10 Canadian Stereotypes: Truth of Myth?

Let me just get this off my chest. While travelling, most of these have either been pointed out or asked of me. So I decided to ask google what the most common Canadian stereotypes were, and I couldn’t believe the things that I was reading! No, I certainly did not ski to school every day. And no, I don’t like curling. So, here are the ten most popular stereotypes about my home country, and I am here to set the record straight.

 

  1. We say the word ‘eh’, all the time.

Truth. This is pretty accurate, but it depends where you are in Canada. I find people in the city don’t use this word in their vocabulary as much as people do in small towns. My dad happens to say eh in nearly every sentence. But yea, it really depends on the person. Though, why is this such a big deal when we say it? Aussies say ‘aye’ just as often, but no one makes a big deal about that.

 

  1. Everyone is extremely polite.

Myth. Agree to disagree. I find it is common to smile or say hi to random people on the street in Canada, and while travelling I noticed this isn’t normal in other countries and most people don’t acknowledge strangers. But take it from someone who has worked customer service in Canada for year, not everyone is nice. Some people are very, VERY rude. But I’d say our Country as a whole can be very nice and welcoming.

 

  1. It’s always cold.

Myth! Canada is a country of extremes. Where I am from in Western Canada the coldest day in the winter can be down to -30°C and the hottest day in the summer can reach up to 40°C. So even though it may be cold sometimes, it certainly is not cold all year round.

 

  1. We say ‘aboot’ instead of ‘about’.

Myth. I have NEVER heard anyone say aboot. The more you travel east in Canada, the more the people pronounce the word ‘about’ differently. It may sound more similar to ‘aboot’ but they do NOT say ‘aboot’. Sorry to disappoint.

 

  1. All we watch is hockey.

Myth. Though hockey is a very popular sport in Canada, there are many other sports people watch as well. American football is huge in Canada, as well as skiing, soccer and baseball. I wouldn’t say no if I was invited to an NHL game though. I’ll also add, no, not everyone played hockey growing up either!

 

  1. Everyone is a lumberjack.

Myth. If you think someone who grew up in the city has ever chopped wood in their life, think again. It takes more than wearing plaid, growing a beard and holding and axe to be a lumberjack. You have to live the lifestyle, so no, not everyone is a lumberjack. In fact, very few people would be considered one.

 

  1. We hate the US.

Myth. We hate how American politics are flooded over Canadian news channels. We definitely don’t hate the whole country or the people. If anything, we feel sorry for them and their twisted vision of what our FREE healthcare is like. That being said, we truly DO hate when people think we are from the United States, or say that we are nearly the same country.

 

  1. Tim Horton is our president?

Myth. I honestly hadn’t heard this one before. Firstly, we have a prime minister, not a president. Secound, since Trudeau became our prime minister, we’ve been getting a bit more world attention because he’s young and good looking for a country leader. Third, Tim Hortons is a fantastic fast food coffee and doughnut place that Canadian’s either love or hate. So no. I think Tim Horton was a hockey player? Who cares, I just love their timbits.

 

  1. We live in igloos.

Myth. Seriously? I really hope most people are smart enough to realise this couldn’t be true. And no, I didn’t ride moose or polar bears to school. Considering I already said that it can get up to 40°C, I don’t think I need to say much more on this.

 

  1. We love maple syrup.

Truth. Of course we do! How could we not? And don’t talk to me about that processed sugary syrup. I mean real maple syrup. Unfortunately, western Canada doesn’t have many maple trees so all of ours is shipped from eastern Canada, making it more expensive. But trust me, it’s worth it! And if you’re here in the winter try maple syrup on snow.

 

 

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Tom in Banff National Park, Canada

 

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10 Lessons I Learnt While Travelling Solo

Solo travel was one of the most intimidating things I ever attempted, and it wasn’t even my decision. I was thrown into it at 19 years old, across the world in New Zealand. The woman who I was travelling with left me alone, and I was far too stubborn to go home after only being abroad for a week. Why would I? My ten month trip turned into five months, and I learnt a lot of hard, but important lessons.

