Zane Buchanan is your typical run-of-the-mill Saskatchewanian. He was born in White City, just outside of Regina, and attended Greenall High School in Balgonie. He graduated in 2010.
After graduation he moved to Victoria, then Toronto, then Vancouver and then Toronto again. He took theatre and then shifted over to journalism. He started as a arts and cinema critc and then moved over into being a copywriter. Like anybody in their 20s, he was trying to find his place in the world.
Although he left Saskatchewan for schooling, Saskatchewan never left him. It didn't matter if he was in Vancouver or Toronto, he was always "the Prairie kid" or "that guy from Saskatchewan".
He had just settled in Toronto for the second time when he got the call to be the Saskatchewanderer. He had two weeks to pack his bags and fly across the country to start his new life. From there, "It's [been] a constant hamster wheel."
But Buchanan wasn't welcomed as easily as previous wanderers. Many voiced their concerns online about why Tourism Saskatchewan would choose somebody who wasn't "from Saskatchewan" to represent the province. This surprised Buchanan. In Toronto he was an outsider, and in Saskatchewan he had become an outsider too. But he knew Tourism Saskatchewan picked him for a reason, and he took this as an opportunity to prove himself.
Five months later, Buchanan has brought out a new side of what it means to explore Saskatchewan. Although past wanderers had explored the province previously, Buchanan hadn't – and neither has his interprovincial audience from Vancouver and Toronto. Many were intrigued by the program. What makes Saskatchewan so special? Why was there somebody specifically hired to explore the province? This interprovincial curiosity is something no previous wanderer had.
Since starting as the Saskatchewanderer, Buchanan has had his fair share of challenges, with the biggest is somewhat surprising.
"There is so much driving," he laughed during the interview.
In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, personal vehicles are a dying breed. Public transportation, railways and subways can get you wherever you need. But in Saskatchewan, the only way around is by your own vehicle. It's taken Buchanan a few months to get used to all the driving, but he's finally getting his "sea-legs".
Another challenge Buchanan has had to face was an abnormally cold winter. After missing the "joys" of Saskatchewan winter for the past eight years, Buchanan assumed he had just gotten soft from all the winters in Toronto and Vancouver. At the start of his term, he would purposely go outside in -45 weather just to climatize himself. This lasted about a month until somebody informed him it wasn't just him; it was actually freakishly cold outside.
When asked what one of the biggest surprises was after becoming a celebrity, Buchanan said it was all the attention he has been getting. When he was in Toronto and Vancouver, he was a face in a sea of people. But in Saskatchewan people stop him on the street to take pictures and they honk at him on the highway.
"You can't train for this," he told me, and as somebody who has experienced similar things on my travels, I totally understand.
But Buchanan loves it, and he loves discovering the province with both his provincial and interprovincial audiences. Unlike past wanderers that have been overly active on social media, Buchanan focuses primarily on writing pieces on The Saskatchewanderer blog – a medium that other wanderers haven't used as much. For those who don't follow the blog, it may seem like Buchanan has been quiet lately, but that can't be further from the truth.
And it isn't going to change anytime soon.
From May to September, Buchanan's schedule is packed. It's a lot of "glamour and hard work" he told me, and he can't wait to do it. Few people understand just how demanding the Saskatchewanderer position is. The position does the work of an entire media team, from content creation, social media promotion, video production, interviewing, lecturing, driving and, of course, taking the time to actually experience the places he's visiting. But now that Buchanan has gotten the first few months out of the way, he's ready to take on summer.
Buchanan's favourite adventure so far was dog sledding in Prince Albert National Park. A lover of dogs and the outdoors, Buchanan took part in The Canadian Challenge, which is a 600km round trip dog sled trip from Prince Albert to La Ronge. This
challenge follows the original path of the trappers, North West Mounted Police, and First Nations people.
While in the north he also spent time at various Cree camps, learning about Indigenous culture and traditions. Buchanan has a unique approach to this, as he has Metis heritage, and hopes to highlight a part of Saskatchewan that has been hidden for far too long.
He has a lot of plans for this year, from kayaking and drag racing, to enjoying Cypress Hills and the Ness Creek Music Festival. He can't wait for the second half of his year, and neither can we.
A few months ago I entered a contest for a trip for two to visit Philadelphia on Two Bad Tourists. Normally contests like this are limited to United States residents so when I saw this one was open to Canadians I jumped at the chance. I've never won something like this before, so I actually forgot about it until I got the emailing saying I had won. Two Bad Tourists then worked alongside Visit Philly to organise the trip for me and my mother to explore Philadelphia for three days. Visit Philly paid for our flights, hotels and gave us a VIP Pass to experience the city to our heart's content. It is thanks to them that this trip is possible.
Several movies and television shows have tried to capture the essence of Philadelphia over the years – from the boxing Blockbuster Rocky, to the paranormal thriller The Sixth Sense, to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and even Boy Meets World – but each described the city differently. There is no easy way to approach a city as dynamic as The City of Brotherly Love. With countless layers of art, history, religion and the paranormal, Philadelphia is a city unlike any other throughout the United States.
One thing that surprised me the most about Philadelphia was the history. The city was founded and designed by William Penn, who is also the state of Pennsylvania's namesake. Born in London, England in 1644 he lived through The Great Fire of 1666 and The Great Plague of London from 1665-1666. Both events shaped Penn's life so he designed the city to be strictly stone buildings (to stop fires from spreading) and to have plenty of space between the buildings (as to prevent illness from spreading). This led to the older areas of the city to have winding corridors between old stone walls.
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
I have been told my entire life that Winnipeg was just like Regina, but slightly larger. This gave the impression that there wasn't much to see in Winnipeg and that it, along with Regina, were more-or-less "fly over destinations". Since starting my blog, I've learned Regina is an absolutely incredible city so I imagined Winnipeg was the same. I then proceeded to contact Tourism Winnipeg and Travel Manitoba to find out the true Winnipeg, and ended up going on a multi-day excursion of their city.
Since a lot of my readers are from Regina and they almost all know somebody heading there for the Banjo Bowl in a couple of days, I thought I'd put this list together. There's a lot more to see there than just Investors Group Field, and the city's history is incredibly fascinating, so I hope you enjoy this list of 100 things about "Canada's Gateway to the West".
Several of these facts are taken from Frank Albo's tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building, but there are many I didn't mention. If you enjoyed them, I encourage buying his book: "The Hermetic Code"