The BEST places to see in Canada.

Growing up in Canada you kind of, sort of, might start to believe that what you see all around you is what everyone gets to see. That everywhere is as beautiful as you have it and that the sights you’ve come to call home are sights that others get to call home as well. It’s a naive way of thinking, but some would say we’re pretty sheltered up here anyways.

I started travelling when I got to University and it was at that point that I realized that not everyone gets to see what I see.

And don’t get me wrong, every place has a beauty about it in its own way, but I happen to be a little bit biased in my belief that Canada is ‘next-level’ on the spectrum of beautiful places in this world.

Some of these photos were taken by me, some of them I’ve found online. About two years ago my house was broken into – stolen was all of my electronics including a laptop that contained pictures of all of my travels – so if a photo was taken by me then it’s been in the past two years that I’ve been. And if it’s credited to someone else, I wanted to show the beauty but no longer have my photos. Insert sad face for stolen computer.

Here are a few places I’ve been that I think everyone needs to see:

LAKE LOUISE

Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Picture the most beautiful, pristine lake that you could possibly imagine, surround it by escalating mountains covered in snow, fields of green and one of the most expensive hotels in Canada to stay at, and that is the luxury that is Lake Louise.

Visit in the winter for walking, skating, skiing or snowshoeing on the lake itself. In late January each year they host the ‘Ice Magic Festival’ where artists create incredible sculptures of ice that stay until they melt.

Visit in the spring, summer or fall for some of the most turquoise blue waters you’ll ever see. There’s a trail around the lake for you to walk, if you so feel the desire for exercise, and if you’re really an outdoorsy person, you can hike up some trails on those mountains at the far side of the lake for some pretty exceptional views.

Any way that you look at it, Lake Louise is a must see.

Photo: British Columbia Magazine

VANCOUVER

I actually grew up in Vancouver, so this one has a strong bias for me. This multicultural maven of a city is just as beautiful as it looks. Situated almost perfectly between the Coast Mountains and Pacific Ocean, it really doesn’t matter which way you look in this city you will see a beautiful view.

If you prefer the city life you can wander down city streets staring up at skyscrapers from every angle, drinking some of the best coffee in the world and shopping in stores to suit any budget. There’s a cafe on every corner, a ‘sorry eh’ at every passing and not enough time in a day to see the multifaceted face that makes up its downtown.

And if you much prefer a nature, Vancouver is filled with parks and natural landscapes that allow you to get out and roam, ride a bike, go to the beach, hike a mountain, walk through the forest… all in the same day. I recommend the Grouse Grind. But, there’s much to do in this city, and I strongly recommend you try it all.

Photo: ME

ANCIENT FOREST

In Northern British Columbia, about an hour’s drive from Prince George, you will find the entrance to the ‘Ancient Forest’. This several kilometer hike is through the largest Ancient Inland Rainforest in the world. Trees are much like those you would see in the Redwoods National forest in that they’re more massive than you could possible dream up, and they’ve likely been there for thousands upon thousands of years. The densely packed plant-life shelters you from weather (the trees are so thick you cannot feel rain) and the beauty is unimaginable.

Photo: Styleathome.com

OLD TOWN, QUEBEC CITY

If you want a true feel for French-Canadian culture, Quebec City is the place to find it. With a mixture of old-world charm, quaint city streets lined with history and the smells of amazing food pouring out of the shops and restaurants surrounding you, Quebec City feels a lot like a European destination in Canada.

While you’re here, try the poutine, it’s better than anything else on earth.

NORTH OF 60 (YUKON, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES, NUNAVUT)

Photo: travelzoo.com

As someone who’s been lucky enough to visit the Yukon, Northwest and Nunavut territories, I’m leaving this one open and saying they’re all worth the time if you’ve got it. Honestly, north of the 60th parallel is a whole different world in Canada. In the summer the sun doesn’t set and in the winter the sun barely rises. It’s a way of life the locals are accustomed too and the tourists are fascinated with when they witness it.

For no other reason, I recommend the trip for the Northern Lights. Watching Aurora Borealis dance across the midnight sky is unlike any other experience you will ever have. You can rent some snowmobiles and take them out into the middle of nowhere (for fun) and for better views of the lights by night, or, in summer, you can go golfing at midnight.

