How to Travel Europe Without Leaving Canada

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In Canada, specifically in the southern portion of the province of Ontario, we’re not exactly in the running for the “most creative city names” award. It seems like almost every place is named after somewhere else, and this has led to some interesting conversations whenever I’ve gotten back from travelling somewhere abroad.

When I was in elementary school, my family went on a trip to London, England and Paris, France. I was in grade 2, and was about to turn 7 years old. My dad had scrounged together enough frequent flyer miles from travelling for work to take the family on vacation. It would be my first trip to Europe, and as far as I’m aware, I was the only kid in my class who had travelled overseas. So when I got back from the trip and was talking to my classmates about where I went, there was some initial confusion.

See, there are two Ontario towns not too far from each other that are named London, and Paris. So to everyone else it wasn’t exactly an impressive feat heading for a short drive down the highway. It took a while but eventually I managed to convince them that I had been to the Real London and Paris out there way across the Atlantic Ocean. There have been a few examples of this throughout my life, and every time I can’t help but wish those early settlers had come up with some original names, or better yet just used the Indigenous names that had already been given to those areas.

However, this lack of creativity means that you are able to travel to a multitude of “European” cities over a small part of just one day. In a mere 4 hours, and 300 km you can visit Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen, London, Dublin, Brussels and Lisbon! All without buying a single plane ticket; talk about bang for your buck.

Check it out on the map below:

This road trip is definitely on my radar come 2021, and I’ll be sure to document my “European” adventure when the time comes. While these are mostly small towns surrounded by nothing but boring roads and farmland, doing it for the sake of doing it is really all the convincing I need.


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3 Days in Seattle, Washington

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In November of 2019, I went to Seattle, Washington for the weekend to watch my hometown Toronto F.C. take on the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup. Arriving on a Friday night and leaving on a Monday afternoon, we had to make the most of our short stay in the city. Here’s a photo tour of 4 things we did in Seattle (plus some bonus activities), and my thoughts on our trip.

Hopefully you can used this as a basis to schedule your own weekend in Seattle, and if you have any questions after reading, feel free to leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you out!


  1. Visit Pike Place Public Market

The staring point for most first time visitors to Seattle, the Pike Place Public Market is a great place to spend the day. Opened in 1907, the history alone is something special and it’s only gotten better with time. Produce, specialty meats, fresh fish, hand-made crafts, and a wide variety of dining options are some of the highlights of what this market has to offer. We arrived around lunch time and satisfied our hunger at Jack’s Fish Spot with some classic and delicious Fish and Chips. For the coffee lovers, the first ever Starbucks is also located near here, but more on that later.

Pike Place Market is perhaps most well known for its’ fish throwing, in which customers are invited behind the counter to test their catching skills. Check it out in the video below:

When I think back to my weekend in Seattle, Pike Place Market is always a highlight of the trip. You could seriously spend the better part of a day here, and it’s in close proximity to the rest of the downtown core so it’s easily accessible no matter where you’re staying in the city. Of course, not everybody is the market exploring type of person, and if that’s you don’t fret; Seattle has much more to offer.


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2. Explore the Waterfront

I’ll admit that I’m a little bit biased on this one. I love the ocean, so any excuse to be near it is a opportunity to be taken advantage of. Seattle sits on Puget Sound, an in inlet of the Pacific Ocean, meaning that the sea is centre stage in the fabric of the city. The waterfront follows the Alaskan Way and is in close proximity to attractions such as the Seattle Aquarium, Pike Place Market, the Gum Wall, the Seattle Antiques Market, and the Seattle Great Wheel.

Aside from the numerous attractions, the waterfront also offers the best views of the Seattle skyline. I highly recommend taking the time out of your trip to explore this area. I mean if you’re coming all the way to the Pacific Northwest, you might as well see the ocean!


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3. Visit the Original Starbucks and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery

You can’t talk about Seattle without talking about Starbucks.

We drank way too much coffee during our weekend in the city. There’s basically a Starbucks, or some other local shop on every corner so you’re never far from a cup of joe. If you didn’t know, Starbucks first got its’ start in the city of Seattle in 1971 when it opened its’ first location near the Pike Place Market. While it has grown to become the largest coffee chain in the world, that same original store still exists to this day. Be warned though, there is usually an extremely long line at the entrance. When we were there, it took us close to an hour before we got in.

