Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade – Photo Friday #9

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

This week’s photo was taken in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada during the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 NBA Championship Parade.

There’s a lot I can say about this day: the sheer number of people, the complete disorganization, the 5-hour time delay, the heatwave. In a city that had been so starved for a winning team in one of North America’s “big four” leagues (NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB), we sure did go all in for the celebration. Some estimates have some 1.5 million plus people taking part in at least some of the festivities that day, and in a city that only has a population of around 3 million.

I have a ton of pictures and stories I can show and tell from my experience at the Raptors’ Championship Parade, so I’ll write a separate post that goes into further detail sometime in the near future. For now, here’s a little sneak peek.

See you next week!

Toronto Raptors Championship Parade, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Toronto Raptors Championship Parade, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (ca. June 2019)

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Where Have I Travelled?

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If you’ve done some exploring around seekingsaudades.com, then you’ll know I have an entire page dedicated to where I’ve travelled in my life. However, seeing as many of my followers receive my content directly from the built in reader on wordpress.com, I realize that many of you may not have ever seen exactly where I’ve been, and when I’ve been there. So, I decided to convert that page into a stand alone article, which you are reading now.

Below you’ll find a shaded map which outlines all of the places I’ve travelled, as of February 2021. I’ve also included a more detailed list of the specific destinations I’ve visited in each individual country further down. (If I’ve written an article in one of these destinations, I’ll link it below as well)

Obviously, I hope to extend this list to as many places as life will take me. (I’m looking at you, Australia) But for now, I’m just glad to have received the opportunities to have been where I’ve been, and to have seen all the wonderful things they have to offer.

How many of these countries have you been to? Do you want to hear stories from any of these particular destinations? Where do you recommend I go next? Let me know in the comments below!


WHERE HAVE I TRAVELLED?

Total Countries Visited: 12

Blue areas represent places I’ve been.
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NORTH AMERICA

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EUROPE

  • ENGLAND
    • London (2006, 2019)
    • Newcastle-upon-Tyne (2019)
    • Durham (2019)
    • York (2019)
    • Alnwick (2019)
    • Bamburgh (2019)
    • Warwick (2019)
    • Windsor (2019)
    • Bath (2019)
    • Stratford-upon-Avon (2019)
  • FRANCE
    • Paris (2006)
    • Versailles (2006)
  • ITALY
    • Rome (2010)
    • Florence (2010)
    • Venice (2010)
  • PORTUGAL
    • Azores
      • Sao Miguel (2017)
    • Lisbon (2017)
    • Sintra (2017)
    • Albufeira (2017)
    • Sagres (2017)
  • SCOTLAND
  • SPAIN
  • VATICAN CITY (2010)

ASIA

  • JAPAN
    • Tokyo (2018, 2020)
    • Mt. Fuji (2018)
    • Osaka (2018)
    • Kyoto (2018)
    • Hiroshima (2018)
    • Miyajima (2018)
  • THAILAND
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Bangkok’s Golden Buddhas (Wat Pho Temple) – Photo Friday #8

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

Today’s travel photo comes from Wat Pho Temple in amazing Bangkok, Thailand.

This week marked the 1 year anniversary of my trip to Thailand in February of 2020. It seems hard to believe it’s been this long, and yet felt so short since my first time visiting Southeast Asia. If you read my post from a couple months ago, Thailand Travel Diary – Day 1: In Transit, you will recall that I was only able to spend one full day in the magical city of Bangkok before jetting off to the beaches of Phuket.

But you better believe that one full day was a full day well spent.

One of the destinations on the whirlwind city tour was Wat Pho Temple, better known as the home of the Reclining Buddha, where I caught a picture of a series of golden Buddhas sitting in a row. Just one amazing example of what Bangkok and Thailand has to offer!

See you next week!

Golden Buddhas, Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok, Thailand (ca. February 2020)

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A Detour to the Scottish Border

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Scotland-England Border
The view across the A1 towards the Scottish border marker

In May of 2019, I was in the middle of a whirlwind week-long tour of England, crammed in the back of a light blue Hyundai hatchback with my family. We had just picked up our car rental in the town of Durham, England, before beginning the journey north. Along the way, we would stop in Newcastle to watch a Liverpool F.C. vs. Newcastle United F.C. football match at a local pub, and then in Alnwick to rest for the night and to visit the spectacular Alnwick Castle.

Newcastle United, St. James' Park
St. James’ Park, home of Newcastle United F.C.
Alnwick Castle, England
Alnwick Castle, England

Our final destination on the journey north was to be Bamburgh Castle; one that was entirely inspired by our time watching the BBC/Netflix show, The Last Kingdom. Bamburgh Castle is spectacular, and was well worth the visit. After spending a few hours exploring, it was time to get back on the road.

While this should have been the time to turn around and begin driving south to the city of York, I had a different itinerary in mind, one that I had been pushing for from the moment we booked our flights: Scotland.

Bamburgh Castle, England
Bamburgh Castle, England
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If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that once I get my mind set on something, I’m hard pressed to let it go. And so when I saw that the Scottish-English border was a mere 37 kilometres (23 mi) away from Bamburgh Castle, I just had to try and and get there. When would I ever be back to this part of England? Would we ever get the chance to drive across the Scottish border again? I think some things should never be left to chance.

It took some convincing, but eventually my family agreed to take the 1-hour detour towards Scotland. I’m glad we did too, because the drive along the North Sea coastline made for some stunning views.

Scotland-England Border
The North Sea
Scotland-England Border
Farmland straddling the border

On arrival at the border, there was a short spillway off of the highway, and some limited parking available. We got out, and headed towards the stone marker and flag which denoted the exact boundary line between the two countries. Of course, we had to take pictures to prove our Scottish adventure.

Scotland-England Border
The spillway leading to the border
Scotland-England Border
The “Welcome to Scotland” sign
Scotland-England Border
Scottish stone border marker and flag posts
Scotland-England Border
One last look before turning around to head back to England

While we were only there for a grand total of 5 minutes, I’m glad we took the time to make this stop. I knew that if we hadn’t made this trip, I would have regretted it. I mean, technically it’s one more country to add to the list.

When we had seen everything that was to be seen, we got back on to the highway, and after a quick stop on the English side of the border, we headed back down the A1 towards the medieval city of York, where we would be staying for the next 3 days.


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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Thank You For 1000+ Unique Visitors!

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Happy Tuesday everyone!

I thought I would break the usual schedule for today to take the opportunity to thank the 1000+ unique visitors who have taken the time out of their day to visit seekingsaudades.com in countries all over the world! As always, I am incredibly grateful for your support. I really enjoy creating content for the blog and website, and for all of you.

In the internet (and COVID-19) age, I think it’s difficult to appreciate just how many people 1000 visitors actually is. I do know I definitely wouldn’t want to give a speech in front of a room full of them! Luckily, the internet is good for finding the answers to pointless questions, and so to illustrate what 1000 people in one place looks like, we turn to one of my favourite YouTube videos below in which 1000 musicians play the Foo Fighters’ song Learn to Fly.

Once again, thank you for visiting, and be sure to stay tuned for an all new travel article coming this Wednesday morning! Enjoy.


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Student Exchange in Melbourne, Australia

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Finally, some actual travel plans!

I am incredibly excited to say that I am in the middle of applying for an international student exchange in the beautiful city of Melbourne, Australia for the winter semester starting next year in February of 2022.