I wish more people would make it farther north. It’s expensive, don’t get me wrong. But it’s well worth the experience if you ask me.

Photo: Wildlife Worldwide

PRINCESS ROYAL ISLAND – THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST

No, that’s not a polar bear you’re looking at. That’s the elusive kermode ‘Spirit Bear’ who calls the rainforests of British Columbia’s coastline home. Princess Royal Island as a unique little fishing destination nestled in the coastline islands of British Columbia.

Fun fact: Twelve of the 17 crew of U.S. Air Force 44-92075 were found alive here in 1950, during the first lost nuclear/Broken Arrow episode of the Cold War. 

The Island is a protected zone by the World Wildlife Fund for having one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Animals you’ll find in these forests: black bears, grizzly bears, deer, wolves and foxes, and nesting populations of golden eagles, bald eagles, and the endangered marbled murrelet. 

If you ever want to feel at one with nature, it’s a difficult place to get to, but once you’re there, it’s worth every second.

Photo: Bay of Fundy Tourism

HOPEWELL ROCKS – BAY OF FUNDY

You might have seen these rocks before in photos for weddings or engagements, or just plain instagram swoonworthy photographer shots. People largely flock to these rocks out of fascination, but stay for the peace, serenity and beauty that is the area when they get there.

A few years back I got to go to the Bay of Fundy for a work project and I’ve got to say, the way the tide rolls in and swallows up the beach, making those rocks look like they pop out of the ocean is pretty cool to see. Thinking back on it, I wish I could take a camera and take a time lapse of the tide rolling in. Something tells me it would make an incredibly satisfying video. Nevertheless, I am rambling.

If you’re ever on the East Coast, check out Hopewell rocks. Take some beautiful photos and take some lunch. As a girl who grew up next to the pacific can tell you, there’s a certain peace to the Atlantic Ocean air that will make your whole day melt away.

Photo: National Geographic

FOGO ISLAND, NEWFOUNDLAND

When I think of Fogo Island, I am most sad that I no longer have my old computer with all of my photos on it. (Important interruption: print your photos, boys and girls. Or, at the very least, save them to an external hard drive) Fogo Island is my definition of peace. You go there to escape the world, and when you’re there, you really do. It’s just you, some Newfies you can hardly understand because they talk so fast, and the ocean.

If you’re ever wanting a dream get away for inner peace and calm, Fogo Island is the place to go. I would love to wander those rocks again. To just take some time for me.

Choosing to save your money for travel.

When you make the commitment to travel, you make a commitment to forgo other things in life in order to travel. At least, if you’re the majority of the population that’s the case. Some people are born independently wealthy (I’m jealous of you if you are/were) and don’t have to worry about saving money, but for the rest of us, the fact is, we have to plan if we’re going to see the world.

For me, the prospect of travel is an important one. I want to run away on my long weekends rather than staying home. I want to say that I’ve been to all of the continents and keep a running tally of all the countries I’ve visited. I want to collect tiny a vile of sand from every beach I visit. To do this, I knew I needed to get serious about my finances.

I’m quite lucky in that, in spite of not being employed presently, I still have a couple of trips on the docket for 2019. When you’re going to travel the world, here are some realistic tips for saving your money because, after all, it’s better to save your money to have more to spend there!