I suggest you keep in mind that this location is just like any other Starbucks location and sells the same drinks; you won’t find anything special here expect for the collectable mugs and novelty points.

To find some limited, and experimental Starbucks products, your best option is to head to the Starbucks Roastery Reserve on Pike street. Here you can taste a wide array of drinks and food that quite honestly is too elaborate to explain; it’s easier if you head to their website and take a look for yourself. You’ll discover it’s well worth the visit.


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3. Attend a Sporting Event (*When the COVID-19 Pandemic is Over*)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the whole reason for us coming to Seattle was to watch Toronto F.C. take on the Seattle Sounders in the 2019 MLS Cup. While my beloved Toronto F.C. were defeated 3-1, it was an incredible experience and the local fans were nothing but kind hearted and hospitable during our entire stay. If by chance there are any Sounders’ fans reading this, I hope to see a rematch in MLS Cup 2020, this time with Toronto F.C. taking the title. Even if you’re not a fan of sports, there’s nothing more exhilarating than sharing a moment with a stadium packed full of 69,000+ people. (Now more than ever). Here’s a snippet of the atmosphere you can expect to see at a game:

If soccer isn’t quite your cup of tea, you’ll have a couple of other options: the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks who play at Century Link Field (pictured above), the MLB’s Seattle Mariners who play down the street at T-Mobile Park, and if you’re a hockey fan, you’re in luck because it was recently announced that the city of Seattle will be gaining an NHL team in the 2021-2022 season. They will be fittingly called the Seattle Kraken.

After the game, be sure to head out to one of the city’s many top rated bars and pubs to finish off the night.


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4. Walk the city streets

One of my favourite parts about visiting a new place is wandering around and getting lost in the city streets, and Seattle is a great place to do just this.

During my stay, I thought Seattle to be a very clean, safe, picturesque and welcoming city. Our Airbnb was located in Capitol Hill, a neighbourhood known for its nightlife, diversity, and cultural presence. We spent much of our first night wandering the streets and exploring what the area had to offer and continued to do so as we walked everywhere we went during our time in Seattle. I’ve always felt its best to avoid public transit unless absolutely necessary as that’s how you get a real feel for where you are. This is also how you discover the hidden gems of a city, and those places you might not read about in any blog, guide, or news article.

Of course, if you’re looking for something more purposeful to do, I also included some bonus activities that we didn’t get to do during our weekend in Seattle.


Follow me on Instagram to see all of my travel photos!


Bonus: See the Space Needle, go to a museum, or visit a Park

The Seattle skyline fading away in the distance

Given our limited time in Seattle we had some compromises to make. If we had more time, or substituted one of the activities I mentioned above, there are some more things we could have done. The Space Needle, the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture, and Gas Works Park are all excellent options to explore when planning your own visit, and all things I’ll be sure to check out when I return one day.


Seattle is a fantastic city; one of those places that makes you feel right at home. There is so much to do and see, and while it requires more than a weekend to experience it all, I hope this guide was helpful in giving you a starting point to plan your own trip to this gem of the Pacific Northwest. Once again, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave me a comment below!


Thank you so much for reading, and if you’ve made it this far please consider liking the post, sharing it with your friends, and hitting the follow button so you don’t miss any of my upcoming material! And don’t forget to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest!

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What is the Furthest Place From Me on Earth?

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TLDR: visit furthestcity.com (opens in a new tab)


The other night I was exploring Google Maps when a thought crossed my mind:

What is the furthest place from me on Earth?

The obvious answer would be 20,037 km (12,472 miles) in any direction, being that’s half the circumference of the planet, but that puts me somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean and seeing as I don’t own an ocean liner that’s not exactly helpful information.

So my next step was to find the nearest large city with an airport to that location. For that, I discovered a website called furthestcity.com (not sponsored). I simply typed in my location (Toronto, Canada) and let their algorithm do the rest.



