Every year Tourism Saskatchewan hires somebody new for their "Saskatchewanderer" position. This individual will visit the far corners of our province, exploring caves, lakes, hills, cliffs, deserts, coves, prairies and even the skies above us. Every year I also reach out to the Saskatchewanderer and learn a bit about them.
Just like how Tourism Saskatchewan likes to mix up where the Saskatchewanderer visits each year, they also like to mix up the person they hire. A few years back they hired Ashlyn George, a teacher turned travel-blogger who has since visited every continent in the world. After that they hired Neil Fisher, a tech expert who worked at the Vancouver Aquarium. Last year they chose Andrew Hiltz, a Saskatchewan-born and raised bartender who had returned from Vancouver. This year they chose somebody different, who's love for Saskatchewan comes from a desire to see what's beyond the city limits. He's a casual traveller who decided to explore the province on weekends and ended up with the best job in the world.
I would like to introduce you to your 2018 Saskatchewanderer, Kevin Dunn.
Kevin was born and raised in Saskatoon, went to the University of Saskatchewan for a Bachelor of Arts degree, and then got a job as a full time equipment operator for the City of Saskatoon. If you live in the Bridge City, you've probably seen him holding signs, digging holes and improving the city's infrastructure some time in the past five years. He liked his job, but he felt like something was missing. After a few years of working, he took weekend trips with his friends outside the city. Those weekend trips became longer, sometimes spanning over a week, and would take him to the far corners of the province like the Great Sandhills or Cypress Hills.
Kevin then started a vlog and practising photography. He did it for fun and watched online tutorials to learn how to do it better. He also followed other Saskatchewan bloggers, vloggers and photographers for inspiration. That is how he found me, over a year ago. Our styles are different; while mine are more intimate, his explores the vastness of space. The content he's been putting out these past few months is already different than his predecessors, which is fantastic to see, as it takes about a half year for the Saskatchewanderer to adopt their own style.
Another element that Kevin brings to the table that past wanderers didn't have is his experience with a drone. This brings a new paradigm to the program because the audience is no longer constrained to a two-dimensional image. Instead of looking at a view of a forest, now, the audience can swoop down the cliff and fly over the trees below.
When I spoke to past wanderers, one thing the always commented on was the food. Neil said he ate too much food, while Andrew said he couldn't have enough food. As for Kevin? He said he hasn't been going out enough to have an opinion.
As somebody who loves food, I asked Kevin what, then, has he been doing for the past four months if not eating every morsel he could find? Since starting in January, Kevin has been up in Northern Saskatchewan. Although he is from Saskatoon, he never explored up north, and visiting this part of the province in the heart of the winter is no easy feat. Kevin has been hiking, biking and traversing throughout this snow-covered landscape, visiting places like Ness Creek Site, Greenwater Lake, Blaine Lake, Waskesiu Lake and Nistowiak Falls.
I visited Nistowiak in the summer a few years back and was blown away by how beautiful the area was. Kevin had a similar experience, but when he visited it, it was covered in snow and ice and looked like Superman's Fortress of Solitude. The falls still run in the sub-zero temperatures and when the wind dies down, you can hear the ice creaking and groaning as the water rushes beneath it. The sounds and sights of the area are nothing but ethereal.
Besides being outside in the winter, Kevin has also been visiting northern schools and communities. The Saskatchewanderer program often involves visiting northern Saskatchewan, coming back south and telling people why they should go visit the area. This time around, Kevin had to tell people from the north about the south, and why they should visit here. This is something we often never think about, but just as we find the lakes, and waterfalls mesmerising, so would people who have never seen endless stretches of prairie.
When asked about what the number one location he wants to visit this year is, Kevin said he really wants to visit the Athabasca Sand Dunes. These sand dunes are incredibly remote and difficult to get to, and have been on the top of mine, and many Saskatchewanderer's lists for years. He said he's determined to get there this year, so I'm excited for when he finally does!
Kevin still has over plenty of time left before he retires as the Saskatchewanderer, but he has some ideas of what he would like to do afterwards. If he can't find an immediate job after finishing the program, he would like to convert a van into a tiny home, and drive across the country. While being the Saskatchewander has offered many opportunities to explore the province, he said the first thing he would do is revisit some of the best locations in Saskatchewan and fully take them in.
Kevin not only brings a new face to the program but he also a distinct perspective. He isn't a world traveller like Ashlyn, he isn't a tech expert like Neil, and he isn't a quirky bartender like Andrew. He's himself, he's relatable, and he's just a guy who wants to get outside, experience the outdoors and have a good time. He's every person who wants to live outside the walls of the office, and who wants to get out and see what life is all about is. He's just like you and me and this is what makes him the perfect 2018 Saskatchewanderer.
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)!
Long before I started my blog, many, many years ago, I visited Innsbruck, Austria. I was on a Contiki trip through Europe and visited a plethora of locations such as Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Lucerne and Innsbruck, just to name a few. It was an incredible experience and one that I think was a transformative moment in my life.
Off the record (or, on the record now, I guess), of all the places I visited, the only one I didn't like was Innsbruck. I couldn't get into it. We visited it in late March, so the weather wasn't the best. The trees didn't have any leaves on them, the grass was brown, and everything had a post-winter grey look to it. After visiting Munich and spending the night in St. Goar, my mind wasn't thinking about Innsbruck at all. Instead, I was more excited to go to Venice the next day, and the Vatican the day after that. My time in Innsbruck was uneventful, and all I wanted was to get back on the road.
That was in 2011, and now it's 2018. Has my opinion on Innsbruck changed? I would say yes. I'm more mature now and if I went back, I would better appreciate what I was seeing. As I've gotten older, I've been less impressed by the massive buildings and more enthralled by the history that created them.
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.