Now I know what you’re thinking: what about the pandemic?

You’re right. This whole thing is reliant on both Canada and Australia having low COVID-19 case numbers, vaccinating their respective citizens, and opening up the borders for international travellers. If I were try and do this today, I would be very much out of luck.

So I’m placing a bet that by this time next year the pandemic will be behind us, and the world will be on the path back to some sense of normalcy. If I’m wrong, well then at least I had something travel related to look forward to for a short while!

So far, I’ve been matched with a host institution, and that’s about as far as progress will go as of right now. In the coming months, I’ll have to confirm my spot, apply for a student visa, sort out accommodations, book flights, and most importantly do a whole heck of a lot of research on Melbourne and Australia themselves. (If you have some tips, leave me a comment below!) What I can say right now is that I’m already looking forward to leaving the frigid Canadian winter behind to go bask in the Southern Hemisphere’s warm summer sun!

Hopefully when all is said and done, I’ll be in the land down under in 2022. Until then, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.


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Warwick Castle, England – Photo Friday #7

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

This week takes us to Warwick Castle, England during my visit in May of 2019.

While my family was researching whether or not this destination was worth the visit on our road trip across England, a lot of the online reviewers cautioned Warwick Castle as “the Disneyland of English Castles”. While I can certainly see why some people would think this, it’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, I think that’s what makes it such a worthwhile place to visit!

Warwick Castle has the typical historical elements and museum pieces, things you’d expect, but it also has a series of well-done attractions. When I was there in May of 2019, these included a haunted tour, a birds of prey show, a trebuchet demonstration, and more. To a history buff, I can see why this might seem tacky and misplaced, but personally I thought it was a great way to mesh the old with the new, and in an engaging, exciting, and refreshing way; one that people of all ages can enjoy.

I highly recommend adding this to your list of must-see English destinations, and if you’re interested in learning more about what Warwick Castle has to offer, visit warwick-castle.com.

See you next week!

Warwick Castle, England
Warwick Castle, England (ca. May 2019)

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An Impulse Road Trip to the Province of Québec (Isle-aux-Allumettes)

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Back in August of 2020, I woke up one morning and decided I was up for an adventure.

I had just spent the night in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, where I had been working for the past couple months for a summer job. My shift on this particular day started at 1:15 p.m., so I had some time to kill on my hands. I thought about hiking one of the park’s many hiking trails, but the trails I still had left to do were either too short, or too long. Seeing as I didn’t really feel like waiting around for half a day before work, or showing up hours late, I decided to steer my gaze elsewhere.

See, except for Whitney, Ontario, which lies just outside Algonquin’s borders, I had never really ventured past the Park’s East Gate. And so, I set my initial sights on Barry’s Bay, and hit the road just after 7:30 a.m. When I got there, I filled up on gas, and grabbed a coffee. With still so much time left before work, I checked Google Maps to see where else I could go.

This is when I noticed my relative proximity to the Province of Québec. From Barry’s Bay, it was only a 1-hour, 93 km drive. I checked the clock and calculated that I would have just enough time to get there, turn around, make the 2-hour return drive, and get back to Algonquin just before work started. I only had a small window of time to get moving, and so without hesitating, I got in my car and headed towards the border.

Now, if you’ve ever been to this portion of Ontario, you’ll know the struggle that is the radio. My only two choices were CBC talk radio, or the local country station. I chose the country station as the lesser of two evils. I could have listened to my own playlists, but I was in one of those weird phases where you skip every song that comes on.

Thankfully, the radio wasn’t that important as the scenery was just absolutely stunning. The topography ranged from lakes, rocks, and forests, to large rolling hills, to open fields of farmland, and then back to forests again. The best way to describe it would be if the length of southern Ontario from Windsor to Sudbury was compressed into a 1-hour drive.

Naturally, due to the time crunch, I didn’t stop to take many pictures on the way there. It was only when I got to the Ontario-Québec border that I decided I should make an attempt to document the trip, and that is where the following photo’s pick up.

Crossing the bridge from Pembroke, Ontario to L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, Québec.
Bienvenue au Québec! Entering Canada’s French Speaking Province.
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When I got across the bridge, and onto the Isle-aux-Allumettes, my only real plan was to find somewhere to pull off the road and see the Ottawa River. I ended up turning down a series of random roads that I figured led towards the water. After about 10 minutes of searching, I found a boat launch, parked my car, and got out to take a look.

I took a bunch of pictures, and sent them to my family group chat and a few friends with the message: “Bienvenue au Québec”. I kept waiting for them to be surprised that I had somehow magically appeared in another province on the same day that I was supposed to be working, but those messages never came. When I asked about why nobody responded to me a few days later, I was told that nobody actually clued in to the fact that I was actually in Québec. They figured that I had just sent them some random pictures from the internet, or that I was just trying practice my French. I had to show them my phone’s camera roll before anyone finally believed me!

L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
My first impression of the Ottawa River was it’s sheer size. It felt more like a lake than a river!
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
There was a long pier that jetted out into the middle of the river, as well as a small lighthouse close to the water.
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
Turning to look back towards the shore, there was a small barn, and some riverfront homes peering out from the trees.
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L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
Looking across the river, you could see the skyline of Pembroke, Ontario.
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
Along with the lighthouse, there was a boat launch at the end of the pier.
L'Isle-aux-Allumettes, Quebec, Canada
(You might have seen this picture on Photo Friday)

By the time I got to the end of the Pier, it was time to turn around and head back to Algonquin Provincial Park for work. I drove 2 and a half hours straight back, bobbing my head along to the sounds of my new found forced-love of country music. It was close, but I managed to arrive about 10 minutes before the start of my shift.

In hindsight, this impulse trip was quite possibly the dumbest thing I could have chosen to do that day. I could have easily been late for work, and my legs were absolutely dead from all the driving; not exactly helpful when you’re job requires you to be on your feet for 8-hours straight.

However, at the same time it was the best thing I could have done because when I think back to 2020, this trip to Québec was one of the more memorable parts of the summer. In a year when there wasn’t much travelling going on, this was a welcomed change of pace and a brief return to some sense of normalcy.

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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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The Ottawa River – Photo Friday #6

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

This week’s photo was taken on the Québec side of the Ottawa River, just across from Pembroke, Ontario, Canada in August 2020.

This picture was the result of a spur of the moment 4-hour road-trip I decided to take one early morning before work. (A story for another time) I’ve always known that the Ottawa River was wide, but when I arrived I was still surprised to find out just how big it actually was; it felt more like I was on the edge of a lake than on the banks of a river! While I only stayed for a few minutes before turning around to head back, it made for a nice day trip, and a good distraction from work for the time being.

See you next week!

Ottawa River, Quebec, Canada
The Ottawa River, Québec, Canada (ca. August 2020)

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Beaver Pond Trail – Algonquin Provincial Park

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Quick Look:

Name: Beaver Pond Trail

Location: Km marker 45.2, Highway 60, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Length: 2.0 km (1.2 mi)

Difficulty: Moderate

Features & Points of Interest: Beaver ponds, lodges & dams; scenic lookout.