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It turned out that the furthest possible destination that I could travel to with a population above 100,000 is Perth, Australia at 18,153 km (11,279 miles) away. In fact, according the the website, the top 5 destinations are all located in Australia. In order for me to get to Perth, it would take an average travel time of 40 hours! I can’t even begin to think about how sore my body would be from enduring that kind of journey.


As a bonus, I also learned what the furthest capital city is from me. This turned out to be Port-aux-Francis, a French settlement town located halfway between Australia and Africa in the southern Indian Ocean. Something tells me this isn’t exactly an easy place to get to.

If you’re interested in finding out the furthest city from you on Earth, check out furthestcity.com. Leave me a comment below on where you’re from, and what your results say. If you’re from Perth, Australia I think it would be kind of cool to know someone on the opposite side of the world!


Thank you so much for reading, and if you’ve made it this far please consider liking the post, sharing it with your friends, and hitting the follow button so you don’t miss any of my upcoming material! And don’t forget to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest!

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Tales From a Lost Water Bottle

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One of the things that intrigues me the most about travelling is the brief encounters you have with people all over the world. Every single person you come across has their own life, memories, and experiences different from your own. I often think about those brief moments in time in which you cross paths with others, and about all of the things you will never know about them, or their story.

One such materialization of these thoughts came last year in the form of my university roommate’s water bottle. Right from the time I moved in, it caught my eye. It was covered from head to toe by stickers from several national and provincial parks, the flags from a multitude of provinces, and a bunch of outdoor brands’ logos. One day I finally asked him about it, and it turned out that the water bottle wasn’t even originally his. The curiosity, and the mystery of who it belonged to ate at me for months. Who was this person? What was their story?

One day, as it was getting closer to Christmas, we were waiting for our lecture to start. My roomate pulled out the mystery bottle to take a drink and I re-sparked the conversation of who its’ owner might be. This time, we took special notice of sticker on it’s side that said “CKCU”. When I googled it, a student run radio station in Ottawa, Ontario came up.

Finally a lead.

We both got excited and decided that the bottle must belong to a DJ or an avid listener of the station. Seeing how niche a student run radio station is, we figured that contacting them might just get this mystery solved. My roommate Alex got to work, drafted up an email, and hit send.

What follows is that exact email:

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Greetings,

I found this green Nalgene water bottle in Hearst, ON while tree planting this past spring. When I saw it in town on a day off, and I thought it might have belonged to one of my crew members so I grabbed it. No one from my crew claimed it and for the last 6 months, I have been in the possession of someone else’s water bottle. There are at least three tree planting companies that operate out of Hearst and the bottle likely belonged to one of their planters.

Based on the wear, and the vast amount of stickers, I imagine that it’s pretty special to them and they miss it very much. This beautiful bottle may even have a name, but if it does, it’s a name I do not know. Seeing as this isn’t my bottle I’d like to get it back to its rightful owner and I think that there is a possibility that you guys may be able to help. The most identifiable and significant sticker on the bottle is a CKCU sticker.

Do you know who the owner of this bottle is? Do you have any way of finding out? If you do, I’d love to send it home for Christmas.

– Alex “

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We waited and waited until one day we finally got a response.

Unfortunately, the radio station told us, nobody recognized the water bottle. We were devastated.

However, they agreed that they would help us in our quest to find the bottle’s owner, and possibly send it home. They posted Alex’s email and photo on their website with the hopes that one of their listeners might see it.

As of writing this in November of 2020, the bottle’s rightful owner has still not been found. Although my roommate continues to take care of it like it were his own, I can’t help but wonder what stories it would tell if it could. Where its’ been, what its owner has done, and the people they’ve come across together in their travels. It may just be a water bottle, but behind it is a person who I will likely never know. The stickers give me a small glimpse into their life, memories, experiences and story.

In my lifetime, it’s certain that there will be a number of people, stories and experiences that I will never have the fortune of knowing. The water bottle, and its’ owner, is just another example of this.

So when I do get to meet someone new, have a fresh experience, or get a glimpse of a previously unknown story, even if just for the briefest of moments, I’m just glad that I was given the opportunity to do so.