  1. I learnt not to deal with fake friends. This was difficult because in the beginning I felt very alone while travelling solo. It was often easier to surround myself with people who didn’t really care about me, and not everyone I met would trigger a deep connection. Through trial and error, I learnt who my real friends were, and to not deal with people who treated me poorly.
  2. I learnt how to say ‘no’ and own it. This was an important lesson that I wish I had learnt sooner. It can be relevant to anyone moving out on their own for the first time, my experience just happened to be abroad. I shouldn’t have to feel obligated to go to the bar when I don’t feel like it. I should be able to refuse a price I am given and walk away if I think I am being ripped off. It is important as a woman especially, to be able to say no and stand by your decision. It was a long process for me, but learning how to say ‘no’ really helped me step into my confidence and helped prevent people from taking advantage of me.
  3. I learnt to trust people. I had always been an independent and private person, but there are situations that come up while travelling where I had to rely on the kindness of others. These situations would potentially make me feel uneasy, not truly knowing who was helping me. Though I am always attentive to who I am with, it is still good to be able to let go and trust someone. This ability led me to my next point.
  4. I learnt to not be afraid to ask for help. Not only did I learn to not be afraid, but not feel ashamed. I don’t know why it took me so long to get this one, perhaps it was because I used to be so shy, but I would get confused and wander around airports totally lost. It took until I nearly missed a flight for me to buckle down and ask for help. I actually asked four different airport employees in the span of twenty minutes because their directions were all so poor! But in the end, I made it on my flight and I tackled my pride.
  5. I learnt to question things. Travelling gives us the perspective of how people live in another country. Depending where we travel, there are different norms and guidelines on what is culturally appropriate. When arriving in New Zealand I thought the Maori native culture was so interesting, but when I saw a very large framed man with tribal war tattoos on his face, I found myself intimidated. I found myself questioning why I felt that way. This man wasn’t harmful, it was just his culture. Afterwards, travelling to countries such as Morocco, where women are treated differently than men, this part of me has continued. We should never stop questioning the things around us or our reactions to what is different than us.
  6. I learnt how to take care of myself. This one took longer. Throughout my childhood, I had denied my mother’s pleas to teach me the basics of how to cook. When arriving in New Zealand, I was barely drinking age, and it only took a few nights of over drinking and surrounded by newly met acquaintances to realise how dangerous of a situation I was potentially putting myself in. I quickly learnt that if I didn’t have someone I trusted around me, I had to be fully able to take care of myself at all times.
  7. I learnt to value my alone time. Being social can be exhausting, especially when I was already sharing a room with up to ten other backpackers. Some of my most peaceful and enjoyable moments were exploring an unnamed beach on the mellow west coast of the south Island in New Zealand. There wasn’t another person in sight, just me and the elements. I learnt that to keep my mind healthy, I needed to find a balance of time to myself, and time to socialise with others.
  8. I learn to value quality over quantity. When living out of a suitcase or a backpack, I had to be very picky what I carried with me at all times. Even though I got very good at fitting as much as possible into my backpack – rolling your clothes does wonders – I still had to prioritise what I valued the most. In reality, it led me to living a more minimalistic lifestyle, where items with multiple purposes were the most valuable.
  9. I learnt how to be more spontaneous and adventurous. Leaving things last minute is not something I do regularly, but adjusting my life to be a little more spontaneous has led to a more exciting lifestyle. Plans change when travelling, and when I thought I would be relaxing by a lake in Queenstown, instead I was booking the highest bungee jump in the country alone! I was always an active person, but travelling helped shape me into a more ambitious person.
  10. I learnt to appreciate and take pride in where I am from. My mind is constantly daydreaming about bigger and better places abroad that I want to visit. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Though I don’t like to admit it, I used to take the beauty around me for granted. It took until I was telling other travellers about where I was from, to realise my home was a top destination for many people! This triggered a pride that I had been missing, and I’ve been taking full advantage of my backyard while I’m at home ever since.

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    Early Morning at Lake O’hara, Canada

8 Reasons Why You Should Travel With Your Best Friend

My second big trip abroad was unlike my first in many ways. I had a more realistic idea of what I wanted out of my trip, there was no expectation to religiously stick to a plan, and this time, I brought my best friend Stephanie with me. Neither of us were happy in our university programs, me in my first year and her in her second. I had invited Steph on my previous trip to New Zealand, but she had commitments that she couldn’t risk compromising. So one gloomy day in the middle of winter, sitting on my dorm room bed, I suggested to her that we go to Australia in the fall, instead of university. I was serious about the idea, but didn’t know if she would say yes, and honestly at the point I might not have gone without her. But luckily she’d had enough or dorm rooms and lecture halls, and said yes!

Our trip was full of excitement and many changes. We ended up traveling together for seven months, and then I went off on my own for one month before I went back home to Canada for the summer and for my brothers high school graduation. Steph on the other hand stayed in Australia for the full two years of her visa! Both of us still plan to continue travelling and we learnt a lot on our trip together. It was the best decision we could have made to travel with our best friend, so here I have outlined the reasons on why you should travel at least once with you best friend as well!

  1. It tests your friendship. If you think you were close before, try being with each other all day every day and making every decision together. When things go south you have to work with the other person to problem solve, instead of blaming one another as a jerk reaction. As a result, if travel doesn’t tear you apart, it is going to make you closer than ever. It turned out I liked to plan more than Steph did, so in the beginning I felt like I was doing all the work, but in reality she recognized that I loved planning and she didn’t mind either way. Having someone I was so close to was helpful because we could discuss the issue and get through it smoothly. You also have someone with you who is comfortable calling you out when you are being annoying or unreasonable which can prevent a lot of travel mistakes from happening.
  2. You will never be lonely. Hostels can be an intimidating place. The bigger they are, the more people there are to socialize with. Walking up to a group of ten backpackers that are already in established conversation can be a socially stressful move. If you and your best friend approach together, you will feel like you have a bit of backup. Steph and I found that socializing at every hostel could be quite exhausting. When travelling with a friend, you won’t feel as obligated to make new friends at each hostel if you are exhausted or not in the greatest mood. We never felt isolated in the crowd because we were never alone.
  3. You have someone to help you when things go wrong. Travel is never perfect. People who think backpackers are on a permanent holiday only see half of what goes on. When your credit card gets blocked in a foreign country, or one of your belongings is stolen, situations can get very stressful. I found having my best friend around was helpful because we could talk each other through the tough situations. I lost count of how many times my credit card was blocked in Australia and Steph had the same problem. Luckily we always had each others back, and our cards never seemed to be blocked at the same time!

