Friends who Travel

It was with a sigh of relief that I unpacked my bags after a year teaching English abroad in Seoul, South Korea. Yes, the kids were cute. Yes, the food was amazing. And no, I never regret the privilege of being able to experience a new culture and travel somewhere new with a moments notice.

image Just wrap ’em up and take ’em home.

But I was about to turn 25– and it was time to take charge of my career! Boss lady was coming home to take Toronto by storm and become the successful billion-dollar something that she was supposed to be! (** specifically what “something” is irrelevant at this point, it’s the billions of dollars that matter anyways).

Jet lagged and worldly I metaphorically flipped open my non-flip iPhone dramatically and scrolled through the list of acquaintances I absolutely needed to catch up with.

It turns out, however, that people enjoy the company of those with similar interests to their own. My interests? Travel. My friend’s interests? Travel.

image Here is a friend of mine who likes to travel.

London, New York, Miami, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Seoul, Wellington, Banff, Kampala and Tangana (one friend in particular who has just embarked on a 15 month tour across the globe)– shout outs to all my homies who have trouble staying put!

With few friends left in Toronto, it made me wonder in a city that people work to move INTO, how most of my friends seemed to have moved OUT.

It turns out us millennials are not only lazy and entitled, but we have some sort of attention deficit when it comes to our surroundings– according to the World Travel Organization at least. Around 20 per cent of travellers are youths. Not only that, there has been above average growth in world travellers since the Global Recession in 2009–with an increase this year of 4.7 per cent (that’s over 1 billion travellers in 2014…). Bigger, more exotic, and more Instagram-worthy is the goal.

Pretty Instagram-worthy if you ask me. Pretty Instagram-worthy if you ask me.

Either that or a combination of social media, more cultural awareness and less jobs at home have us all tossing our old-fashioned paper resumes in the air running for the hills (what’s paper?).

The trend is so pervasive that even marketing companies have started to try to peg us down as we fly from place to place. Most of these “characteristics” still involve us having low attention spans, yet the miraculous ability to stay connected to the internet no matter how remote our locations.

The thing is, most of us aren’t all about lazing around on beaches and partying the night away (though admittedly this still happens, and I love that it does). Mostly, we’re getting to know locals, experiencing new foods, and having adventures in a country’s natural environment.

image Just some independent young adults.

Through it all, we gain a solid grasp on our own independence as young adults.

We’re seeking experiences over mortgages and scratching that itch to do stuff before settling down. As everyone knows, money is here today gone tomorrow according to the banks of America circa 2008, but experiences last a lifetime.


While my new challenge for myself is to stay put, it’s pretty fun knowing that at least one of my friends in the world will be awake at any given moment in case I need to catch up on the life of those who wander–though sometimes I will need a reminder of where in the world they currently are.


On a Sunny Sunday morning a few weeks ago I groggily found myself on my way to Toronto’s Centre Island for a fun birthday bike ride with my mom (whose birthday happens to be the day before mine).

Celebrating turning 25 was conflicting due to the fact that people simultaneously told me that I am both “still so young” but that they also can’t believe that “I’m already so old”– though we all agreed that I am “on the wrong side of 25.”

The one thing that I seemed to find the most conflicting, however, was the strange purple line that showed up on my Google Map leading south of Union Station when I searched the fastest route to get to the Island. It told me that there was some sort of streetcar that now runs south of the station?  Confused and groggy, I proceeded with caution.

When I arrived at this mythical underground station, I ended up at the back of a line-up full of Pan Am tourists who were being guided by a PanAm volunteer who was shouting and instructing everyone with the proper procedures to follow when the streetcar arrives.

When one of Toronto’s brand new streetcars pulled into the station, people started cheering and raising their fists in the air.

As a Toronto native, this is an extremely confusing scenario, as a) there has never been anyone around to explain how to get onto a streetcar properly, b) there have never been such pristine streetcars in the city, and c) people NEVER. CHEER. for the streetcar.

Toronto has seen quite the transformation over the past few years with extensive development as well as preparations for the Pan Am Games. With increased TTC Service and an abundance of new bike lanes, it would seem that Toronto is at it’s peak of transit, amirite?

…or perhaps not.

The route to work over the past month is not without its flaws, with people taking drastic measures to get onto the HOV lanes and fly past all of those suckers who only have one friend or colleague to drive with them on the Gardiner Expressway or Don Valley Parkway.

The city has implemented a 3-person minimum in order to take advantage of the HOV lanes–that or you better get a motorcycle or become a licensed taxi driver. Even Uber’s carpooling service that really only makes sense in a city full of commuters could face five-figure fines.

It will be interesting to see what will become of the HOV system after the Parapan Am games are over. I definitely feel like VIP when I’m in a car with three people, laughing my way downtown.


One of the city’s excellent improvements, however, has been the expansion of it’s bike lanes. It seems as though those who have been trying to avoid traffic on the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway have dusted off their bikes and inline skates and we have become a truly athletic city in the name of the games.

Along with these bike paths, the bike lanes that have been closed off to traffic have significantly increased the number of cyclists going through the downtown core–while keeping traffic pretty much the same despite the worry that it would get much more congested.
imageI personally enjoy the Joseph Workman Trail as a more scenic route to work–at least on days where the wind across the lake doesn’t make me feel like I’m biking into a brick wall.

The bottom line is, the games encouraged people to find a different route to work and it’s helped me to become reacquainted with a city that I’ve been away from for a while in a way I didn’t expect– expecially when faced with neon spandex wearing inline skaters.

Turtles and The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Snorkel

Floating along the Coral Sea near the coast of Cairns, Australia in a full body wet suit, I watch as a big lipped fish tears a great big piece of coral off The Great Barrier Reef and starts munching on it.

From my vantage point at the surface–ears under water and snorkel mask tight to my face–the sound of the fish chewing makes it through the water. To me, it sounds like someone munching on a bag of Doritos.

Watching this giant fish cause destruction to the already damaged reef made me laugh due to the comical nature of the sounds that ensued. What didn’t make me laugh was the group of tourists who got stuck in a shallow area of the reef. They stood on the near endangered coral as our guides whistled at them to get off the reef.

This happened multiple times during our only two hour tour, which led me to believe that this no doubt happens every day, all day, all along the 2,300 kilometre stretch of over 2,900 reefs.

Many people ask me if I saw Nemo during this excursion to the reef. I am not in possession of a Scuba license of any kind, so my tour was purely of the snorkelling variety. I’m not sure if this impacted the quality of coral I was able to see, but I not only didn’t see Nemo, it was very clear that the reef as exemplified in the vibrant Disney edition of the Great Barrier Reef was not quite the same in this tourist riddled area.

The World Wildlife Fund has recently released an incredible video from a Go Pro strapped to a sea turtle’s back.

The video provides an interesting glimpse into the wild-life sans snorkel strapped tourist (like myself) and also brings attention to UNESCO’s decision not to put The Great Barrier Reef on it’s endangered list. They instead gave Australia a deadline of December 2016 to come up with a plan to solve it’s problems in over fishing, dumping and make it a safe home for the 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc that make it so incredible.

It will be interesting to see what kind of plan the Australian government comes up with. I will definitely be following this story as it unfolds and gains even more attention from this WWF video. Will this be the camera that broke the turtles back?