Beaver Pond Trail Map, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Beaver Pond Trail Map – Algonquin Provincial Park (Source: alltrails.com)

Overview:

The Beaver Pond Trail is a 2.0 km (1.2 mi) hiking loop located in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. The moderate-difficulty route features an array of beaver activity such as ponds, dams, and lodges, and navigates through several terrains including a bog, a forest, and a scenic rocky lookout. The Beaver Pond Trail is perfect for those looking to explore multiple ecosystems within a relatively short distance, and learn about the impact beavers have on this stunning environment; all while still working up a good sweat.

Beaver Pond Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
The Beaver Pond Trail begins with a walk across a bog on a well-maintained boardwalk.
Beaver Pond Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
The contrasting wetland and forest environments are showcased throughout the hike.
Beaver Pond Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
There is a helpful guidebook at the trailhead which explains how the beavers work to shape their surroundings.
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What do you need to know?:

I highly recommend picking up a Beaver Pond Trail guidebook when you arrive at the trailhead. You can purchase one by leaving the correct change in the honour box below the trail map sign, or you can simply borrow it for free by returning it at the end of your hike. This guidebook provides insight into the dual history this area, and the beavers who live in it, and discusses the processes by which they have created and molded this environment to suit their survival needs. Just be on the lookout for the corresponding numbered fenceposts along the path, and refer to guidebook as you go.

On arrival, there is a sizeable parking lot available just off of highway 60. While crowds on this trail are generally less in number compared to other hikes such as The Lookout Trail, it is always worth keeping in mind the time of year you’re visiting (fall colours season will be busy) in order to enjoy the best experience. If you’re looking for another activity to pair with this hike, the Beaver Pond Trail is only 2 km (1.2 mi) away from the Algonquin Park Visitors Centre.

If you’re thinking of hiking the Beaver Pond Trail, be sure to check the weather forecast in advance as the path is known to become a slush of mud after a good rainfall. If you find that the trail is in an unusable condition when you arrive, consider hiking the nearby Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail to stay out of the muck and to keep your socks dry.

Beaver Pond Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
This beaver dam is an impressive example of the influence the beavers have.
Beaver Pond Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
There are lots of opportunities to stop, take photos, and admire nature.
Beaver Pond Trail, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
The pinnacle of this hike is the scenic rock outcrop which overlooks one of the two beaver ponds.
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How to get here:

  • From Toronto:
    • Hwy 400 –> Hwy 11 –> Hwy 60 –> Algonquin Park West Gate –> Km marker 45.2

*Be sure to stop in at the West Gate first to pick up your day pass*


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 Sunrise – Photo Friday #5

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

Today’s photo was taken back in September of 2020 in the Algonquin Highlands, located in Ontario, Canada.

I’m not really a morning person, but this past summer I found myself needing to wake up early for work and thankfully for my troubles, almost every day I was rewarded with an absolutely stunning sunrise. The lake, the big skies, the rolling forested hills, and of course the vibrant colours brought by the rising sun made this the perfect setting to start my day.

I miss these early mornings, and I can’t wait until winter finally releases its grip on the north, and I get to be here again. This picture below was la crème de la crème of all the sunrises I witnessed, and I’m sure you’ll see why.

See you next week!


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Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail – Algonquin Provincial Park

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Quick Look:

Name: Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail

Location: Km marker 42.5, Highway 60, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Length: 1.4 km (0.87 mi)

Difficulty: Easy

Features & Points of Interest: Well maintained boardwalk, bird-watching, northern spruce bog, forested path, wheelchair accessible & kid friendly.

Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail Map – Algonquin Park (Source: alltrails.com)

Overview

The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, located in Algonquin Provincial Park, is an easy, wheelchair accessible 1.4 km (0.87 mi) loop that follows a well maintained wooden boardwalk through a northern spruce bog and wooded area. This trail provides excellent opportunities for bird-watching and photography, and is the perfect place to enjoy a slow paced nature walk with younger children and seniors.

Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
The beginning of the trail hovers above the bog
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
A small stream runs through the heart of the bog
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
About halfway through the trail, the boardwalk gives way to a forested path
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What do you need to know?

The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail is one of the most accessible in all of Algonquin Park. While adventure seekers might prefer hiking somewhere else, this trail is a perfect place to go for a slow paced nature walk, take some photos, and enjoy the scenery with friends and family. The mostly flat grade, and relatively short length makes this a great choice for beginners, seniors, or those with younger children.

While the trail’s location is fairly far along the Highway 60 corridor, and a little ways away from the west entrance of Algonquin Park, the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail is well worth the trip, especially as a companion activity to the Visitors Centre, located half a kilometre away at km 43.

In my opinion, this trail is best enjoyed if used from late June until late October to avoid the swarms of bugs you’ll encounter during blackfly season earlier in the spring. However, as this is the perfect spawning ground for mosquitos, you might want to choose a warm, sunny day to hike this trail in order to avoid getting bitten throughout the rest of the summer months!

Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
Birds, turtles, beavers, and more can be found on this trail!
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
This section of the trail, which snakes through a grouping of spruce trees, is perhaps the most photogenic
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
While it’s scenic, beware, this is the perfect spawning ground for Mosquitos!
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How to get here:

  • From Toronto:
    • Hwy 400 –> Hwy 11 –> Hwy 60 –> Algonquin Park West Gate –> Km marker 42.5

*Be sure to stop in at the West Gate first to pick up your day pass*


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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Illusions of Time (Vsauce)

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The other day, I came across a YouTube video called Illusions of Time by Vsauce. If you’re interested in science, and the odd quirks of the world and the universe, you’ve probably heard of this channel. If not, I highly recommend checking it out and subscribing; there’s a lot of really interesting and thought-provoking videos!

In this video, Illusions of Time, the host Michael dives deep into the concept of time, and how we as humans perceive it in different aspects of our life. It’s about 30 minutes in length, but well worth the watch as there are numerous moments within it where you question how you are choosing to live your life, and how the choices you make are crucial to getting the most out of your time on this planet. (Kind of like Seeking Saudades?)

Of course, the video itself does a much better job of explaining these concepts than I do, so give it a watch for yourself below!

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Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand – Photo Friday #4

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

This week’s image was taken in February of 2020, and features the view from the swimming pool of our hillside accommodation in Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand.

Aside from the obvious spectacular scenery, I love this picture because it brings back a flood of memories; the smell of the ocean, the gentle whispering breeze, and the warmth and silence of the setting sun. Thailand is a special place, and I can’t help but look at this photo and wish I was there once again.

See you next week!

Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand
Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand (ca. February 2020)

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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Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower – Kitchener, Ontario

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The Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower is an 18.9 m (62 ft.) tall stone tower constructed in 1925 to commemorate the original Pennsylvanian-German pioneer settlers who arrived in what is now Waterloo Region between 1800 and 1803. It is located along the banks of the Grand River in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, just over a 1-hour drive from Toronto, and lies on what was originally the territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River.


Quick Look

Name: Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

Location: 300 Lookout Ln, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Maintained By: Parks Canada

Features & Points of Interest: Stone tower, scenic lookout, historical sites, natural area, hiking trails, community park.

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Although the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower used to be surrounded by farmers fields and forests, the structure now lies at the back of a recently constructed subdivision. To get to the tower, simply follow the Parks Canada signs that begin to appear once you turn off of King St. and onto Deer Ridge Rd. On arrival, there is a small, and free parking lot available.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Parks Canada directions sign
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower parking lot
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

The tower is located within steps to the parking lot, and sits in the centre of a small clearing. At the site, there are a couple of informational plaques that recount the history of the area, and the historical significance of tower itself, of which I will briefly cover before continuing on to what else this destination has to offer.