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    Uluwatu Temple, Bali

  4. You have someone to share all of the amazing memories with. Having your best friend travel with you is like having your own personal photographer. Unless you want a photo together, you’ll never have to ask a stranger to awkwardly take a photo of you again! I also found that when arriving home after travelling solo, friends and family like to hear about your trip for the first week or two after you get home, but then the novelty wears off and they tire of hearing about that time you snorkeled the great barrier reef and half the boat got seasick. But your best friend who was on the boat with you will love to recall your hilarious memories you made together.
  5. You can split certain travel costs. Sometimes you won’t be travelling at peak times of day and public transportation won’t always be an option. Cabs can be expensive if you don’t have someone to share them with. Split between you and your best friend will save you quite a bit of money after a while! When you aren’t travelling solo you also have the option to upgrade to a hotel or an airbnb for the night. Alone it wouldn’t be affordable but when splitting the costs it can be a similiar price to a bed in a hostel, plus you get your own room, kitchen ad bathroom!
  6. You encourage each other to get out of your comfort zone. Chances are you trust your best friend more than most people in your life. What better way to encourage each other to do fun and exciting things you might not normally do? Whether it be skydiving, bungee jumping or going to a nude beach, you may only have the guts to try these things with you best friend’s support. Without having Steph with me, I may have never gone skinny dipping in the ocean. Doing goofy or adventurous things is easier with someone you love and trust.
  7. You have one less person to communicate with at home. Not everyone can just cut off communication with their friends and family back home while they travel. It can take up a lot of time scheduling skype calls or answering multiple emails. Chances are the closer you are with someone, the more you will keep in touch, therefore all the time you would be spending telling them about your trip, you could actually be making more memories with them in person.
  8. You have someone you trust with you during your worst moments. I have had many incidents where Steph has seen me at my worst and it goes both ways. There’s nothing like some random you met seeing you throw up and hold your hair when they barely know your name. those hangover days, sick days, homesick days or just plain everything is going wrong days are easier when you know your travel companion isn’t judging you. You may have thought you’ve seen each other at your worst, but travel will test those limits. But it will all be worth it because just when you think everything is wrong and you should book your plane ticket home, you have a support system with you who will convince you to keep going.

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    Dreamland Beach, Bali

Overheating on a Back Road in Australia

One of the great opportunities I had in Australia was to work for accommodation in a hostel in the cute town of Port Macquarie. My best friend and I had just set up our bank accounts and we had received our tax file numbers in Adelaide after travelling for a month, and we got a response for a job offer. We didn’t know what the job was, but the accommodation was free so we booked the flight for the end of the week.

Port Mac wasn’t like the other small towns on the East Coast of Australia. Tucked between Newcastle and Coffs Harbour the main backpacker attention it got was for surfing without all the hype of places like Byron Bay. The town had a gorgeous coastline and a chill vibe that my friend and I took an immediate liking to.

Arriving at Beachside Backpackers in Port Mac was unlike any other hostel I’d been to. It was run by a handful of young adults, all with the genuine goal of being welcoming and entertaining. We were told we would drive the hostel van to and from certain points to accommodate the guests. This meant a minimum of two trips to the greyhound station a day when the bus came from the North and South to drop of backpackers and provide them with a free ride to the hostel. It also required us to drive guests who wanted to hike the popular coast trail to the trailhead, where they could then walk the coast back to the town and hostel. The van was painted like the mystery machine from Scooby doo with the addition of the hostel name written on the side. It seemed like an easy enough job for a free bed, with one exception, we had never driven on the left side of the road before.

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Beach in Port Macquarie

In the one month, we worked at beachside we each had a few minor incidents of driving on the wrong side of the road, but none that led to any accidents. What was more difficult for me was getting used to how much space the big van took up on the narrow Australian roads compared to my small Toyota matrix back home on wide Canadian highways, but I gradually adjusted. It was fun to have a job where you could blast the radio and hang out at the beach in between bus runs. We even had the opportunity to take a group of guests who wanted to take a day trip out to certain locations. It was the most freedom I’ve ever felt in a job.

The only time we took a day trip with the bus was to a waterfall. My friend and I had been looking up multiple locations within a couple hour radius of Port Mac and had decided that Ellenborough Falls was where we were going to go. We had the permission of the hostel owner, and after picking doing our morning bus run, we set out with a full van.

We had heard that there was a long dirt road on the way to the falls. I had my phone on google maps in my hand as my friend drove and admittedly, I got us lost on the way there. It turned a supposed 1 hour 45-minute journey into a 2.5 hour one. The road was downhill, long and bumpy so we had to take it very slowly.

Once we reached the falls there was a viewpoint from above or we could take 800 steps down to the bottom. We excitedly headed down the steps, and about half way down realised how difficult it was going to be to come back up. The stairs were steep and uneven, not regularly maintained but coming out to the bottom of the falls was worth it. Ellenborough was huge and the spray reached us from where we were changing into our bathing suits. We jumped between the slippery rocks and dove into the water below the aggressive falls.

