It's probably a little baised to say, but Saskatchewan is my favourite province. The people, the culture, the atmosphere and the weather help make this province unlike any other place in Canada. But, being as Saskatchewan is so big and so beautiful, it can be a challenge to know what to go see and do.
Enter the 2017 Saskatchewanderer.
Since I started my blog, I've tried to interview the Saskatchewanderer every year. I couldn't last year due to the provincial election putting a temporary freeze on the program, but this year I could. Last March I called up Andrew Hiltz, the 2017 Saskatchewanderer, and learned about him, his thoughts of the program and his experiences so far.
Andrew grew up in Coronach, Saskatchewan, a small town near the towering Castle Butte and the Big Muddy badlands. As he got older, he moved to Moose Jaw to attend SIAST and received a diploma in Marketing. After graduating, he experienced life in the big city and went to visit his friend in Vancouver. Andrew loved Vancouver so much that that four-month trip quickly transformed into two years. While in Vancouver he was formally introduced to mixed cultures, different foods, unique tastes and a world unlike that of his hometown.
But, Andrew missed his family and eventually moved back to Saskatchewan. When he returned he really began noticing all the different cultural restaurants and festivals that happen throughout the province. It wasn't that these had appeared in his absence, but instead it was that he was seeing them with fresh eyes.
For about a year he practised filmography as a hobby. His videos got better, and he became more and more comfortable around the camera. He had been following the previous Saskatchewanderers and when the job became available, his friends and family encouraged him to apply. He took their advice and entered his name into the pool of scores of other talented people. Leading up to the decision Andrew felt confident he had gotten the job, but the day the call was supposed to come in, that confidence vanished. When the phone finally rang, he said it was "the biggest relief ever" and was a "dream come true".
Andrew became the Saskatchewanderer on January 12th, 2017. Because this past winter was fairly mild, he could easily experience the wonders of outdoor Saskatchewan without freezing too much. He attended the Musher's Rendezvous in Preeceville, Waskimo in Regina and hung out with The Dead South in Langenburg. When I spoke to him in March, he had just gotten back from a weekend of winter camping at Moose Mountain Provincial Park. I have never experienced winter camping before, but I imagine it was probably horrible. Andrew told me instead that it really wasn't that bad. Yes, it was a little cold, but with a good sleeping bag, some hot chocolate and a big meal before bed, he stayed warm all throughout the night. He was hoping the winter would stay longer so he could try it on a colder night, but spring arrived earlier than expected.
His most memorable experience so far was at the Canadian Citizenship Ceremony in Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a multi-millennium old area a few kilometres north of Saskatoon. While a citizenship ceremony isn't something most people would consider the most exciting thing to attend in Saskatchewan, Andrew said it was one of the most powerful things he had ever experienced. He saw over 40 soon-to-be Canadians gave up citizenship of their home country for a chance to start anew. One lady Andrew spoke to left her home country five years ago and can finally bring her children overseas. Five years is a long time to be apart from your children, but it's worth it to know they're growing up in Canada. Andrew said while he didn't have time to talk to everybody there, the ones he did had stories and experiences that were incredibly touching.
Another part of being the Saskatchewanderer that Andrew loves is all the different food he encounters. In my own experiences, I found the amount of food I received while travelling can sometimes be overwhelming, but that isn't the case with Andrew. Instead, he loves all the different food and is constantly excited to taste the next dish.
Many people believe being the Saskatchewanderer is the easiest job in the world, but Andrew has already learned that it isn't. For every 1 hour he spends on the road, he'll spend 3 hours in front of the computer, on social media or making travel plans. The job is full of long days and long nights, but it's also one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Although it's challenging, Andrew loves it.
The first 3 months have been full of food, laughs and adventure, and Andrew is excited to see what the spring and summer have in store. In April, he's heading out to Cypress Hills, but beyond that, he has pages and pages of notes for places he wants to visit. When I interviewed Andrew, he had just finished being on CBC Radio's Blue Sky and was recommended a list of places to visit, so I know he has a lot of travelling to do.
Once he's done being the Saskatchewanderer, Andrew isn't sure what he'll do with his life. He's always wanted to be a radio personality, but time will tell if that ends up being the direction he takes. Until then, he's our 2017 Saskatchewanderer and we wouldn't have him any other way!
Are there any places you want the Saskatchewanderer to visit this year? Let me know in the comments below.
All pictures were taken by, owned by and used with permission by Tourism Saskatchewan.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.