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Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Parks Canada historical plaque

In 1784, nearly 240,000 hectares of land, including that of which the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower now sits on, was given as a gift to the Six Nations Confederacy for their allegiance and support to the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War. In the years to come, some 38,000 hectares of this land was then purchased and sold again, this time by German Mennonite Settlers from Pennsylvania, who were looking to escape the persecution and high land prices they faced in the United States.

As time passed, more and more German pioneer settlers travelled to what would eventually become Waterloo County. They established homesteads and farms, and began cultivating and developing the land; the first of which was located on this site, where the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower now lies, in present day Kitchener, Ontario.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

While today the city is known as Kitchener, Ontario, this wasn’t always the case. In the past, the city went by a different name; Berlin, Ontario. Beginning with the arrival of the original German Pioneer settlers, who established Berlin in the early 1800s, this area has maintained a prominent German cultural presence. Even today, the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany takes place here every year, attracting over 700,000 visitors annually.

However, in 1916 this heritage wasn’t as keenly celebrated. In response to the growing local anti-German sentiments caused by the outbreak of World War I, the city voted to change its name in support of the British Empire, and thus was renamed to Kitchener, Ontario, after Herbert Kitchener, a prominent Irish-born officer who served in the British Army from 1871 to 1916.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

Following the conclusion of the first world war, to make amends for the damage done by the anti-German sentiments, and subsequent city name change, a petition was put forth to the local government to construct a monument to represent the historical significance of the original pioneer settlers, and German heritage. Thus, the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower was built. It cost $4,500 to build, and was eventually designated as a historical site in 1989. While there have been some refurbishments to the original structure over the years, its exterior appearance has remained relatively unchanged since.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
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While at one point the interior of the tower was open to the public, today the front entrance is locked. However, if you’re interested in seeing the inside, you can contact Parks Canada ahead of time to gain access and schedule an official tour.

Nearby the tower there is also a small cemetery, inside of which you’ll find the headstones of some of those original German pioneers, including Joseph and Elizabeth Sherk, parents of David Sherk, who is reputed to be the first non-indigenous person born in what would become Waterloo County.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Dedication Plaque located on the side of the tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Inner staircase leading to the top of the tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Nearby pioneer cemetery

When you’re finished taking in the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, I recommend going for a short walk down Joseph Schoerg Crescent to explore the ruins of the Betzner Barn, and the Schoerg (Sherk) farmstead, the first permanent European settlement in inland Upper Canada. There are also several informational plaques which talk about the the history of the pioneers, and the local area which I described above.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
The remaining structure of the Betzner barn
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Joseph Schoerg Crescent (ruins at left, tower down the road)

The Betzner Barn is also the location of Clarica Lookout, which offers a view of the nearby Pioneer Tower Natural Area. This greenspace was created to protect the winter habitat of the king of the skies, the Bald Eagle. Since the 1700s, the local population of this majestic bird has been decimated due to hunting and habitat loss, and so this natural area remains one of the few refuges in the region.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area
The view from Clarica Lookout
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area
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While the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower and surrounding structures offer a glimpse back into history, this area also features Kuntz Park, the Walter Bean Grand River Trail, and the Pioneer Tower Natural Area, as I mentioned above. These locations are great places to go for a nature walk, and while I only had time to walk the Pioneer Tower Natural Area section of the trail, there are more than 17 km (10.5 mi) of pathways to explore, stretching all the way from Cambridge, Ontario, through the City of Kitchener along the Grand River, and then further more on to Waterloo, Ontario.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail
Walter Bean Grand River Trail Map
Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail
Path leading into the Pioneer Tower Natural Area
Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail
Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail

The Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, in combination with the Pioneer Tower Natural Area, and the Walter Bean Grand River Trail makes this destination well worth the visit. Whether it be the history, the nature, or simply being a great place to go for a walk, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.


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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Lookout Trail – Algonquin Provincial Park

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Quick Look:

Name: Lookout Trail

Location: Km marker 39.7, Highway 60, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Length: 2.1 km (1.3 mi)

Elevation Gain: 71 m (233 ft)

Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult

Features & Points of Interest: Scenic lookout, large rock outcrop, sheer cliff, well maintained forested path

Algonquin Lookout Trail Map
Algonquin Lookout Trail Map (Source: alltrails.com)

Overview

The Lookout Trail, located in Algonquin Provincial Park, is a moderate to difficult 2.1 km loop that features a sweeping scenic lookout, large rock outcrop, and well-maintained forested path. Despite its relatively short length, this trail can pose a challenge for some due to its steep incline, and elevation gain. At a moderate pace, the hike can be completed in less than 1 hour.

Lookout Trail Algonquin Park
Flat, forested section of the path, just past the trailhead
Lookout Trail Algonquin Park
Shortly past this point, the trail gives way to a relatively steep incline

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What do you need to know?

Hikers will be rewarded with one of the best views in the entire area and a fantastic place to stop, catch your breath, and take an unhealthy amount of photos. Just be warned though, this trail is one of the most accessible in Algonquin Park, and as such will be one of the busiest. It’s best to hike the Lookout Trail earlier in the morning, or later in the afternoon to avoid the lunchtime and evening rushes.

If you’re planning on visiting during the Fall colours season, particularly on the weekend, know that the parking lot reaches over-capacity quickly, and the path becomes nearly unusable due to the congestion. To maximize your enjoyment, consider coming during the week, or visiting the park at a time of year when the crowds aren’t as numerous.

Algonquin Lookout Trail
A bench at the top is the perfect place rest, or take photos
Lookout Trail Algonquin
A small lake is visible in the distance
Algonquin Lookout Trail

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How to get here:

  • From Toronto:
    • Hwy 400 –> Hwy 11 –> Hwy 60 –> Algonquin Park West Gate –> km marker 39.7
    • *Be sure to stop in at the West Gate to pick up your day pass*

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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The Canada / United States Border – Photo Friday #3

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Welcome back to Photo Friday and Happy New Year!

This week’s photo comes from the Canada – United States Border between the Province of British Columbia and Washington State.

Much of the border between Canada and the United States looks just like the area in photo below: a ditch beside the road, or a long clearing of trees. The border between these two nations is not only the longest international border in the world, (8,890 km, 5524 mi) but it’s also the longest undefended one. The only way to actually tell you’re entering an entirely different country is by the colour difference of the pavement, and the white pillars which mark the exact boundary line.

Still though, much of the border is under constant 24/7 surveillance from both sides, so crossing here without repercussions isn’t as easy as it seems. However, it fascinates me just how different the United States’ northern border is with Canada in contrast to the one with Mexico in the south; walls, fences and all.

See you next week!

The Canada - United States Border
Canada – United States Border Marker, British Columbia/Washington State (ca. November 2019)

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2020: Year In Review

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To mark the end of the year, I put together a brief overview of 2020: what I did, where I went, my top posts, and the overall statistics of the website and blog. You’ll also find a list of my favourite blogs and channels of the year, and links to their respective pages.

2020 was a memorable year for a lot of reasons. While it started out relatively normal, the global COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed how the rest of the year would unravel; for all of us. I was lucky enough to do some international travelling before the world shut down, and then explore some of my own home country once Canada loosened some of it’s internal restrictions over the summer months.

