Monday, March 26, 2012

Gift-Giving Tips for Overseas Volunteers

Four months after Angela McKay returned from her volunteer placement in Fiji, she decided to send a Christmas package to her host family.

She wanted to say thanks, in some small way. While she was overseas, they had shared meals with her, helped her navigate cultural differences and most importantly, given her with a sense of family in a foreign place. Sending a care package was the very least that she could do.

After boxing up some maple sugar candies and school supplies, McKay slipped some leftover currency in the card. She was unlikely to return to the South Pacific in the near future, so she figured that it was better off in the hands of her host family.

 The late night phone calls started shortly afterwards.

 Read more on the Verge Magazine website»

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why I love Seattle best. (Sorry, New York.)


Despite the rainbow heralding our arrival as the ferry sailed closer to Seattle's shoreline, I couldn’t help but think about how much I loathe city-based vacations.

I live in a city. Why would I want to relax in a city? Cities are crowded. They're polluted. There's crime. And city people are mean.

But in less than two days, Seattle managed to defy all my expectations.

Here are the top three reasons why every vacation I take from here on out will be in Seattle:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Twiharding: A Road Trip to Forks, Washington


The night before we left Victoria for Seattle, Mike’s cousin made the unfortunate mistake of asking me if I was going to order the mushroom ravioli in Port Angeles.

“What?” I asked, confused. The reference was initially lost on me. “I think it’s in those Twilight movies,” she said, off-handedly.

For a moment, everything stopped. Port Angeles? Twilight? Could it be that Forks was also on the Olympic Peninsula, where Mike and I were planning to drive the next day?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Girls' ice-fishing weekend in Georgina, Ontario

It takes Andrew Emsley less than a minute to catch his first fish — but you’ll never find him eating it. “I don’t like the texture,” he explains. “If you want a fish, I’ll catch and fillet it for you, but I won’t eat it.” 

These wouldn’t be such surprising words if they weren’t coming from the owner of Dave’s Fish Huts, an ice-fishing rental business located in Georgina, Ontario, the “ice-fishing capital of Canada.” 

My friend ChloĆ© and I ended up in Emsley’s care after deciding to embark on a somewhat unusual weekend excursion for two twenty-something city women — a night of ice-fishing on Lake Simcoe. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Finding a volunteer abroad placement: why KONY2012 matters


Chances are, if you have a Facebook account, you’ve probably heard of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign by now. And without a doubt, you’ve probably also read the resulting criticism, which spread faster than perhaps the video itself. Invisible Children were accused of over-simplifying their message, conveying neo-Colonist ideas and reinforcing stereotypes of developing countries.

While the Kony 2012 controversy is this week's hot topic, NGOs using stereotypes and over-simplified messages is old news. In a 2011 Columbia Journalism Review article about “why NGOs prefer bad news,” the head of one organization sums up the problem: “When you’re fundraising you have to prove there is a need. Children starving, mothers dying. If you’re not negative enough, you won’t get funding.”

Read more on the Verge Magazine website»

Friday, March 09, 2012

I'm attending TBEX '12!


I'm attending TBEX '12 in ColoradoToday, I took a giant leap of faith and purchased a ticket for TBEX '12 in Colorado.

I call it a leap of faith, because I'm well aware that my travel blog is nowhere near the caliber of 99 per cent of the attendees. (Heck, up until four months ago I didn't even know TBEX existed until I started researching upcoming events for a travel article that I was writing.)But hey, that could all change in a couple of months' time, right?

But instead of excitement, I can't help but feel the little flutters in the centre of my chest. The hesitations. The social anxieties that make me think a little too hard, a little too long. (Will I be accepted? Who will I talk to? Who will I eat with? Will I feel out of place? Will I feel left out?)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Why I hate writing about travel.

Hands-down, the worst part of my job is writing about travel.

I know, I know. I'm a horrible human being. Who could hate writing about travel. . .for pay? For regular pay? And ethical travel, at that? I mean, what is wrong with me?


Best part of my job? Drinking hot chocolate in the middle of the afternoon, every day. Sadly, I do not get paid for this activity.

Here's the thing: Every day, I read through pitches and stories from contributors about teaching English in Bahrain, racing taxi cabs through Mongolia and stopping deforestation in Antarctica. (You caught that? Just checking to see if you're still reading.) They're inspiring and amazing tales of personal discovery and adventure of exotic locales.

But while I'm reading these pitches, I'm sitting in my little home office (also known as "the kitchen counter") in Toronto, wearing pajamas and the exact same hoodie I've worn for the last five days. My dog is sitting at my feet whining for me to feed him and I'm surviving on lukewarm coffee alone. Basically, writing about travel is a constant reminder that I'm not travelling.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How to Write a Complaint Letter



The wedding was beautiful, the weekend was lovely, but the hotel was awful.

When I checked in to the Ottawa Travelodge on Carling two weeks ago, I was excited to have been assigned a “pool view” room. But as soon as I opened the door, my excitement faded. The room had all the disadvantages of facing the adjoining water park—the constant sound of screaming children during the day; the echos of parents partying on their balconies at night; the smell of chlorine hanging in the air—but none of the benefits. In fact, instead of a “pool view,” our window faced a concrete wall, which effectively blocked any natural or artificial light from entering our room.
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