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.
Canada's 150th birthday cannot be complete without visiting the country's capital city... but which one should you visit? While Ottawa is the current capital of Canada, there have been four other capital cities, and it has changed seven times. It started in Kingston (1841 – 1844) and then moved to Montréal (1844 – 1849), believing it to be safer from the Americans. After the citizens of Montréal burnt it down, it rotated between Toronto (1849 – 1852 and 1856 – 1858) and Québec City (1852 – 1856 and 1859 – 1866). Finally, it was placed right on the border between the two provinces in Ottawa (1866 to present day). This tour ventures into each of these five cities and explores what makes them so unique.
Since the capital flip-flopped location seven times, it would be much more convenient to go through the cities geographically then historically. If we started in the West, we would start in Toronto, Ontario, Canada's biggest city. While G Adventures only mentions the CN Tower and Kensington Market, there is much more to see in this city. You could visit the 18th century Casa Loma Castle, stroll through the artistic Graffiti Alley, visit Ripley's Aquatic Aquarium, or go drink and dine in the Distillery District. Looking for more outdoorsy stuff? Check out the Toronto Islands, the famous High Park or the Toronto Zoo. You can even take a boat out onto Lake Ontario and see the city's iconic skyline!
Earlier this year I did a presentation at The Artesian about the Spanish Influenza. It was the first time I had ever done a presentation like this and I was nervous about the number of people that might attend. I told my mother I would be thrilled if five people came that night, but forty people showed up instead. For a topic that very few people know anything about, I was excited to see so many people interested.
But one person in the audience was so interested that several months later she reached out to me to see if I wanted to do my presentation again. Instead of doing it in Regina, she asked for me to travel to Craik, Saskatchewan to tell the Craik Museum and Oral History Society about what I had learned.
For knowing so much about a topic nobody ever asks me about, I was super excited to talk about it. The organiser reached out to Craik School to ask if the students would be interested in attending the lecture too. The teacher said they wouldn't be able to make the time slot work but asked if I could speak to the students about being a blogger at a different time.