But perhaps the most memorable part of 2020 for me happened on May 1st, when I finally took the plunge and started this website and blog, Seeking Saudades. As I said in my last post, I’ve really enjoyed writing, reading, and interacting with all of you, and I’m extremely grateful for those who have taken the time out of their day to visit, like, share and follow.

I’m excited to keep growing, learning, and posting new material, but for now, let’s take a look back at the year that was. Here is the 2020 year in review.

See you in 2021!


| Travel Recap

1. Thailand

I travelled to Thailand in late February, just before the global shutdown due to COVID-19. The first part of the trip was a short stint in Bangkok, followed by a week-long stay on the island of Phuket. It was my first time in Thailand, and I really enjoyed what I saw. I’ll definitely be making the effort to return one day.

| Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand
| Phuket
Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand
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2. Japan

This marked my second time in Japan. My first was a near 2-week stay in 2018 travelling through Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. This trip however, was simply a 2-day layover in Tokyo on the way back home from Thailand in late February. I love Japan, and any excuse to visit is one worth taking. There are plans in the works to go back again in the near future; exactly how near is up to COVID-19.

| Tokyo
Senso-JI Temple, Tokyo, Japan
3. Canada (Notable Destinations)

I did more exploring of my home Province of Ontario this year than ever before. While there were a ton of destinations on the itinerary this summer, I narrowed the list down to a few notable places. I went to Chutes Provincial Park in early September as part of a larger road trip to Manitoulin Island. While I was impressed by both, my favourite destination this summer was Algonquin Provincial Park. I might be a little biased as I worked there, but nonetheless it’s still a breathtaking area, and one I highly recommend you visit if you haven’t been before.

| Algonquin Provincial Park
Spruce Bog Boardwalk, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
| Chutes Provincial Park
Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
| Manitoulin Island
Cup and Saucer Trail, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

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| Overall Website Statistics

*Statistics are from May 1st – December 30th, 2020*


Where You’re Reading:

In 2020, Seeking Saudades was viewed in 42 countries from around the world. Here is a map and list of where, and a breakdown of each location’s total percentage of views.

1. Breakdown by Map
Shaded countries represent where Seeking Saudades was viewed
2. Breakdown by List
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Most Viewed Post:
3 Days in Seattle, Washington
3 Days in Seattle, Washington
Most Liked Post:
Tales From a Lost Water Bottle
Personal Favourite Post:
Music For a World Traveller – Sounds like Van Spirit
Sounds Like Van Spirit: A Collection of Europe's Pavement Melodies

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| Favourite Travel Blogs

1. Andy’s World Journeys

Travel, photos & more from 84 countries & counting!

2. Wandering Canadians

Two Canadians exploring the world.

3. Digging For Gems

Searching for hidden gems along the best tourist trails.


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| Favourite Travel Channels

1. Rich and Kirsten

Rich and Kirsten are Canadian couple who started off the year travelling the world, but were ultimately forced back home due to the pandemic. They spent the summer living and driving across Canada in a minivan, and loved it so much they decided to convert a cargo van to live in on the road full time.

2. Abroad in Japan

Chris Broad is originally from England, but moved to Japan full time to teach English. Since his arrival years ago, he’s made a career out of making videos about his experiences, notable destinations, and cultural differences. If you’re interested in learning more about Japan, his channel is where to go first. His latest series was a 1,000 km road trip to Mount Fuji.

3. Joe Robinet

Joe Robinet films extended length outdoor adventure and bushcraft videos. If you’re a fan of Les Stroud – Survivorman, you’ll love Joe’s content. I spent the summer binge-watching his collection of canoe expeditions through the wilderness of Ontario.


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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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Thank You for 1000 Views!

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Happy Monday everyone!

Recently, Seeking Saudades surpassed 1000 total views! I’m incredibly grateful to all those who have taken the time out of their day to stop by to read, like, comment, share or follow this website and blog. It has been a pleasure writing, and interacting with all of you and I’m excited to keep building and creating more in the future to come.

For the first time, I’ve decided on keeping a consistent schedule for all of my posts, so make sure to keep an eye out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new material!

Thank you, and see you then!



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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Algonquin Highlands, Ontario, Canada – Photo Friday #2

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Welcome back to Photo Friday, and Merry Christmas!

This week I’ve chosen a picture that was taken from an unmarked trail and lookout in the Algonquin Highlands, located just south of Algonquin Provincial Park in central Ontario, Canada in July of 2020.

For those looking to get out and explore next year, this region of Ontario offers some of the best hiking, swimming, camping, sight seeing, boating and more in the entire province. The best part: it’s within close proximity to Toronto, about a 3 hour drive, so you can easily make a day trip out of it. This area is one of my favourite places on Earth, and the photo below might just help illustrate why.

See you next week!

Algonquin Highlands, Ontario, Canada
Algonquin Highlands, Ontario, Canada (ca. July 2020)

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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A Photo Journal of Chutes Provincial Park

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*This article was originally posted on September 21st, 2020 and has since been restructured, edited, and reposted to provide a more enjoyable and informative reading experience.*


In September of 2020, I went on a road trip to Manitoulin Island, and decided to car camp at Chutes Provincial Park in Massey, Ontario, Canada for 2 nights. Here are some photo highlights of the stay, and why everyone should make time to explore this small, yet picturesque park.



The entrance to Chutes is tucked just off of the Trans-Canada hwy, making it an easy stopping off point while driving inbetween Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie

The entrance to Chutes Provincial Park is tucked just off of the Trans-Canada Highway, making it an easy stopping off point while driving in-between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

Chutes Provincial Park is named for its' logging history along the Aux Sables River. Every Campsite is within close walking distance to the river, and the roar of the waterfalls echos in the distance

Chutes Provincial Park is named for its’ logging history along the Aux Sables River. Every Campsite is within close walking distance to the river, and the roar of the waterfall echoes in the distance.

The comfort station is in a central location to all of the campsites and was always very clean. Don't worry though, if you don't want to go to far in the middle of the night there are plenty of privies scattered along the camp roads, and in some of the best condition I've seen in Ontario Parks!

The only comfort station is in a central location to all of the campsites and was always very clean. There are plenty of privies scattered along the camp roads if you don’t want to go too far in the middle of the night. They are in some of the best condition I’ve seen in an Ontario park!

My campsite was located on Big Chute Crescent, which is accessed via Log Drive Lane.

My campsite was located on Big Chute Crescent, which is accessed via Log Drive Lane, just past the comfort station.

Campsite #98. My home for the next 2 nights. Well treed for lots of privacy, 2 picnic tables, and only a short walk to the Falls and the Twin Bridges trail. There are privies just down the road, and a water tap is located right next door. In my opinion, this section of Chutes Provincial Park (which happens to be a radio free zone) offers the best sites for car camping.

Campsite #98. My home for the next 2 nights. Well treed for lots of privacy, 2 picnic tables, and only a short walk to the falls and the Twin Bridges Trail. There are privies just down the road, and a water tap is located right next door. In my opinion, this section of Chutes Provincial Park (which happens to be a radio free zone) offers the best sites for car camping.

The observation deck hangs just next to the Falls and offers a great place to first get acquainted with the scenery when you arrive.

The park’s main observation deck hangs just next to the Falls and offers a great place to first get acquainted with the scenery when you arrive.

The main falls are an awe-inspiring sight, and a short walk from anywhere in the park.

The main falls are an awe-inspiring sight, and a short walk from anywhere in the park.


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The main falls, and the day use beach in the distance.

