When people ask me what there is to see in Saskatchewan, I don't know what to tell them. This isn't because there's nothing to see in Saskatchewan, but because I'm not sure where to start. Although I've lived here for over 20 years, I've only seen a small fraction of it. Thankfully, that's why we have the Saskatchewanderer.
In an earlier blog I introduced Ashlyn George, Saskatchewan's fourth Saskatchewanderer. The past year Ashlyn has been driving around the prairies going on a plethora of adventures both above ground, below ground, in the water, and in the air. From mining underground for potash in Vanscoy to raising the dead in Indian Head, Ashlyn is on her way to breaking over 38,000 kilometers driven by years end.
Although she's done just about everything, from snow kiting to wind surfing to air gliding to pizza growing, Ashlyn's favorite adventure hasn't been the scheduled time, but the unscheduled time – the time when she had the "freedom to wander".
Every town in Saskatchewan has a story, and every town has something unique. She found the best way to really discover a community is to ask the local residences what there is to see. It was the unexpected adventures and spontaneity that created the best memories. One of these was her unexpected bump in with the jiggers just outside Shaunavon.
Ashlyn was also able to spend the night in some pretty extraordinary places, like the teepees of Grasslands National Park, the yurts in Flora Bora and the Water's Edge Eco Lodge in Meadow Lake.
When she wasn't waking up to some of the most gorgeous landscapes our province has to offer, Ashlyn was getting her hands dirty with geologists up at Axis Lake by Stony Rapids, archeologists in Wanuskewin, picking berries in Bend on the River Berries, feeding the cows at Rayner Dairy Research and even catching herself a 25 pound, 43 inch northern pike.
Ashlyn even had the opportunity to fly with the mesmerizing Snowbirds, and took an incredible selfie while flying with the Saskatoon flying club, 3,000 feet into the air!
Unfortunately, Ashlyn's incredible stories of being the Saskatchewanderer are coming to an end. Her final day is December 18th, a little over a month away. Thanks to Ashlyn and Tourism Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewanderer program has blossomed, with over 5,000 followers on Instagram, 6,000 followers on Twitter and 17,000 likes on Facebook. Her inspiring travels have shown corners of the province people knew very little about, and have brought lesser known stories to light – like the fact that Indian Head was once the national capitol of baseball from the 1940s to the 1950s.
The end of Ashlyn's adventure ushers in a new Saskatchewanderer, one with very big shoes to fill. People can apply for the position, but only until November 9th at noon. The position runs from January to December 2016, and you are paid between $55,000 and $60,000 a year.
The website description of the role is: "[To] promote our province to the world, showing what it's like to live, work and play in our province. Some of your responsibilities will include: choosing locations and events to explore, setting up and conducting interviews, shooting and editing video, writing stories and populating a blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with high-quality content that shows off the best of Saskatchewan. You will need to be able to work well independently, since most of the time you'll be on the road on your own."
Whoever gets in, Ashlyn has some advice:
"Just be you. Have your own personality."
When asked if she could go back and give herself any advice, she responded:
"I wouldn't do anything different. The summer was really busy... but, there's no way around it. There's just so many great things to write about, so many stories to tell. You want to make sure the whole story's there. I wouldn't change anything I did.
That's satisfying saying that, knowing that. I did the best I was capable of giving all year. I gave it 110% all the time!"
And all of Saskatchewan thanks you, and will miss you.
150 years ago, Canada became a country, albeit a much smaller one. Since then, Canada has grown much in size, reputation and as a favorite for travellers from around the world. Lonely Planet recognized these accomplishments last year and ranked Canada as the #1 travel destination in 2017. With the addition of free National Parks all year long, 2017 is the perfect time to visit the Great White North!
I am always interested in Canadian adventures, so I thought I'd check out G Adventure's website to see what tours they have planned this year. Since G Adventures is a Canadian based travel company, I figured they would have something going on this year to celebrate our sesquicentennial. Instead, all I saw were the same eight tours as last year, and the year before. Thinking maybe there was some big announcement coming for 2017, I emailed G Adventures asking about it, hoping, praying, that maybe there was something, something, anything at all… but I received no response.
Now, don't get me wrong. G Adventures has eight great Canadian tours, and they all look really awesome, but they only show off a small sliver of what Canada has to offer. In fact, four of the tours are almost exactly the same:
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.