  • Meal Prep. Meal prep is helpful because it causes you to make use of the food that you already have. If you’re eating the food that you have prepped in your fridge already, you’re not going to be tempted to eat out – thus saving that money. Take that money you would have spent on your fast food dinner and put it in your piggy bank. Literally. Furthermore, if you’re meal prepping you’re making better use of the groceries that you purchase and therefore you will find your grocery bill going down each month.
  • Have a piggy bank. This one might sound weird, but it’s oddly motivating to see the money in your piggy bank grow. If you can get a clear piggy bank, that is the most motivation because you can see when you put those five, ten and twenty dollar bills in there. The more money that’s in your piggy bank, the more you’re motivated to fill it.
  • Automatic withdrawal from your pay cheque. When you get paid, set aside an amount of money that is automatically coming off the cheque. You’re not going to use it, you’re not going to spend it. It’s going towards your travel dollars. Whether it’s $20 per cheque or $100 dollars per cheque, telling yourself that you get zero access to that set amount every pay cheque can add up in a year.
  • Cut the luxuries. I’m talking about things like Netflix and Itunes Music and your subscription services. The average person has 3-4 of these, minimum, and if you cancel all of them that is hundreds of dollars in a year that you’re saving.
  • Don’t drink when you’re out. Going out to have alcohol, whether with your friends or your significant other, the markup on alcohol is ridiculous. If you like a nice glass of wine once in a while, do it with your friends at one of your home’s. You’re going to enjoy it more without the extra noise of a club or a bar, and, you’re going to save a lot of money when you’re not spending $14 on a glass of wine.
  • When you’re shopping – shop sales. I know this can sound awful to some people, but it can be really beneficial if you’re smart about the way you shop. We all have things we need in life, like a winter jacket or a new pair of shoes. Right now, on the North Face website you can purchase a winter jacket from last year’s collection for $125, rather than $500. This savings is solely because it’s last year’s coat. North Face jackets never go out of style, and honestly, no one’s going to know that it’s last year’s coat. Whereas you might have previously budgeted several hundred dollars for your winter jacket, you can now take that extra money and put it into your vacation fund, wear your new Northface coat and no one will be any the wiser.
  • Track your finances. This is the most important aspect of all. If you’re looking to save money for travelling, track your finances. Being able to see on paper, or an excel spreadsheet, where your money is being spent will help you to realize where you’re spending too much and where you can cut. After all, you are not going to become a millionaire over night, so, if you want to travel the world you need to know where you’re going to cut money from in order to put it into your travel budget.

As you’re saving for your trip and cutting money from other places in your budget, please remember for your own peace of mind that you need to treat yourself once in a while. Don’t cut everything from your life cold turkey in order to save for your trip, that will make you miserable. Buy yourself that chocolate bar on the day when you really need some chocolate. Just make sure that it’s a once in a while treat and not an every day treat.

Hopefully, if you’re smart about it, you’ll be sailing off into the sunset of a beautiful trip in no time. Because I am a firm believer that it’s far more important in life to collect experiences rather than things.

Go forth and travel the world.

Tips & tricks for smooth transitions through the airport.

As someone who’s been on a few thousand flights over the past 10 years, I’ve learned a few things about how to make the most annoying place on earth (aka the airport) as easy as possible when you need to get somewhere.

First and foremost – a very important thing to note – where at all possible, DO NOT BUY BLACK LUGGAGE. Everyone buys black luggage. If you want to identify yours when it’s coming down the conveyor belt, avoid the chance that random strangers will pull it off the belt thinking it’s their’s, or your luggage getting lost in general, don’t buy black luggage! Not to mention if your luggage does get lost the first thing they will ask you is “What does it look like?” If you say “Well it’s a black suitcase,” you’ll see the eyes roll. Everyone has black luggage.

As for the airport, here goes:

