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.
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.
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.
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.