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".
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.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
They say hope was the last thing to die in Auschwitz.
It's been just over 70 years since the Allies liberated the death camp and the horrors of the "Final Solution" were revealed to the world. Prior to their arrival, Auschwitz was the most effective death camp ever created, having taken the lives of over 1.1 million Jews.
Block 4 of Auschwitz holds the museum, explaining the best it can about what happened seven decades past. The museum explains what Auschwitz was originally built for – a camp for Polish prisoners of war – and how it became key to the Nazi's "Final Solution". The museum goes over the construction of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the increased sizes and effectiveness of gas chambers and the factories of death that stood and smoked over the camp during its operation.
I've known Jenn Smith Nelson for several years now, and I often look up to her for inspiration and guidance on how to grow with my blog. I remember hearing about her book over a year ago, and I've been holding my breath in anticipation ever since.
Smith Nelson teamed up with Doug O'Neill, another talented travel writer, to cover two Canadian provinces. Their new book, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, is a part of a Firefly Books series that showcase Canada's diversity of nature.