The main falls, and the day use beach in the distance.

The day use beach area is only a short walk from the falls, and makes for a great place to have a picnic by the water.

The day use beach area is only a short walk from the falls, and makes for a great place to have a picnic by the water.

Although the Park only has 1 walking trail, it is well worth the stop, offering stunning views, rocky terrain, and untamed northern wilderness. There are plenty of places to stop and take pictures, and the trail is never too busy with other hikers. The walking is fairly easy as well, so anyone can take part.

Although the Park only has one walking trail, it is well worth the stop. It offers stunning views, rocky terrain, and a taste of the untamed northern wilderness. There are plenty of places to stop and take pictures, and the trail is never overly busy with other hikers. The walking is fairly easy as well, so anyone can take part.

The Twin Bridges trail follows the river banks of the Aux Sables, offering plenty of photo opportunities at every turn. The photos that follow showcase just a few of the many sights to be seen.

The Twin Bridges trail follows the banks of the Aux Sables River, offering plenty of photo opportunities at every turn. The pictures that follow showcase just a few of the many sights to be seen.


Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Calmer sections of the river provide a brief and quiet moment of refuge from the raging torrents of the rapids soon to come.

Calmer sections of the river provide a brief and quiet moment of refuge from the raging torrents of the rapids soon to come.

Perhaps the most stunning part of the trail, the convergence of the two halves of the river lead into the Seven Sisters Rapids. The Raw strength of the flowing water is an impressive sight.

Perhaps the most stunning part of the trail, the convergence of the two halves of the river lead into the Seven Sisters Rapids. The raw strength of the flowing water is an impressive sight.

The trail past this point continues further into the woods,  but the hike up to here is well worth it on its own!

The trail past this point continues further into the woods, but the hike up to here is well worth it on its own!

Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

I highly recommend staying at Chutes Provincial Park. The staff are friendly, the campsites are well tended to, and the location and scenery are hard to beat! If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.


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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Countries You Didn’t Know Shared a Border With Canada

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Canada is a massive country. At 9.985 million km² (3.855 million mi²) it is second in size only to Russia. It has the largest coastline of any nation in the world at 243,042 km (151,019 mi), and touches three oceans: the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Arctic. To travel from one side of the country to the other would take an astounding 61 hours of straight driving.

And yet for all its size, Canada is only bordered by one other nation: the United States of America. At least, that’s most people would tell you. Upon further investigation, you’ll actually find that Canada shares a border with two other countries: The Kingdom of Denmark, and France.

1.) Canada – France Maritime Border

Located just 25 kilometers (16 mi) off the coast of the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the island of St. Pierre and Miquelon is the last remaining piece of a once large French colonial presence in North America. It covers an area of just 242 square kilometres (93 sq mi), and has a population of just over 6,000 people. The island also operates in its’ own time zone, (UTC-3) 30 minutes ahead of its’ Canadian counterpart. (UTC-3).

Despite its’ close proximity to Canada, this overseas territory retains complete French sovereignty. Residents have French citizenship, cars have European license plates, and all business is conducted in the Euro. To get to St. Pierre and Miquelon, there is a ferry that runs regularly to and from Fortune, Newfoundland, with the crossing taking about 90 minutes.

St. Pierre and Miquelon (Source)
The city streets offer a taste of France (Source)

According to Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, St. Pierre and Miquelon has managed to surprisingly stay culturally unique from its’ North American neighbors, and retains a striking similarity and dedication to the French Mainland. As Newfoundland Tourism says, St. Pierre isn’t like France, it is France.

It may seem obvious, but you’ll need a passport to visit the island, and will need to clear customs just like any other international border. Although throughout history there have been a number of maritime border disputes between France and Canada over this overseas territory, mainly due to fishing rights, in 1992 an international arbitration committee finally settled on the official maritime boundary which is seen today.

Aerial view of St. Pierre and Miquelon (Source)
Canada – France Customs Office in Fortune, Newfoundland (Source)

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2.) Canada – Demark Maritime Border

Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark share the longest maritime border in the world at 2,646 kilometres, (1,644 mi) thanks to the Danish territory of Greenland. As with St. Pierre and Miquelon, there has been a history of countering border disputes between the exact location of each nation’s boundary. In 1972, these disputes were finally settled in a bilateral agreement; that is however, except for one small island located in the Nares Strait, just south of the Arctic Ocean. This place is known as Hans Island.

Canada – Denmark Maritime Boundary Agreement (Source)

Hans Island is essentially a large rock in the middle of nowhere. It measures just 1.3 square kilometres (0.5 sq mi), and sits exactly in the middle of the 35 km stretch between Canada and Greenland, with the maritime border running right down the middle of the island. It is absurdly far from the nearest populated areas, with the closest being Alert, Canada (198 km, pop. 62) and Siorapaluk, Greenland (349 km, pop. 68).

The Indigenous Inuit populations of Canada and Greenland have been using Hans Island as part of their traditional hunting grounds for centuries, long before Europeans even made their first presence known in North America, but other than that, the island doesn’t really provide any significant economic, strategic, or historical value to either Canada or Denmark, at least that I can think of.

Aerial view of Hans Island (Source)
Competing flag raising ceremonies on Hans Island (Source)

And yet both nations have made significant efforts to claim sovereignty over Hans Island. Don’t get ahead of yourself though, this conflict is quite possibly the most peaceful international dispute of all time. In the 1980s the Canadian military visited the island, raising a Canadian flag, and leaving behind a bottle of Canadian Whisky with a note that said, “Welcome to Canada”. The Danish responded by visiting the island themselves, raising their own national flag and leaving behind a bottle of Danish Schnapps with a note that said, “Welcome to the Danish Island”.

Since then, both countries have traded bottles of liquor on occasional visits to the disputed territory, thus earning the conflict the fitting nickname of the Whisky Wars. Recently, there have been efforts to resolve the border dispute once and for all, although nothing has been formally agreed on as of writing this post. One such suggestion is to make Hans Island a condominium, or a shared piece of land between the two nations. One island, flying under two different flags. I think that’s a pretty good idea if you ask me.


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Alnwick Castle, England – Photo Friday

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Welcome to the first ever Photo Friday!

Lately, I’ve realized that I’ve been sitting on a lot of pictures that I’ve taken over the past couple of years, and instead of letting them go to waste on my computer I thought that it would be a good idea share them here for others to enjoy.

This week’s photo was taken at Alnwick Castle, England in May of 2019.

Harry Potter fans may recognize this castle the best, as it was used for many of the outdoor filming locations for Hogwarts Castle in the first two films in the series, most notably broomstick training.

Alnwick Castle, England (ca. May 2019)

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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 You on Earth?

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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/


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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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


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Thailand Travel Diary – Day 1: In Transit

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In February of 2020, I went on a family vacation to Thailand. As most of you know, this was shortly prior to the global shutdown to limit the spread of COVID-19. Although the virus was on our minds, we were luckily able to experience the beauty of Thailand relatively without issue. Aside from the early implementation of health measures in airports, and a few more people wearing masks out in public, it was pretty much life as usual.

Still in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, and with little signs of global travel returning to normal, I thought it would be a good idea to take a trip down memory lane and recount my 7 days of travel; my first to Thailand, and Southeast Asia.