  1. Always check-in online. In this day and age where it costs for EVERYTHING, spending $50 for seat selection just seems like something I don’t want. But, here in Canada, you can check into your flights a full 24 hours early. And, if you’re one of the first people to check in, you’re assigned an aisle or window seat ahead of them assigning you a middle seat. So ALWAYS check-in online.
  2. Skip the jewelry when you’re getting dressed. (And belts) If it’s important to bring it, put it in a little baggy and slip it into your carry-on or suitcase. Then bring it out when the timing is right. By avoiding putting it on, you’ll avoid needing to take extra time in the security line taking it all off.
  3. Dress up to dress down. Combat boots are cute and all, but taking those bad-boys off to go through security to put back on immediately afterwards takes a considerable amount of time. Things like slip on shoes can, and will be, your best friend.
  4. Take a screenshot of your booking information/boarding pass. The screenshot on your phone will be a lot easier to access than trying to fumble through paperwork amidst everything else in your backpack/carry-on.
  5. Separate your electronics. This will make your time in the security line go much more smoothly and much faster.
  6. Figure out your liquids game before you get to the security line. Where at all possible, if you don’t have to bring liquids then don’t. But, if you must bring liquids, know the rules before you go. Don’t be that doh-head who needs their bag to get searched and have full-sized perfume and hand creams pulled out of it. I’ve seen a lot of times the TSA Agents be nice about this, but you can also get into a lot of trouble.
  7. Wear an item of clothing with a sports logo on it. This isn’t a certified fact, and I only do this in North American airports, but I have noticed on days when I am wearing certain jackets with sporting logos on them, the TSA agents will move me to the quicker line. Perhaps they like sports? Perhaps, they just think I’m some sort of coach and want to help me on my way. I’m not sure. But, when wearing the logo makes the security line shorter, I’m going to wear the logo.
  8. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up inside of security. Buying water at the airport is no-bueno. I’ve paid upwards of $6.00 Canadian for a single bottle of water. Having a reusable water bottle with you can avoid a lot of unnecessary costs.
  9. Save your Starbucks rewards for the airport. It’s a well known fact of life that Starbucks costs 2-3 dollars more per drink when you’re at the airport. If you collect Starbucks rewards, save the free drinks for when you travel, for when you’re in the airport. And if you don’t collect Starbucks rewards, start collecting them. Seriously.
  10. When you’re travelling internationally add international data and roaming minutes to your cell phone plan. In the airport alone you can’t always rely on wi-fi in other parts of the world. If you’ve got the international data, you can still use your phone to help you get to where you need to be.
  11. Bring a phone charger. Always bring a phone charger. And, if you’re travelling internationally, bring a plug converter. You don’t want to find yourself in the Amsterdam airport, unable to speak the language, with a dead cell phone.
  12. Keep your money in your front pocket. Especially in busy airports, pickpocketing is a real issue. For guys that keep their wallets in their back pocket, put it in your front pocket while walking through the airport to avoid pickpocketing.
  13. Always arrive at your gate early. Why? Planes can leave early. I’s not a frequent occurrence, but they do leave early. You don’t want to be the doh-head that missed the flight because you were looking at overpriced magazines down the hall.
  14. Be kind. Don’t yell. Even when it’s frustrating. Even when someone pisses you off. You don’t want to find yourself in a foreign country where you cannot speak the language, with people unwilling to help you because you’ve been a tired, pissed off asshole. There was one instance in Frankfurt when the security guard was telling me to take off my shoe. I could not understand her because she was speaking German. Naturally, being Canadian, my response was “I’m sorry”. And then I said “English, English?” She called over the German police (at the time I was worried I was in trouble, but it turns out she was doing it because she knew they could speak English). The police officers were actually very kind to me. One of them told me I was very soft-spoken and told me thank you. Moral of the story – always be nice. Even when it’s annoying.
  15. Fly the flag. This is a big one, especially if you’re Canadian. Put a Canadian flag on your luggage, on your carry-on, on your backpack, etc… It’s a good conversation starter with strangers. There’s nothing cooler than striking up conversation with a badass human being half-way around the world and making your wait at the airport a little-less boring. And who knows, in this day of social media, perhaps you can stay in touch.

Mother Earth: Every small bit makes a difference.

I’ve been rather disappointed in society lately. It seems everywhere I look people of influence are spouting that there’s no sense in trying to protect our planet because it’s too hard of a task, it’ll take too long or we’ll never have enough ‘buy-in’ to make an impact. Or, the one that makes me the most angry, is when they say the next generation can deal with it!

The very people that are supposed to be teaching us ‘you can do anything if you put your mind to it’ are on television each night saying that it’s a good thing to roll back emissions regulations, oil regulations, and every regulation that’s been put in place to help protect our environment. Pipelines seem to be popping up like it’s nobody’s business and I recently read a story about a whale that washed up on a beach in Indonesia that had more than 150 disposable plastic cups in its stomach.

So the message that we’re sending to ourselves and to future generations is what exactly? Convenience over conscience? That if something seems hard there’s no point in even trying? That making money is more important than protecting the planet?

Here’s the thing about change: it doesn’t happen in in instant. You can’t just snap your fingers and fix things. It’s going to take years of conscious efforts and smarter choices to treat our planet the way it deserves. Just like it didn’t take us overnight to fill the oceans with our trash, it’s not going to be an overnight task to clean them up, either.

People need to make the choice to introduce change. Swap your disposable straws for reusable straws. Use a reusable cloth instead of a paper towel. Store your rainwater to water your garden. Don’t listen to the men and women on television when they tell you change can’t happen. Allow all ideas to come to the table and make feasible adjustments to your life.