Thank you so much for reading, and if you’ve made it this far please consider liking the post, sharing it with your friends, and hitting the follow button so you don’t miss any of my upcoming material! And don’t forget to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest!

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Music for a World Traveller – Sounds Like Van Spirit

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Earlier this year I discovered the #vanlife craze, and with it some exceptional world music. Let me explain:

I first stumbled onto the lifestyle while coming across a YouTube channel called Kombi Life. What started as a vague interest in the idea of someone buying an old Volkswagen bus and driving it along the length of the Pan-American highway, turned into an all out binge fest of anything related to living in a van and travelling wherever the roads could take you.

For weeks I obsessed over it. I spent hours clicking every recommended video I saw in my feed until I fell deep into the YouTube rabbit hole. You know what I’m talking about? It’s that place you can only get to when you aren’t trying to get there, much like the world of Narnia. A place of either horrors or wonderful surprises. Well this time I ended up in the proverbial magical wardrobe that took me not to a world of lions and witches, but to a world of new and exciting music.

It was well past midnight, and far beyond the point of no return, when I clicked on this recommended video:

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What I discovered was the story of a German audio engineer named Marten Berger who bought an old ice cream truck, turned it into a music studio on wheels, and drove it the length of Europe for 2 years searching for the continent’s most talented street musicians.

The culmination of his travels and work was a unique and diverse album entitled: “Sounds Like Van Spirit – A Collection of Europe’s Pavement Melodies“. 31 musicians from 25 countries totaling 34 songs makes for an incredible array of sounds from numerous genres originating all across Europe. Listening to this work of art instantly takes you on a journey through the power of music. It’s like travelling without ever having to walk out the front door. It’s raw, its real, and most importantly it sounds great.

Here’s a sampling:

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Half of the album’s profit is donated to charity, and if you’re an old soul like me you’ll be happy to know it comes pressed on vinyl as well. I implore you to let the music and the story behind it do the talking instead of just taking my word for it. I want to make it clear that this is NOT sponsored; I’m just an incredibly satisfied customer who wants everyone to share in the joy of this album that I do.

To learn more, or to purchase the album for yourself visit: https://soundslikevanspirit.eu/


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Over-Urbanization: Inequality Born in Necessity

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The global south falls disproportionately victim to the struggles of over-urbanization throughout the world. In fact, out of the 33 megacities on the Earth (those greater than 10 million inhabitants) 27 are found in less developed regions (United Nations, 2018). There are perhaps a multitude of explanations for this; however, it is important to recognize that the mass migration of rural individuals into the cities is often born in necessity. Famine, persecution, and poverty force people to search for a new and better life in urban centres for both themselves and their future generations. Unfortunately, local governments fail to adequately prepare or adapt to the mass influx of population pouring into their city limits.

Pamplona Alta, a slum found in Lima, Peru is one of many examples of this found around the world. A stunning lack of infrastructure greets inhabitants arriving in the city, and specifically, in its’ slums. There is no running water, no electricity, and hastily constructed shacks that dot the hillsides (Janetsky, 2019). Instead of investing government resources to better manage the situation, Lima instead opted to build a wall known as the Wall of Shame to limit the spread of migration, protect the more affluent population, their way of life and the city’s bottom line. (Janetsky, 2019). While it curbed the spread of the migrants, it created appalling conditions for those unlucky to find themselves on the wrong side of the concrete structure. Abandoned by their government, slum dwellers were left to fend for themselves. Similar situations like those in Lima are found all over the world.

One-sixth of Indian city dwellers live in an urban slum. Source: CBC
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In search of hope and betterment, desperate migrants and slum dwellers often find themselves living in horrid and hopeless conditions. The issues won’t improve by themselves and as such over-urbanization is an important issue to dissect and understand. The Earth is becoming increasingly less rural every year, so the issue of urban inadequacy and inequality will only become more important as time passes. It is up to us to push local governments to take responsibility for those coming into the cities in search of a better life, and to hold those in power accountable for their promises. In doing so, there is hope yet for meaningful progress. Constructing proper housing and subsequent infrastructure, drafting concrete migration preparedness strategies, prioritizing economic investment in small businesses, and giving a voice to those who are too quiet to be heard are all necessary steps that need to be taken on the path to equality.