Day 1: In Transit Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) via Seoul, South Korea (ICN)

I remember this being a very long travel day. The entire trip would consist of 2 different flights: one 14 hour 20 minute leg from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, and one 6 hour leg from Seoul to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. There was one 3 hour layover in-between and by the end of the journey a total of 20 hours would be spent in the air.

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I arrived at Pearson 3 hours early for my 1:35 pm flight. It was my first solo flight, and the longest one of my life at that. See, this trip was a family vacation that took place during my reading week at University, and unfortunately I had an exam the day our flight was supposed to leave. I couldn’t get my exam moved so we had to push my flight back by a day. My parents decided that they would continue on and make sure our Airbnb didn’t go to waste, and as such I was left to traverse halfway around the world on my lonesome. While I had done quite a fair bit of travelling growing up, I always had someone else to rely on to make sure the correct documents were in order, we got where to we needed to be on time, and that I didn’t forget to pack anything.

So when my brother’s car pulled away from the curb and left me at the departures gate, I had a brief moment of panic. It was nothing serious, just a moment where it all started to feel very real to me, and the long day ahead of me really set in.

I checked in, fumbled with the baggage drop off, and went through security fairly quickly. At this point in the pandemic, nothing had really changed in terms of air travel, at least in Canada, so all I really noticed were a few more staff members wearing masks, and a couple more bottles of hand sanitizer than usual. I headed to my gate, sat down, and began the process of killing time. I charged my electronics, watched some TV, bought some snacks, ate lunch, and watched the planes out the window take off and land. Just before boarding, I changed into my sweatpants and hoodie, took a sleeping pill (which never even came remotely close to working) and messaged my family group chat that I was boarding the plane. This was the last contact I would have with the outside world until landing in South Korea.

Killing time before my flight at Toronto’s Pearson International

Once on the aircraft, an Air Canada Boeing 787-9, I made my way to my seat. I had booked an exit row about halfway down the cabin, and to my delight the middle seat was empty. That feeling when the doors close, and nobody is sitting next to you is a magical feeling. The gentleman sitting in the far left seat and I put the tray table down beside us and used the middle seat as an extra storage area, and it was wonderful. Two armrests AND the window? Boy what a day.

We taxied onto the runway and took off right on time. Within a matter of minutes we were flying over the Muskoka region in central Ontario, and were treated to a view of frozen lakes and snow covered forests.

Lakes and forests locked in winter, somewhere over central Ontario
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In no time, we reached cruising altitude and the cabin crew were hastily handing out the in-flight service. I’ve yet to have a delicious meal on an airplane, so all I’ll say is that the ice cream desert was an effective way to clear the palate.

The lights dimmed, the window shades became shadier and I fell asleep for the rest of the flight like a baby. Well, that’s what I wish I could say. I have quite the love-hate relationship with airplanes; I marvel at their engineering, yet I am terrified that something is going to go very wrong. This, in combination with the upright sleeping position and jet engines blasting in your ear mean that it is impossible for me to sleep on a plane. While if given the choice I prefer to fly long-haul, it doesn’t mean that the experience is necessarily enjoyable for me.

Snow capped mountain ranges, Siberia / Northern China

So how did I spent the next 14 hours you ask? Several movies, a couple of TV shows, and an unforgivable amount of virtual Poker. Being in the exit row helped though. I was able to stretch my legs all the way out, get up and move around every couple hours, and use the bathroom whenever I wanted. Naturally though, seeing as I woke up around 8 am to make it to the airport on time, and then proceeded to spend 14 hours without sleep on the plane, while jumping through several time zones, I was absolute mentally, physically, and emotionally destroyed. I actually felt pretty refreshed when we landed in Seoul but by the time I boarded my next flight I was disoriented, confused, and ready to pass out. But first, I had a layover to attend to.

A view fresh off the plane of the tarmac at Seoul Incheon International Airport
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Getting off the plane in South Korea came with a wakeup call: COVID-19 was serious, and the Koreans weren’t going to take any chances. There were temperature sensors, questionnaires, and most jarring of all, the airport staff dressed in head to toe hazmat gear. They would check passports and funnel Chinese nationals and travellers into their own respective line with another set of barriers to pass. Up to this point, I hadn’t been wearing a mask, and neither was most of my flight. But the second we saw all this commotion, most of us reached into our carry-ons and pulled out a mask to wear. It felt like something out of a dystopian novel and quite frankly was kind of scary. Although we know a lot about this virus now: who it affects, how deadly it was, how transmittable it could be, back then it was a mystery still being unraveled in real time. It certainly changed my mindset about the possibility of this going global, however this would be short lived as my time in Thailand would eventually give me a false sense of security. But more on that later.

The moving sidewalks became very helpful in my sleepy daze

It was 4:30 pm when I cleared health inspection and security and besides a trip to the bathroom, my priority was to head to my gate to check up on social media and touch base with my parents. They had been in Bangkok now for almost a full day and were sending pictures of them out and about exploring the city. I was excited to join them, but dreaded the 6 hour flight that would be needed to get me there.

Waiting to board my next flight to Bangkok

It was after this point that most of my time at Seoul Incheon became a haze. I walked around for a little while to pass the time, but spent most of the layover sitting at the gate dozing in and out of sleep praying I wouldn’t miss the flight. When it was finally time to board, it turned out that there was some sort of problem with my luggage and so I was pulled aside. Between the language barrier and sleep deprivation I had no idea what was going on, and lucky for me they sorted it out without needing my help. I figure I must have forgotten to put one of the baggage tracking stickers on my luggage, but I’ll never know.

The flight from Seoul to Bangkok was fairly empty, enough so that the two men sitting beside me got bumped up to first class and I had the row to myself. Finally able to stretch out into a somewhat comfortable position, and at the end of my brain function, I passed out just before take off.

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One of my favourite parts about travelling are those times when you are fully in the moment, and realize where you and what you are doing. I was treated to one of these moments when I awoke from my sleep and looked out my window. I saw a point of land sticking out into the darkness of the South China Sea, and a bunch of fishing boats trawling the waters. I glanced at the plane’s infotainment screen and noted that I was flying over the city of Da Nang, Vietnam. I never thought I would actually make it to this part of the world, and to actually see Vietnam from the air for myself was a huge moment for me. This blog is called Seeking Saudades to document my journey, and inspire others to seek out and act on that feeling of longing, and yearning for something you truly love, like travel. In the moment I realized I was flying over Vietnam, for just the briefest of time, I felt like I had actually found Saudades. It was wonderful.

Da Nang, Vietnam from the window of my flight

Snapping back to reality, the rest of the flight was relatively routine. The cabin crew were kind enough to leave me some snacks and water while I slept, and later gave me Thai immigration forms to fill out. This was also a point of stress for me as I had always just copied what my parents had written down, and the last thing I wanted to do was get this far and run into trouble at the customs booth. It wasn’t long before we landed in Bangkok and with a renewed energy I was excited to get off the plane. Unlike South Korea, there was an absence of COVID-19 checkpoints, and health inspection was based primarily on the honour system. Thailand was less serious about the virus at this point, and that would continue to be a theme throughout my time in the country. In hindsight, they probably should have been more vigilant, but at the same time I’m glad they weren’t at this point because it would turn out to be the last time life would be normal for the foreseeable future, as we all know.

