My first trip to Guatemala began with a blissful three days in the spiritually charged village of San Marcos, peacefully tucked along the shore of Lake Atitlán, one of the most gorgeous places I have been lucky enough to experience thus far in my travels. Even though I could have stayed there for weeks, months, forever, I only had a week in Guatemala and my itinerary told me that it was time to move on. Next stop: Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage city bursting with colonial architecture at the base of three volcanoes; Acatenango, Volcán de Agua and Volcán de Fuego, an active stratovolcano that erupted twice in 2018 alone.
Ever since my first trip to Central America on a trip to Nicaragua in 2015, Guatemala has been at the top of my list of destinations to visit. The combination of volcanoes, Mayan ruins, Colonial architecture, fabulous food, the promise of no jet lag and fewer tourists than other parts of the world are just a few of the reasons I wanted to visit captivating country. Other people didn’t see it that way, though. Whenever I was asked where I wanted to go next, and I answered with Guatemala, I was met with blank stares, quizzical looks and sincere expressions of concern. But since when have I ever let people’s opinions stop me from doing something I wanted to do?
From the moment I returned from my first solo trip to Los Angeles in November 2017, I couldn’t stop thinking about Guatemala. I had just taken a huge step in my personal life and development – after traveling with someone else for over 10 years, I had conquered my fear of doing things alone and rocked a badass trip to LA. I was now prepared to do anything, and not let anything hold me back from traveling anywhere I wanted to go. On Boxing Day 2017, three years to the date since I booked my Nicaragua trip, I made my decision and booked one round trip plane ticket to Guatemala.
If you look up the definition of ‘travel bug’ in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of my face smiling back at you, guaranteed. Whether I’m flying halfway across the world or driving to a small town one hour away, send me on a trip and I’m the happiest I can be. This past August long weekend, I had not one but two incredible reasons to visit somewhere new – my dad’s 65th birthday and the wedding of my best friend from junior high whom I’ve known for over 20 years.The wedding was being held in the city of Parksville on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, a place I hadn’t even heard of before the invite came in the mail. I had only been to the Island’s capital, Victoria, once before nine years prior, so I was very stoked to explore a spectacular, renowned part of my country that I hadn’t yet seen.
Alberta, the province that I call home, is the land of diverse and gorgeous landscapes – the Rocky Mountains in the West, the Badlands in the South, and vast fields of canola throughout. Dotted randomly somewhere in the midst of all this natural beauty are Alberta’s two major cities, Edmonton, my hometown, and Calgary, 300km to the south. Although Calgary is a 3-hour straight shot down Highway 2, I hadn’t visited the city since 2011, always passing by on my way to the Rockies but rarely stopping. When I was invited by the Ramada Plaza Downtown to check out their Calgary Made Guest Room Package, I was eager to head south to discover some of Calgary’s best local businesses.
Boarding pass in hand and backpack on my back, I walked across the chilly jet bridge at Edmonton International Airport and boarded the 737 like I had done dozens of times before. I sat down in my seat, buckled my seatbelt and gazed out the window, contemplating the trip I was about to take. It was the first day of November and I was heading to Los Angeles, a city I had never visited before. There is nothing unusual about a Canadian heading south in the winter, just like there was nothing unusual about me jetting off to somewhere new – I did achieve my goal of traveling to 30 countries before the age of 30, after all. But this trip was going to be different. After traveling around the world with someone else for the past 10 years, I was setting off on my first solo trip.
Prince George, British Columbia is a small city located in the interior of BC, less than 400km from the Alberta border. Nestled among plentiful forests and the meeting place of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers, it is now easier than ever to take a quick jaunt to Prince George from my hometown of Edmonton thanks to the brand new direct flight from Central Mountain Air. I was fortunate to be invited by the airline and Tourism Prince George to check out a slice of what the city has to offer.
Central Alberta is a glorious place to be in the summertime. The blue sky above seems never ending, as do the blooming yellow canola fields all along the side of the highway. Communities all over the province come together to celebrate the bounty of the land, enjoying the fruits of their labour and looking forward to harvest time. Each year in July, a major celebration takes place in the small city of Lacombe, simply called Lacombe Days. Nobody quite knows when the first Lacombe Days was held, but it has been running for over 20 years and is a highlight of the summer festival calendar in Alberta.
The Día de la Constitución long weekend in early February was over and the residents of Mexico City had flooded back into town, filling the streets with traffic and choking the air with smog. Car horns blared incessantly and pedestrians swarmed the sidewalks. In the centre of the city, I emerged from the belly of a muggy metro station and ascended to the top of the Torre Latinoamericano in the thick humidity and gazed out over the megalopolis as far as the smog would allow my eyes to see. I reflected over my first trip to Mexico and anticipated my final experiences in the city, representing two quintessential yet completely different sides of Mexico – lucha libre and the surreal art of Frida Kahlo.
Las Vegas, as most people know it, is a city of excess. Anything you want can be bought or done in Las Vegas, for a price. From thousand dollar meals to hundred thousand dollar watches, gun battles with real bullets to a little friendly companionship, just open up your wallet and it’s yours. On this 4th of July weekend, the extreme Vegas experience I chose mixed heart-pumping adrenaline and my favourite landscapes; driving high-powered super cars through the dusty Nevada desert with Exotic Driving Experiences.
We’ve all been there – friends and family across the globe, or across the country, graciously open their arms and homes to us on our travels without asking for anything in return. The least we can do, you think to yourself, is bring them a little something from home to show our gratitude. Preparing for a trip can be hectic, and I often find myself putting off this important shopping trip until the last moment. If you’re like me, have no fear! You can pick up tons of great host gifts at the Edmonton International Airport while you’re waiting for your flight.