Monday, December 23, 2013

A Goal Worth Keeping: My Favourite Travel Moments from 2013

Santa Cruz, Guatemala, November 2013. Photo by Canice Leung

“I’m curious; what are your long-term goals? Do you have a five-year plan?” he asked as I awkwardly attempted to spear my sushi with chopsticks.

It was nearly the end of 2012 and in the wake of my break-up with Jay, it was one of the first proper dates that I’d been on. The question was normal first date fodder, but I was stumped. The truth was that at 28, with no real job or savings and without a single asset to my name (unless you consider a sizeable vintage dress collection a worthwhile investment), I had no real personal or professional goals.

I only had this one thing:

“I want to travel to 30 countries before I turn 30,” I told him. “I’ll figure out the rest once I’m done that.”

As the words left my mouth, I realized how superficial they sounded. It was a goal that was rooted in white privilege. I had become no better than those rich American women that Helka and I made fun of when we toured through Europe—attempting to collect their silver spoons just to prove that they had been somewhere, without much consideration for where they had actually been.

But in a time of uncertainty, it was the only goal I had. So I focused on that. It was something to work towards.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Exploring the Huronia Food Trail

Photo credit: Martha Harris

On the first day that can truly be called winter, the lineup inside Midland’s downtown food shop, Ciboulette et Cie is surprisingly long. Despite the blowing snow outside, it’s snaking its way from the back freezers stocked with take-home soups, past a reclaimed wooden table and up to the front counter, where customers are eagerly waiting for hot coffee to accompany slices of cake.

Read more on Ontario Travel »

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Volunteer at Ontario’s Animal Sanctuaries

From wolf howling expeditions in Algonquin Park to visiting the Toronto Zoo, there’s no shortage of opportunities throughout Ontario to learn more about our four-legged friends. Want to try something a little different? There are lots of other opportunities to get up close to animals—and sometimes even to give back.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Q & A with G Adventures Founder Bruce Poon Tip

For G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip, writing his first book was a labour of love—which is why the book nearly never made it to print.

“I pulled the plug twice. I was just like, ‘I can’t do this,’” he recalls. “It wasn’t just difficult writing—it was the emotional connection. Putting it all out there was very difficult.”

Surprisingly, Poon Tip isn’t talking about the emotional connection to writing about his travel experiences. Instead, Looptail: How one company changed the world by reinventing business is exactly what the title implies—decidedly a business book.

For those not familiar with Poon Tip’s business philosophy, to describe it as unorthodox would be an understatement. The company doesn’t have one CEO—it has hundreds. They don’t have a president, but they do have a mayor. There’s no need for a stuff human resources team when they have “the talent agency” and “the culture club.” It’s unconventional, but somehow it works—today, G Adventures offers more than 15,000 departures to more than 100 countries every year.

This month, Poon Tip spoke with Verge about his unusual approach to business and what the term “responsible travel” really means.

Read more on Verge Magazine »

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Go Global Expos 2013: Toronto & Montréal

It's that time of year again:

2013 Go Global Expos
Toronto: September 21-22, 2013
Montréal: September 28, 2013

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Q & A with Best Jobs Winner Greg Snell

Handling pythons, swimming with sharks and wrangling media—to some, this might sound terrifying. But for Canadian Greg Snell, it’s one of the best jobs in the world. 

“I’ve always loved animals,” Snell explains. “I’ve never been afraid of interacting with wildlife and I’ve always been looking for that connection.” 

The winner of Tourism Australia’s “Best Jobs” competition, Snell will be moving to South Australia in December for six months to help promote the country’s Working Holiday Visa program. But before he landed the coveted role of “Wildlife Caretaker,” Snell had auspicious beginnings as a tour leader for G Adventures. Sharing Verge’s value of “travel with purpose,” Snell spent nearly four years working with the company in South America, Central Asia and Africa, winning awards for tops sales in the process. 

One morning shortly before his big win, Snell sat down with me over breakfast in Adelaide to discuss what life as a group leader is like—and his tips for how to land the top tour guiding jobs. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Best South Australian Wines

Torbreck: In terms of wine tasting, Torbreck was the highlight of my experience in the Barossa, with the best wines overall (and, as it turns out, the prices to match). Despite my hangover, I finished nearly all of my reds. If I could afford it, I would have shipped home a case of The Steading (one of my favourite white wines) and The Struie.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

5 Unforgettable Experiences in the Barossa

“Are you okay, love? You’re going a little white there,” John asked, concerned.