The city lights of Bangkok on approach to BKK
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Walking towards immigration, Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok Thailand

It was about 1 o’clock a.m. when I got through immigration and met up with the driver that my parents had set up for me. I was so excited to finally be in Thailand that I forgot to actually properly read the sign that he was holding up. My brain was distracted, and on autopilot, and decided on its own that this guy’s sign looked close enough to my name. He grabbed my luggage and we headed to the parking garage. It wasn’t until we were on the highway when I had this sudden realization, and by this point decided it was too late to do anything about it. The driven didn’t speak a word of English, and the only Thai I could remember was “thank you”.

Other than thinking about how to explain to my parents I got kidnapped within 5 minutes of being in the country, I couldn’t help but notice the blast of heat when I stepped outside for the first time. It was -13 C (9 F) in Toronto when I left, and it was 27 C (80 F) in Bangkok when I arrived. Talk about a shock to the body.

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Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to see pictures from my travels!

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After about an hour drive, I was driven into the basement parking area of a building and dropped off next to an elevator. I said thank you to the driver and off he went. No kidnapping tonight. Up the elevator I went to meet with my parents after an incredibly long day of travel. We exchanged stories, I made some food (Ham & Cheese), toured the apartment, and went up to the roof for my first look at the Bangkok skyline.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t really do that much research on Bangkok before I arrived, and so I was surprised with the sheer amount of skyscrapers there were. The city smelt clean, the noise wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and it was far more developed than I gave it credit for. I was antsy to get out an explore what this metropolis had to offer.

For now though, it was time to get some well needed sleep in a proper bed. Thanks to my exam, I only had one full day in Bangkok. So I wanted to ensure I would be fully rested in order to make the most out of my limited time. I got under the covers, closed my eyes, and fell asleep to the sound of the air conditioner.

The night time view that greeted me on arrival out the window of our Airbnb

In the next edition of this series, Thailand Travel Diary – Day 2: Bangkok, I explore the city of Bangkok including a guided tour, a river cruise, multiple Buddhist shrines and temples, and the world famous backpacker hub, Khaosan Road.


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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.


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Why You’ll Fall In Love With Japan

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If you’ve been lucky enough to have travelled to Japan, you know that it is a nation full of surprises.

On the surface, Japan is fairly normal. There are large sprawling cities, highly developed infrastructure, and familiar corporate brands not unlike you would find closer to home. This in part, is thanks to the nation’s post-war transition, and subsequent rise to become one of the world’s top economies. (Perhaps a discussion for another time)

But hidden beneath all of those familiarities lies something the Japanese have held onto for dear life: their way of life and unique culture.

One such aspect of this culture is the inherent respect that people have for one another. As a Canadian, we tend to have a global perception of politeness and tolerance in our society and while this is true to some degree, Japan just takes it to an entire other level.

When you arrive at your hotel, the staff handle your passports and credit cards like a newborn baby. Every time you enter a café, restaurant, or store you’re greeted like royalty. The service you receive in Japan is bar-none the best I’ve ever had in all of my travels, and nothing but the best is accepted by those who serve you. In fact, tipping in Japan is seen as rude. The Japanese see it as a pleasure, not an obligation to give you the best experience possible.

Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”), Sensō-ji Temple, Tokyo

This inherent respect translates to all areas of life, and are most noticeable in the mega-metropolis of Tokyo. The city streets are spotless despite there being a noticeable small number of garbage cans, the air smells clean and fresh, and in the 17 days I’ve spent in Japan I haven’t heard a single car horn.

Think about that for a second…

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The greater Tokyo area has a population of nearly 40 MILLION people. In any other large city you would be drowning in honking. When I asked a local about this, she was almost offended at the notion that a Japanese person would be as completely irrational as to honk in traffic. Japanese people genuinely care about each other, their environment, and how they can play a part in bettering the world they live in.

The mentality is very much society over the individual.

The best real-world example I can give of the deep rooted cultural tolerance, respect and politeness in Japanese culture is from an encounter I witnessed while waiting for a train in Kyoto in 2018.

Standing on the train platform looking across the tracks, I noticed two businessmen having a conversation. After a couple of minutes, the man on the left motioned to his watch and signaled that he had to leave. The two said goodbye to each other by bowing not once, not twice, not three times or four, but FIVE times back and forth. And these weren’t quick bows; they were slow and meticulous as if they were in the presence of royalty.

The man on the left turned and began to walk away before quickly bouncing back around as if he forgot to mention something. The businessmen talked for a couple of seconds before they began the arduous goodbye process all over again. Just like before they bowed several times, almost as if it was a competition to have the best form. The man on the left turned again and walked away for a short distance before realizing he had gone the wrong direction.

Tokyo, Japan. Not far from Tokyo Station.

He reversed his motion and as he walked past the other man, the two began to bow AGAIN. Each step he took he would stop, plant his feet and bow. It seemed to never end, and not until the two were 10 feet apart did they finally go their separate ways.

This whole goodbye process from start to finish had to have taken 3 or 4 minutes. I didn’t even spend that long saying goodbye to my parents when they dropped me off at University! The level of respect that the Japanese people have for one another and for those visiting their beautiful country is astounding, and quite frankly it opens your eyes to the almost barbaric nature of how we treat each other in North America.

To sum it all up, I could talk and write about everything I love about Japan for hours on end. The culture, the people, the food, and the sights all combine to make the nation somewhere I could return to time and time again. It truly is a special travel destination that never fails to give.

Unfortunately, my words don’t come nearly close enough to articulating just how memorable it is. It’s just something you’ll have to discover for yourself.


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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Why I Prefer Long-Haul Flights

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I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose between taking a 14 hour flight or a 4 hour flight, I would choose the 14 hour flight 9 times out of 10.

At this point, you might be asking yourself:

“Is this guy crazy?”

And your completely right to think that. I’ll admit it seems odd that someone would want to spend that much time on a plane, but let me explain.

For me, it comes down to mental preparation. Growing up, I was pretty accustomed to spending hours on end in a car; whether it be driving 3 hours to the cottage every weekend throughout the summer, or travelling 400 km for a minor peewee hockey game on a school night.

So when I see that the flight time to a destination is anything less than 6 hours, my brain relates it to time spent in a car. Obviously, being in a car and a plane are nothing alike. On a road trip I can stop whenever I want, roll down the windows for fresh air whenever I want, and can spread out as much as I want. On a flight, this just isn’t possible.

For whatever reason, I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that the two just aren’t the same. A few hours into the flight I get irritable, sore, and extremely bored. Every single second is counted down in my mind, and it’s torture.

But put me on a flight for 14 hours from Toronto to Seoul? No. Problem.

A view out of my window seat on a Boeing 747 flight from Bangkok, Thailand to Tokyo, Japan
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My mind completely dissociates the experience from being in a car. I accept my fate, find inner peace, and breeze through it like it was a short run to the corner store.

Now, obviously mental preparation isn’t the only factor. Long Haul flights use larger aircraft with more space, have more comfortable seats, and provide a much wider selection of food, entertainment and amenities.

But If you’ve travelled a bunch, you know that these extra benefits only get you so far. Unless you’re flying business or first class, at the end of the day a plane is a plane and isn’t exactly the most enjoyable experience.

So given the choice, I would choose a long haul flight over a short haul flight any day.

Do you agree with me?

What are your tricks for making flying just a little easier?

Leave me a comment and let me know!


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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The Cup and Saucer Trail – Manitoulin Island

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Cup and Saucer trail

The Cup and Saucer trail is a 14 kilometer hiking trail located on Manitoulin Island, just west of Little Current,