introduces me as being from Calgary, it’s like introducing someone who is from Timmins as being from Toronto.

In fact, apart from some hazy roadtrips in my early 20s (thankfully, the memories of Stampede-inspired pseudo cowgirl outfits, fake bachelorette parties and early-noughties screamo concerts have been pleasantly blurred by the alcohol I consumed during that period of time), I’ve actually spent very little time in Cowtown. (I’ve also never willingly referred to it as Cowtown before this moment. There’s a first for everything, I suppose.)

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to visit when Tourism Calgary invited me to join a press trip in March. I hadn’t been in nearly 10 years and it turns out that in that period of time, I’m not the only one who grew up. Calgary is a lot more mature than I remember. It has a heck of a lot more to offer than just 17th Avenue and Stampede. 

Here are my top five suggestions for how to get to know a grown-up Calgary:  

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Cheap Travel Insurance for Young Canadians

Greetings from Ecuador! Nothing exciting to write about Quito yet (I just flew in today) but I wanted to write a quick post, since I've been asked for this information a lot over the past month:

Travel Insurance: Regardless of where I'm going outside of Canada, I always purchase travel insurance. Even if you have coverage through your workplace benefits or credit card, I suggest purchasing additional coverage to make sure you're protected for the unexpected, including theft and baggage loss.

My go-to travel insurance provider is TIPS Travel Insurance. If you're under 30, their Youth Premier Non-USA Package will cover you for a really reasonable cost. (I don't think I've ever paid more than $40.) The one time I had to make a claim, they were efficient at processing it. I'm turning 30 this month, so will report back after I'm no longer eligible for the youth package.

Travel Agent: If you're looking for a great flight or vacation package, my go-to travel agent is Jane Hart from Medallion Travel.

Travel Doctors: If you have a good relationship with your family physician, don't need any special immunizations (ie-Yellow Fever) and can do a bit of legwork yourself (DFAIT's Travel Advice is the best place to start), in my opinion there's no need to go to a special travel doctor.
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