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Above viewpoint of Ellenborough Falls

As expected, the walk up felt like triple the number of steps. It took a while, as the members of the group had a variety of fitness levels, but eventually we all made it to the top. A couple of the guys had a celebratory smoke at the top. We jumped back into the van and it was my turn to drive back.

I started up the engine and slowly took on the uphill. We drove about twenty minutes past a small town, having seen no one else on the road and the temperature gage started to rise. I kept an eye on it for another minute and stopped the vehicle when it went into the red zone. None of us knew much about cars so we stopped and waited for the slim possibility of a vehicle to drive by for help. All our cell phones were out, but we were in the middle of no-where, and no one had any signal.

After a few minutes of discussion, we heard a vehicle come flying on the road towards us and he slammed his brakes. He has only one spot in his vehicle and had no way to help but he pulled out a half finished six pack of beer for us and wished us luck. After waiting some more, another vehicle came around and it turned out he had overheated as well. He took off his liquid cap and it catapulted up and he went running to find it in the bushes. He helped us find where ours was and we used all of our drinking water to fill up, it sizzled inside the vehicle. After a bit of advice and more wishes of luck this man also left us alone on the dirt road.

After some time waiting one of us managed to get the tiniest amount of cell signal to call the hostel owner and say we might not make the evening bus run. The temperature gage had started to go down after putting in the water, so everyone walked up the road while I drove alone in the van behind them until the temperature started rising again. We drove, walked and waited a few more times before we managed to spot a creek. The creek was our jackpot. We all filled up our water bottles and poured them into the vehicle and I carefully drove everyone back to Port Macquarie.

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The Mystery Machine, Beachside Backpacker Hostel Van

It still amazes me that we made it back without more damage to the vehicle. The owner didn’t even bring the vehicle to the shop afterwards! Weeks later when I was packing up to leave this job, the mystery machine was still driving as if nothing had ever happened.

Photo Diary: A Day in London

I arrived in London keen to start my Youth Mobility Visa, AKA, my working holiday! I had a job at a pub sorted before I landed, and my boyfriend Tom picked me up from the airport. We only had a couple days to spend in London before I started work, so we made the choice of going on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city for a day. It ended up being the best way to see as much as we could of the city in a short period of time!

 

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St. Pancras Station

 

We started off our bus tour from St. Pancras station, the closest station to our hotel. We sat on the top floor of the bus to get better views of the buildings, even though it was a bit chilly in October!

 

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Trafalgar Square

 

Our first stop was Trafalgar Square! It was named after the Battle of Trafalgar. We wandered around the square checking out the statues, architecture and a handful of great coffee shops. It was a very busy area!

 

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Double Decker Bus

 

I was so excited to see my first red double decker bus while walking to our bus stop on the tour! The double decker bus we were on for the tour was blue,  not red unfortunately.

 

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

 

Our Next stop was at St. Paul’s Cathedral! It is a working Christian church, with hourly prayer. Though we didn’t go inside, there is tourist entry. I found the architecture to be so impressive!

 

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Tower of London

 

The Tower of London was the next stop on our tour. It is a historical castle on the River Thames and was used as a prison during the war. This was my very first castle experience, and it did not disappoint!

 

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Tower Bridge

 

From there we walked to Tower Bridge! This really felt iconic of London for me. It is a combined bascule and suspension bridge. It was here that we crossed over to the other side of the River Thames to catch our next bus on our tour.

 

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The London Eye

 

Our next stop was the London Eye. We didn’t go on the Eye because I have already been on the Melbourne Eye, and we were running short of time. It is easily the more iconic, picturesque symbol of London for me. But this view of it from the London Bridge is hard to beat!

 

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Big Ben

 

Walking across the London Bridge give us the perfect view of Big Ben, part of Westminster! This National timepiece towered ahead of us while walking across the River Thames. I was excited to see the clock tower and the Houses of Parliament.

 

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Buckingham Palace

 

Our Final and most anticipated stop of the tour was at Buckingham Palace! We saw the Queens Guard marching out front, but the flag wasn’t raised, which indicated that the Queen was not at the Palace. We still really enjoyed getting to see this popular monument!

 

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Victoria Memorial

 

All in all we really enjoyed our day in London, even with it being rushed! This last photo is of me in front of the Queen Victoria Memorial beside Buckingham Palace. I had the opportunity to go back to London a couple of times during my stay in England, but this was the day full of the most exciting sightseeing!

What to do on the Gili Islands

The Gili islands in Indonesia are the closest I’ve been to paradise! A quick ferry journey from Bali took me to Gili Trawangan, or Gili T for short. It is the biggest of the three islands, the others being Gili Air and Gili Meno. The downstairs of the ferry had regular seats, but when I went up to the roof I found blasting reggae music and sections where I could put down a towel and relax in the sun. I hastily grabbed my spot for the relaxing journey!

When travelling Indonesia, the Gili islands are not to be missed. Here are a few things you should check out when you’re there!