If 100,000 people make small changes in their lives, imagine what that means for the planet? Now imagine if 1 million people did it? Tell your friends. Encourage good behaviour for the betterment of the earth.

I know it’s easy for me to sit here and type this sounding like a hippy. Growing up in Northern Canada, though, you’re taught a certain respect for the earth that can’t ever be ignored. We’re all human, and we all have a part to play here. I’m not one to ask someone to overhaul their life to be better on the planet, but I am one to advocate small change.

Buy in bulk, rather than goods packaged in plastic. Invest $8 in some stainless steel straws. Don’t use that sheet of paper-towel to wipe off your kitchen counter tonight, instead, use a reusable wash cloth. Please, please, please take a look at how you do things and see what small changes you can make to help the earth for the better.

I want to see it’s beauty preserved. I want to go on long hikes to beautiful waterfalls in the middle of nowhere to just sit and be one with the earth. And I want other’s to understand how wonderful of a feeling it is to do that, if they want to hike with me. But even if they don’t, I know they can appreciate a pretty photo.

So anyways, the point of this incredibly long rambled-mess is that everyone can make a difference. And don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise.

Protect our planet.

Travel Diaries: Ice Magic Festival of Lake Louise

When you grow up in Canada, one of the things you hear about every year is the Ice Magic Festival of Lake Louise. That and also that Niagara Falls is a must see in your lifetime. For me, though I’d lived within driving distance of Lake Louise for almost my entire life, I’d never actually been to the festival.

I love Lake Louise, and try to visit several times a year, but I’d never managed to make it in late January/early February when the Ice Magic Festival is taking place.

Fast forward to 2019 and the year that I’m making things happen. Knight and I decided to take the weekend to see the Festival. It was supposed to be bitterly cold, but I convinced him to come anyways, knowing that the colder it was, the less tourists there would be out.

We began at a little bakery in Lake Louise called Laggan’s Mountain Bakery. This place had a line up that was almost out the door. The Baked Goods were delectable. As someone who eats strictly gluten free (Celiac Disease) finding gluten-free baked goods in a tiny little town in the mountains was quite a score. I ended up picking up a few, eating one then and saving the rest for home.

To the lake we went.

Despite my best hopes, there were still quite a few tourists out to bare the blistery -31 degree weather. I guess they, like me, decided it was still worth it, no matter how cold.

It had snowed quite a bit since the sculptures were made, but I still made my way around the lake to try and make out what each of the sculptures were. Some of them were difficult to tell due to the sun being behind the mountains and the snow having fallen. Even still, it really amazes the talent people have to create such intricate statues and sculptures out of ice.

Though it was tempting, we decided to not stop at the Ice Bar and opted to wander into the hotel to shop and warm up. There’s so much history in the Fairmont Lake Louise, wandering the halls just makes you feel as though it could be filled with ghosts of guests past.

There’s a gorgeous restaurant inside the hotel that overlooks the lake, the festival and the mountains in the background. It might be a little too rich for my blood, though. So, after checking out the sights of inside, we made our way back out to the lake. My desire was to walk far enough onto the lake that I could get a photo without anyone in the background.

Saying that you’re walking out to the middle of the lake is a weird thing to speak. But when you get there the view is so, so, so very much worthwhile.

About a third of the lake was plowed from what I could see. A portion was arranged for public skating (I wish I had brought my skates) a portion was arranged for playing hockey (it is as picture perfect as the photos showcase) and a portion was arranged for cross country skiing. Basically, it’s an outdoor lover’s dream.


To me, Lake Louise is the prettiest place on earth. It really is. Of all the places that I’ve ever been, my heart always comes back to Lake Louise and those incredible mountains shadowing over the picturesque lake, the forests, the animals, the majestic world that is the Rocky Mountains.

It was a perfect day… a picture perfect day wandering the festival, eating incredible food, watching the tourists in awe of how much snow there was.

There’s something I used to tell my friends a lot, that still stands true to this day. If ever I lose my way, that’s where you’ll find me – the tiny little town in the mountains. The place where everything’s good and everyone knows everyone. To me, that will always be Lake Louise.

Tips for travelling on the cheap.