His eyes never left the undulating road winding up into the Barossa Hills. Outside, the pale yellow leaves were slipping from the trees.

“Do you need me to pull over?”

“No, I’m fine. Really,” I insisted, stubborn but polite. Professional even. I rolled down my window a crack and let the crisp autumn air wash over me, providing momentary relief.

But it wasn’t until we stepped in Lyndoch butcher shop that I realized the true error of my ways. As I was led behind the counter (“Lutherns use everything but the oink—they’re very frugal people,” John explained, holding up various cuts of meat for my inspection), across a freshly washed floor (presumably from where the morning’s offal had been washed away) and into the back area (where the smoker showed me the lemon-scented and blue gum tree chips he uses in the smokehouse), the nausea came back with renewed ferocity.

It was going to be a long day.

In the Barossa, South Australia’s top food and wine destination, I learned my lesson early on—do not, under any circumstances, spend the night before a wine tour drinking whisky until the wee hours of the morning at Adelaide’s Exeter Hotel with two young filmmakers from Sydney and a man who spent a portion of his varied career inside the Fat Cat (think Polkaroo, but Australian) suit. It’s just a bad idea.

Instead, here’s five ways to truly enjoy what the Barossa has to offer:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Journey Up the Mackenzie Highway

Mom, my brother, Andrew, and I on vacation in Nova Scotia, 1994.

Early on, it wasn’t clear whose child I was—I wasn’t my father’s and I certainly wasn’t my mother’s.

Well into my early teens, I was insolent and prone to quick fits of tears. The smallest challenge would make my nerves quake and knots form thick in my throat. I was teased merciless for being a scaredy-cat. I was the last kid in the neighbourhood to learn to ride a two-wheel bike and I preferred reading to sports. Even something as simple and intrinsic to childhood as sitting around a campfire and roasting marshmallows scared me because (and it pains me to admit this) a spark might fly up and hit me. Any molehills in my vicinity were unconquerable mountains, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to try and climb them. 

This comes as a surprise to most people who know me now. As an adult, I’m the type of woman who shoots guns. I travel alone, I’ve lived happily without electricity and running water, I’m not afraid of spiders or snakes and I’m reasonably (although not entirely) comfortable shitting in the woods. I am, by my own standards (because no one else’s matter), fearless and self-reliant.

I credit most of this to my mom.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Northward Bound: Cold Lake, Alberta to Yellowknife, NWT

Tomorrow, my mom and I are starting the first leg of our two-week journey to the Northwest Territories.

Truth be told, I'm not sure whose brilliant idea it was to spend two weeks straight in a RV together; she claims it was mine, I claim it was hers. Either way, it's probably a terrible plan--but I figure that I can probably sell a feature on "Why I Killed My Mother" to some magazine, so at least it will be a profitable endeavour.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram (@WynneLockhart) to watch relationship quickly deteriorate through a series of neat filtered iPhone photos. It'll be fun. And visually appealing. I promise.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Wildlife Adventures on Kangaroo Island: To Grow in the Open Air

It’s safe to say that there have been very few moments in my life that I’ve been grateful for being prone to motion sickness.

In fact, the majority of my time spent travelling in vehicles has been with my head over a plastic bag and my eyes locked firmly to the horizon. It’s a condition that's largely limited to car rides where I’m a passenger—I’m totally fine on planes, and on boats there’s a solid chance that my natural seafaring ways will kick in. But when it comes to bus rides, I’m doomed. (Despite the number of times I’ve tried it, motion sickness medication does nothing for me. As a teenager, nausea persisted even after having liquid Gravol pumped directly into my veins.)

So when I saw the bus when we arrived on Kangaroo Island, I knew I was in for a long journey. The back was separated from the front and the huge wheels were indicative of a bumpy ride ahead.

Friday, June 28, 2013

TBEX '13: The Noble Purpose of Travel

A tour of Toronto Island during TBEX Toronto 2013.

Last month, I had the pleasure of participating in TBEX Toronto. Initially, the thought of attending the international travel blogging conference in my own city felt like a bit of a consolation prize (last year’s North American TBEX was hosted in Keystone, Colorado).

