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.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
If you've ever passed through Medicine Hat, or you're spending a few days in the area, you've probably wondered what to do there. To most people outside the city, Medicine Hat might seem like a sleepy little prairie town in the Canadian Badlands; but for those who live in Hell's Basement, they'll tell you that this city is one of the most exciting places you can explore in all of Alberta.
I've gone to Medicine Hat three times in the past two years, and while I'm no expert on this thriving city, I know where the hidden gems are. If someone I know is passing through the area, I tell them they need to visit Medicine Hat. To help explain why, I put an article together for anyone else interested in visiting the Hat.
If you're spending 24 hours in Medicine Hat, you'll need somewhere to sleep. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a little under an hour away and a great place to camp. Camping in Cypress gives you the choice to explore the park, the city, and everywhere in between.
If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.