In 2011, Saskatchewan's Ministries of Parks Culture and Sport started the Saskatchewanderer program. The purpose of the program was to hire a Saskatchewan resident full-time for one year to explore the far corners of the province, and become "Saskatchewan's official adventurer, explorer and storyteller". This program is used to highlight all the well-known and lesser-known wonders of this beautifully rectangular province.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the fourth official Saskatchewanderer, Ashlyn George. Ashlyn is a "27 and a half"-year-old adventure blogger who had a childhood dream of being either a ballerina or a doctor. Being born in Leslie, Saskatchewan, she moved to Saskatoon and got both an Education and English degree. While in university, she traveled to Guatemala for an incredible educational experience, solidifying her current love for Central America. After graduation she spent six months traveling through Oceania, meeting many other travelers and learning about other corners of the world. Although she found teaching to be fun and rewarding, it wasn't her passion. Instead, as she soon discovered, travelling was.
"Once you start traveling, you don't cross things off the list..." she said. "You actually start adding things to your list"
To date, Ashlyn has been to 40 countries and 6 continents. She started her personal blog, The Lost Girl's Guide to Finding the World in October 2013. She had just launched her blog when her friends first told her about the Saskatchewanderer program. Although she was interested at the time, she was too busy traveling to drop everything and come back to Saskatchewan. The next year, however, when the opportunity presented itself she decided it was the right time to come back.
She received an email from her mom about the position, applied for it and while traveling through Madagascar she revived another emailing saying she had gotten the job. By January 12th she had hit the road as the fourth Saskatchewanderer.
"It was fairly rushed," she said, "but they were fairly flexible because it was Christmas and New Years and flights would be expensive and hard to get."
Although she has only been on the road for four months, she has traveled over 8,000 kilometers. With the first few months being a very cold, harsh winter, you'd expect it would have been quiet. Instead, February was "insanely busy". That month alone she shot 5 videos, attended the Scotties in Moose Jaw, and went snowmobiling, cross country skiing, bird watched, and participated in the Red Bull Kite Farm just outside of Regina.
While she had never snow kited before, she discovered it had a "great community" and was happy to see the event had brought in people from all over the world. The winner of the competition would go to Norway and represent North America at Red Bull Ragnarok. While there she spoke to Dale Tidy, one of the Red Bull photographers, and he was able to rent a plane allowing them to fly around Regina for the afternoon, taking aerial photographs of the city.
March was another busy month, with her snowmobiling the around Nistowiak Falls in La Ronge and visiting Rayner Dairy Research and Teaching Facility. She also went to an SJHL game in Melville.
"It can be very 'go, go, go'," she said, "and it is challenging live blogging events and posting about it on social media while trying to fully experience the event. Sometimes a simply post can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to write." Some people might call what she does a "vacation", but it isn't; it's a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
"But don't get me wrong; I love my job."
This summer will be jam-packed with activities, but Ashlyn has her personal ideas on what she wants to do in Saskatchewan. One of them is to stand in every corner the province, and another is to go geocaching (treasure hunting with a GPS, if you are unfamiliar). Geocaching has become fairly popular, and Ashlyn has accidently discovered several of the caches by accident. In fact, in Regina alone there are over 200 caches!
Later this year Ashlyn will also being flying up to Pine Island Resort, one of Canada's best fly-fishing locations.
"It's cheaper to travel than most people think," she mentions. Her experiences have taught her that it costs about $2,000 a month to travel comfortably in another country doing mostly everything you'd like to. She broke that down for me and said for her, she spends about $66 a day. Traveling through Oceania often cost more than that as having a place to stay cost $33 a day and she still had to eat, get around, and pay for activities but traveling through Vietnam cost much less, around $26 a day ($800 a month) total. She says she spends much less a year traveling that most people do not traveling. Then again, she also is very conscientious with money and can tell you how much she's spent on ice-cream in the past 5 years.
In addition, couponing, going during the off season, and making your own meals are some ways to save money when travelling.
With eight months left of her dream job to go, she is certain she will see new and wonderful things, and meet even more wonderful people. Coming from somebody with a global perspective, she mentions how "Saskatchewan is a wonderful place" and is happy more people are beginning to realize how many different things there are to do in their province and are actively trying to find new things to do.
"People in Saskatchewan love Saskatchewan", she says, and mentions how incredibly grateful she is for this opportunity to share the province with the rest of the world.
Ashlyn will be back in Regina June 15th-21st, and again on July 16th, during which she will be looking for restaurants to discuss in her blog. If you have any ideas or suggestions as to where she should go, feel free to contact her on her Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
For many of us in Saskatchewan, summer means it's time for an Alberta road trip. Although the endless stretches of prairie have their appeal, there is nothing quite like seeing the mountains rising over the horizon.
One challenge that comes with taking a summer road trip is the heat. Much like on this side of the border, it isn't uncommon for summer temperatures to get to the extreme. I know a few people who have had car problems in the heat, and my family is one of them. Nothing ruins a trip more than an unexpected visit to the mechanic.
Thankfully, Alberta has a myriad of places to go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or fishing. This not only gives your vehicle time to cool off, but also gives you a chance to escape the heat as well.
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.
When it comes to Saskatchewan, your next adventure can be around any corner. As you venture off the main highways, signage is scarce and directions such as "if you've passed the gate with the buffalo skulls, you've gone too far" are all too common. Communities grow smaller, people grow warmer and the list of things on your Saskatchewan Bucket List seems to only get longer.
My adventure to Leader started a few months ago when Christine over at Cruisin' Christine shared a list of Leader bus tours on Facebook. Some of the tours were in June, but one was in September. The September tour caught my eye because it was a two-day tour and I had to ask myself what we would do for two days in Leader. Leader has a three digit population, so I was perplexed on what the tour would comprise.
I was so perplexed that I decided contacted Leader Tourism and booked the tour to find out.