But as it turned out, location was only secondary—TBEX was an amazing opportunity to learn more about this unique nomadic community of travel writers and their work. While I enjoyed meeting Deb of The Planet D, talking to representatives from Travel Massive and spotting all my favourite bloggers (who, for the most part, were easily identifiable based on their avatars), the highlight of the weekend was G Adventures Founder Bruce Poon Tip’s session on “the noble purpose of travel blogging.”

Read more on the Verge Magazine website»

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

What It's Like to Take a Tourism Press Trip

Greg, CC and Nick at the Cleland Wildlife Park.

Every moment is just another photo opportunity.

For those not familiar with the Best Jobs in the World, it’s a campaign hosted by Tourism Australia to promote tourism activities throughout the country and the Working Holiday Visa program. In every state there are three finalists, who are competing to win six-month contracts with job titles ranging from “Tastemaster” in Western Australia to “Chief Funster” in New South Wales.

I’m travelling with the South Australia crew to watch Nick Tilley, Greg Snell and CC Hsieh compete for the role of “Wildlife Caretaker.” The winner will walk away with a salary package of $100,000 and spend the next six months working with wildlife on Kangaroo Island and the Eyre Peninsula.

Although Greg, CC and Nick are the stars of the show, the entourage is what is makes this trip interesting. There are nearly 20 people in our group, including Tourism Australia representatives, press from Taiwan, a news crew from Adelaide, and videographers capturing every challenge on film. My role here, as the token Canadian journalist, is to report on the token Canadian candidate, Greg Snell.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Winning the Best Job in the World Competition in Australia

I’m sure that in my lifetime, stranger things have happened.

I’ve hung out with cannibals and I’ve slept in squats. I’ve been a beauty pageant award winner, a medical lab rat and a construction worker. I’ve used as a satellite phone to call charter planes in the jungles of Guyana and I’ve sipped pinot noir selected from an ambassador’s wine cellar in Switzerland. Yes, stranger things have happened.

And yet, this—this of all things—feels very surreal. It all just happened so quickly. As I write this, I’m hurtling through the sky on a plane destined for Adelaide, Australia. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be particularly absurd if it wasn’t for the fact that I boarded my plane at 3:00 PM today, having only received my confirmed itinerary and airline tickets at 2:30 AM this morning. (I’m a planner, an organizer. Leaving the country with less than 24 hours notice goes against the very grain of my existence. And yet, here I am.) And it’s Australia—not exactly the type of place that you make a last-minute one-week-only kind of excursion to.

So how did I get to be here?

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Tops in Toronto for TBEX Attendees

Chloé playing Scrabble in Trinity Bellwoods Park last summer, with Prosecco for word-smithing fuel.
Since TBEX Canada started two days, I've found myself turned into an impromptu tour guide. Nobody wants to know about me, my blog, the Go Global Expos or Verge Magazine—they want to know the best place to get thai food near their hotel (Salad King, 340 Yonge Street), or where I managed to find the sweet vintage-inspired Canadian-made dress that I'm wearing (Charlie Boutique, 809 Queen Street West).

Fair enough.

I actually don't mind. Although the Albertan in me is loathe to admit this, I've lived in Toronto for almost a decade (give or take the months that I've spent overseas and back home). And in that time frame, I've managed to find a few spots in the city that rarely appear on tourism "best of" lists.

If you've got a few days in Toronto spend post-conference, here's what you need to do:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 Tips for Being a Star Volunteer

My team at the Toronto airport before departing to Guyana for a volunteer medical mission in 2010.

Preparation and the right attitude can make all the difference—for you and for your overseas host.

Good intentions only go so far. If you truly want to make a positive contribution as an international volunteer, here are five tips to help you be an effective and valued team member.

Read more on the Verge Magazine website»

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

"Mead"ing in the Beamsville Bench

When I interviewed my good friend Melissa for a Toronto Star travel story a couple of weeks ago, she couldn't stop gushing about the beauty of the Beamsville Bench.

"It’s just a beautiful place—it’s full of peach orchards and wineries and what could be less pleasurable and beautiful than that?" she told me. I was already sold, but then she said the magic words: "It's not a zoo. It's not Niagara-on-the-Lake or Niagara Falls."

