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.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.
Although the hot summer days of July are long behind us, 2017 is still Canada's 150th year. In honour of Canada's sesquicentennial birthday, I decided to put together a list of 150 things about Canada. This list talks about our quirkiness, our strengths, our weakness, and our legacy, for better and for worse. There are some sad facts, some odd facts and some facts that will probably make you open another tab to look into for yourself.
Hope you enjoy this list, and I hope you all had a great 2017!
1. Canada's two official languages are French and English, but only 20.6% of Canadians speak French.
About a year and a half ago I visited Kyiv, Ukraine. As I walked down the millennium old streets and gawked at the towering cathedrals, I saw the beginnings of a new country, one that was slowly rebuilding from a much darker time. The process of what I was seeing had a name. It was called decommunization.
Decommunization includes renaming architecture, changing laws and protocols, and even tearing down monuments. People's Friendship Arch in Kyiv, for example, which symbolised the friendship between the Communist East and the Capitalist West, was torn down. Some statues, like war memorials, are exempt, but there is still talk of making modifications to them. Anywhere you go throughout the former Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle are being removed – not from history, but from modern society.