For further reading on this topic, I suggest visiting the World Bank’s webpage on urban development.

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References

Janetsky, M. (2019, September 7). Lima’s ‘Wall of Shame’ and the Art of Building Barriers. Retrieved from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/09/peru-lima-wall/597085/

United Nations. (2018, July 1). The World’s Cities in 2018 Data Booklet. Retrieved from The United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/events/citiesday/assets/pdf/the_worlds_cities_in_2018_data_booklet.pdf

Featured Image: The Atlantic


Thank you so much for reading, and if you’ve made it this far please consider liking the post, sharing it with your friends, and hitting the follow button so you don’t miss any of my upcoming material! And don’t forget to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest!

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Canadian Road Trip: A Snapchat Story

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In May of 2018, I was invited on a 17-hour, 1500 km road trip from southern Ontario to Beresford, New Brunswick with my friend Sam and his family. In order to help pass the time, and in an effort to remember the experience I posted a story on my snapchat account every hour of the car ride, plus a little extra. What follows are the pictures documenting the journey:

We had to leave bright and early in the morning in order to make it in time for dinner later that day. The 3:30 a.m. wake up call also insured we would be driving through the dense forests of New Brunswick in the day-light. Crucial in avoiding a deadly collision with a Moose.

If you’ve ever driven through Toronto, you would understand the extra benefit of driving through the city in the middle of the night. Highway 401, which runs right through the heart of the city is the busiest highway in all of North America, carrying upwards of half a million people per day. No traffic meant we saved upwards of an hour and a half on our trip.

At this point we had been driving for quite a while, and seeing as none of us had eaten yet, Tim Horton’s was always going to be our first stop. Double Doubles, Timbits, and some bacon breakfast sandwiches were just what we needed.

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After picking up refreshments, we got back on the road. Now, if you’re not from Canada then it’s important to know that we tend to make fun of the French province of Quebec. The English – French rivalry in Canada has it’s roots in the formation of the country, which was dominated by settlers from the United Kingdom, and France battling for control of the land surrounding the St. Lawrence river, and the fertile great lakes region.

The closer we got to Quebec, the more vocal my jabs at the French became. The only problem – Sam and his family have French heritage (hence the road trip to partly French New Brunswick) so they were having none of it. It was all in fun, but deep down I knew it ever so slightly got to them. Thus, in order to prevent a civil war in the car, some ground rules had to be established:

  1. There shall be no French slander of any kind; and
  2. If said rule is broken I will be spending the remaining 10 hours of the drive sitting in the trunk.

We continued.

For those that don’t know, Canada is a bilingual nation. This means that our two official languages are French and English. The school system is mandated to teach both, but this doesn’t mean they do a good job.

This trip was the first time that I had been to another Canadian province other than my home of Ontario. It was a long time in the making, and I thought Quebec and New Brunswick were well worth the wait.

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Most of this trip was spent on the road in 5 hours blocks, and there was no exception to this rule. You had better use the washroom when we were filling up on gas because otherwise you’d be peeing in a water bottle in the backseat.

The legal drinking age in Quebec is 18 years old, which is one year lower than Ontario, so you better believe we took this opportunity to buy some beer. To our surprise, we didn’t get ID’d by the gas station attendant and made it out without issue. Don’t worry, we didn’t open the beverages until we got to our final destination. It was a well deserved cold one.

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By this time in the road trip my brain had turned to mush, my legs were practically falling off, and we were all getting pretty irritable. Luckily we didn’t have relatively far left to go and so, we pushed on.

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Let me tell you, when we finally pulled off the highway and saw our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean, well, that was a fantastic feeling. We were itching to get out of the car and be greeted by a nice home cooked meal, and a couple drinks by the fire.

Although long, the journey was well worth it. I was grateful to see more of my home country and gained a new appreciation for the diversity such a large nation offers. We stayed in New Brunswick for a week, before cramming in the back of the car for the 17-hour return journey.


Thank you so much for reading, and if you’ve made it this far please consider liking the post, sharing it with your friends, and hitting the follow button so you don’t miss any of my upcoming material! And don’t forget to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest!

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