So when I was sent passes to attend 20 Valley's "Get Fresh" wine and culinary event in the Beamsville region, it was pretty much a done deal.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Expat Living in Roatán, Honduras: The Lucky Ones

The truth is, I never plan these things. They just seem to happen. This time, it happened like this:

On February 4, I received a Facebook notification requesting that I "like" the fanpage for Sophie's Ice Cream. The request came as a bit of a shock.

I've known Sophie for a little over 10 years. The older sister of my soul friend Chloé, our paths have intertwined over the last decade. About five years ago, Sophie moved from Edmonton to Toronto with her boyfriend. When it didn't work out, she took an all-inclusive vacation to the island of Roatán, Honduras--much like many jilted single ladies before her. But here's where it gets crazy; a month later, Sophie decided to move to Honduras. (I know, right? Everyone fantasizes about impulsively leaving their lives behind and moving to a tropical island. But Sophie actually did it.)

So maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised to receive the Facebook invite, but I still had to immediately send her a message:

"Wait a second. . .are you the Sophie of Sophie's Ice Cream?" I wrote.

"I sure am! Surprise!" she wrote back. "I'm opening up an ice cream shop. It should be open in two weeks. Don't you want to visit me now?"

Um, of course I did. But with a number of contracts on the go and tax season upon me, it didn't seem like a possibility.

Later that afternoon, I sat in the window of my favourite Toronto coffee shop working. As I looked out onto Dundas Street's bleak sidewalks, I had the sudden realization that there's no point in being a freelance journalist if I'm not taking advantage of the "freelance" part of my job description. Really, I could be sitting on my laptop anywhere in the world. So why not Honduras?

By February 6, I had booked my flights.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Prince Edward County: The Perfect Day Away

Everyone has friends like these. They're the ones in your life that you hold dearly and wish you could see more often, but for whatever reason--be it timing, a lack of mutual friends or physical location--you rarely get together with.

For me, Gill and Natty are these friends.

Over the last six months, we've been trying unsuccessfully to coordinate a hangout. Something low-key. Wine, drinks, dinner. Maybe cooking together. We all live in downtown Toronto, so it should be easy right?

Apparently not. In the last year, I've maybe only seen Gill once, when she joined me at the gym for a weight-lifting class. (As it turns out, trying to catch your breath in between burpees is not exactly an opportune time to catch up.) And even though Natty lives a 10-minute walk from my house, it's been more than two months since I saw her last. 

So when I quite randomly invited them both to join me for a day touring Prince Edward County for an article I was writing, I was shocked when they both confirmed within two minutes. As it turns out, with these girls low-key isn't the way to go--something out of the ordinary is.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reaching for the Stars in Washington, D.C.

I'm working on another travel series for the Toronto Star over the next two months. First up: Washington, D.C.

The only problem with this latest writing assignment? It makes me want to visit all the places that I'm writing about.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Voluntourist

"We all have stereotypes of people around the world and what we think is going on. If I told people I was going to Bethlehem, they would think, “baby Jesus” and be like, “Oh, that’s nice.” If I said I was going to Palestine, they would say, “Oh, you should wear a bulletproof vest. Are you going to be safe?” It was a completely different perception. 
Anywhere you go, you find people are pretty much the same—we just want to have a good life."
-Ken Budd, author of The Voluntourist: A six-country tale of love, loss, fatherhood, fate and singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem, shares his thoughts on the perpetuation of stereotypes while travelling. Read my full interview with Budd here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Burma Travel: Open to tourists, but at what cost?

It doesn’t take much looking to find a “2013 Travel Hotspots” list that includes Burma. Fifteen years after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) first called for a boycott on tourism to the country, citing linkages between tourism profits and human rights abuses, Burma has reappeared on the tourist map in a big way. Last year the NLD relaxed their stance on the boycott, indicating that tourism may benefit the country’s development. Since then, tour operators have been overwhelmed by the demand for trips to the emerging Southeast Asian country.

But although the NLD party won a majority of seats in the April 2012 elections, ongoing human rights abuses continue. In 2012, the number of internal refugees had risen to more than 450,000—in 2011 alone, an estimated 150,000 people were forced to flee their homes—many of which are denied access to humanitarian aid. According to Burma Campaign UK, hundreds of political prisoners remain in captivity, while continued army attacks against ethnic minorities are occurring, which include the use of rape, torture, forced labour and child soldiers.

Read more on the Verge Magazine website»
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