If you’re anything like me, all you want to do is wander the world. It’s hard to blame anyone for Wanderlust when there’s so many places to go and so many things to see. Travelling is an expensive hobby, though. And, if you’re not smart about how you’re travelling, things can get really out of reach, really quickly.

A desire to see the world should never be haulted by cost, though. So, if you’re like me and not independently wealthy, then steps need to be taken to ensure that you can get where you want to go without suffering for it for months before, or after.

So, without further adieu, here are some vague tips that I frequently use when planning trips, when looking for new places to see, or when helping friends/family (who aren’t independently wealthy themselves) book trips.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ON A BUDGET:

Be flexible with your dates. Obviously this isn’t always possible. If you’re needing to get to a wedding, or some sort of an event somewhere, you have to go on a certain date. But, if time is your oyster, the world can be too.

Example: I was hellbent on the idea of being in Las Vegas for my thirtieth birthday last year. Flights to Vegas for my birthday were $350 there and $395 return. Flights nine days after my birthday were $100 there and $78 back. That’s a savings of more than $500. Just for going nine days after my birthday. When I thought about it I reminded myself that Vegas is still Vegas, and no one’s going to hear I went nine days after my birthday, they’re going to hear that I went to Vegas for my birthday.

Uses travel-friendly booking websites. Though it may seem as you’re selling your soul a small bit when you give your email address over to websites like Expedia or Trivago, these sites can actually be incredibly helpful. Being able to see hotel prices all in one place can allow you to know which hotels are more within your budget and what places to avoid. These websites can also, often, have cheaper prices for reservations than booking on an individual hotel’s website.

Ask a local. Whether it through a blog, or asking someone on a street when you get there, ask someone where the best places to eat or shop are. Tell them you’re on a budget, tell them you’re trying to save. There’s no one who is going to know more about a place and where is cheap to eat or shop then someone who lives there.

Pack our own food. Where possible, this can be a huge money saver. Prices are marked up extensively at restaurants and cafes, especially in overly touristy areas. Wandering into the grocery store and grabbing some food, even if it’s a pre-packaged veggie or meat tray, can be a lot cheaper than a restaurant or a cafe. I quite often opt for this route. I prefer to spend my money on things other than food when I travel, where possible. 

Don’t shop at the airport. Don’t do it. Ever. Even something as simple as a Starbucks coffee can be 2-3 more dollars just for purchasing it in the airport. Also, those cute and dainty little shops that line the halls en-route to your gate… they’re there to suck you in. Resist the temptations.

Skip the frills. Things like airline wi-fi can seem really intriguing when you’re bored on the plane. But, if you think ahead and bring a book… or a notebook… or a sleeping pill, you won’t need to purchase that wi-fi and can save yourself some dollars.

Ask ahead. Finding a hotel that’s reservation includes breakfast in the morning and access to a laundry room is possible. If you’re going to be staying somewhere for a longer-stint of time, having access to a laundry room can be a life-saver. And, if you don’t have access to a laundry room, it’s a lot cheaper to find a laundromat ahead of time rather than using a laundry service.

See what public transit looks like where you’re headed. Using public transit in a new city, if you can wrap your head around it, can be a lot cheaper than taxi and uber trips. Plus, public transit can allow you to see more of the city if you’re willing to try.

Do your research about free, or cheap, attractions. These are out there. They do exists. Pinterest can be an incredible assistance in this process because people who’ve been there before share their stories about where to go and what to see, what is fun and what is not worth it.

Use coupons, sales, discount codes. There’s a local airline near me that has sales on holiday’s. Doesn’t matter the holiday, every holiday you can bet there’s going to be a sale. Usually it involves waking up early in the morning to be one of the first ‘x’ amount of people to purchase the ticket under the sale price. If you can wake up early and get that discount, DO IT. And if you don’t wake up early, still see if there’s a discount code for you to be able to use to cut costs just that much more. Even if it’s only 10 percent off flights, 10 percent off flights still counts.

Take advantage of loyalty programs. I joined the loyalty program of a car rental company about a year ago. I don’t rent cars a ton, but when I do, I am earning points for them. Those points can add up over time and, eventually, I can redeem those points for free rentals. Taking advantage of a loyalty program for purchases that you have to make, or rentals that you have to have, will help you in the long-run when you take a trip you don’t have to incur those costs on. This works for hotels as well.