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Our view when arriving to Gili Trawangan

  1. Bike around Gili Trawangan!

When arriving at Gili T, the first thing I noticed was that there were no vehicles on the island. In fact, none of the Gili islands had vehicles. Getting around required either walking, bicycling or donkey. The donkey taxis took people to their hotels on the other side of the island. Even with Gili T being the biggest of the three, it didn’t take longer than one to two hours to bike around the entire island.

  1. Snorkel for sea turtles

If you look up any photos of the islands you will notice the crystal clear waters. This makes Gili a great place to snorkel! There are lots of companies on the island that will rent you gear and take you out on a boat to the best locations. We saw huge sea turtles when I was there! It was definitely a magical moment!

  1. Check out one of Gili’s famous ocean swings

Gili is known for its famous ocean swings. There are two you can visit on Gili T for the sunset photo that everyone wants. The famous two-person swing is at Hotel Ombak. The other one is a single swing and a hammock at The Exile bar. I prefer The Exile bar because it’s more casual. You can grab a drink and enjoy! At the Hotel Ombak it is relaxed as well, but you might have some people irritated if you are there without being a guest at the hotel. The Exile bar is also closer to the main town on Gili T.

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A view of the The Exile Bar ocean swing

  1. Go to the beer pong bar

Gili targets a young audience, especially Gili T. There are plenty of bars and night clubs at your disposal. My favourite was the beer pong bar! The tables are already set up and it is a great place to start your drinking before moving on somewhere else. Everyone loves a good beer pong tournament!              

A few more things to note before your visit!

Something to note about the Gili islands is that like the rest of Indonesia, the alcohol isn’t as cheap as other places in South East Asia. Indonesia has an import tax on their alcohol of 150%! Local wine or beer are the more affordable drinks you can purchase while you are there.

If you walk down the street in the evening you will notice multiple locals holding out big signs advertising that they have mushrooms. Now I am definitely no drug expert, but a woman I was with that evening, who had been to the island many times bought some. They are not dried mushrooms like the normal hallucinogenic ones. This woman knew exactly which man to buy them from. He worked behind a bar that was not advertising to the public like the others were. She explained that she didn’t trust the other people who were selling them on the street. These mushrooms gave her a happy high, where everything was bright and wonderful, no hallucinations. It might be something to note if you’re into that sort of partying.

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Clear Waters of the Gili Islands

All in all Bali was a pretty incredible place, and I will definitely be visiting this paradise again!

 

 

What to See and Do in New Zealand

New Zealand was the first big trip I took as a young adult. One fateful morning I had it in my head I wanted to travel instead of going to University, and by that evening I had already made mind. I had a teacher in grade seven who had moved from New Zealand to Canada, and I remember him showing our class where he grew up on google earth. The image was blurry, but it was a big house on the ocean with a pool in the backyard. I had wanted to go ever since!

I was in New Zealand for five months. You can check out my post, Why I Started a Travel and Outdoor Blog, to read more about how this trip influenced me. I saw my fair share of New Zealand and I have compiled a list of places and activities that I think shouldn’t be missed when travelling this gorgeous country!

I’ll start with the North Island!

When arriving in Auckland, it was difficult to decide where to start. I took advice from friends who had been to New Zealand before me and skipped Auckland entirely. South of this city is a branch off the north island called the Coromandel coast. I HIGHLY recommend going there. It’s easy to miss because it’s a little out of the way but that would be a big mistake! There’s a great small town called Whitianga that you can use as a base for exploring the area. It’s on the coast so there’s a nice beach, but the best part is that it gives you close access to Cathedral Cove and a Hot Water beach. Cathedral cove is a huge rock archway surrounded by creamy cliffs that you can access by foot or by boat. It is worth spending some time relaxing at this beach in this one of a kind location!

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Cliffs on the Coromandel Coast

My personal favourite spot that many people skip in NZ is Tauranga. I had the fortune of living here for two months. It is a small and not very touristy city but if you go to the coast section where Mt. Maunganui sits, you won’t regret visiting. The beach is golden and you can walk on trails out on rocky bluffs in the ocean. You can even hike up Mt. Maunganui to get a fantastic view of the city! It tends to be more of a city that backpackers try to find work instead of visiting for the sights, so the hostel feel is calmer than in other locations.

I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan! Not the Hobbit, just Lord of the Rings. Now that I got that off my chest, I think regardless of whether you’ve seen these films or not, you should go to Hobbiton. It is actually where they filmed the scenes in the movies! You can book a tour that takes you around to the most memorable and iconic homes from the movies, and to finish it off you can have a pint at the Green Dragon. All tours come with one complementary drink at the end! It is quite the experience and I met a few people on the tour who hadn’t even seen the movies and still enjoyed it.

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Bilbo Baggins House in Hobbiton

Lake Taupo is a great destination to relax near a fresh water lake. It is very large and not very warm for swimming, but this makes it a great place to go sailing! I’d never been sailing on a lake before but I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was. We sailed to a cliffy area only accessed by boat, and saw incredible carvings in the rock done by the Māori, the New Zealand Natives. It was incredible to see, and left me in wonder of how they could have carved it in the first place!

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Acidic Lakes on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

For all the hikers out there, don’t just buzz down to Queenstown quite yet! Tongariro alpine crossing is on the north island and it is worth your time. Make sure you start the hike early in the morning, due to how busy the trail can be. It is best to beat the crowds, especially if it is supposed to be a beautiful day! The trail takes you through beautiful mountains ranges, and once again, if you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you have a view of mount doom! You also pass by the Emerald Lakes which are cold acidic lakes that smell of sulphur. The hike is 19.4km one way, and takes approximately 6-8 hours to complete. It is best to book it, as transport will be provided to you at the end of the hike.

 

And now the South Island!

Crossing over to the South Island you arrive in Picton, a small and pretty town, and there are a variety of directions you can choose to travel from this point. The East Coast is the most common way people go, but I suggest going down the West Coast instead! The towns aren’t nearly as busy, and there are some sights that you shouldn’t miss along the way.

Punakaiki is a tiny town on the west coast of the south island, and is lucky enough to have the transit system stop there. If it didn’t, I would have never heard about this place! There is one hostel on the coast that is about a ten minute walk from the bus stop. The rocky coast towers above Punakaiki. It’s so quiet and rugged that it was one of the most natural feeling places I went to in the New Zealand. It is also conveniently located beside the pancake rocks and blowholes. Tourists who don’t stay here overnight will often quickly walk to the pancake rocks, while the bus takes a fifteen minute break. If you arrive in the morning you may be lucky enough to witness the ocean water pummel up through the blowhole for quite the sight!

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Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki

Most people probably have Franz Joseph Glacier on their list of places they want to go. When I arrived it was warmer out, and unfortunately with climate change, the glaciers are slowly receding. Because of my timing Franz Joseph Glacier was only doing helicopter tours to get to the glacier, instead of the regular walking tours. The helicopter tours were nearly $200 more expensive than the walking tours, and I found out that Fox Glacier, which was close by and often overlooked, was still doing regular walking tours! I booked Fox and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure why Franz Joseph is the more popular one, but I am here to tell you that either one you chose will be a good choice!

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Me Climbing Through an Ice Tunnel on Fox Glacier

Dunedin is a city that can also be overlooked when travelling in New Zealand. It is very much a student town, so there are lots of bars and entertainment around. I personally went to Dunedin because I was searching for penguins, and I found them! You can book tours that take you out to protected areas to view wildlife like seals, sea lions and penguins! It is a very special experience because you get to view them in their natural habitat, and very few tour operators have access to these areas since they are closed off to the rest of the public.

You can’t go to New Zealand without stopping in Queenstown. In fact, you should stop there for at least a week if you can! It is the outdoor/adrenaline junkies paradise. Whether it is luge, speed boating, hiking or bungy jumping, there is something to do for everyone. For the adrenaline junky, make sure to check out the Nevis bungy and swing. There are three bungy jump options in Queenstown, but this one is the largest and if you book it together with the Nevis swing you can get a good deal! The Nevis swing is the largest swing in the WORLD! So if bungy jumping isn’t your thing, then at least try out the swing! After all the intense activities make sure to check out the famous restaurant, Fergburger. It is listed in the Lonely Planet travel guides because it is so popular. It is open 23 hours per day, so you can go in the middle of the night after leaving the bars! They are by far the best burgers I have ever had!

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View of Queenstown and the Surrounding Mountains

From Queenstown you can take a day trip to Milford Sound. Milford sound is one of the wettest places in the world. It averages on 189 days of rain per year! Definitely make sure you check the forecast before you book. I was lucky enough to see Milford Sound on a sunny day! The boat tour takes you around the mountainous cliffs rising out of the ocean, and depending on the tour, underneath a few waterfalls as well. The scenery is spectacular, but make sure you keep your camera dry!

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Milford Sound Cliffs

New Zealand is a very special place, and there are definitely many more amazing places to visit that I didn’t write about. For example, I was feeling ill when I was in Wanaka, so I didn’t spend a lot of time out of my hostel dorm. Every time I tried to book the Abel Tasman, it was pouring rain! Regardless of these things, I still had amazing experiences, and would encourage anyone thinking about travelling to New Zealand to go! Out of the blue you could be seeing a Māori man walking down the street with tribal face tattoos. This country has such diverse landscapes and the culture is so intriguing, how could you not want to visit?

 

My Favourite Things About Australia

I talk about Australia a lot! It is the country that I have spent the most consecutive amount of time in, besides my home country, Canada. Australia is a lot like Canada. The cultural differences weren’t as significant as when I travelled to places like Asia or North Africa. For this reason it was really easy for me to travel through Australia, work and enjoy all of its beauty. I didn’t have to worry about a language barrier and similar businesses from home were there to greet me. But what did I really love about Australia? There are so many great things about this country, but I will highlight my favourite parts to you, and hopefully you can one day enjoy them too!

I think it is required to start off my favourite things about Australia with their slang vocabulary. When I said that there wasn’t a language barrier, that wasn’t entirely accurate. I may speak English but it took me some time to understand the commonly used slang words that Aussies use. Once you get used to them they can be quite amusing and you catch yourself using them when you’ve been in the country long enough. Here are some examples!

Avo: Short for avocado. “I’m going to pick up an avo from the market.”

Arvo: This got me confused.  It means afternoon? “I’m going to pick up an avo from the market this arvo.”

Bottle-o: A bottle store, or a liquor store.

Roo: Kangaroo

Barby: I’m sure most people know that barby is short for barbeque. “Let’s fire up the barby this arvo and cook a roo steak.”

Sweet as: This can mean a variety of things like, sweet, awesome, okay. There are other examples of how adding ‘as’ into the sentence changes it. “It’s hot as out here” means it’s very hot out here.

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A Secluded Beach on the Great Ocean Road

Besides the slang used, another one of my favourite things about Australia is the coastline. I once heard that you could visit a new beach every day in Australia for 29 years. A quick google search tells me that this means there are 10,685 beaches! Now I don’t know about you but I could commit to 29 years of chasing beaches if I had the time and money.

With the beaches also came the wildlife. I was happy to find out that seeing wildlife in Australia wasn’t as rare as I thought it might be. I went to Stewart Island below Melbourne to see penguins coming out of the water at sunset. I also got to go on a special river to see crocodiles in the wild. The amount of force hearing the snap of their jaws was incredible! There are many koala sanctuaries you can visit if you don’t see a koala in the wild and I saw kangaroos EVERYWHERE, as well as wallabies. The only downside to the wildlife was that driving at night was hazardous because of the amount of roos that are hit on the roads.

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A Crocodile on the Adelaide River

 

Speaking of driving, the scenic road trips you can do in Australia are unbelievable! The most well-known one is probably the Great Ocean Road. The rocky cliffs and the beautiful beaches all make these drives absolutely incredible. Another drive most people attempt is the east coast from Cairns to Sydney. Though a lot of this drive is on freeways without any ocean views, the big and small coastline towns along the way are worth stopping in. Each has their own vibe and culture.

When doing these road trips make sure you stop in Australia’s National Parks. I have worked in a National Park back home in Canada, so I always have an appreciation for them when I’m abroad. A few examples of great Parks I went to while I was in Australia were Litchfield NP and Uluru-Kata Tjuta NP in Northern Territory and Blue Mountains NP in New South Wales! These are some of the most picturesque locations in Australia, and are definitely worth a visit.

You don’t have to be in a National Park in Australia to have good hiking. There are tons of hiking trails in Australia which was something I was very interested in. An Adelaide local took my friend and I on a hike up Mt. Lofty for a beautiful view of the city meeting the ocean. It was so hot that it certainly helped that there was a café on the top! There is a gorgeous coastal walk in Port Macquarie that is 9km one way. Just beware that this one passes a nude beach where I only ever saw old Aussie men. It’s still worth the walk as long as you avert your eyes!

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Three Sisters in Blue Moutains NP

I also loved the surfing in this country! Now I should make it clear that I didn’t successfully learn to surf in Australia. I learnt in Bali on significantly smaller waves. My one day of trying to surf in Australia-being my first attempt ever- led me to doing what my friends and I like to call ‘the scorpion’. Basically I fell over the front of the board and my ankle band pulled me underwater in a way that made my feet nearly touch the back of my head. I am not a flexible person and my back was out for the next month. But I still loved going to the beach and watching other people successfully surf while I healed!

Something I didn’t expect in Australia was the amount of vegetarian options that were available in most places. The best veggie burgers and sausages I have ever had were in Australia. There is a ‘fast food’ chain in the bigger cities called ‘Lord of The Fries’ which I highly recommend to people. It’s actually vegan and it sells everything from burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes! I am a pescatarian, so I can eat fish, but I was so happy to find that there were lots of vegetarian options while travelling. It made my trip so much easier! The only exception to this was travelling though tiny towns in the outback, where the only place to buy food was a gas station that sold chocolate, chips and meat pies.

As someone who worked while travelling Australia, another thing that I loved was the minimum wage. It is $17.70 per hour right now, which is $17.35 Canadian. This meant that as long as I was getting paid legally in Australia is was quite easy to work for a few months and save a lot of money for the rest of my travels!

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Melbourne at Christmas

Like many places, the cities were usually more expensive than the small towns. I grew up in a few different small towns in Canada, and have never been a city person, so this suited me. Regardless of this, the cities in Australia were still some of my favourite places to visit. They were so clean, accessible and the skylines were beautiful! Some of my best moments were walking through multiple parks in Sydney trying to find the best lookout point of the Opera House.

Australia is huge and this can be seen as a good and a bad thing. I have been to Australia twice now, having only seen Sydney on my first trip. It solidified my need to come again because I realised how much more there was to see. If you look at a map of Australia and the United States they are nearly the same size! I didn’t get to see all that I wanted to in the seven months I was there, but when looking at all my favourite things in this country, it makes the choice of going back in the future so much easier to make!

 

 

 

 

25 Things You Should Do in Banff National Park

 

Sights:

Banff NP is known for its spectacular backdrop of mountains. But the amount of beautiful alpine and glacial lakes in this Park are worth checking out as well. Make a day of ‘Chasing Lakes’ and try to see more than just the top three!

  1. Lake Louise
  2. Moraine Lake
  3. Peyto Lake
  4. Bow Lake
  5. Lake Minnewanka
  6. Two Jack Lake
  7. Vermillion Lakes
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Taking in my surroundings at Moraine Lake

Drives:

Driving in Banff NP can be just as beautiful as the top viewpoints. Check out these drives to have a real rocky mountain road trip experience!

  1. View wildlife on the Bow Valley Parkway
  2. See wildlife and spectacular views on the south part of Icefields Parkway

 

Hikes:

Hiking is my number one hobby in the National Parks. The hikes listed below are doable for most people who don’t hike regularly. Just remember to take bear spray and take your time. Oh, and have fun! Check out the Parks Canada website for accurate information on the hikes such as length, elevation gain and trail reports beforehand.

  1. Johnson Canyon
  2. Bourgeau Lake
  3. Fairview Mountain
  4. Helen Lake
  5. Lake Agnes Tea House
  6. Plain of Six Glacier Tea House
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Reflection on Helen Lake

Ski:

Skiing and Snowboarding are huge in Banff NP in the winter. People come from all over the world to experience these slopes. My favourite is Lake Louise, but if you’re here in the winter try out a few and decide for yourself!

  1. Norquay
  2. Sunshine Mountain Village
  3. Lake Louise Ski Hill

 

Banff Townsite:

The town of Banff is always incredibly busy. It is filled with gift shops, athletic clothing stores, sweet shops, you name it! But besides shopping, there are more interesting sights to visit in town. Below are a few of these things!

  1. Walk down Banff Avenue
  2. Walk up Tunnel Mountain
  3. Stand below Bow Falls
  4. Visit Cave and Basin Natural Historic Site
  5. Soak in Banff Hot Springs
  6. Enjoy the Banff Gondola views
  7. Check out the Banff Park Museum
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Looking down Banff Avenue

 

 

 

 

How to Dress Appropriately in Morocco: A Female Backpacker’s Point of View

It was February, and I was sitting on a train travelling from Birmingham to Bath, excited about my opportunity to see Stonehenge. I had been working in a pub in a small town outside of Birmingham for four months and only had one month left. The idea of seeing Stonehenge had my imagination running wild, and sitting next to my co-worker, I suddenly blurted out, ‘I think we should go to Morocco!’ Though my co-worker couldn’t fit it into her schedule to go with me, my partner Tom agreed it was a great way to end our time in England, so we booked the flights within the week! We would stop in Morocco before our next destination, Canada.

Having never been to an African country before, I did a lot of research. Every website was telling me different things about appropriate clothing to wear. As a woman should I be covering my shoulders and my knees? Should I be wearing a headscarf? Should I be always with my partner Tom in public? It took until I arrived in Casablanca, and spoke to a local man at our hotel to get definite answers. I packed a few t-shirts, scarfs, two long pants that weren’t tight to my skin, and a long flowing skirt. This proved to be the right choice.

 

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One of my outfits in Morocco

Do I have to wear a headscarf?

It wasn’t hard to spot a tourist in Morocco. They either dressed overly cautious, or like they were about to go to the beach. As a woman with blonde hair, I read online that I would get a lot of attention if I didn’t wear a head scarf. Considering many women residents in Morocco don’t wear a head scarf themselves, I figured this wasn’t necessary, and therefore I only wore one occasionally. Even when wearing one, my skin was so pale that people knew I wasn’t a local, so that didn’t stop the curious stares.

Can I wear jeans?

I also read mixed information about whether or not a woman should wear jeans. I brought a pair with me that were loosely fitted, hoping that they would be acceptable. The first thing I noticed in the airport in Casablanca was many local women were dressed very modern, in tighter jeans than I owned at home! I was relieved that I hadn’t used up space in my bag for an item of clothing I wouldn’t be able to wear. It started to feel like this country was made out to be far more conservative than it actually was.

 Should I cover my tattoos?

Since Morocco has quite the mixture of modern and conservative locals, I don’t think it is necessary to cover up your tattoos unless they are offensive in some way. Big cities like Marrakesh get many tourists, so they’ve seen it all before. I have a tattoo of a bear on my arm that was partly visible when I was wearing a t-shirt and I didn’t feel like it received a second glance.

Should my shoulders be covered?

Now don’t get me wrong, there is still a level of respect a tourist should have while dressing. I did learn that your shoulders should always be covered. This meant for men and women. Seeing other tourists show their shoulders was like seeing a woman with excessive cleavage back home. You can do it, but you should also expect a lot of negative attention. Most of the negative attention I noticed on myself was coming from conservatively dressed Moroccan women, even when I was covered up as much as possible. Even with this, I never had any issue that was more than a judgemental glare.

Should my knees be covered?

It is respectful for men and women to have their knees covered, though it isn’t as frowned upon if you wear shorts as some websites make it out to be. Just make sure they reach at least half way down your thigh. The exception for this is if you are visiting a temple, then everyone needs to cover up. It was disappointing for me to see huge tour groups of European families letting their young daughters run around in cropped tank tops showing their belly, and wearing the shortest of shorts. It felt like their flight to Australia had accidentally landed in an Arabic country without them realizing. Groups like this must have either been totally ignorant to the countries customs, or could care less.

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Enjoying a sunset in the Sahara, Morocco

I am all about freedom of expression, but every experienced backpacker knows that when travelling, we have to have a respect and understanding that not every country is the same. We must educate ourselves to be prepared for the different cultures we explore abroad. For me, embracing the way a particular country dresses, is all part of the adventure!